Home Tech Updates Sony’s new gaming brand merges the best of its PlayStation and consumer gear

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

by Patricia R. Mills

I’ve always wondered why, aside from a handful of peripherals like the Pulse 3D headset and that weird 3D display, Sony never tried to expand the PlayStation brand outside consoles. And while you won’t find any PS logos on its new line of headsets and monitors, with Inzone, it feels like Sony is finally bringing its wider tech expertise to gaming. We haven’t seen a ton of PlayStation-branded peripherals before that the Sony most people think about is a conglomerate of several companies that make everything from medical diagnostic tools to camera sensors. And in the case of Inzone, its new gaming gear isn’t caused by the same Sony that produces its iconic consoles (Sony Interactive Entertainment) but by the Sony that makes everyday consumer gadgets (Sony Corp/Sony Electronics) like TVs and headphones, including the excellent WH-1000XM5.

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

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 sleek sci-fi lines, much of the tech inside has trickled down from a range of Sony Electronics’ devices. And after using a handful of Inzone’s new peripherals for about a week, it feels like you’re getting a great mix of tech from two different branches of Sony.

Let’s start with Inzone’s headphones which consist of 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 is straightforward. Unlike their more expensive siblings, they don’t support wireless audio and instead rely on a 3.5mm cord or a USB cable for connecting to your console or PC. On the bright side, the thickly padded headband and cloth earcups make the H3 a joy to wear, even during marathon gaming sessions.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Another bonus is that due to the cooperation between the 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 costing just $99 for wireless headphones as comfortable as the H3, I think they’re probably the better buy for anyone on a budget.

However, things get interesting when you move up to the H7 and H9, which feature dual-mode wireless connectivity (Bluetooth and a dedicated 2.4GHz wireless dongle), a slightly more streamlined design, and strong battery life. On top of that, the H9 also features digital noise canceling using the same tech as Sony’s 1000X line, and it shows.

Unlike the cloth earcups on the H3 and ets, the flagship H9 features soft-fit leather earcups like those on Sony’s WH-1000XM5 headphones.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget should mention that Sony could only send out the H3 and H9 for testing, so I’ve used those comparisons. But the H7 and H9 are fairly close in terms of specs, with the main difference being the H7’s lack of exterior RGB lighting, no support for digital noise canceling, and the use of cloth earcups instead of the soft fit leather padding you get on the H9 (which is the same material Sony uses on the WH-100XM5). In return, because they don’t have built-in noise canceling, the H7 offers slightly longer battery life (around 40 hours) than the H9 (about 32 hours).

Regardless, my time with the H9 so far has been great, and in a lot of ways, they feel like a pair of WH-1000XM5 that have been tuned for gaming. The noise cancellation works wonders for drowning out background sounds, and the super supple leather makes wearing them feel like putting a cloud around your head.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

I also really appreciate some of the small details Sony added to the H9. On many headphones offering two wireless connectivity modes, you can typically only use one type at a time. But you can connect to two devices simultaneously with the H7 and H9s. 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 is much easier to talk to your friends regardless of what platform you’re ot.

Additionally, the H7 and H9 are the only other headphones besides the Pulse 3Ds that can use the PS5’s on-screen status notifications, which means you can see stuff like volume levels, battery status, mic mute, and game/chat balance all at a glance. And just like the WH-1000XM5, you can even use your phone to take a picture of your ear to tune their sound further. So while they aren’t the PS5’s official headphones, they behave like they are offering even more features and better audio quality.

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 will focus on my time with the M9. Featuring a 27-inch 4K IPS panel with a 144Hz refresh rate, the M9 isn’t the biggest or fastest gaming monitor around. But for the money, it packs many features compared to similarly-priced rivals. It supports VRR and NVIDIA G-Sync and sports a strong one-millisecond gray-to-gray time, DisplayHDR 600 certification, and a gamut covering more than 95% of the DCI-P3 spectrum. In short, colors are bright, rich, and vivid while also largely immune from the ghosting you often see on less sophisticated displays.

However, the M9’s biggest advantage is its full-array local dimming (FALD, which comprises 96 different lighting zones compared to just eight or 16 on competitors like the LG 27GP950 or the Samsung S28AG700. And after seeing the results side-by-side, I was shocked at how much of a difference the M9’s FALD makes. Many gamers can spot 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 eliminate halos, but the ability to adjust lighting zones with greater precision also gives the monitor an improved dynamic range. So in games like Elden Ring, I saw much darker and more atmospheric backgrounds compared to the washed-out gray tones I saw on other monitors. This allows you to get better contrast and black levels without upgrading to more expensive QD-OLED displays like Alienware’s $1,300 AW3423DW.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

And just like its headphones, Inzone’s first monitor has many thoughtful smaller features. It has a built-in KVM switch, which is extremely useful if multiple PCs are connected to the same display. It also has a native FPS counter to keep tabs on performance easily. At the same time, the monitor’s Auto Genre Picture Mode can switch between settings like Cinema Mode and Gaming Mode depending on the content coming from your PS5. And in addition to being height and tilt adjustable, Sony even designed the M9’s stand so that its feet stick out towards the back, which means PC gamers who need to place their keyboard as close as possible to their monitor like Dafran totally can.

The M9 has built-in stereo speakers, so you can plug in your PS5 and get straight to gaming without worrying about audio. And thanks to two HDMI 2.1 ports, one DisplayPort 1.4 jack, support for video over USB-C (DP Alt mode), and a built-in USB Hub, there’s a wealth of connectivity. But perhaps my favorite little touch is the software that allows you to navigate the monitor’s on-screen display with your mouse instead of fumbling around with the joystick on the back of the panel.

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

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

That said, looking at the pedigree of these two faces of Sony, that probably shouldn’t be a surprise. So aside from the H3, which is somewhat basic, I’ve come away quite impressed with Inzone’s first batch of PC and console gaming peripherals. It might not say so on the box, but this feels like the marriage between PlayStation and the tech from some of Sony’s best gadgets in many ways. But the most promising part might be that while Inzone hasn’t shared any plans yet, after talking to some of its reps, it’s clear Sony has big plans for its new gaming brand going into 2023 and beyond.

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