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Sony A1 OLED

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Summary

Editor's note: This is an early look at the Sony A1 OLED TV, not the final review. I first wrote this piece after a brief demo on the show floor at CES 2017 in Las Vegas. Since then I've had a couple of in-depth demonstrations, behind closed doors and in more favourable conditions, and I've updated the article. I was initially quite intrigued about this TV but now I feel this is one of the most exciting TVs of 2017. I will be updating this piece as I get more information, and when I get the A1 in for a proper review.

Hands-on with the Sony's 4K OLED

Sony has finally made a 4K OLED TV, and it’s called the A1 (or A1E in the US). This isn’t Sony’s first dance with OLED tech – the company released an 11-inch model in 2008 and it cost around £3000 – but this is Sony entering the OLED game in earnest.

The A1 will be released in three sizes: 55 inches (full name, Sony KD-55A1), 65 inches (KD-65A1) and 77 inches (KD-77A1).

Watch: OLED vs QLED – which is better?

Sony A1 – Design and Features

CES 2017 gave us some very shiny TVs, but Sony’s first OLED stole the show for me. You don’t get the soundbar base approach, which Panasonic went for with the Panasonic EZ1000 series. You don’t get the fancy metallic stands on the Samsung Q9F. Sony has also resisted the temptation to show off and make its OLED TV super thin, like LG has with its ‘wallpaper’ W7 OLED.

Instead, It Sony has gone for a minimalist design; from the front it looks like the A1 doesn’t bother with a stand at all. It has a glass front and back, plus a very thin metal frame for support. There are no feet, so the display sits directly on your AV rack or table, leaning slightly backwards at a five-degree angle. Sony likes naming its design choices, and this is the 'One Slate' concept.

The idea is that you have nothing visible outside of the picture. Even the 'Sony' and 'Bravia' logos have been hidden. There is a small light at the bottom of the screen, but you have the option to disable that.

You only notice the stand once you look to the back – Sony has gone for the kick-stand approach, which goes nicely with the whole understated vibe the A1 is going for. If you want a TV to blend in, this should do very nicely.

Related: Best 4K TV round up

Sony A1 OLED

The stand is serves a few purposes. Rip off the cloth cover panel and you’ll find the stand houses the TV’s subwoofer (8cm, ported) and connections (four HDMI). Collapse the stand (the bottom can be detached, the rest folds in) and it can also serve as the TV’s built-in wall mount, compatible with the common VESA system.

As for speakers, you won’t find any. The Sony A1 is unique in the way it produces sound. Sony’s ‘Acoustic Surface’ tech places actuators behind the display, and they vibrate the screen to make it pump out sound. Typical TVs have speakers below, behind or next to the screen, which creates a disconnect between the picture and sound – made worse by increasing screen sizes.

Sony wants to eliminate that disconnect with this screen-shaking approach, and that wasn't possible before the company started playing with (very thin) OLED panels. I'd be concerned about this impacting the longevity of the screen, but Sony says it has run extensive tests and they're confident it won't damage the panel.

On the smart TV front, the Sony A1 will continue to use the Android TV interface, which is compatible with Google Cast. I’m told that the TV will receive an update to make it run on Android 7.0 Nougat.

Sorry, 3D fans: there's none of that here. Sony says it's dead. More importantly, the Sony A1 supports the Dolby Vision variant of high dynamic range alongside the more common HDR10. Until now, LG was the only major manufacturer to do so – it's good to see Sony also offering consumers this choice. Sony also says the A1 will be upgraded to be compatible with HLG, or Hybrid Log-Gamma.

Related: Hybrid Log-Gamma: Why it's the next big thing in 4K TV

Sony A1 A1E OLED 11

Sony A1 Performance

Sony wouldn’t say whether this panel was made in-house or manufactured by LG, but LG says it is and that's good enough for me. Sony also wouldn’t be drawn into giving out stats about brightness, but as we know this is one of LG's latest panels, I reckon we’re looking at about 800 nits. That’s what you get from the Panasonic EZ1000 series, which uses the same LG panel.

Sony is quick to point out that it’s not just the panel that matters, but the processing too. The Sony A1 features the X1 Extreme processor found in the excellent Sony KD-65ZD9BU, which was easily one of the most impressive TVs of 2016.

