Whereas many dwelling cinema followers embraced the mix of Sony processing and OLED know-how delivered by 2017’s A1 TVs, elements of this vary’s design proved divisive. Some folks didn’t like the way in which its display screen tilted barely again, or the way in which the display screen was supported by an angled leg that made the TV too deep to take a seat simply on a chunk of furnishings. Some had been additionally pissed off that you just couldn’t cling the A1s on a wall.
Cue the brand new Sony A8F OLED vary (or AF8 within the UK). These extra straightforwardly-designed OLED TVs – as represented right here by the 55-inch KD-55AF8 – are a direct response to the A1’s demanding strategy. Simply don’t anticipate them to maneuver Sony’s OLED dialog alongside in every other approach…
The 55AF8 actually is way simpler to accommodate in a typical lounge than the A1 sequence. The vertical display screen will work higher for many lounge preparations, and the removing of the leaning leg retains the display screen’s depth to only 5 centimetres or so. Because of this, it’s no drawback to wall-hang, and sits simply on any little bit of furnishings. Particularly because the display screen rests low on a easy, strikingly-small and centrally-mounted desktop stand.
The 55AF8 doesn’t ship a whole aesthetic departure from the A1s, although. As an example, its ultra-narrow body and neck-free stand once more exemplify Sony’s need to minimise the visible affect of their , in order that your consideration is concentrated solely on the photographs you’re watching.
There’s additionally a bass port constructed into the set’s rear, as there was with the A1. Most significantly of all, there are not any different seen audio system, as a result of the 55AF8 joins the A1 in utilizing its display screen to make its sound.
In different phrases, its ‘Acoustic Floor’ know-how makes use of exciters connected to the again of the display screen to vibrate it into creating (stereo) sound.
Display screen sizes obtainable: 65-inch, 55-inch | Tuner: Freeview HD | 4K: Sure | HDR: Sure (HDR10, Dolby Imaginative and prescient (following a future replace), HLG) | Panel know-how: OLED | Good TV: Sure/Android TV 7.zero | Curved: No | Dimensions: 1226(w) x 712(h) x 55(d) mm | 3D: No | Inputs: four HDMIs, three USBs, RF tuner
Design TL;DR: An ultra-minimalist entrance offers method to a a lot slimmer, extra sensible rear than you bought with the A1 sequence. The tip result’s a bit much less dramatic, although.
Good TV Options
Up to now I haven’t been a fan of the Android TV platform Sony makes use of on its TVs – and that’s not going to vary with the 55AF8. In truth, Android appears to be getting worse relatively than higher.
The most important drawback is the affect making an attempt to run Android TV has on the remainder of the TV’s working system. There are crashes and failed instructions galore, and the menus typically take an insane period of time to reply to your selections. Particularly for the primary few moments after you’ve powered the TV up from chilly. Even switching the TV on can take so long as booting up a pc.
The Android consumer interface has main issues, too. Its full-screen strategy seems to be cluttered and complicated, its advice system doesn’t actually appear to keep in mind your viewing preferences and historical past, and there are nowhere close to sufficient choices for customising the format to fit your wants.
Sony claims that the AF8s shall be upgraded to obtain Android Eight, which is predicted to usher in a really completely different interface. Let’s hope that this lastly solves no less than a few of Android TV’s long-running points.
Luckily the 55AF8’s good options aren’t a whole bust. Amongst its frankly overwhelming checklist of accessible apps, for immediate, are the 4K HDR variations of Netflix, Amazon and YouTube. Additionally, Sony has fortunately managed to sidestep Android TV’s common shortcomings in relation to the UK terrestrial broadcaster’s catch-up TV apps by getting YouView onboard.
YouView brings the BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4, My 5 and so forth ‘below one roof’, and even allows you to search for reveals you’ve missed through an digital programme information that may scroll again in addition to ahead via time.
Maybe one of the best factor to come back from the built-in Android TV platform is built-in Chromecast assist, for simpler sharing of content material in your cell units. There’s additionally assist for Google Assistant and Alexa voice management.
Good options TL;DR: In addition to being cluttered and obtuse with its personal interface, Android TV has a painfully-damaging affect on the usability of the TV’s primary operational menus.
