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Sony A8F/AF8 OLED Smart TV Review: A proven option with a visual makeover

Sony's recent foray into the OLED TV segment gets a big boost with the new A8F OLED Smart TV, but does this Sony justify its price?

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Sony A8F OLED TV 4.5 5
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  • The Sony A8F OLED TV is available in two sizes – 55-inch and 65-inch, priced from Rs 329,900.

  • The TV is powered by the Sony X1 Extreme image processor.

  • The A8F is a smart TV, powered by the Android TV platform.

When it comes to TVs, there is an unofficial and widely agreed upon top three – Samsung, Sony and LG. These three brands are considered the best in the world, and they’re usually my go-to options when someone asks me for advice on which TV to buy. Naturally, I’m excited when I get a new Sony TV to review, especially when it’s a high-end option.

Sony’s latest TV in India is the A8F OLED Smart TV, which is this year’s version of its popular OLED TVs. At its heart, there isn’t much change in the TV from the Sony KD-65A1 that was launched last year. But when it comes to design, Sony has made some significant improvements. Priced at Rs 329,900 for the 55-inch variant, and Rs 449,900 for the 65-inch TV, the Sony A8F is a top-of-the-range option from the Japanese electronics giant. We give the 55-inch Sony A8F OLED TV a go in our review.

Sony A8F OLED TV Design

While Sony has always built its TVs to look good, the A8F pushes the boundaries even further. The Japanese TV maker has further trimmed the bezels and slimmed-down the TV to make it an even more attractive package. If you’re looking from the front, almost the entirety of what you see is screen. The bezels are so narrow that there isn’t even room for the Sony logo at the front.

What you do get at the bottom of the screen is a simple light indicator to let you know when the TV is switched on. Sony’s design philosophy is clear here; the screen and what you’re watching on it needs to be the center of attention. Even the stand is as inconspicuous as it can get. Unlike other stands, this one doesn’t raise the height of the TV at all, instead having the TV sit just above the table you place it on. The result is a refreshing lack of distractions, with your focus on the screen.

The TV itself is incredibly slim, thanks to the OLED panel. It does bulk up a bit towards the middle-bottom right above the stand, but much of the TV is slimmer than your smartphone. While it’s definitely nicer looking if you stand-mount the TV, you do have the option to wall-mount as well. The TV’s ports face either the left side or the bottom, with most important ones at the side for easier access. In total, you get four HDMI ports, three USB ports, and one port each for composite video, Ethernet and audio out.

You might also be wondering where the sound comes from when the TV is so slim and so screen-focused. The Sony A8F sports an acoustic surface, meaning that there’s a total of 50W of sound through five 10W drivers sitting behind the screen. The sound is surprisingly loud and clean for speakers you can’t even see, and you could manage without a soundbar or home theater system for most viewing. At its peak volume, it’s enough to cause vibrations in the room.

Sony A8F OLED TV Specifications and Software

With a 55-inch 4K OLED panel, the Sony A8F has one of the best screens available on a TV today. Deep down inside it’s an LG-made panel, but Sony does have its own tweaks going into it that add to the quality of the picture. The TV also supports HDR, with compatibility for the HDR10 standard. The TV supports a 60Hz refresh rate on all resolutions including 4K, and feature’s Sony’s excellent 4K HDR X1 Extreme image processor.

The remote on the TV is surprisingly ordinary, which is perhaps the only significant drawback to this TV. It’s an ordinary remote with an IR blaster, so it will need to be pointed at the TV to be used. This may not seem like a big deal, but a lot of modern high-end TVs now come with RF or Bluetooth-powered remotes that work without needing to be pointed at the screen.

Additionally, it doesn’t have any ‘wand’ capabilities, so navigation will still need the classic D-pad. You get the admittedly gimmicky Netflix and Google Play dedicated buttons on the remote, as well as a whole lot of buttons for various functions. I’ll agree that it gets the job done, but this old-fashioned approach doesn’t go too well with the rest of the modernity in the Sony A8F OLED TV.

