Sony A8F OLED TV is as good as it gets (review)
The Sony A8F OLED TV is up there with the best OLED TVs. Given its current $500-off promotion, throw in Dolby Vision, HDR10, HLG, Android TV OS, acoustic surface sound and it’s a winner.
It is available in 55 and 65-inch for $3,999 and $5,999 respectively. Then take $500 of each, and it is cheaper than other brands premium LED/LCD TVs.
It has been a huge month. We have had 2018 TV launches from
We have reviewed
- LG’s 65C8 OLED
- Samsung’s Q9 QLED
- Hisense Series 9 QLED
- And we have the Panasonic OLED/LED and many more in our test labs.
I only tell you that because a) we are getting 16:9 eyes, b) we are tired of the half a dozen 4K UHD HDR, Dolby Atmos, Blu-rays and c) we get better at reviews each time we do one.
I am going to start by letting the cat out of the bag. Sony and Panasonic (and as far as I am aware any other OLED TV makers) are using LG OLED panels.
Sony et al. say it is what they add to the equation regarding electronics, operating systems, sound and more that makes the difference.
Me – I am having a hard time choosing what I would buy with a lazy $5 grand or so.
Why? Well, all the premium 2018 TVs from each brand are so good. I have asked every manufacturer why I should buy from them. The answers without fail all include innovation, heritage, brand cred, technology.
So, with that confusion on with the review
Review – Sony A8F OLED TV, 55-inch, 4K UHD
Looks and design
From the front, it is a single pane of edgeless, bezel-less, glass. A Small Sony power indicator LED sits under the centre of the screen. There is an option to disable it.
The ‘dark silver slate’ stand, a small ‘neckless’ centre pedestal is 255mm deep so it can sit on top of a 300mm shelf or ledge. The TV slants slightly back (a few degrees only) for stability.
The screen sits on a ‘neckless’ stand meaning there is no room for a sound bar underneath. I suspect you will need to look for something like the Sonos Playbase that supports TVs up to 35kg. A full Sonos kit may cost as much as the TV so think carefully.
It also means that you can’t slide a low-profile Blu-ray player under one. It has to sit beside it or on a shelf below.
From the back, covers disguise the cables, and they exit from the centre pedestal.
Wall mounting is easy and leaves a small gap. Now to one of my few beefs! The SU-WL450 wall mount mentioned in the specifications is long discontinued. Last year my Sony 55X9300E came with Sony telescopic wall mount – delightful.
OLED is eminently wall mountable as it has a vast field of view. Unlike LED/LCD it does not matter if you mount it above normal eye level as you get great upper/lower and side viewing angles.
The remote control is a little old school with lots of buttons. Some other makers have simplified remotes to the point of absurdity. Here every button makes sense, but it would be nice to see a basic remote shipped as well. It has a voice control button too.
I love Sony marketing speak
The brains (CPU and GPU) are the X1 Extreme processor That is better than the X1 non-extreme. It will be superseded next year with the X1 Ultra capable of 8K processing!
Clarity enhancement is 4K X-Reality Pro which means it can process metadata in the HDR stream (and Dolby Vision stream) and use an inbuilt ‘dual’ database to know what colours and tones to display.
Contrast enhancement or Dynamic Contrast Enhance is object-based HDR remastering.
Then we have Live Colour, precision colour mapping, super bit mapping and a TRILUMINOS display.
Gobbledygook. Well perhaps but all you need to know is that Sony electronics and picture processing are as good, if not better than other well-known brands.
OLED is OLED. The plus is deep inky blacks and superb colours from the individually switchable pixels. Current LED/LCD panels use dimming zones and cannot reach the contrast required.
It has HDR10. This helps preserves details in the darkest and brightest areas of a picture that don’t show on non-HDR TVs. The 10 stands for 10-bit colour that means over 1 billion colours – all the colours in the DCI-P3 colour spectrum. Samsung has advanced that to HDR10+ which is marketing speak to dynamically alter the brightness of individual scenes and even individual frames. Sony does that too.
It also has HLG or hybrid log-gamma which merely makes better use of colour information contained in the TV signal or stream.
It has dynamic metadata Dolby Vision that optimises scene by scene. I love that little bit extra that it brings to supported content.