The KD-55AF8 could be one of the best TV with commonplace dynamic vary, HD-resolution content material that there’s ever been.
The important thing to the 55AF8’s phenomenal prowess with the kind of sub-4K stuff most of us nonetheless spend most of our time watching is its X1 Excessive processing engine. As an example, its use of two built-in databases (one targeted on eradicating supply noise, the opposite devoted to calculating the look of every of the tens of millions of additional pixels required to show HD into 4K) yields exceptional outcomes. All however the grubbiest HD sources are reworked into one thing that appears clear, polished and resembles 4K greater than it resembles HD. Even messy HD sources look cleaner and extra watchable than they have a tendency to even on good native HD TVs.
The 55AF8 additionally applies SDR to HDR conversion as commonplace to the vast majority of its image presets. And as with its decision upscaling, this HDR upconversion is great, opening up the SDR image’s coloration and brightness to no less than half-way HDR ranges with out leaving any side of the picture wanting strained or unnatural.
Rival units can ship extra aggressive HDR conversions of SDR content material, it needs to be mentioned. For me, although, the Sony’s extra measured strategy is extra persistently partaking.
In the event you select a preset – such because the Cinema one – that allows you to watch SDR in its native coloration and brightness values, the 55AF8 once more excels. There’s a stunning refinement to the way in which it handles element, coloration, gentle and shade that makes you realise why commonplace dynamic vary content material dominated the house AV roost for thus lengthy earlier than HDR lastly got here alongside.
HD/SDR TL;DR: Sony’s wonderful processing and the OLED know-how’s pixel-level gentle controls assist it to ship actually beautiful SDR and HD photos.
In most methods, the processing prowess and beautiful gentle and coloration administration that make Sony’s 55AF8 so good with HD/SDR content material additionally make it a elegant 4K/HDR performer.
In contrast with even LG’s much-improved new Eight-series OLEDs, for example, the 55AF8 does a stunning job of suppressing each kind of image noise.
There’s hardly any coloration blocking or fizzing in any respect, even with aggressively saturated but in addition subtly toned content material such because the heavily-filtered pink Mars skies on The Martian 4K Blu-ray.
Darkish scenes see virtually not one of the fizzing and low-level blocking noise that may nonetheless barely infiltrate the very darkest photographs on LG’s OLED TVs. This factors to excellent administration of near-black gentle ranges – one of many trickiest elements of OLED image efficiency.
There’s additionally no hint of striping noise in delicate 4K HDR coloration blends, and solely absolutely the tiniest proof of the vertical brightness banding difficulty that usually troubles OLED TVs to some extent.
Efficiently dodging these quite a few OLED noise issues permits the 55AF8 to supply a splendidly polished, immaculately immersive image.
The 55AF8’s black ranges are wealthy and deep past the capabilities of any present LCD TV. In truth, given the shortage of noise in them, they’re arguably the deepest, purest black ranges at present obtainable on any TV. This can be a implausible achievement that dwelling cinema followers will love – and which helps the TV ship excessive distinction HDR photos (the place wealthy white tones and colours can sit only a pixel away from the deepest blacks) with a degree of depth that by no means ceases to impress.
The grey-free blacks present a implausible basis for the 55AF8’s colors, giving them an prompt richness and authenticity that’s constructed on beautifully by Sony’s Triluminos color processing platform. The refinement of the 55AF8’s coloration efficiency helps native 4K photos look richly detailed, in addition to supplying you with a good sense of the additional coloration vary related to the entire present HDR sources.
Sony’s exemplary processing works wonders, too, with the 55AF8’s movement efficiency. Utilizing the Commonplace or True Cinema settings of the MotionFlow system sees judder decreased with out the image changing into so fluid that it now not seems to be pure. Even higher, this impressively pure discount in judder is achieved with out producing shimmering uncomfortable side effects across the edges of shifting objects; flickering over actually quick motion; or the sudden stutters or ‘billowing’ points seen with some rival OLED TVs.
Whereas the 55AF8’s superbly refined strategy to HDR and vast coloration content material is a factor of magnificence in most methods, although, Sony’s newest OLED display screen does have an Achilles Heel: Brightness. Or relatively, its lack of brightness.
