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Sony Bravia A8F TV 55-inch detailed review

Sony showed the A8F OLED at CES 2018 and the only discernible difference between the A1 OLED and A8F was the stand. If you log into Sony India’s website and compare the specs of the 2 TVs, you’ll see that under the hood they are powered by Sony’s flagship technology that we saw in 2017 and literally the only thing that has changed is the standard. Is it still a TV to consider? Read on and find out!

Key specs:

Panel Size: 55″ (also available in 65″)
Panel Type: OLED
Panel Resolution: 3840 x 2160 – 4K
Panel Refresh Rate: 60Hz
HDR 10 support: Yes
Dolby Vision Support: Yes
Weight (with stand): 22 kg (28 kg for the 65-inch)
HDMI ports: 4
USB ports: 3
Bluetooth: Yes, 4.1
Wi-Fi: Yes
Ethernet: Yes
Speakers: acoustic surface (actuator + subwoofer)
Built-in storage: 16 GB
Price: Rs 249990 for 55-inch & Rs 359990 for 65-inch

Build and design

The design of the Sony A8F exudes premium. For the duration of the review, we had the TV on its table stand. The stand has a small footprint, which means that when you place it on a small table, it will hold. There is only one major drawback to placing the TV on a table stand and this can be a deal breaker for some. If you have a sound bar or hold your Blu-ray player, game console or anything that is 3 inches high, you will hinder the viewing experience of the TV because there is no space between the stand and the TV. It’s all tight. If you have a tabletop that only has the TV on it, consider putting it on a tablet. Otherwise, I recommend mounting the TV on the wall.

Most connectivity options are located on the back of the TV. There you have the Ethernet port, RF port, 3 HDMI ports (of which port 3 is for HDMI ARC), one USB port Optical audio port and the antenna port. On the side you have the Composite video input, 1 HDMI input, two USB ports, IR blaster port and the headphone output. The connection options are endless.

One good thing about the TV is the cable management on the back. If you’re picky about cable management, there are panels that cover the back and help you route the cable neatly. With good cable management you will only see the TV on your wall/table top. The bezels around the TV are thin and the LED light on the bottom of the TV can be turned off to give you one of the most immersive viewing experiences.

Overall, the build quality of the TV is top notch and the design is sleek, minimalist and ideal for a home entertainment setup. Unlike the A1 OLED TV, the A8F has no angle of inclination of the photo frame and I think that’s a good thing.

Display panel and image quality

The panel on the A8F is the same as on the A1 OLED TV. So the image performance you get is the same as in 2017. This is not a bad thing at all, because the performance of the A1 OLED was and remains one of the best. The TV has a resolution of 4K and supports Dolby Vision. Thanks to the Netflix app on the TV, you can enjoy all your content in glorious 4K and Dolby Vision. If you have the 4K Apple TV, you have a great screen to enjoy content from that device. Thanks to the OLED panel, you get some of the best colours, the deepest possible blacks and the most vibrant images we’ve seen on a TV. The only drawback is that the panel is reflective. This is not an issue with the Sony TV, it is an issue with all OLED TVs available in the market. So if you have a light source behind you while watching TV, you’ll see that in the panel. Let’s break down the TV’s performance further.

4K HDR

The beauty of an OLED TV is its ability to produce an infinite contrast ratio, true blacks and deep colors and it’s all there in the Sony A8F. Watching Netflix through the built-in apps gave us access to Dolby Vision content and it looked breathtaking. Daredevil Season 2, Episode 3, stair fights were detailed. The 4K HDR library on Netflix and Prime Videos in India is limited, but what’s there is an absolute treat. The Grand Tour Season 1 Episode 1 where you drive many cars through the desert is a place to behold on this TV. If you’re going to consume 4K HDR content from a very good source, this TV will be a great experience. Since the TV supports Prime Videos and Netflix through the Android UI, we didn’t have to resort to our Xbox One X to watch 4K content on streaming services.

