Sony’s sec­ond-gen 4K OLED telly is an HDR thriller with bags of style and epic sound

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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.

Film friendly

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

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