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Sony unveils its next generation of top-end 4K HDR televisions

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Sony / RedShark NewsSony Z-series 100-inch 4K HDR television

Sony has made good on its big CES 2016 reveal, opening up pre-orders for its Z-series of 4K HDR TVs.

Kicking off the start of a very busy year for Sony, the company lifted the veil on its next gen prototype 4K HDR television back at CES 2016 in January. That not-for-release reference unit, an 85-inch behemoth, touted a brightness of a whopping 4,000 nits, rivaling the brightest screens developed by Dolby and its Dolby Vision class of HDR displays.

While the skeptic in me thought that the consumer version of such a display would not surface until 2017 at the earliest, Sony has proven me wrong. The company's Z-series 4K HDR televisions are now available for pre-order at major retailers.

There isn't any concrete information as to the brightness levels of the consumer Z-series sets, which will arrive in 65, 85 and 100-inch variants, but these sets, optimized for living room use, will probably not hit that 4,000 nit mark. However, for the home, 4,000 nits is likely overkill and Sony has touted the new Z-series televisions as the its "best and brightest HDR Ultra HD televisions," packed with a laundry list of innovations and features that should please even those most finicky user.

Backlight Innovation

The most important technology baked into the Z-series sets is undoubtedly the Backlight Master Drive. At CES, the 85-inch prototype contained 1,000 zones, but the consumer units may have expanded that functionality, down to pixel-level. This means that the LEDs that comprise the backlight are each individually dimmable.  The effectiveness of this backlight array is enhanced by a high precision lighting and dimming algorithm. In addition, the optical structure of the LED beam has been developed to further improve contrast, while reducing diffusion and flare across pixels.

Extreme processing

The brain of the television, the 4K Processor X1 Extreme, arrives with 40% more processing power than the 4K Processor X1, which can be found in the Sony X-series of HDR televisions. The new processor brings with it new capabilities, including "object-based" HDR remastering of non-HDR 4K and HD material, dual database processing and Super Bit Mapping, which beefs up 8-bit and 10-bit sources to "14-bit equivalent gradation."

Sony tech, Google OS

Sony's Z-series televisions will all come with the Android TV operating system, skinned with Sony's own user interface. Like smartphone and tablet users, Android TV leverages Google Play store for apps, video and whatever else you want to augment your viewing experience. Google Cast support is also built-in, eliminating the need for that HDMI dongle.

More to come…

The Sony Z-series sets will retail for $6,999 (65-inch) and $9,999 (75-inch), arriving sometime this summer. No pricing or shipping window has been announced for the 100-inch model, although it's a safe bet that it will debut sometime before the end of the year.

We'll go into greater depth of the Sony's ZD9 series, updating this story with more details, including concrete brightness and contrast figures, opinions and reviews, when we get sufficient time with one of these units for evaluation.

For more info, check out the Sony's official press release for its Z-series of 4K HDR televisions on Page Two!

Full press release

Sony Launches the Z Series, the Ultimate 4K HDR Ultra HD TV

Next generation TV technology brings the real world into your living room

SAN DIEGO, July 20, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Sony Electronics announced today the Z series, the next generation in television display technology with the ability to reproduce the deeper blacks, brighter lights, and vibrant colors of the real world. The new flagship Z series sits atop Sony's current X series line-up of premium 4K HDR Ultra HD TVs, which includes the award winning X930D and X940D. The new "Z" moniker designates a significant leap forward and the ultimate in display technology. With this advance, Sony brings 4K High Dynamic Range (HDR) to a new level with ultra-contrast and even more realistic, accurate color, in order to express what the content creators truly intended.

"The Z series is a generational advance in TV technology, which brings the 4K HDR viewing experience to a whole new level. Our best and brightest HDR Ultra HD television is proof of Sony's continuing commitment to deliver the ultimate home entertainment experiences to our customers," said Mike Fasulo, President and COO of Sony Electronics. "With expertise in both the creative and the technical aspects of 4K HDR shooting, editing, recording, transmission and display, Sony understands 4K HDR like no other company. The Z series is a direct result of that unique partnership between our engineering and creative teams."