1080p content

A large catalog of Netflix and Prime Videos content in India is in 1080p. From Spider-Man Homecoming to John Wick and beyond, we’ve enjoyed many movies on this TV. John Wick’s Red Circle battle series looked fantastic, which is a testament to the TV’s upscaling capabilities. Red Circle’s fight scene has a lot of red, blue and darkness thrown into the mix and it looks fantastic.

Before we get to gaming, there’s one thing you need to know. The HDMI 2 and 3 ports are not set to HDMI 2.0 full bandwidth by default. I highly recommend going into the settings and enabling them to get the most out of the 4K HDR devices you connect to the TV. These can be devices such as the Apple TV 4K, Xbox One X, PS4 Pro or NVIDIA Shield.

Gaming

We played our standard set of test games with a PS4 Pro and Xbox One X on the TV. These games range from Battlefield 1 to Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, God of War, Gears of War 4, Forza Horizon 3, and more. If you have access to the 4K compatible consoles, you are in for a treat. We played a lot of God of War on the Mi TV 4 and switching to the Sony A8F shows the difference between a 40k TV and a Rs 3.4 lakh TV. Don’t think the Mi TV 4 is bad. Not at all. Only with an OLED panel will the visual elements of the game let you see things you haven’t seen before. The same can be said for the red storm sequence in Gears 4.

audio

Speaking of sound, the Sony A8F has the same acoustic surface that we saw on the A1 OLED. This makes the entire screen the speaker. Two actuators behind the TV vibrate the screen to create sound. The TV also has a subwoofer on the back for the low frequencies. The sound from the TV is just as good as on the A1. The beauty of the system is that if a character is talking on the left side of the screen, that’s where the sound comes from. It gives a pretty holistic sound experience, especially when you consider that these are the built-in speakers of a TV. This effect is well pronounced when watching a movie. Unfortunately, there is no surround experience and for that you will have to invest in a home cinema, but the TV does have fairly impressive stereo separation.

remote control

If there’s one department where the TV is missing (actually there are two, but more in the second later), it’s with the remote. It’s the same remote that was present on Sony’s 2016 flagships. This is 2018. The remote control is functional and gives you access to all possible inputs and shortcuts. You have dedicated playback controls that work with all streaming apps. You have a shortcut for Netflix and not any other streaming service. When you see how LG and Samsung have their motion-activated remotes, minimalist, stylish and convenient to use, Sony’s remote feels outdated. It’s certainly functional, but it doesn’t look like anything from 2018.

user interface

The user interface is another department where the TV needs a facelift. Technically, this is not Sony’s fault, but Google’s as Sony runs on the Android TV user interface. Fire up the home screen and you’ll see some of the most useless YouTube recommendations at the top. There are two separate rules for apps and the settings are at the very bottom. If you look at LG’s web operating system on TVs, you will realize what a neat TV user interface should look like.

Another downer of the user interface is that it is slow which is unacceptable on a Rs 3 lakh TV. There were times when I pressed the action menu button and had to wait more than 10 seconds for the menu to appear on the screen.

It’s good that the TV runs on Android, giving you access to a large library of apps, Chromecast built-in, and the ability to sideload apps if needed.

The TV remote has voice recognition that works just as well as the Google Assistant on the smartphones and is one of the most useful features on the TV.

Bottom Line

The Sony A8F is an exquisite old wine in a beautiful new bottle, that is, the A1 in a new form factor. That’s not to say it’s a bad TV. It’s just that if you’re looking for an OLED from Sony, there’s no reason to consider it over the A1, if you already own the A1. For newcomers, the 55-inch Sony A8F is available for Rs 2,49,990 and the 65-inch variant is available for Rs 3,59,990. The A1, on the other hand, retails for Rs 3.59.990 for the 55-inch and Rs 4.59.990 for the 65-inch. What’s worth considering is that Sony showed off the X1 Ultimate processor at CES 2018. The X1 Ultimate is capable of object-based processing. It will be very interesting to see a Sony TV powered by the X1 Ultimate. Until then, if you’re looking for a flagship OLED, you should definitely consider the A8F.

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