Sony A1E Review (XBR55A1E, XBR65A1E, XBR77A1E) – Sony’s 2017 HDR OLED TV
Sony A1E Series is the first Sony’s 4K HDR OLED TV that released in the market. But even so, it actually is not really the first considering in 2008 because Sony has launched their first OLED TV, even the first in the world named XEL-1. It offered breathtaking picture quality and gorgeous designed at that time. The only constraint of XEL-1 why it didn’t success in the market at that time is about its screen size that only 11 inch. Now, after nine years have passed, Sony has released again OLED TV that course come with a far more advanced technology named A1E series. Unlike its first OLED TV XEL – 1 that available on 11 inch screen size, Sony A1E series is available on 3 screen sizes, 55 Inch (XBR55A1E), 65 Inch (XBR65A1E), and 77 Inch (XBR77A1E).
With the presence of A1E series, expected, there is other option for OLED TV fans because all this time, OLED TV market is only dominated by LG OLED TV. But it seems that hope is not fully fulfilled considering the main panel of Sony A1E series is still bought from LG. This means the competition between OLED TVs that available in the market is only about the features that offered.
As a premium 4K HDR TV, Sony A1E comes with a gorgeous design and some unique technologies that make it is different to the other OLED TVs that available in the market. From the front, all you see is only a screen. The excepting of an incredibly thin black frame around all four sides of its screen, its screen is clear. There are no speakers, no stand, and no bezel. On the other hand, one of the unique technologies offered by Sony A1E series is about their sound system where it doesn’t use speaker and as the instead, A1E employ a new technology called Acoustic Surface Technology where to generate sounds, it utilize the screen itself. Meanwhile, about technologies that support its picture performance, there are some the number of Sony’s most advanced technologies behind it that makes the picture displayed on the screen of A1E series looks absolutely amazing.
Like Sony X930E series or Z9D series, Sony A1E is powered by 4K HDR Processor X1 Engine as the main picture engine. It is a new Sony’s images processor where there are a lot of Sony’s most advanced technologies embedded including Dynamic Contrast Enhancer, Precision Color Mapping, Dual Data Base Processing, Super Bit Mapping 4K HDR, and Object Based HDR Remaster Technology. Come with HDR technology, Sony OLED A1E already supports HDR 10 by UHD Alliance and with a software update in the year, it certainly also will support HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma), and Dolby Vision. In term of color reproduction, combination of OLED Panel, TriLuminos Display, and X1 Extreme makes the color of the picture is richer and very accurate. Meanwhile, the other advantage of OLED panel is about is wide viewing angle where the picture displayed looks consistently amazing regardless the viewing angle of the viewers. The other great performance that offered by OLED A1E is about its motion handling where combination between low pixel response time of OLED panel and MotionFlow XR960 produce smooth and clear picture quality without motion blur when it is used for watching fast moving images. And that is not less interesting is about its smart TV where it comes with Google Android TV that provides tons of interesting and useful apps.
Sony A1E Key Specification
|Resolution||4K (2160 x 3840)|
|Size Available||55 Inch (XBR65A1E), 65 Inch (XBR65A1E), 77 Inch (XBR77A1E)|
|Panel Technology||OLED Panel|
|Backlight||Self-Lighting Pixel (No Backlight)|
|Dimming Technology||Pixel Dimming|
|Support HDR||HDR 10, HLG, and Dolby Vision|
|Picture Engine||4K HDR Processor X1 Extreme|
|4K-X reality Pro||Yes|
|Color Technology||TriLuminos Display|
|Motion Control||MotionFlow XR|
|Key Apps||Opera Browser, Google Cast, PlayStation Now, and more|
|Remote||Voice Remote Control|
|RF (Terrestrial Cable)||1|
|Composite In (AV)||1|
|Speaker Type||Acoustic Surface (Actuator + Subwoofer)|
|Total Audio Output||10 W + 10 W + 10 W + 10 W + 10 W|
|Price||See the price on Amazon|
Performance of Sony A1E
Like LG OLED TV, perfect black level and infinite contrast is the main advantage of Sony A1E as an OLED TV. It is not so surprising due A1E uses OLED Panel where it has self-lighting pixel or identical with pixel dimming. Each of pixels can switch on/off/dim individually without affected the condition of other pixels surrounding. The result, blacks looks absolutely black, even when used in a dark room. Of course, this makes SDR or HDR images produced have incredible depth. Additionally, perfect black level and infinite contrast also makes A1E can deliver defined details just above black that makes details image in shadow or dark scenes looks excellently particularly when it is displaying HDR Videos. Of course, this is in accordance to what offered by HDR technology itself that offers more detail picture quality in shadow or sun highlight effect.
