The Bravia A1 series is Sony’s first large-screen OLED TV. A 4K UHD TV that supports HDR10, Dolby Vision, and Hybrid Log-Gamma HDR formats, the A1 also touts a new X1 Extreme processor with tons of horsepower to handle all the real-time processing (e.g., object-based HDR remaster, color gradation smoothing, noise reduction, 4K upscaling) required to make the eight million self-illuminating pixels look good. Like all recent Bravia models, the A1 runs the Android TV platform, so you can access the Google Play store to get apps, use Google Cast to get video from your phone to the big screen, and use voice search to find content.
The other big story with the A1 is its Acoustic Surface sound technology. In short, Sony has decided against putting speakers along the sides of the TV. Instead, there are four actuators at the rear of the TV that vibrate to produce sound through the screen. The resulting experience was surprisingly good, as I did get the feeling that the actor’s voice came from his mouth, and not some speaker at the bottom of the TV. All that said, unless LG’s OLED offerings, the A1 doesn’t support Dolby Atmos.
To further realize this idea of the TV being a giant canvas, Sony has eliminated the traditional under-TV pedestal or feet. Much like a photo frame, the A1 is propped up with a flap-like stand on its back, which is well hidden from view when you’re standing in front of the TV.
Out of the box, the Cinema Pro picture mode gave me the most accurate colors (my review unit was the 65-inch model, by the way). My favorite test material, Planet Earth II and The Revenant, looked splendid on the A1, with super-deep black levels and super-high contrast in every scene. Coupled with a wide viewing angle with no magenta cast when the screen is hit by light, the A1 makes for a good living room and daytime TV, too.
With a peak brightness just over 700 nits, HDR material looked great on the A1. The only two things that made it into my notes are that Sony seems to tone-map differently than LG, which means detail in specular highlights on LG’s high-end OLED TVs is a tad more revealing. But I was pixel-peeping when testing the TVs, and I doubt typical users would notice any difference. On the other hand, the A1’s Smooth Gradation setting dealt large color blocks (e.g., blue skies) marginally better, offering fewer instances of banding and posterization. Finally, gaming performance was decent on the A1, though at 47ms (in 1080p), it’s no match for LG’s 22ms. With 4K, it came down to about 31ms.
Like the Panasonic EZ1000 OLED TV I’ve reviewed, my chief gripe with the A1 is its price, which is okay if LG doesn’t have more affordable models (e.g., the C7 series) with similar image performance. But price isn’t everything. If you’re looking for the best 4K HDR Android TV, then the A1 is without peer.
(Editor's note: This review was based on the S$12,999, 65-inch Bravia A1. Sony also sells the A1 in 55 and 77-inch screen sizes, with an SRP of S$8,999 and S$32,999 respectively.)
Note: This article was first published in the Feb 2018 issue of HWM.