So how does it look? Well it’s an OLED, so you get the characteristic perfect blacks and pin-sharp definition. I can confirm the A1 is effortlessly brighter than any OLED TV I reviewed in 2016, including LG’s top-end Signature G6.Sony A1 OLED

Peak brightness is typically a concern with OLED displays, but take one look at the Sony A1 and it’s hard to imagine it will struggle with high dynamic range. Its black levels are still indisputably better than anything from the LCD camp, and it manages convincing highlights without any obvious clipping.

What sticks out for me is the stability of the picture. Slow-motion pans and tracking shots are a challenge for even the best TVs, but the Sony A1 demonstrates remarkable composure, with no noticeable judder or stutter. This is a strength I’ve noticed in many of Sony’s TVs, and it’s evidence that the X1 Extreme processor is doing good work.

These were my first impressions from the Sony launch on a brightly lit, very crowded show floor, but TrustedReviews was granted a proper look, behind closed doors. The conditions were much more favourable, and I was allowed to watch clips from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, instead of just fancy stock footage. Note that this was a standard Blu-ray in Full HD and standard dynamic range, not a 4K Blu-ray in Ultra HD and HDR.

Sony A1 A1E OLED 7

The Star Wars opening crawl is one of my TV testing favourites, so I was right at home when this bit loaded up on the screen. And it looked simply delicious. You get the deep black you'd expect from a galaxy far, far away, and the stars are expertly localised with no clouding or light bleed in sight. This demo also reinforced my comment above about motion stability – those scrolling yellow words drifted smoothly into space smoothly, with no hint of wobble.

Also hugely impressive was the sound. I'll admit that I rolled my eyes when Sony announced this screen-vibrating tech, but it totally works. I put my hand on the screen, and it shook the way a speaker cone would. How does it sound? Surprisingly good, and certainly no worse than you'd expect from a regular TV with speakers attached. The scene at the end where Poe and his X-Wing buddies blow things up sounded clear but not shrill, with a decent amount of weight.

The highlight here was the way the sound followed the action on-screen and off. You can track voices to people's mouths and explosions go where they should. The stereo image is good enough that the sound does a great job off-screen, both vertically and horizontally. Such precision in effects placement is something I'd only associate with surround sound systems, or Dolby Atmos, or really clever Yamaha soundbars – but not a TV.

I can't wait to see this TV again for a proper review – Sony tells me the A1 will ship in summer 2017. Prices are yet to be confirmed, and Sony is blaming Donald Trump for a volatile market. I couldn't tell if they were joking.

First impressions

It’s a shame that it has taken so long for Sony to put out a 4K OLED TV, because the Sony A1 is really quite impressive. Even at this early stage, it’s clear that Sony has made something that’s a pleasure to behold. I've seen this TV three times now, and each time I'm blown away. Assuming the pricing isn’t overly ambitious, I reckon Sony could be onto a winner.

Ton

January 5, 2017, 8:35 pm

would letting the screen vibrate not degrade the picture, it would look like flicker to me

hugo

January 5, 2017, 11:31 pm

is vesa compatible?

Martin Natale

January 6, 2017, 3:28 am

Only thing that bugs me is the slant. Serious design flaw that seems like it would distort the picture... I may pick one up and prop the back up... hopefully it won't fall that way, but it's the only way to get it to stand up straight.

Ced Yuen

January 7, 2017, 3:03 am

Yes! I was treated a proper look so I've updated the article.

Ced Yuen

January 7, 2017, 3:06 am

It's only five degrees, and I hardly noticed it once I got watching. I take your point, though – maybe wall mount it?

Ced Yuen

January 7, 2017, 3:20 am

I didn't notice any flickering, but I do worry about longevity. Sony says it's fine, but I hope there's a good warranty attached.

ttattwa ॐ

January 7, 2017, 9:03 pm

What's the input lag of this set? Lg 2017 Oleds are 21ms.

Also, I've read in a couple sources that the 55" model doesn't have the "speaker screen". Can you confirm if that's true or not, and, given that only 65 and 77" models were shown at CES, can you confirm if there's any design difference from the 55" to the other 2? I assume they are exactly the same TV just in 3 different sizes...

boe_d

January 7, 2017, 9:37 pm

This gives me a lot of hope. I've had deep reservations about the LG OLEDs due to their poor motion. I really hope the motion is fantastic on these as I've admired other aspects of OLED TVs. Some people can't notice it so I'd have to see it for myself to know fore sure.

boe_d

January 7, 2017, 9:38 pm

I wonder if they could have made the back stand thinner if they didn't include a subwoofer or if the subwoofer is detachable

Vin

January 8, 2017, 10:35 am

Sheesh, it's not poor motion! For the test case he mentions, I'm also unable to see any wobbling text on the LG G6.

