Sony XBR65A8F Review
OLED TV, HDR, 4K
by Robert Wiley
Through the gloss screen finish with excellent anti-reflective qualities the A8F produces an awesome OLED TV picture quality that is (still) unrivaled by 4K LED TVs at the moment. Our first Sony OLED review was written in 2008. It was a 24” OLED monitor selling for $15K to $20K. We knew immediately this was going to be the technology. But, can they bring the price down. Oh, how things have changed with the A8F. Though the OLED panel is manufactured by LG, Sony's processing chip sets and design are all Sony, and therefore make the A1E a bit different from their competitor.
- Rich, deep Black Levels, Uniformity and Contrast
- Sound Quality
- Excellent Processing of motion content
- Great Fast motion playback
- Color Accuracy and Realistic Rendition
- Side Angle Viewing
- HDR performance superb
- HDR Brightness
- Appearance and Build Quality
- Dark Shadow Detail
- Good Selection of Preset Picture Mode
- Android Smart TV operation is fast, quality, and voice search works well
- Potential image retention if used on peak brightness
Picture Quality Rating: 98/100
Why is OLED technology better than LED/LCD TV in Picture Quality?
If I had to answer this question in a word: Contrast.
A bit of design speak first.
First and foremost OLED TVs do not contain the “twisting” crystals found in all LCD based TVs (including LED TVs). Instead of producing color information by way light passing through these prisms of crystal glass as they turn at incredible speeds, color information in OLED TVs is produced from organic carbon based compounds, which emit green, blue and red lights in response to electric current. This is actually more akin to the way plasma TV phosphors work than the twisting crystals in an LCD. There are no additional light sources necessary to energize the organic color compounds than this small electric charge. Interestingly, a small part of OLED TV technology is taken from the CRT TV. OLED TVs have a cathode layer to provide the mentioned electric charge to the pixels.
Back to picture quality. Due to the backlight used to illuminate images on an LCD TV, there is less flexibility in producing black or very dark scenes. There must always be a flowthrough process from the backlight, through the LCD. There are various ways LCD panel manufacturers attempt to accomplish deep black levels but let's suffice it to say that they all fall well short of the effortless and perfect black levels of OLED TVs. All the OLE has to do to present perfect black is cut the power to any individual pixels. Since there are over 8M pixels in the new 4K OLED models, you can well understand how vast the contrast ratio is even in small individual areas of the screen. Illuminated colors pop much more off of this platform, making them look more vivid and alive even when properly calibrated.
While there are some slight advantages of LED backlit LCD TVs in potential brightness, peak whites, and video processing, they easily eclipsed by the contrast, color and black presentation of OLED TVs.
See our complete discussion on OLED vs. 4K.
A8F vs. LED 4K
As expected the advantages to OLED TVs in general are pronounced on the AF8. The contrast is exceptional, as isblack uniformity and color reproduction. The only area that the A8F does not exceed a high end 4K LED is in bright room performance due to its average brightness not being quite as high. Another impressive area and one that I was really looking forward to with the A8F is processing.
Up-Conversion of HD to 4K
Up-scaling and conversion is the most important aspect of any 4K UHD TV for 2018/2019 due to the dearth of 4K content of the average viewer (and streaming limitations), and Sony is the best at it in my view. The reasons are the excellent combination of the 4K X-Reality PRO up-scaling Algorithm technology used with the new 4K HDR Processor X1 Extreme engine. On the A8F panel a good HD signal just looks incredible. Movies are also excellent and we recommend a room light condition of moderate to low light for this TV to unleash its full OLED capabilities.
Side Angle Viewing
The old Achilles heal of LED backlit TVs cannot be fully remedied, but OLED lights evenly across the surface and so viewing angles are almost perfect. That is, the saturation level of images on screen do not fade when viewing off center. Colors remain true.This makes the A8F more versatile for wider room conditions. Everyone doesn't have to sit front and center to see a great picture.
HDR Wide Color Gamut Viewing
The second focus TV feature for 2018/2019 is HDR. HDR extends the range that a pixel in an TV can show. This applies to the brightness and luminosity of images. Contrast is enhanced by increased brightness rather than deeper blacks. Rather than just increase the brightness of the picture overall though, the real purpose of HDR is to increase contrast in various image areas of the picture. It improves the presentation in the brighter parts of the picture and this creates more contrast with surrounding darker parts of the picture. Since picture contrast is one of the primary features in improving perceived depth, HDR is considered a major picture quality improvement even though it may not increase the overall contrast of the panel a lot. Bright colors receive enhanced purity. A good HDR image (such as on the A8F) will show better shadow detail, and the scenes that you will notice the most are those with light illuminating images, especially outside sunlight effects, or a room that has sunlight coming in through a window and illuminating parts of the room. HDR content is and will be in short supply for a while. The A8F HDR images are exceptional as the combination of contrast, high HDR peak brightness, and wide color gamut work together to create stunning images.
