Sony A8F OLED TV: Full, in-depth review

Sony A8F OLED TV
  • Sony A8F OLED TV
  • Sony A8F OLED TV
  • Sony A8F OLED TV
  • Expert Rating

    4.25 / 5

Pros

  • Great picture quality
  • Acoustic surface is a great value-add

Cons

  • Unique design won't suit all
  • Android TV sometimes lags

Bottom Line

It’s not going to suit every living room out there but if you’re looking for a solid OLED at a competitive price, the Sony Bravia A8F can’t be overlooked.

Would you buy this?

The Pitch

On paper, at least, there’s definitely a lot to like about the pitch for Sony’s A8F OLED TV.

After all, it’s 2018. OLED is in. It's expensive - but, for many, it's an investment worth making. And, price-wise, the A8F sits underneath the other entry-level OLEDs. When it comes to Sony’s own 2018 roster, however, it’s the best and bright thing on offer short. Or atleast it was until the A9F was announced earlier this month. The fact that it runs on Android TV is simply icing on an already-decadent cake.

Make no mistake. This is a top-of-line, best-in-class OLED. And even if it is only a slight reconfiguration of last year’s A1 Bravia, it’s still compelling. Particularly, if you’re looking at the 55-inch sizing.

Specs

The specs for our review sample of the A8F OLED were as follows:

Display size: 55-inch

Display type: OLED

Smart TV OS: Android 8.1

Dimensions: 1226mm x 712mm x 55 mm

Weight: 18.7 Kg

Peak brightness: Approximately 700 nits

HDR support: HDR10, Dolby Vision (coming soon), HLG

4K support: Yes

On-board storage: 16 GB

Built-in ChromeCast: Yes

Remote: Traditional remote

Built-in speakers: Acoustic Surface with Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby Pulse. 2.1-channel system.

Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, Ethernet

Ports: HDMI 2.0 (x4), Composite input, USB 3.0, USB 2.0 (x2), 3.5 mm jack and Digital audio output

Pricing: $3999

Design & Smart TV Features

As touched on in the intro, the A8F does recycle a lot of the broader design features found in last year’s Bravia A1. Still, there are a few differences on the docket worth highlighting. The most visible of these is the redesigned stand. Last year’s Bravia had a unique slate-like and slightly-slanted stand. This year’s A8F opts for a far more conventional approach.

[Related Content: Everything you need to know about OLED TVs]

At a glance, this new rigging is pretty alike to LG’s OLEDs. You put the the stand underneath the A8F and it slides right on. A few screws later and you’re more-or-less ready to get into it.

When it comes to smarts, the Sony A8F runs on Android TV. Resilient as ever, it offers up a neat row-based interface and plenty of ticked boxes. It's got deep-search, voice control (via the Google Assistant) and a built-in Chromecast.

The short version here is that A8F offers a compelling baseline smart TV experience but not a particularly unique one. It's intuitive enough for first-timers and comes with plenty of future-proofing. But you're not getting anything you wouldn't get out of any other Android TV setup.

Of course, that's not to say you don't get any net benefits. Whatever the next big streaming service is, it's a good bet that Android TV will offer solid support from day one.

[Related Content: Buying a TV in 2018? Here's everything you need to know]

At the moment, Android TV supports compatible Android apps and most major streaming platforms. This includes Netflix, Stan, Amazon Prime, Youtube and Google Play Movies. Meanwhile, all the usual local catch-up services are also present and accounted for. The Bravia A8F supports ABC iView, 7Plus, 9Now, TenPlay and SBS OnDemand.

All the same, there are a few wrinkles here that I’d like to see addressed in the future.

The fact that the only way to switch between inputs and apps is to pull up the whole home screen is one such drawback. There’s a reason that the drawer-style UIs found in Samsung and Panasonic TVs have become so dominant. The A8F would be a better if it included some analogue to this functionality.

Voice commands are another shortcoming. Like LG’s latest, they’re present and accurate enough - but don’t end up being that significant of a feature. You can use them, but only for certain things - which ends up undercutting the value.