The 4K colour bar test was superb. It produced 100% saturation of all colours from White to Black. The colour bars showed no overlap as is typical with LED/LCD screens.
We also ran a greyscale test, and it went from 100% black to 100% white in 3% increments – perfect.
Peak brightness is around 700 nits. That means you need to have it away from direct light sources and reflective surfaces.
In all picture quality was superb and a pleasure to watch everything from SD to 4K.
I preferred Standard mode. Having said that changing HDR, HDMI Video Range and Colour Space to Auto improved the picture a little.
Reflectivity is always an issue but its no worse than any other OLED. A light controlled room is best. The room below has bright LED overhead lights.
It has a dedicated game mode that turns off a lot of image processing to reduce latency. Gamer Reviews have said the it is around 30-45ms.
Sounds – Acoustic Surface
Here marketing speak abounds. Clear Audio+, S-Force Surround, and more. What that means is that Sony supports most Dolby (and Dolby Atmos with content and an Atmos soundbar) and DTS surround standards.
Sony’s acoustic surface is interesting. The OLED screen is the sound source. This innovative audio setup uses actuators fixed to the back of the screen to turn the entire screen into a sound-emitting structure. Think of it as a speaker-less device. The output is five x 10W amplifiers – one for the sub-woofer on the back.
The vibrating actuators can move sound from side-to-side or isolated it certain parts of the screen. Dialogue and sound effects emanate directly from onscreen objects, providing an immersive audio experience.
The sound signature can be altered slightly via Standard, Dialog, Cinema, Music, or Sports pre-sets. Mostly it adds a little more bass, treble or recessed mids. The difference between the two lines below is when changing presets. The upper graph line is maximum and the lower is minimums using all pre-sets.
We put it through its paces via ‘peak’ frequency responses to a signal generated tone. We are impressed with the typical natural Sony Warm and Sweet (bass/mids boosted, treble recessed) sound signature.
Maximum volume was 83dB – very good but at that the treble became a little harsh and sound distortion jumped. At 80% volume, it is sufficient to fill an average size room without inducing much distortion or ear-bleed.
Unfortunately for Sony, we were also testing JBL’s 5.1 $999 Soundbar with 500W power and a thumping 10-inch sub-woofer. While the Sony was good with bass from about 150Hz, this was much better with bass cutting in from 40Kz…
However Sony has a Dolby Atmos sound bar and it sounds very good too.
- Four HDMI 2.0 inputs (Port 3 is ARC) with HDCP 2.2. Ports 2 and 3 support 4K at 60fps with 4:4:4 colour.
- 2 x USB 2.0 5V/.5ma and 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 5V/.9A. The latter will support PVR flash drive, but will not support external hard disks.
- SPDIF (optical) for sound bars
- RCA (via a 3.5mm adapter) for older devices
- Ethernet 100Mb/s (not Gigabit)
- Wi-Fi AC
It is flexible enough to support a set-top-box, soundbar, games console and Blu-ray player.
I currently use a Sony 55X9300E – last years top LED/LCD TV. So, I am used to Android TV. I think it is more flexible, has more apps and is more widely supported than proprietary TV operating systems.
Having said that it can be laggy, has a typical messy, overstuffed homepage and does things like randomly recommend content etc. Or have regular updates. Or the need to be signed into a Google Account for it to work. There is something to be said for the simplicity of a proprietary operating system.
It supports Google Assistant, Alexa and voice search/control. The voice controls work well; it can change inputs on the TV, open apps, search within apps, and answer basic questions. Details are here.
You can add a Logitech Media Keyboard/Trackpad four mouse control and passwords as well.
GadgetGuy’s take. The Sony A8F OLED TV is very attractive, especially at the price
All 2018 OLED panels are created equal – some more than others. All LG, Panasonic and Sony OLEDs use similar panels made by LG.
Side-by-side it is hard to tell the difference. When set to factory defaults LG has a very slight edge in colour and brightness. But the difference is small so who cares?
So, the price is a key factor, and the Sony is a bargain.
My only caveat is that if you have a typical large, well it, feature windowed lounge room then you will be better with a Samsung (or Hisense) QLED as these have the brightness to cope with that. This is an excellent TV for a darkened media room.