Peak Brightness reached by Sony A1E is very bright for OLED TV but it is average for overall. What reached by Sony A1E is a bit more dim than what reached by LG OLED C7 as part of LG’s 2017 OLED TV lineup. Nevertheless, it is still far brighter than 550 nits as the minimum recommendation for displaying HDR 10 video set for OLED TV. This means when displaying HDR 10 video, there will no issue on brightness. Additionally, peak Luminance reached by A1E is also bright enough to makes bright scenes look excellently when set in a dark room. But unfortunately, when used in a bright room, especially in an extremely bright room with a lot of lights coming in through the window, the performance of A1E is a bit less stellar due its peak brightness cannot fight the glare well. It is not as good as Sony Premium TVs including X930E or Z9D series that have peak luminance almost double than reached by A1E series that makes their picture quality looks consistently amazing in an extremely bright room.
Combination of OLED panel with 4 sub-pixels RGBW and TriLuminos display makes it already supports wide color gamut that required for displaying HDR images. You need to know, it can deliver almost 100% of DCI P3 color space or more precisely around 96% of DCI P3 color space while the minimum requirement for displaying HDR 10 video fully is about 90% of DCI P3 Color space. This certainly makes the color looks very accurate, particularly at lower luminance level. Meanwhile, at higher luminance level, the color accuracy of Sony A1E is reduced a bit due its peak luminance is still below 1000 nits. Still about color performance, with Super Bit Mapping 4K HDR embedded inside X1 extreme, Sony A1E series can display 10 bit signals even 8 bit signal equivalent to 14 bit gradation. The result, color gradient of the picture displayed on the screen of OLED A1E looks very smooth, even close to perfect. If most of 4K HDR TVs including LG OLED TV has a bit color gradient issue on darker color, on the screen of Sony A1E, color gradient on darker color looks perfectly.
Meanwhile, with 4K X-reality pro behind it, Sony A1E has a great ability to up-scale lower resolution to near 4K quality. This means no matter the resolution of the video source, all of them will be displayed sharply and clearly in 4K quality. Even for lower resolution 480p videos like movies from DVDs, small details still preserved well. Not only that, with Dual Data Base Processing and Object-Based Remaster technology embedded inside the X1 Extreme, the brightness and color range is not just improved scene by scene, but the brightness and color of each objects in every scenes is improved. This allows you to enjoy Standard Dynamic Range contents with the quality close to 4K HDR.
Like other OLED TVs, Sony A1E also has wide viewing angle. This means no matter the viewing angle of you are watching from even from extremely side viewing angle, the quality of the picture will still looks consistently amazing without contrast or color deterioration. Of course, this gives a benefit when you want to use in a wide room where there are a lot of viewers watch TV from multiple viewing angles.
Motion Handling and 24p Playbacks
As we know, one of the main advantages of OLED TV than LED TV is about its very low pixel response time. This allows Sony A1E perform a perfect job when handling motion blur. The result, the picture displayed looks very smooth and clear with no motion blur when it is used for watching fast moving images like sport programs or fast movies. Following fast moving objects, there is only a short trail where most of people don’t notice at all about that. But unfortunately, when playing 24p movies, particularly via 60i signals or 60p signals, Sony A1E series doesn’t do a perfect job. When displaying native 24p videos like movies from Blu-Ray, Sony A1E might still be able to deliver smooth picture quality with judder-free. But when displaying 24p movies via 60i signals like satellite TV or 60p signals like streaming media, judder cannot be removed completely. But fortunately, most of people don’t notice a judder so this should not be a major problem for Sony OLED A1E Series.
