LAS VEGAS — Sony gave us our first glimpse of its 2020 flagship TVs during its CES 2020 kickoff, with an early look at the Sony Master Series Z8H 8K smart TV.
This new 8K set builds upon the superb quality of last year's model, the 88-inch Master Series Z9G 8K TV, which was one of the most impressive sets we saw in 2019 and an early entry into the growing 8K category. The new Sony Master Series Z8H model offers small but significant improvements over last year's version, and it's clear that Sony has taken pains to improve its 8K TVs without giving up the technical excellence the company has already achieved.
We got to go hands on with the Sony Master Series Z8H and the gorgeous A8H 4K OLED, and we're pleased to say that Sony's category-leading performance looks to be going strong in 2020.
The Z8H 8K TV very closely follows the template of the previous year's design, at least in terms of looks. The back side of the TV has a checkerboard pattern of ventilation grills and textured panels, with a very squared off design and a flat-to-the-table stand that extends from the bottom corners at 90-degree angles.
But similar looks belie some impressive improvements with this year's model. Specifically, the new 8K set features an improved version of Sony's Acoustic Audio Plus to deliver sound that seems to come directly from the screen.
Sony has improved the technology for 2020 by adding an embedded tweeter in the frame, which vibrates the frame itself to produce some of the sound for the TV. This reduces the physical space needed in the chassis for speakers above and below the screen, which in turn allows for a slimmer overall design that still offers impressive sound. If it's anything like last year's implementation, the effect is dramatic in how it enhances viewer immersion.
The vibrating frame is also a fascinating move to deliver a technology more in line with the sound-from-screen experience offered by Sony's OLED panels, which actually vibrate the glass OLED panel to produce audio. The layered construction of an LCD display prevents that same technology from being used here, but the vibrating frame allows a similar experience.
The impressive audio goes both ways, as the Sony Master Series Z8H also sports embedded far-field microphones for hands-free use. This allows simple voice interaction without having to fumble with a dedicated button on the remote control; instead, you simply speak in the room and activate the TV with a trigger phrase, much like any smart speaker.
When used in conjunction with Google Assistant, which comes included on the TV as part of the Android TV operating system, the Sony Z8H 8K smart TV effectively doubles as a smart home speaker, allowing all of the voice interaction and smart home control of a Google Home device.
As we've seen in months past, the 8K picture looks superb, with excellent clarity color and brightness. And with 8K content actually on the horizon in 2020 — we'll see 8K content from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and both the Xbox Series X and PS5 consoles will be 8K-capable when they launch later this year — it may actually be time to start thinking about 8K as more than a novelty.
The Sony Master Series Z8H 8K LED TV will be available in 75- and 85-inch sizes, which scales back Sony's offerings to a slightly more realistic size than last year's 88- and 98-inch models. The new, more modest sizes should fit into homes more easily, and hopefully won't carry the 98-inch model's astronomical $69,999 price tag.
Sony hasn't specified when the new 8K sets will go on sale, or what they'll cost, but we anticipate that they will be part of the 2020 lineup that is expected to launch this spring.
Be sure to check out our CES 2020 hub for the latest news and hands-on impressions out of Las Vegas.