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Sony’s new line of gaming hardware may be a tough sell for PC gamers

Its PC monitors and headphones are solid, albeit arguably not competitively priced

(Washington Post illustration; Sony; iStock)

Sony Electronics has launched a new gaming hardware brand, Inzone, targeting PC gamers. The company announced the brand last week with two 27-inch monitors and three kinds of gaming headsets.

I got to test out the headphones over the span of a week and the higher end monitor for two days. Both the 27-inch monitor, called the Inzone M9, and the headphones, the Inzone H9, have features that make them stand out among the competition. But given their price points, the premium products may be a tough sell for gamers, who already have a vast number of other hardware makers to choose from.

Sony plans to win players over through what it considers competitively priced products. The company is offering a $899 4K resolution monitor with a 144-hertz refresh rate, available this summer, and a $529 1080p monitor with a 240Hz refresh rate, coming later this winter.

The 4K resolution M9 monitor, which I tested, has full array local dimming. Thanks to that, colors appear super bright and pleasing to the eyes. Games on PC like “Valorant,” “League of Legends” and “Neon White” looked crisp and vivid. On the PlayStation 5, titles like “Deathloop,” “Elden Ring” and “Horizon Zero Dawn” rendered shadows and combat well. Photos on the monitor look bright and clear, and it’s easier to see the flaws of blurrier pictures through the screen.

The monitor can be controlled by a software program called Inzone Hub, where settings can be tweaked to a gaming preset or to a standard picture mode, which lowers the brightness and saturation. Even then, with the settings tuned to look more like an average monitor, the M9 made in-game scenes — such as the green vistas and rushing water in “Neon White” — a joy to look at.

Sony targets PC gamers with new hardware brand, Inzone

The stellar graphics are the most notable feature on the M9 monitor, which is what Sony is likely relying on to sell units. The company gave influencers advance access to the monitor to review it; it performed well on benchmark tests and displayed high dynamic range capabilities. With $899 pricing, though, Sony drives a hard bargain against lower end options on the market (some of which cost within the $300 to $600 range) while strategically staying under $1000.

I already own two 27-inch 1080p gaming monitors with decent refresh rates (Acer and ViewSonic), but they’re several years old and due for an upgrade. I wouldn’t have purchased an M9 monitor to replace either of them; the $899 price point is rather steep when a lower end monitor can easily get the job done. Still, the better colors, brightness and higher refresh rate on the M9 made a subtle difference when I gamed compared to the older models I already had. It’s a welcome addition to my current gaming setup, especially when I play competitive modes.

The concept for Inzone came about in 2019 as Sony executives observed the growth of the video game and esports industries. Three years later, Inzone is launching late into the PC gaming market.

“We are entering the gaming gear industry with monitors and headsets at an exciting time, since gaming and esports have gotten even more popular over the last few years,” Kazuo Kii, Sony’s president of home entertainment and sound products, told The Washington Post in an exclusive interview last week. “We are leveraging Sony’s high quality display and audio technologies to deliver products that will allow gamers to immerse themselves into their gaming world.”

Sony didn’t pack the M9 monitor with an HDMI cable, commonly used for connecting to a PS5 or PC, so customers must purchase one separately to get the monitor working. The monitor has several ports so that you can connect a PS5, a PC, a USB-C cable and a display port.

The monitor comes with its own stand, a white leg that resembles the PS5′s design. It can also be mounted to a third-party stand.

Aesthetically, Inzone products were all designed to look like Sony’s latest PlayStation console. Both the monitor and the headphones have a band that lights up in blue. The PS5 can also automatically detect the M9 monitor and adjust high dynamic range settings, saving you an additional few seconds of setup.

Read more: With the PS5, Sony’s big bet is that what’s good for developers will be great for players.

Meanwhile, Sony’s approach to gaming headphones is to see which of their three models resonates with consumers. The company is selling a wireless headset for $299 with noise cancellation and synthetic leather, along with a pared down $229 wireless headset (no leather or noise cancellation) and a $99 pair of wired headphones.

At the $299 price point, the H9 headphones offer great sound quality. The audio is solid for games like “Overwatch 2” and “Valorant,” helping me to hear which directions enemies were approaching.

Getting the headset connected to my PC via Bluetooth was an ordeal, though after the initial setup and fiddling with various game and Discord settings, using the headphones repeatedly became a lot easier.

Consumers may find the H9′s microphone feature to be entirely useless, though. Talking via Zoom and Discord, it made my voice sound muffled, regardless of how I bent the mic toward my mouth. Laughing into the mic sounded like loud thudding. Mercifully, pointing the mic away while eating muted the sounds. Sometimes, when I spoke into the mic, the headphones played back the sound of my voice. The muffled microphone was so unpleasant-sounding that my callers would ask me to switch back to my professional podcasting mic instead.

All three pairs of Sony’s gaming headphones are equipped with a spatial sound field feature, which allows players to able to determine how far opponents are from them and where they are located based on the audio. Sony’s 3D audio has been a key selling point for the PS5. From preliminary tests of the H9 headphones — the $299 ones — other players in first-person shooter titles are pretty easily tracked down by the sound of their footsteps.

Another thing to call out about the headphones is that the noise cancellation works pretty well. The hum of my air conditioner dulled, as did the clacks of my mechanical gaming keyboard — though I could still ultimately hear both.

The headphones are also designed to be less tight around the ears so that players can wear them comfortably for hours. This was a standout feature on the headphones, which were more comfortable than Apple’s AirPods Max ($549) or the HyperX Cloud Stinger headphones ($49.99). The spacious ear shape made the Sony H9 headphones some of the most comfortable I’ve tried, even better than the PlayStation Pulse 3D headphones, which have smaller ear holes and were designed for the PS5.

The H9 headsets boasts 32 hours of battery life and a 10-minute charge time; as I tested, my unit seemed to live up to those claims. These headphones beep loudly when they’re out of power, disconnected or finished charging.

The Japanese conglomerate hopes that PC gamers — particularly first-person-shooter players — will give Inzone a chance, and the products I tested are solid picks. Still, Sony is entering a saturated market, while notably choosing not to slash prices.

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