Sony KD55A8F OLED TV Review
PAT PILCHER’s eyes get a dazzling workout watching Sony’s remarkable new 4K OLED television.
Last year I reviewed Sony’s first 4K OLED TV, the A1, and I came away impressed. Now they’re back with their latest and newest OLED effort, so here’s my Sony KD55A8F OLED TV Review.
Like the A1, It uses an OLED display, and it delivers preposterously profuse pixels aplenty. Being a newer model, it also comes with the added benefit of a spruced-up design, refinements and best of all, a sharp sticker price.
“It delivers preposterously profuse pixels aplenty”
The review unit I tested was the 55-inch model (a 65-inch version is also available) and where the A1 had the ‘lean back’ easel design that made it a tad difficult to fit into some AV cabinets, the A8F sports a more standard pedestal design which is also a doddle to set up.
Looks-wise, the A8F feels slimmer and appears to have a much smaller footprint than the A1. An elegant design helps these good looks along.
When viewed front-on, the A8F is all screen. This is thanks to what Sony calls Acoustic Surface speaker technology, which invisibly vibrates the A8F’s entire screen to make it act like a speaker. Using the screen as a speaker freed up Sony’s design team to go with an edge-to-edge screen design and not muck about with fitting speakers, which would have made for a much chunkier design. All told, the A8F delivers an understated yet pleasing look.
“Acoustic Surface speaker technology invisibly vibrates the A8F’s entire screen to make it act like a speaker”
On-screen, both HD and 4K video looked jaw dropping. This is the result of a well-executed and harmonious match between the UHD OLED panel and Sony’s video processing capabilities. Video calibration at the factory also means that straight out of the box, the A8F delivers stunning video.
This was borne out when streaming UHD Amazon Prime 4K content, which showed off the A8F’s impressive capabilities. Watching Grand Tour saw the A8F beautifully showcase the excellent camera work of the production team. The quality of the panel was also evident as it wasn’t until I was right next to the A8F’s screen that any pixels were visible.
Much of this is due to the X1 Extreme image processor under the A8F’s hood. The X1 Extreme analyses incoming signals and tweaks it to best display it on the OLED panel. It handled compression artefacts, noise, banding and motion issues with aplomb. Similarly, upscaling SD to HD looks good, as does HD to 4K.
This is because the X1 video processor makes use of two built-in databases for removing video noise and calculating what extra pixels are needed to upscale HD to 4K. The results are remarkable. Those used to upscaling being a synonym for blurred with extra pixels will find upscaled content on the A8F a pleasant surprise, as it almost looks like native 4K content.
“HDR encoded content viewed on the A8F sported a tonne of subtle shadow detail”
The real benefit of OLED is the contrast levels on offer. That’s the difference between sheer brightness and deep, dark, on-screen blacks. OLED, being an emissive technology, excels at this, which really helps it deliver a super sharp picture. HDR encoded content viewed on the A8F also sported a tonne of subtle shadow detail, and Sony’s Triluminos colour provides rich, vibrant colours that look both accurate and natural. This is further helped by a lack of judder and edge artefacts with motion. For watching sports, you could do a lot worse than the A8F.
As mentioned earlier, Sony has used Acoustic Surface technology to deliver sound. Audio is further fleshed out thanks to small speakers on the rear of the panel, which is complemented by woofers for richer audio. While the Subs in the A8F can go as low as 31.5Hz, their effect is most noticeable in a fatter mid-range. If movie watching is your thing, you’ll still want to hook the A8F to a decent home theatre setup, but for standalone viewing the A8F is capable of doing a solid job.
Around the back, there’s also plenty going on. Rear inputs include four HDCP 2.2 4K HDMI ports (two of which have support for 10-bit 4K video). There are also three USB ports, an analogue AV minijack input, headphone out, SPDIF output and Ethernet plus integrated 802.11AC Wi-Fi. It’s pleasing to note that all the ports sit behind snap-on panels, which helps keep things tidy. In short, there really is not much lacking inputs-wise.
“You get integrated Chromecast as well as Google Assistant and goodies from the Google Play store”
Aside from a microphone for the built-in Google assistant (which can help you locate video content, get the weather and all sorts of other useful stuff) plus dedicated buttons for Netflix and Google Play, the remote control is pretty much a bog standard Sony TV clicker. While the remote is functional, Sony needs to up their game on the remote controller front given the flagship status of the A8F, as well as matching what LG and Samsung have on offer remote-wise.
Remote grizzles aside, the A8F runs Android TV. While it can sometimes feel clunky, especially when compared to LG’s ribbon UI, the big selling point is that you get integrated Chromecast as well as Google Assistant, plus access to goodies from the Google Play store. This really is a big deal as there are acres of apps, many of which extend the functionality and utility of the A8F well beyond what is possible for non-Android TV capable boob tubes.
The other big selling point is the sticker price. Not so long ago, buying an OLED TV required you to either sell a kidney or your first-born. Now the price gap between an OLED TV and a decent LCD TV is not quite so vast. Depending on where you shop, you can score the 55-inch A8F for as little as $3699. While that is still a lot to pay for a TV, the bang for buck value on offer is pretty good considering the A8F’s stunning video capabilities, plus the sheer versatility of Android TV. And all of the above is why my Sony KD55A8F OLED TV Review gives this telly such a high rating.