The new Z series has adopted the Backlight Master Drive technology, which Sony introduced as a prototype at CES 2016. The Backlight Master Drive is precision backlight boosting technology, which expands brightness and contrast to truly tap the full combined potential of 4K HDR. To further enhance contrast, the Backlight Master Drive features a dense LED structure with a super accurate lighting algorithm, discrete lighting control, and a unique optical design with a calibrated beam LED, delivering unprecedented dynamic range with incredibly deep blacks and dazzling lights for scenes that look more real than ever before.

Previously, local dimming was controlled by zones with several LEDs. The discrete LED control feature allows the Backlight Master Drive to dim and boost each LED individually. With the latest local dimming algorithm, the Backlight Master Drive delivers total precision for unparalleled contrast and realism. The Backlight Master Drive also has a unique optical structure: a calibrated beam LED design. It gathers the emitted LED lights in a spot and focuses the drive area more narrowly to display higher contrast. It also reduces light diffusion and the flare effect that can be seen on other full-array LED TVs. Additionally, the Z series features a newly developed 4K image processor, the 4K HDR Processor X1™ Extreme. Combined with Backlight Master Drive™, the Z series is able to attain extraordinary contrast and extremely accurate, wide color expression. It offers an even more impressive visual experience with 4K HDR content.

The new 4K Processor X1 Extreme was developed in order to provide the ultimate 4K HDR visual experience and is further refined with 40% more real-time image processing power compared with our renowned 4K Processor X1™. Incorporating three new technologies: object-based HDR remaster, dual database processing, and Super Bit Mapping™ 4K HDR, the X1 Extreme brings 4K HDR content to a whole new level.

By analyzing images in each scene and correcting the color and contrast of each object individually, object-based HDR remaster can reproduce scenes with the detailed texture and appearance of real life. This technology also up scales HD content to near 4K HDR quality. In addition to the up-scaling database, the 4K HDR Processor has a data base specifically for noise reduction. This processor searches through the thousands of picture patterns in these unique databases, analyzing each pixel individually in real-time. The dual database processing removes unwanted noise and up-scales every image to a crystal clear 4K-quality image.

In addition, Super Bit Mapping 4K HDR creates a smoother, natural picture. With 14-bit powerful signal processing, it breaks up the solid bands of color of 8-bit (FHD) or 10-bit (4K) source, up-converting 14-bit equivalent gradation with 64 times more color levels. It delivers graceful reproduction of faces, sunsets and other areas of subtle color gradation.

With these three technologies, 4K HDR Processor X1 Extreme reproduces a wide variety of content with immersive 4K HDR picture quality. Combining the 4K HDR Processor X1 Extreme and the Backlight Master Drive, the new Z9D series offers a visual experience with more depth, texture and depth than previously possible.

But, the viewing experience goes beyond the screen. The Z9D has a slate design that encapsulates the ultimate experience. From the front, the design exudes sophistication in the form of a simple black slate, letting viewers immerse themselves in the stunning power of 4K HDR. From the back, the design keeps all the cables completely concealed, ensuring that the device strikes an elegant look from any angle. The Z series also runs on Android TV™ with Sony's exclusive user interface. Android TV™ lets you explore a world of movies, music, photos, games, search, apps and more. TV lovers can watch hit shows and timeless movies from Google Play™ and enjoy what they like to do on a smartphone or tablet, from their TV. In addition, Android TV's Voice Search feature has been enhanced to support natural language voice actions and longer, more complex sentences. And with Google Cast™, users can cast their favorite entertainment apps such as HBO GO from their Android or iOS device, Mac or Windows computer or Chromebook to the TV.

From live TV broadcasting to Internet video services, the new seamless user interface Content Bar includes enhanced content navigation along with voice search. The new Content Bar features a genre filtering function (availability region dependent). Instead of selecting a program from several channels, users can easily select a program from favorite genres such as sports, music, news, etc.

Z Series Pricing and Availability
The Z Series 65" and 75" class 4K HDR Ultra HD TVs are available for pre-sale today, and will be on-sale at Amazon, BestBuy and other authorized dealers nationwide.

    XBR65Z9D, 65" class (64.5" diagonal), $6,999 MSRP, available summer 2016
    XBR75Z9D, 75" class (74.5" diagonal), $9,999 MSRP, available summer 2016
    XBR100Z9D, 100" class (99.5" diagonal), pricing and availability details to be announced later this year

For more information, please visit www.Sony.com/Z9D and follow #SonyZTV on Twitter for the latest Sony 4K HDR news.

Tags: Technology