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Sony's new A8H OLED TVs get several Master Series features; new Master Series expected later this year

By Ng Chong Seng - on 20 Feb 2020, 10:48am

Sony's new A8H OLED TVs get several Master Series features; new Master Series expected later this year

While Sony didn’t completely refresh its A9 OLED Master Series at CES this year, it did say that a new mid-tier 4K A8H series is coming. Set to replace the 2019 A8G, the 2020 A8H will also come in two screen sizes: 55 and 65 inches.

Versus its predecessor, the biggest improvement here is the inclusion of Sony’s Picture Processor X1 Ultimate chip (the A8G uses the slower Extreme chip). Prior to 2020, the Ultimate chip was only used in Sony’s flagship OLED TVs like last year’s Master Series A9G — so its appearance in the A8H means that the mid-tier TV is getting Master Series features like Pixel Contrast Booster and Object-based Super Resolution.

The A8H is also getting Sony’s X-Motion Clarity tech, which is usually reserved for the company’s premium LED-LCD TVs. This suggests that the A8H’s panel has a native refresh rate of up to 120Hz. More importantly, it seems like the TV can also do black frame insertion up to 120Hz. In theory, this enables high FPS content to look sharper (in motion) without sacrificing brightness.

The A8H is also getting HDMI 2.1 — though it seems like what it encompasses is no different from last year’s A9G. In short: you get HDMI eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel) for pushing lossless Dolby Atmos or DTS:X signal to a receiver, but no 4K @ 100/120fps, no VRR (variable refresh rate) and no ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode).

Sound-wise, the Android TV-running A8H continues to use Sony’s innovative Acoustic Surface Audio speaker system with a couple of actuators and subwoofers behind the screen to give you that sound-from-screen effect. There’s no TV Centre Speaker Mode, however.

And speaking of speakers, the A8H features a one-slate design with a very thin bezel, and the panel is perched on a metal blade stand. Unlike the Master Series’ stand, the A8H’s stand can be adjusted to lift the screen higher off the table surface so that there’s enough clearance for you to put a soundbar under it.

The A8H is expected to ship in 2Q 2020. Local availability and pricing info isn’t available at the moment.

So, is there an A9H?

Sony has yet to fully refresh its Master Series OLED TVs. At CES, only a 48-inch A9S (S for small?) was announced; and even then, there was no unit for us to look at.

In a nutshell, the 48-inch A9S has everything that’s on the A9G as well as new 2020 additions such as the aforementioned X-Motion Clarity. There’s also an Ambient Optimisation feature (also on the A8H), which, not unlike Samsung’s Adaptive Picture feature for the QLED TVs, is used to automatically adjust picture brightness and contrast based on current ambient lighting. Netflix Calibrated Mode, Apple AirPlay and HomeKit support, built-in Chromecast — they’re all present.

With many of the A9G’s features now on the A8H, there’s hope that the upcoming large-screen A9-something models will include brand-new features not seen before in the Master Series. The current rumour is that the Master Series would be updated in the second half of 2020 and would once again come in 55-, 65- and 77-inch screen sizes. The new A9 is also rumoured to sport an updated X1 processor, which I posit (hope?) is used to power additional HDMI 2.1 features like 4K/120Hz and VRR.