Sony's new 4K TV can't make me like the final season of Game of Thrones but it can make it prettier

Credit: HBO

There are a lot of people upset online about the final season of Game of Thrones and how the war for the Iron Throne concluded.

However, it should be said that there’s one thing that the final season has absolutely nailed: spectacle. Sure, it’s abandoned any sense of geography, timing, believable character development and coherent military tactics. But, credit where it’s due, the final season of HBO’s enormously popular fantasy drama is a feast for the eyes.

So, when given the chance to spend an evening of hands-on time with Sony’s new X9500G TV, we decided to lean into the one thing that the final season of Game of Thrones does super-well and see just how much better it looks on a 4K TV like this one.

Credit: Sony

Though when compared to comparable offerings from Samsung and LG, the Sony X9500G lacks cutting edge tech like OLED or QLED, it’s packing one thing under the hood that the competition doesn't have: Sony’s X1 Ultimate processor.

The successor to the previous Sony X1 4K HDR processor, the Sony X1 Ultimate was announced back at CES 2018. While the performance here is unlikely to eclipse the X1 Extreme processor shown off at CES 2019, Sony do claim that the new processor offers 40% more real-time image processing than the original X1.

Credit: Sony

Pitched as the powerful engine that’d be powering the bulk of their next-generation home entertainment experiences, the X1 Ultimate relies on five processes: Object-based HDR (which analyses the colors in each object on-screen and adjust the contrast to get better results), Super Bit Mapping HDR (which smoothes out things like visual artifacts color banding), dual database processing (which uses a built-in database to upscale the resolution of an image while also reducing noise), a Dynamic Contrast Enhancer (which balances the light output across the screen) and precision colour mapping (which ensures more accurate and nuanced tones across your content).

Even looking beyond the processor for a minute, there’s plenty to like about the Sony X9500G. It runs on Android TV, so it’s easy to customize and, Hayu aside, it’ll play nice with almost every streaming platform in Australia. It’s also the first Sony TV with active ‘always-listening’ voice controls powered by Google Assistant.

An epic TV like the Sony X9500G deserves some equally choice content.

And while, as a fan of Game of Thrones I’m not super thrilled with how the final season played out, I was super-interested to see how it looked on a 4K TV as nice as this one.

Episode 1 - Winterfell

Credit: HBO

Like much of Season 8, “Winterfell” is all-in on milking that nostalgia.

Some of this takes the form of easily identifiable catch-phrases and call-backs between fan favorites like Arya, Sansa, Tyrion and Jon. Other facets manifest through the cinematography and scene composition throughout “Winterfell”, which often feels very deliberate in the way it echoes shots and sequences from Season 1’s “Winter is Coming”.

The deeper contrasts made possible by the X9500G’s full-array backlighting aren’t as deep as the absolute blacks you’d find in OLED - but they still do a great job of making the snow-crested fortress this episode is named after look good.

I have less nice things to say about the handful of moments that take place in the godswood. Given the HDR and 4K upscaling that Sony’s X1 Ultimate processor brings to the table, I expected the amber leaves of the weirwood tree to look more vibrant and lively. Maybe that’s something that’ll stand out more in the fully-realised 4K and HDR-graded release of this episode that’ll surely arrive later down the line.

Credit: HBO

Overall, “Winterfell” is a pretty alright episode of Game of Thrones. It’s a little light in terms of moving the plot forward but it does do a good job of laying the groundwork for the battle episode to come and re-establishing where all the major players are at.

Best looking scene: The Crypts of Winterfell

This one is a bit of a tie, lit by candlelight. On one hand, you’ve got this really impeccably-illuminated encounter between Cersei and the show’s “creative rendition” of Euron Greyjoy.

Credit: HBO

On the other, you’ve got the face-off in the crypts below of Winterfell where Sam tells Jon the truth about Lyanna Stark & Rhaegar Targaryen. One of these scenes is obviously more consequential than the other but they both look incredibly nice on the Sony X9500G.

You get this really compelling sense of fidelity and detail as the shadows dance across Jon’s face and some of the long-running fan theories spawned by 1996’s A Game of Thrones are finally fulfilled. No word on that Prince that was Promised though.

Episode 2 - A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

Credit: HBO

“A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” is somehow an even slower episode than the glacial one that precedes it but, arguably, it’s a much more well-rounded installment of Thrones.

As a TV series, Game of Thrones has always been highly serialised but, upon a rewatch, it really does feel like these first three episodes of the final season blend and blur into one another. And in that context, this episode is the moment of calm before the storm.

“A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” tries to get the most out of the mental and emotional headspace that its characters are at and the shared physical space that they occupy. You get to see Tyrion, Brienne and Jaime back together for the first time in several seasons. You get to see Dany and Sansa attempt to be friends. You get to see Tormund Giantsbane hanging out with Davos Seaworth. It’s awesome and full of unexpected delights, even if some of the gravitas is lost a second time around.

Credit: HBO

Revisiting “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” with the knowledge that most of these characters will inexplicably survive the coming conflict undercuts some of the cathartic notes hit here. Still, there’s nothing that can take away for the episode’s crowning moment: Brienne of Tarth receiving a much deserved knighthood.

In terms of how this episode looked on the Sony X9500G, the first thing that really struck me was how much nicer the texture of the costuming for each character looked during the first scene of the episode, where the powers in Winterfell decide what to do with Jaime Lannister. The second thing I noticed this time around was just how much the eyes of each character - from Jaime to Dany to Sansa to Brienne - popped on-screen.

There were also some really rich reds and yellow hues during scenes set around the forges of Winterfell. The weirwood trees in the godswood also looked much more vibrant this episode. Not quite sure why.

Credit: HBO

Best looking scene: Jenny of Oldstones

Although the scenes in the godswood here looked much better than those of “Winterfell”, the sequence that proved the most memorable in “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” was - by a wide margin - the montage that closes out the episode.

The vocals of Daniel Portman breath new life into a song pulled straight from the source material. The moment sounds hyper-evocative through Sony's HT-X8500 soundbar and it

Does a great job of building up the episode’s cumulative moments: a revelatory encounter between Jon and Dany in the Crypts. Like the last episode, this set-piece moment looks incredibly good courtesy of the interplay between the lighting of the scene and the full-array dimming of the X9500G.

Next Page: The Long Night & The Last of the Starks

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Fergus Halliday
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