Vin

January 8, 2017, 10:36 am

Sony mentions Donald Trump as being solely at fault but not BREXIT nor the worldwide revolt against the corrupt powers that be? Talk about tunnel vision.

boe_d

January 8, 2017, 3:21 pm

Some people can detect bad motion and MANY can't. I can't tell the difference between a $5 bottle of wine and a $100 bottle but I don't tell people who can that they are wrong.

HeadBooter

January 8, 2017, 3:22 pm

I have a 2013 Panasonic plasma set...the last run of awesome tech.

Yes, it's only 1080, heavy, hot, and sucks power like a Tesla on empty but it's beautiful.

My plan is to run this set as long as possible then upgrade to OLED. I thought I would go with another Panasonic for some of the reasons cited on the Sony...what ELSE is in use besides an LG panel?

One of my favorite tweaks on the plasma set is pixel orbiter...if I pause the TiVo, I don't burn the screen.

The Sony OLED sounds interesting. My first HDTV was a Sony back in 2003, and I still have fond memories of Trinitron CRTs.

So, now I'll be deciding between the two. I did put a 55 inch LG UHD in the bedroom and while it's very good, it's likely I'll go with Panasonic or Sony.

This is great news from a product life standpoint. I doubt OLED will disappear soon if more companies release models like this new Sony.

HeadBooter

January 8, 2017, 3:31 pm

We just elected Boss Tweed - The Sequel.

The only revolting thing is we are about to give the launch codes to a racist, misogynistic rich white guy with a 90 IQ.

The movie channels have been running "The Dead Zone" a lot recently. That's because Martin Sheen's "Gregg Stillson" character IS Donald Trump, and probably every bit as big a coward, fool, and crook.

The only tunnel leads to 4 years of misery and condemnation by the rest of the world...except Russia, of course. The Trumpanzee is swinging from Putin's tree.

Vin

January 9, 2017, 6:05 am

All bitterness because a corrupt career politician couldn't pull off the heist and deceive enough minions. You completely ignore the rags to riches stories of these well off politicians but want to bemoan someone who has had some success (yes, he had a good head start). Meanwhile, the ONLY thing most career politicians have done is feed at the public trough and get rich off you. Don't be a schmuck.

Vin

January 9, 2017, 6:07 am

Hyperbole. The performance delta of motion is just not that wide.

boe_d

January 9, 2017, 1:34 pm

Subjective. To some it is. My best friend literally gets sick from watching bad motion. Since you don't notice it a more apt comparison might as be someone in the a room with no light telling me there isn't that much difference between a plaid and striped bedspread.

Vin

January 10, 2017, 3:14 am

Not really. Colors are pretty cut and dry unless you're colorblind. ;) All motion on displays is created artificially (i.e. just because your sensory system isn't perceptive to it doesn't mean no plasmas are without some degree of phosphor trailing).

boe_d

January 10, 2017, 3:25 am

Are you obtuse or just looking to argue? Both are perceptions - I'm thinking your lack of motion perception isn't your only perception concern.

Vin

January 11, 2017, 2:16 am

Color is not subjective. Such capability can be measured and plotted on a graph. Being colorblind prevents the spectrum from being perceived correctly. I don't put motion perception anywhere close to that (unless I've overlooked a medical condition that is known to cause loss of motion perception). I'm also intimating that if the motion was as horrendous as you're insinuating, these TVs wouldn't be receiving accolade after accolade, even when compared to some of the flagship LCDs. THUS, to call it poor is hyperbole defined.

PGrGr

January 13, 2017, 11:21 am

The audio thing is interesting, but I would have concerns. When the bass is booming out of a speaker cone, you can actually see it vibrate. Not great if the picture you are watching starts vibrating too!

Ced Yuen

January 13, 2017, 2:49 pm

The bass is handled by a subwoofer, stored separately in the stand. I could feel the screen vibrating but I couldn't actually see any wobbling.

Doug Liser

January 14, 2017, 5:10 pm

Really? I read that the display is not wall mountable and the control hardware cannot be separated.

Jay

January 16, 2017, 5:59 pm

Leave it to an elitist snowflake to bring politics into a TV review article.

ColWeihe

January 22, 2017, 7:28 am

You are a GODLESS piece of human excrement

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