The Sony A8F OLED TV is a smart TV, and runs Android TV operating system. While Android may rule the smartphone space, Android TV isn’t a default winner in the smart TV segment, and is fairly well matched by other platforms such as Samsung’s Tizen-based interface and LG’s WebOS. Sony is the largest manufacturer on the Android TV platform and serves as a poster-brand for it.

On the whole it’s a capable enough operating system for a smart TV, with plenty of well-designed apps in place already. Navigating is easy enough thanks to the tile interface, and apps are built to work well on a large screen with D-pad navigation. Most of the useful apps for content, including YouTube, Netflix, Hotstar, Amazon Prime Video and Google Play are present, giving you a good collection of internet-based content on the TV. You also get 16GB of internal storage which you can use to install more apps off the Google Play Store for Android TV.

A particularly useful feature in the Sony A8F OLED TV is the built-in Chromecast, as well as support for Miracast. This lets you directly mirror your Android phone’s screen on the TV, as well as ‘cast’ the picture from supported smartphone apps. It’s useful for people that use their smartphones as media controllers, and is admittedly easier to use than the actual smart TV interface in many ways. While the Chromecast can be buggy in general, the built-in one worked well enough for me.

Sony A8F OLED TV Performance

Most modern TVs today come with LED panels, which is to say it’s a Liquid Crystal Display with Light Emitting Diode backlighting. OLED panels have each pixel individually lit, which means that the screen can simply switch off pixels that don’t need color, as opposed to using an artificial shade of black. On the Sony A8F OLED TV, this is of course the biggest advantage. Colors are clean, black levels are superior, and the picture is as close as a screen can get to real life, particularly if you’re also using HDR content.

As with all 4K TVs, the best performance is seen when you don’t force the TV to upscale content. Performance with UHD video is therefore excellent, and the TV sits among the best I’ve used for 4K content. That’s not to say that upscaling on the Sony A8F is bad; it’s actually very good thanks to the X1 Extreme processor. Even if you’re watching 720p or standard definition content, you’ll find the TV doing a good job with making low-resolution content fit on a screen with over eight million pixels. However, if most of your viewing is standard-definition or HD content, a TV such as this may be an entirely unnecessary investment to start with.

Full-HD content, which would likely be the most viewed resolution if you own a 55-inch 4K OLED TV, is upscaled very well on the Sony A8F. Whether you’re watching from a set-top box, Blu-Ray player or streamed from online, you’ll get a consistent, quality picture. Colors, textures, brightness, motion and sharpness are all excellent.

If you step up to HDR content, performance is the best you can possibly get from a TV today. HDR boasts more accurate colors and higher peak brightness, both of which are plain to see on the Sony A8F with good content. On the whole, the A8F is among the best TVs you can buy today when it comes to performance.

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Just as flagship smartphones have been moving to OLED-based screen technologies, it’s only obvious that the best TVs do the same. While the higher cost of OLED panels has kept the price of these TVs relatively high, recent years have seen it drop to reasonable levels. This means that you can have a flagship OLED TV such as the Sony A8F at under Rs 350,000 for the 55-inch variant, while enjoying the benefits of the new screen tech.

While OLED TVs are still a relatively rare product, there are a handful of options available from other brands, notably LG (which also happens to make the panel for the Sony A8F). But what sets the Sony apart and makes it such a good option are a number of factors, including the Android TV operating system, excellent performance with content of all resolutions, and good HDR performance.

But its biggest advantage is in its design. Its minimalism makes it beautiful, the acoustic display adds to its quality, and the slimness makes it all about what you see on the screen, which is exactly how it should be. On the whole, the Sony A8F OLED TV is the TV of the future; it’s a combination of all the best bits of modern TV technology, giving you quality picture and function in a single package. It isn’t cheap, but quality comes at a price. However, be assured that your investment is getting you the best possible option if you do decide to buy the Sony A8F OLED TV.

  • Published Date: July 16, 2018 4:37 PM IST