Sam Rutherford

Sony’s new gaming brand combines the best of its PlayStation and consumer gear

I’ve always wondered why, apart from a handful of peripherals like the and that’s weird Sony has never really tried to expand the PlayStation brand beyond consoles. And while you won’t find any PS logos on the new line of headsets and monitors, with Inzone it really does feel like Sony is finally bringing its broader tech expertise to gaming.

The reason we haven’t seen many PlayStation-branded peripherals yet is because the Sony most people think of is actually a conglomerate of several companies that make everything from medical diagnostic devices to camera sensors. And in the case of Inzone, the new gaming gear isn’t made by the same Sony that produces its iconic consoles (Sony Interactive Entertainment), but instead by the Sony that makes everyday consumer gadgets (Sony Corp/Sony Electronics) like TVs and headphones. including the excellent

The first three new headsets from Sony's Inzone gaming line are the $99 H3, $229 H7 and the $299 H9.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

That’s important, because while these devices have design cues borrowed from the PS5, including their black-and-white color scheme and clean sci-fi lines, much of the technology has seeped into them from a range of devices from Sony Electronics. And after using a handful of new peripherals from Inzone for about a week, it really does feel like you’re getting a great mix of technology from two different branches of Sony.

Let’s start with the Inzone headphones, which come in three different models: the entry-level $99 H3, the mid-range $229 H7, and the high-end $299 H9. As the cheapest of the three, the H3 are incredibly simple and straightforward. Unlike their more expensive siblings, they don’t support wireless audio and instead rely on a 3.5mm or USB cable to connect to your console or PC. On the plus side, the thickly padded headband and fabric ear cups make the H3 a joy to wear, even during marathon gaming sessions.

The high-quality Inzone H9 headset has two wireless connection modes, built-in digital noise cancellation, RGB lighting and a battery life of up to 32 hours.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Another bonus is that due to the collaboration between two arms of Sony, all Inzone headsets, including the H3, support the PS5’s Tempest 3D audio engine, just like you get on the official Pulse 3D headphones. That means you get spatial audio and customizable sound profiles that make it easier to hear things like the footsteps of someone trying to sneak up behind you. That said, with the Pulse 3D also costing just $99 for wireless headphones that are just as comfortable as the H3, I think they’re probably the better buy for anyone on a budget.

However, where it gets really interesting is when you move up to the H7 and H9, which offer dual-mode wireless connectivity (Bluetooth and a dedicated 2.4GHz wireless dongle), a slightly more streamlined design and long battery life. Plus, the H9 also features digital noise cancellation using the same technology as Sony’s 1000X line, and it shows.

Unlike the cloth ear cups you get on the H3 and H7 headsets, the flagship H9 has soft leather ear cups, just like you get on Sony's WH-1000XM5 headphones.
Unlike the cloth ear cups you get on the H3 and H7 headsets, the flagship H9 has soft leather ear cups, just like you get on Sony’s WH-1000XM5 headphones.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Now I should mention that Sony could only send the H3 and H9 for testing, so I used those for my comparisons. But the H7 and H9 come pretty close in terms of specs, the main difference being the H7’s lack of external RGB lighting, no support for digital noise cancellation and the use of cloth ear cups instead of the soft leather padding you get. on the H9 (which is the same stuff Sony uses on the WH-100XM5). In return, because they don’t have built-in noise cancellation, the H7 offers a slightly longer battery life (about 40 hours) compared to the H9 (about 32 hours).

Anyway, my time with the H9 so far has been great, and in many ways they feel like a pair of WH-1000XM5 tuned for gaming. The noise cancellation works wonders for drowning out background noise, and the super-supple leather makes it feel like you’re wrapping a cloud around your head.

Sony's first monitor under the Inzone brand is the 27-inch M9 with 4K resolution, a 144Hz refresh rate and full-array local dimming with 96 lighting zones.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

I also appreciate some of the little touches that Sony has added to the H9. On many headphones that offer two wireless connectivity modes, you can usually only use one type at a time. But with the H7 and H9s, you can connect to two different devices at the same time. This means you can use the wireless dongle to connect to your PlayStation or PC and then use Bluetooth to get audio from your phone. And because the PS5 doesn’t have native support for chat apps like Discord, it makes it much easier to talk to your friends no matter what platform you’re on right now.

