If releasing many of its most famous PlayStation games on PC — and planning on releasing many more, much more often in the coming years — was not proof enough that Sony means to enter the PC market in a big way, then this surely is: the company officially announced its new InZone brand of computer gaming gear, targeted at demanding PC players all over the world. Sony is applying its considerable expertise in displays as well as in personal audio in order to offer its first dedicated PC gaming monitors and PC headsets under this new brand that may expand to more categories in the future.
“The market has been expanding with a higher interest in gaming with the spread of e-sports tournaments and the advancement of gaming entertainment. With Sony’s strong history of high-end audio and visual technology products, we believe this new line will offer even more options for those looking to upgrade their current gaming systems”, noted Yukihiro Kitajima, head of Game Business and Marketing Office at Sony in a prepared statement. “We are committed to contributing to the growth of gaming culture by providing PC and PlayStation gamers with a wider range of options to enrich lives through gaming”, he added. Sony is actively sponsoring well-known global e-sports leagues such as the Evolution Championship Series (Evo) 2022 and 2023, PGL DOTA2 Arlington Major 2022 and the VALORANT Champions Tour.
The InZone M9 and M3 gaming monitors aim high
Sony’s first dedicated PC gaming monitors, the M9 and the M3, both use an IPS LCD 27-inch screen, both offer HDMI 2.1 (2) and DisplayPort 1.4 (1) inputs, a USB-C port and several USB-A ports, both claim a 1ms response time (GtG) and a 1000:1 contrast ratio while they both support HDMI VRR and nVidia G-Sync. They also share the same uncommon, minimalistic, beautiful design, especially compared to the extravagant stylistic choices almost all other manufacturers seem to be making in this category (the ones that scream “hardcore PC gamer here!” to anyone around).
The Sony Inzone M9/M3 design, in fact, is pretty close to the aesthetics of the PlayStation5, despite both monitors being targeted at PC gamers. That’s not by accident and it works in Sony’s favor, as the PS5 and the M9 look amazing together.
The above similarities between the M9 and the M3 are important, but they are products of different classes. The flagship M9 is built around a 4K panel helped by a full array local dimming system of 96 zones, capable of working at 144 Hz and promising 600 nits of peak brightness. This not only earns the M9 a DisplayHDR 600 certification, but also a special place among these PC monitors as Sony’s expertise in such displays may actually offer higher picture quality than what’s currently on offer. The M9 includes an anti-glare coating for its screen, a KVM switch (for controlling two PCs connected to it), stereo speakers, a headphone jack for audio output, as well as a controllable lighting strip on the back. It will retail for $899/€1099 at some point during the next two months.
The M3 is a step-down model in terms of panel resolution (1080p) but not in terms of refresh rate (240 Hz). This is definitely geared more towards PC gamers looking to get into the “above 200 FPS” territory than towards PS5/Xbox Series X gamers: for the latter, the 4K M9 is obviously a better choice. Sony did, of course, make a point of the fact that — just like its Bravia TVs — the M9 fully supports PS5 features such as Auto HDR Tone Mapping and Auto Genre Picture Mode for accurate colors in-game and automatic game/movie picture settings selection respectively.
The M3 will not be able to offer the same kind of display quality — not just because of its lower resolution, but also because of its type of backlight (simple EdgeLED) and lower peak brightness (“just” 400 nits). It should cost quite a bit less, though (unofficial sources put it around the $699/€799 mark) when it comes out later this year.
The InZone H9/H7/H3 gaming headsets go for 3D sound immersion
Sony is expanding to a second PC peripheral category with a trio of headsets: two wireless and a wired one. All three are similarly designed and promise comfortable use for long periods of time, all three feature a positionally-activated microphone but, most importantly, all three make use of Sony’s proprietary PC software and sound tech that virtualizes in-game sound to 7.1 surround even from a 2-channel source.
Sony calls this “360 Spatial Sound for Gaming” and, although yours truly would obviously have to test this first-hand before expressing an opinion on how well it works, if there’s something that the Japanese recently proved they get, is 3D game sound through PS5’s amazing Tempest engine.
The flagship model of the three, the H9, offers noise cancellation (another area where Sony excels given the success of its 1000XM wireless headsets range), up to 32 hours of continuous wireless operation and the ability to handle both Bluetooth and 2.4 GHz radio connectivity at once. The step-down model, the H7, does not offer noise cancellation but it does offer even higher battery life because of that (up to 40 hours) and the extra-useful two-point wireless connectivity. It’s also more affordable at $229/€229 (the H9 cost $299/€299). Both models work seamlessly with the PlayStation5 too, delivering the 3D audio of games making use of the Tempest engine in the same way they do through Sony’s proprietary software on PC.
The wired H3 might prove to be the most popular of the three, though: it’s obviously the most affordable at just $99/€99 but, wireless connectivity aside, it’s not deprived of many features Sony deems important (such as 360 Spatial Sound for Gaming and the positionally-activated microphone) while offering the same driver size (40mm) and comparable frequency response the H7/H9 offer. If the Japanese can deliver with these three gaming headsets the same audio magic millions of people enjoy with their mainstream 1000XM series of headsets, then all three — especially the wired one — will definitely stand out. They will be available worldwide in July.