- It’s a Sony – Nuff said
- Price is excellent especially with $500 off
- The acoustic surface may alleviate the need for a soundbar. You can even add an external subwoofer
- Accurate, even, colours and deep inky blacks make it a movie addicts delight
- All the smarts – Dolby Vision, HDR10, HLG, great upscale, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, casting for an excellent picture and user experience
- No room under the ‘neck-free’ stand for a soundbar
- Needs the wall mount supplied in the box
- Reflective screen means careful placement to avoid direct light sources
- Android TV is comprehensive but can be slightly intrusive. Still, it is getting better
- Remote did not always work – suspect its Android TV being laggy
Rated as a top of the range OLED TV with the works
- Overall: 5 out of 5
- Features: 5 out of 5 – got it all
- Value for Money: 5 out of 5 – Good value especially with current $500 discount
- Performance: 4.5 out of 5 – The usual OLED caveat – not for bright rooms
- Ease of Use: 4 out of 5 – Android TV is good but needs more polish
- Design: 4 out of 5 – A vast glass slab. It’s nice but not outstanding
It is available in 55 and 65-inch for $3,999 and $5,999 respectively. Then take $500 of each at Sony’s current online special.
Specifications – Sony A8F OLED TV
You can skip these as long as you remember that this is as good as it gets. Inky blacks, pixel level dimming, vibrant colours and detail so good you can see the nose hair on a news reader.
Some of the best upscaling from SD and HD I have seen.
Two built-in databases (one removing source noise, the other calculates the look of each of the millions of extra pixels required to turn HD into 4K)
|OLED||10-bit for over 1 billion colours.
Very wide horizontal and vertical viewing angle
|Colour||Live Colour Technology
Precision Colour Mapping
Super bit mapping 4K HDR
Dynamic Contrast Enhancer
Object-based HDR remaster
|Wide colour gamut||Vivid, Standard, Custom, Cinema Pro, Cinema Home, Sports, Animation, Photo-Vivid, Photo-Standard, Photo-Custom, Game, Graphics|
|HDR||HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision|
|Motion||200Hz No judder or image tearing in fast motion screen|
|Local dimming||Every pixel|
|HDR10||A superset of HDR|
|Dolby Vision||A superset of HDR10|
|HLG||Allows 4K content broadcast over the air|
|Picture pre-sets||Vivid, Standard, Custom, Cinema Pro, Cinema Home, Sports, Animation, Photo-Vivid, Photo-Standard, Photo-Custom, Game, Graphics|
|Tuners||1 x Digital and Analog
14mm 75-OHM standard TV aerial
|Android TV||Includes Voice Search Built-in press-button Mic
Apps from Google Play Store
|Google Play Apps||Netflix, Stan, Amazon, YouTube, Freeview+ and many more
Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa voice support
|HDMI||3 x HDMI
1 x HDMI 3 ARC
All HDCP2.2 – flexible
|USB||2 x USB 2.0 5V/.5A
1 x USB 3.1 Gen 12x 5V/.9A
Will work with Logitech Unifying receivers to add keyboard/trackpad
Can be formatted as internal storage to install apps and content on when 16GB internal memory is full
|Video In||With RCA adapter to 3.5mm jack|
|SPDIF||Toslink two-channel linear PCM: 16-bit/48kHz, Dolby Digital, DTS)
For a sound bar or another audio device
|Comms||Wi-Fi AC dual band
Ethernet 100MbpsIR blaster
Screen mirroring (Miracast)
Video and TV SideView app (iOS/Android) remote control
|Sound||50W (5 x 10W) acoustic surface actuators for clean, room-filling sound
5.1, PCM, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Pulse
DTS Digital Surround
S-Force Front Surround
Standard, Dialog, Cinema, Music, Sports
Headphone jack and sub-woofer output
|Size||65-inch 1577 x 959 x 187 mm x 28kg (carton weight 37kg)
55-inch 1226 x 717 x 255 mm x 22.2kg (carton weight 29kg)
|Includes||AC Power Cord
Quick Setup Guide
Table Top Stand
Voice Remote Control
|Missing||Wall mount SU-WL45 should be in the box for a premium TV|
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