It’s instantly apparent that the 55AF8 doesn’t pump out HDR photos with the kind of gentle ranges achieved by this 12 months’s new LG OLED TVs. And so they’re not even in the identical universe because the kind of brightness ranges you get with the brightest LCD TVs.
I measured the 55AF8’s brightness when exhibiting a 10% white HDR window to be round 700 nits (although this drops to 640 nits with some presets). That is solely 120 nits or so lower than the height brightness of LG’s C8 and E8 OLED TVs, however watching them aspect by aspect makes the distinction between the 2 look a lot larger than that. So lengthy, anyway, as you will have the LG’s Dynamic Tone Mapping function activated.
Because of this the LG delivers each a better ‘common brightness degree’ and extra intense-looking brightness peaks with HDR sources.
To be honest to Sony, it might be that it’s holding again the 55AF8’s most brightness to retain tonal element within the brightest components of the image, or to assist it hold noise out of darkish scenes or wealthy colours. However a lot as I like most issues in regards to the 55AF8’s photos, their lack of brightness issues. HDR photos simply don’t look that HDR – particularly should you’re watching them in something however a blacked out room.
One very last thing to notice right here is that for the reason that promised Dolby Imaginative and prescient replace for the 55AF8 shouldn’t be but prepared, I wasn’t capable of test if the addition of Dolby Imaginative and prescient’s dynamic metadata had a considerable affect on image efficiency. Expertise suggests, although, that it actually gained’t do any hurt!
4K/HDR Efficiency TL;DR: The 55AF8’s superb black degree efficiency and superbly refined coloration processing could make HDR 4K content material look unimaginable. It’s a disgrace, nonetheless, that the 55AF8 solely finds the identical restricted quantity of brightness for its HDR playback that Sony’s A1 OLED debutantes did.
Sony’s progressive Acoustic Floor know-how works nearly as nicely on the 55AF8 because it did on final 12 months’s A1 fashions.
I used to be once more very impressed, for example, with how open, well-rounded and detailed the sound is.
Additionally wonderful is how precisely sound results are positioned on the display screen. Voices appear to come back instantly from the speaker’s mouth, for example, whereas the sound of automobiles crossing the display screen tracks their movement with uncanny accuracy.
The sound can go fairly loud earlier than the ‘display screen exciter’ system begins to lose decision and develop into a bit skinny, and the sound is solid instantly ahead with loads of affect.
The woofer speaker on the rear, lastly, underpins the open sound of the stereo display screen with a satisfactory quantity of bass, even when the 55AF8 doesn’t appear fairly as assured on this division because the A1 sequence.
Sound efficiency TL;DR: The 55AF8’s Acoustic Floor know-how delivers clear, room-filling and well-rounded sound.
Different panels to ponder
The 55AF8’s primary rival is arguably Sony’s personal A1 sequence, which at present continues to promote alongside its newer siblings. In Europe, the 55-inch A1 prices just about the identical because the 55AF8 and delivers an basically an identical image efficiency. So should you choose and may accommodate the A1’s extra distinctive design, that’s the one for you. Word, although, that the 65-inch A1 is definitely round £300 dearer than the 65AF8.
Within the US, the A1s make life harder for the AF8s. Each A1 fashions are, on the time of writing, considerably cheaper than the equal AF8s. So given the acute similarities of their efficiency, the A1s would appear the higher possibility should you’re not determined to keep away from that mannequin’s lean again design.
Different rivals of be aware could be LG’s C8 or E8 2018 OLED TVs, which ship a lot brighter, punchier HDR photos, however aren’t nearly as good at suppressing video noise.
Lastly, Samsung’s new Q9FN LCD TVs mix enormous ranges of peak brightness with class-leading black ranges to offer a potent rival for OLEDs conventional contrast-rich charms. Particularly for folks with brilliant residing rooms to take care of. However, they don’t maintain on to shadow element in darkish scenes in addition to OLEDs.
Sony’s superlative image processing helps the 55AF8 ship splendidly pure, clear photos that depart dwelling cinema followers free to wash in OLED’s sensational black ranges and intense distinction and colours.
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