Quick Picture Settings/Burn In Prevention
The A8F has excellent white balance as shipped.
The Cinema Pro setting is the preferred setting and produces an excellent picture so there is no need to go deep into white balance calibration.
Before, setting to Cinema Pro though, be sure to turn off the Power Saving option, the Light Sensor mode, and the Auto Picture Mode.
Set Brightness level to 30 for a normally lit night-time room, and adjust up or down based on room light conditions. To prevent screen image retention (burn in) keep the Brightness setting reasonable.
Do this for each input as they are discrete (separated).
Calibrating the TV did not produce a picture quality that was appreciably better than the Cinema Pro setting which both unusual and very convenient for the buyer. HDR content is detected automatically and the Cinema Pro setting is also the best mode for watching HDR content.
Features Rating: 94/100
Sony is going with a more traditional stand this year with the A8F except that the stand is just visible.The TV sits nice and low and looks fantastic with a barely visible frame/border. The stand also has a narrow footprint which means your table does not have to be too wide. Did I mention that the design is attractive, modern and cool. It is. The edges of the TV are blade thin and the maximum depth is 2.14”.
The remote is not a fancy touchpad affair this year. The new black remote has hot buttons for Apps like Netflix and Google Play. Again this year, if you're searching on the Smart TV platform we've never seen a better voice search system than the Android TV search function enabled on the Sony 4K TVs. Voice search is now accessed through a button at the top of the remote. The voice recognition search works flawlessly, even in a noisy room. The TVs response time on delivering results is fast and accurate. Give it a try. It's great for searching YouTube, Google Assistant, and Google Play options.
Input lag is much reduced to a good result around 30ms.
The Sony A8F has a very good sound system called AcousticSurface technology that uses vibrations from the screen to better direct sound toward the viewer. It creates an improved experience because the sound is coming from the mid point of the screen rather than bottom firing speakers included in most TVs. I was quite impressed. Total of 50w speaker power.
Smart TV/Android TV Operating System Features/Google Assistant
The X900F gets the newest Google Android TV ops system 6.0. Android TV featured Apps include Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant, Vudu, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Crackle and SiriusXM, and around 30 small insignificant Apps. Add HBO NOW, EPIX, Starz Play, Fusion, Pluto TV and a few more to the assortment this year. At first it looks like a limited selection until you delve into the Google Play Music, Games, Movies and TV options. Then lots more content opens up. The quality of the Apps are all over the board, so if there is a negative to the OS, it's that there are lots of low quality Apps to go along with the good ones. What we really like is the operation speed combined with excellent video and sound quality of the Android/Google Play section of the Smart TV offerings. This is differentiated from the competition. The voice search function on the remote works exceptionally well and fast with You Tube and Google Play options. The new Google assistant search works through the mic on the remote as well and is very effective.
Google Cast allows you to show movies, pictures, and TV shows from your IOS or Android based smartphone or from a laptop. We think the best use of Google Play is gaming.
Obviously, if you're not content with the choices, you can always connect a Roku box, which still has the best offerings anyway. Then you get both.
Value Rating: 89/100
XBR65A1E - $3798
XBR55A1E - $2798
Prices are coming down on OLED TVs. That's exciting! Do not be too alarmed by all the talk about burn in. It's mostly hype. This is a superb TV for a now affordable (yet still dear) price. Sony has become much more competitive price-wise over the last couple of years. The nearest competition with this Sony is the LG C8PUA which sells for only a couple hundred dollars less. Understandably, some will still prefer the Sony.
Overall Rating: 95/100
- Immersive 4K Ultra HD picture quality with four times the resolution and clarity of Full HD 1080p
- X-tended Dynamic Range enhances HDR and non-HDR content
- 16GB storage
- Live Color, Triluminous Display
- 4K X-Reality PRO picture processing helps with upconversion
- 4K Processor X1 Extreme (enhances 4K images)
- TRILUMINOS Display accurately reproduces color, clarity and detail
- Speaker Position : AcousticSurface
- HDMI 2.0 and HEVC codec playback 4K content at 60p
- Built-in Wi-Fi for Smart TV features
- MHL 3.0-enabled for mirroring second screens
- Acoustic Surface Technology
- HDMI Inputs 4
- USB 3
|Having reviewed and written about Television Technology for over 10 years, Wiley never tires of researching the newest qualitative trends related to the technology. Most people do not get excited about possibilities behind the latest video engine... Wiley does. Read more about Robert|