The lack of processing power hurts the experience. I reviewed this at the same time as I did the recent Nvidia Shield TV.

Both of these smart TV interfaces run on Android TV but the difference between them was a stark one. Jumping between menus on the A8F was sometime smooth enough. Unfortunately, almost as often, things would lag, drag and become more unresponsive. This inconsistency was not ideal. It's 2018 - having a smart TV that lags on basic menu clicks isn't good enough.

Another thing that bugged me about the Bravia A8F was the remote. I wish Sony would come out with something like the Nu-Remotes found in Samsung and TCL’s products. Like Hisense’ Series 7, the A8F's remote is a hybridized unit with one foot in the past and one in the present. Netflix buttons arrayed alongside older AV inputs without too much care.

[Related Content:Everything you need to know about HDR TVs]

The final wrinkle I found in the design is that the flush stand design ended up working against me. The narrowness of the bezels mean that your soundbar is going to get in the way of your view of the display itself. If you're wall-mounting, this won't be an issue. But, in my case, this was definitely a drawback that I hadn’t considered until after I had the A8F set up in front of me.

The Acoustic Surface makes for a reasonable consolation prize here.

Introduced in last year’s Bravia A1, this feature turns the OLED display of the A8F itself into a large speaker. In practice, this feature doesn’t come close to offering the same depth or crisp detail that you’d get out of a soundbar. If you’re the kind of user who’s yet to buy into the soundbar hype - it remains a compelling dot-point.

It sounds better and more cinematic than most built-in TV speakers usually do. And given the drawbacks that can come with using a soundbar with the A8F, it serves to accent and round out the package.

Performance & Picture Quality

Even Sony themselves have basically admitted that the picture and spec of the A8F is synonymous with the A1. That said, one difference between the A8F and its predecessor is Dolby Vision support. Or, at least it will be. At the moment, the functionality is missing. Sony say that it’ll come in a firmware update later down the line.

Once that happens, the A8F will support all three major HDR formats: HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision. For now though, it’s just HDR10 and HLG. No word on whether the A1 will get the same software upgrade. But it would be a shame to see Sony leave its own early-OLED adopters behind on this front. We’ll keep you posted and hope for the best.

Regardless, the A8F is a modern OLED TV. Like pretty much every other modern OLED TV out there, it looks great in action. It’s not quite as bright as LG’s E8, which led to some issues with glare and light reflection. Still, for the most part, its imagery is rich with detail and it boasts deeper, darker, more-absolute blacks than you can ever hope to get out of a traditional LCD-LED alternative.

Credit: Godzilla

I revisited Gareth Edwards’ 2014 take on Godzilla and came away impressed with the detail and visual impact that the A8F afforded the film. The color and scale of the colossal action sequences here was really memorable, even if everything to do with the film's characters lacked the same impact.

I also spent quite a bit of time watching eSports on the A8F. More specifically, I sunk more than a few hours viewing the recent Overwatch League Season 1 Playoffs on this thing via Twitch. The quality of playback here was definitely subject to the speed and stability of my own internet connection. However, speaking more generally, I was really happy with the results.

Credit: Blizzard

The color-coded iconography of each team has a zesty pop quality to it and the A8F never missed a beat, no matter how hectic the action became.

The Bottom Line

Having now tested the best that the competition have to offer, I’m convinced that Sony’s A8F OLED might actually be the best all-round, first-OLED option out there. If you don’t already own a soundbar, the acoustic surface is a great-value-add and though Android TV is sometimes a little sluggish, the baseline experience is still pretty good.

I can’t necessarily make the case that the Sony A8F OLED is the TV you should run out and buy this very second. However, with all the pros and cons in mind, I can definitely say it’s probably the OLED TV I’d look at buying right now.

It’s not going to suit every living room out there but if you’re looking for a solid OLED at a competitive price, the Sony Bravia A8F can’t be overlooked.

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Read more on these topics: sony, Sony A8F, Sony OLED
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