Sony’s second-gen 4K OLED telly is an HDR thriller with bags of style and epic sound
On paper, the A8F is a 4K OLED dream, replete with impressive features and the promise of a sumptuous picture. Does the reality live up to the hype, though?
The Sony A8F is a 4K OLED flatscreen that oozes class, and sports a picture that will have you instantly hankering to upgrade. Good vibrations
Available in 55-inch and 65-inch screen sizes, the A8F sports a classic design aesthetic, unlike the lean-back Sony A1 model. It’s also slimmer, with a smaller physical footprint. This more conventional appearance makes it much easier to accommodate on typical AV furniture.
Sony describes the overall design as ‘soft minimalism’. Everything is underplayed, including the Sony branding, which is subtle to the point of invisibility (hint, it’s bottom left).
Here Sony is again using Acoustic Surface technology to deliver audio. That means there are no traditional stereo speakers on board. Instead, the panel itself invisibly vibrates to deliver forward-facing audio. Stereo transducers are affixed to the rear of the panel, augmented by twin woofers that fill out the mid-range.
The result is a superb sonic performance. Stereo imaging is effective and direct, with clear panning around the image. The rear woofers work in tandem with the transducers and effectively act as one. Astonishingly, the A8F can drop down to 31.5Hz – that’s serious subwoofer territory – but it’s at its most melodious in the mid-range.
The Acoustic Surface technology also frees up Sony designers to do something different with the panel itself, which sits on a substantial central foot. The screen, which is edge-to-edge glass, sits virtually flush to its pedestal, with barely an air gap between picture and stand.
Rear connections include four HDCP 2.2-ready 4K HDMIs, three USBs, AV minijack input, headphone out, optical digital audio output and Ethernet to complement the on board Wi-Fi. They’re disguised behind snap-on panels, which give the set a clean and uncluttered look. There’s a choice of either terrestrial or satellite tuners. The remote control is the standard Sony softbutton doofer with integrated microphone and hot buttons for Netflix and Google Play.
In terms of streaming support, all the main TV players are covered, plus Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, YouTube, DisneyLife, Rakuten TV and Spotify. All run within the Android TV OS 7.0. As a platform this is still a clunky user experience, but it offers a considerable level of functionality courtesy of integrated Chromecast and Google Assistant.
The big picture
As you would expect, picture quality is jaw-droppingly good here. Sony has made an art form out of marrying panel and processing technologies, which the powerful
A8F optimises to near perfection. Much of this synergy is achieved during the manufacturing process. The same kind of pre-release calibration is done on its Trimaster Studio OLED monitors. As such, the TV looks great straight out of the box.
The A8F shares the same flagship
X1 Extreme image processor as its A1 predecessor, and indeed there’s not a great deal of on-screen difference. The A1 Extreme analyses the signal and the characteristics of the panel. This means it does a slightly different job on OLED as on LED LCD. Dynamic tone mapping for HDR is tailored to the TV’s ability to display brightness and colour. It’s extremely effective.
SDR and HDR video modes comprise Vivid, Standard, Custom, Cinema Pro, Cinema Home, Game and Sports Animation. Although HDR selection is automatic, you can manually set it for HDR10 and HLG. A firmware update promises to bring Dolby Vision support to Netflix, although it won’t support Dolby Vision from Blu-ray players or other external devices unless they have been subject to a separate, corresponding manufacturer firmware update.
The A8F’s HDR handling is excellent for an OLED screen. We measured a peak luminance at a high 900 nits using a five per cent window. Peak brightness diminishes if this highlight window is enlarged, though given that spectral highlights can be small and fleeting, this isn’t an issue. Black level performance is superb, with perfect inky blacks and copious shadow detail. What’s more, the Triluminos wide colour and vibrancy is stunning, and native 4K detail presentation is first rate. The forest battle in Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen (UHD Blu-ray) is a breathtaking example of just how fine 4K HDR10 can look on the A8F.
Our recommended image presets are Standard, which has a good overall apl (average picture level) and Cinema Home mode for a convincing cinematic UHD presentation. For the most consistent image performance, we recommend switching off the Light Sensor, or the image can ‘pump’ as it compensates for changes in ambient room lighting.
If the A8F does have a weakness it’s probably (and ironically) its gaming performance. In Standard preset, image lag is high at 101.5ms. Using Game mode this drops to 47.2ms, which is quite lofty for high-precision FPS games but certainly an improvement. Ideally we’d look for 30ms or less for a satisfying TV gaming experience.
Ultimately, welcome Sony’s A8F into your home and it will wow you with its jaw-dropping picture and superb sonic performance.
PRICE From `3,29,900 SCREEN55- and 65-inch OLED 4K HDR Audio 5x 10W, Acoustic Surface sound system DIMENSIONS44.7x83.6x5.5cm WEIGHT 24.4kg CONNECTIVITY4x HDMI, 3x USB, AV minijack input, headphone out, optical digital audio output