Like most of 4K HDR TVs that available in the market, Sony A1E is equipped with 4 HDMI ports and 3USB Ports as their connectivity. Most of its HDMI ports also already support the format what required to date like HDCP 2.2, CEC, Audio Return Channel, and more. In addition to HDMI and USB Ports, there are also 1 RF IN (Terrestrial), 1 Composite In (AV), Ethernet, Digital Audio Out (Optical), and Analog Audio Out (Mini jack). But even so, there is no component in where if you want connect other devices on A1E series with Component In as its major connectivity, you need additional adapter. Meanwhile, the input lag of Sony A1E series is not as low as the brother Sony X930E series. But even so, it still low for most of games, particularly at 4K sources. This certainly makes it is very comfortable when used for playing any kind of 4K games, even for fast paced games. Meanwhile, the input lag of Sony A1E is still too high at 1080p source. This means it is only comfortable when used for playing casual games while for playing fast paced 1080p games, OLED A1E series might be a bit disappointing.
Like smart TV platforms of other models of Sony’s 2017 4K HDR TV lineup, Sony A1E series also feature Google Android TV as its smart TV platform. Like the previous version, Google Android TV is a bit more difficult and confusing than its competitor like WebOS of LG or Tizen of Samsung. The user interface is a bit chunky, the recommendation system is not too effective, and customization option is limited. Nevertheless, behind some shortcomings of Android TV, it offers fast and very responsive performance where the loading time of an app once it is launched is very fast. Additionally, selecting between apps or multitasking also feels responsively. One of the advantages of Google Android TV is about the apps provided where in addition to default Sony and Google apps like Google Voice Search, ChromeCast, Miracast, some most popular apps like YouTube, Netflix, and others, Cloud Games apps like PlayStation Now, and many more, there is also Google Play Store that provides tons of apps, games, and contents where you can download directly from your TV. As we know, Google Play Store is the most complete apps store that supported by tons of developers. Nevertheless, too many apps available precisely make Google Android TVs a bit lost focus to apps which most TV watchers want to find. But even so, overall, its smart TV platform is attractive and responsive.
Meanwhile, as the controller, Sony A1E series uses a remote like what the other models of Sony 4K TV also use. There are a lot of buttons on the remote which may be a bit confusing for navigating. But the interesting point, there is a built-in microphone for voice command or voice search functionality. And work together with Sony IR Blaster, this remote can be functioned as a universal remote for controlling other devices connected on Sony TV.
One of the most interesting points that offered by Sony A1E series is about its audio performance where it uses the screen-vibrating technology as the instead of speaker system. Nevertheless, despite the screen will vibrate when producing sound, this will not make the image look blurry because it operates at high frequencies. Meanwhile, for low frequency like Bass, it is handled by a separated sub-woofer. Meanwhile, talking about its performance, the frequency response is very good that makes its sound quality is far better than plenty of TVs that used regular speakers. But even so, although its sound quality is far better than average, for you who care about sound quality, an additional external sound bar is still recommended.
As an OLED TV, picture quality particularly perfect black level and infinite contrast are the main advantage that offered by Sony A1E series. Its picture quality is really amazing especially when used in a dark room. In a moderately bright room, the picture produced by A1E also still looks amazing due bright peak luminance reached by Sony A1E series. Nevertheless, its picture quality will a bit reduced when used in an extremely bright room due its peak luminance is still below 1000 nits and not bright enough to fight the glare. Meanwhile, come with HDR technology, it is certified by Ultra HD Premium Certification set by UHD Alliance due all of its display specs meet the minimum recommendation for displaying HDR 10 video fully like what intended. Like other OLED TVs, Sony OLED A1E also offers extremely wide viewing angle that allows you to amazing picture quality displayed on its screen regardless the viewing angle you are watching from. The other perfect performance that offered is about motion handling where it handles perfectly the motion blur that allows you to enjoy clearly and smoothly your favorite sport program or other fast moving images with no motion blur. In addition to superior picture quality, Sony A1E also offers some interesting points like the unique technology of their sound system, attractive and responsive Google Android TV, and others like what we have discussed a lot above. The only drawbacks are about its huge price and no 3D technology behind it.
Should I Buy this TV? If you don’t mind about the price that offered and picture quality is the main consideration in buying TV, Sony A1E might be a good option for you. As long as you don’t have a plan to use it in an extremely bright room, you will not find a serious problem on Sony A1E series.
- Awesome Design
- Perfect Black Level and Infinite Contrast
- Certified by Ultra HD Premium Certification
- Perfect Motion Handling
- Wide Viewing Angle
- Great 4K Up-scaling Engine
- No 3D Technology
- Input Lag at 1080p signal is still too high
- The Price is expensive