Plus, the H7 and H9 are the only other headphones besides the Pulse 3Ds that can use the PS5’s on-screen status notifications, meaning you can see things like volume levels, battery status, mic mute, and game/chat balance all at a glance. So while they’re not the official PS5 headphones, they behave as they are, while also offering even more features and better sound quality. And like the WH-1000XM5, you can even use your phone to take a picture of your ear to further fine-tune the sound.

The rear of the M9 has similar design cues to the PS5, along with customizable RGB lighting and a height-and-tilt kickstand.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

As for Inzone’s new monitors, there’s the $529 M3 and the $899 M9. However, since the M3 won’t be available until sometime this winter, I’m going to focus on my time with the M9. With a 27-inch 4K IPS panel with a 144Hz refresh rate, the M9 isn’t the largest or fastest gaming monitor out there. But for the money, it has a ton of features compared to similarly priced rivals. Not only does it support VRR and NVIDIA G-Sync, it also has a strong gray-to-gray time of one millisecond, DisplayHDR 600 certification, and a gamut that covers more than 95 percent of the DCI-P3 spectrum. In short, colors are bright, rich and vibrant, while also being largely immune to the ghosting often seen on less sophisticated displays.

The M9’s biggest advantage, however, is its full-array local dimming (FALD) which consists of 96 different lighting zones compared to just eight or 16 on competitors such as the LG 27GP950 or the Samsung S28AG700. And after seeing the results side by side, I was quite shocked at the big difference the M9’s FALD makes. Many gamers can see bloom in games when something bright moves quickly across a dark background, often producing a ring of light around the object. But not only does the M9 almost completely eliminate halos, the ability to adjust lighting zones with greater precision also gives the monitor improved dynamic range. So in games like Elden Ring, I saw backgrounds that were much darker and more atmospheric compared to the faded grays I saw on other monitors. This will give you much better contrast and black levels without having to upgrade to more expensive QD-OLED displays such as

Sony says it purposely designed the M9's stand to protrude back to give gamers more room to place their keyboard close to the monitor.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

And just like his headphones, Inzone’s first monitor has a lot of really thoughtful smaller features. It has a built-in KVM switch, which is very useful if you have multiple PCs connected to the same display. It also has a native FPS counter so you can easily keep an eye on performance, while the monitor’s Auto Genre Picture Mode can switch between settings such as Cinema Mode and Gaming Mode depending on the content coming from your PS5. And besides being adjustable in height and tilt, Sony has even designed the M9’s stand so that the feet protrude back, meaning PC gamers need to place their keyboard as close to their monitor as possible. totally possible.

Perhaps my favorite little detail, though, is the software that lets you navigate the monitor screen with your mouse, rather than fiddling with the joystick on the back of the panel. The M9 even comes with built-in stereo speakers, so you can plug in your PS5 and play straight away without worrying about audio. And with two HDMI 2.1 ports, one DisplayPort 1.4 connection, support for video over USB-C (DP Alt mode) and a built-in USB hub, there’s a wealth of connectivity.

All of Inzone's new headsets and monitors will be available this summer, except for the M3 display, which will go on sale sometime this winter.
All of Inzone’s new headsets and monitors will be available this summer, except for the M3 display, which will go on sale sometime this winter.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

So aside from the H3, which is rather basic, I’ve been quite impressed with Inzone’s first batch of PC and console gaming peripherals. That said, given the pedigree of these two faces of Sony, that should probably come as no surprise. It may not be on the box, but in many ways this feels like the marriage between PlayStation and the technology of some of Sony’s best gadgets. But what’s arguably the most promising part is that while Inzone hasn’t shared any future plans yet, it’s clear that after talking to some of its reps, Sony has big plans for its new gaming brand that will launch in 2023 and beyond. .

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