2020 is the year in which we can buy smaller OLED screens for the first time. Sony also sees something in it. The KD-48A9 is not just any small version of the 2019 AG9 range. It also got a new feature of the 2020 A8 range. How are the performances?
Sony KD-48A9 OLED TV – specifications
- What: Ultra HD OLED TV
- Screen size: 48 inch (122 cm), flat
- Connections: 4x HDMI (1x eARC, 4x v2.0), 1x composite video, 1x stereo minijack, 1x optical digital out, 3x USB, 1x headphones, 3x antenna, Bluetooth 4.2
- Extras: HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, WiFi (802.11ac) built-in, Android TV (9.0 Pie), Chromecast, Airplay 2, USB / DLNA media player, DVB-T2 / C / S2, CI + lock, voice control , X1 Ultimate 4K HDR processor
- Dimensions: 1,069 x 629 x 255 mm (including foot)
- Weight: 17.6 kg (including foot)
- Consumption: 114 / 0.5 watt (Energy label B)
- List price: 2,000 euros
Sony KD-48A9 OLED TV – Design
It largely inherits its design from the 2019 AG9. The slim OLED screen has a super narrow dark-colored frame, slightly wider at the bottom to make room for the Sony logo. In profile it looks a bit thicker, just like the A8.
However, this is largely due to the rectangular finish, and the fact that the rear module looks a bit larger on this smaller screen size. In reality, it is hardly thicker than competitors.
The metal base plate is rounded at the front, and gives the device a solid base. The back of the screen and the back of the base have clips to route the cables. Once everything is set up, hide everything with the cover plates.
An important note: the screen is barely an inch above your furniture. Placing a soundbar therefore seems completely impossible to us, it would always cover part of the image.
Sony KD-48A9 OLED TV – Connections
The list of connections is identical to that of the A8. The four HDMI connections are therefore unfortunately HDMI 2.0 connections. That is bad news for those who have a PS5 or Xbox Series X in mind. HDMI 2.1 features such as ALLM and VRR are also missing, there is an HDMI connection that offers eARC. The connections are all suitable for Ultra HD HDR, for this you switch them via the settings (Settings / Watching TV / External Inputs / HDMI Signal format) to the “Improved setting”.
There are also three USB connections, a composite video and stereo mini jack input, and an optical digital output. If you listen with a headset, you can use it both wired and wirelessly via Bluetooth. All connections point to the side or down, so wall mounting is not a problem.
Sony KD-48A9 OLED TV – Ease of use and smart TV
The A9 is equipped with the MediaTek MT5893 chipset. It has a quad-core ARM Cortex-A73 CPU with 2.5 GB RAM, Mali-G71 GPU and 16 GB internal storage. That chipset ensures a very smooth operation. The device uses Android 9 (Pie).
If you are looking for a handy overview of the possibilities of Android, you can visit our Android 8 (Oreo) overview article for now.
Last year, Sony gave its menus a major upgrade that greatly enhances ease of use. Inputs now appear in a ribbon at the bottom of the screen, and you can hide, add or even add apps yourself. The “Inputs” key thus becomes a handy quickstart bar.
The menu key (gear wheel) calls up a “Quick settings” bar at the bottom of the screen that you can customize just like the inputs. This year the entire menu for image and sound was redesigned. The settings are still organized in categories such as “Brightness” or “Motion”, but the settings below them now expand when you click on them. We find that just a bit less clear. A good improvement is the addition of an image and some explanatory text for each setting.
This small OLED TV comes with the beautiful new, luxurious version of the Sony remote. Slim, fits well in the hand, beautiful brushed metal finish. But who sketches our surprise when it turns out that the keys are not illuminated as on the remote of the XH95? Well, they are not lit on the A8 either, so we shouldn’t be really surprised, but we think that’s a shame.
Furthermore, we continue to find this a great remote. All essential functions are within reach of your thumb. Inputs, microphone, settings, the back key, TV, and Home are neatly arranged around the d-pad. There are direct buttons for Netflix and Google Play. We only find the playback keys at the bottom a bit too small. The remote works with IR, but also via Bluetooth, so you don’t have to aim. Only the power button always works via IR.
The A9 is equipped with a dual TV tuner for digital TV (DVB-T2 / C / S2) but has only one CI + slot. Watching and simultaneously recording another channel is therefore only possible with channels that are not encrypted. In addition to Chromecast, you can also use Apple Airplay 2. The TV is also compatible with Apple Homekit. Sony has provided an excellent media player that knows how to handle all major video and sound formats.
Sony KD-48A9 OLED TV – Image processing
The X1 Ultimate processor can now be found on the 2019 AG9, the XH95, the A8 and now also on this small A9. The performance of those devices is therefore almost identical. The X1 Ultimate quickly detects all video and film frame rates and delivers excellent deinterlacing so you rarely see jagged edges or moiré effects (still important for many digital TV set-top boxes that deliver 1080i). The “tickers” of news channels (running text at the bottom of the image) can sometimes shake slightly, which is a small downside.
The excellent noise reduction eliminates both random noise and compression noise (visible block formation). We prefer the “Low” setting for both settings, especially if you also want to use Reality Creation for some extra sharpness. For Ultra HD sources, Reality Creation is not recommended, it can cause errors in very fine detail. “Smooth gradations” has long been an asset that Sony had ahead of other manufacturers, and while the lead is shrinking here, it remains one of the better solutions. Even in our toughest test with dark, low-quality images, the Sony manages to hide the color bands almost completely without too many drawbacks. We would always leave the “low” setting activated. “Middle” is also possible if there is really a lot of banding, but you can make the image a bit softer.
Where is the A9 different from the 2019 AG9? Just like the A8 series X-Motion Clarity, this small OLED TV received the new ‘black frame insertion’ (BFI) technique with an adjusted duration of the black frame. Where the old 60Hz BFI caused a visible flicker, this is not the case with the new version. Set “Motionflow” to “User” and “Brightness” to 1 and detail in fast moving images gets a nice boost without obvious loss of brightness, and without visible flicker. You can set “Flexibility” yourself depending on your preference for motion interpolation. We prefer the “2” setting, a good compromise between smooth images and too many image artifacts. The result is then very good. Only in fast pan images does Motionflow not seem to keep up well, the Panasonic and Philips achieve better results there.
Here you will find an explanation of the most important picture settings and tips for setting up your TV.
|Sharpness / Movement
|Wide Mode: Auto
4/3 standard: Normal
Auto Display Environment: Off
Image Range: +1
|Picture mode: User
Auto Picture Mode: Off
Light sensor: On Brightness: Max
Black level: 50
Adjust black: off
Adv. Contrast optimization: Off
Peak lighting: Middle
Color tone: 0
Color Temperature: Expert 1
Live Color: Off
|Image sharpness: 50
Reality Creation: Auto
Reduce Random Noise: Low
Reduce digital noise: Low
Smooth Gradation: Low MotionFlow: Auto, or smoothness 2, brightness 1.
Movie Mode: Auto
Sony KD-48A9 OLED TV – Image quality
The A9 uses the same type of OLED panel as the LG 48CX.
Uniformity was excellent on bright images, but showed very light vertical stripes on the darkest test screens (1 to 3% gray). They are only visible when you are quite close to the device. What was striking is that the right third of the screen was slightly brighter. However, this was not evident in our dark test clips. Quite a good result, in other words, and typical of OLED screens.
We choose the “User” image mode, which delivers the best results. Leave “Peak Lighting” in the “Center” position, the image will be bright enough for most conditions. If there is a lot of ambient light, you can still choose the “High” setting. The light sensor is best left on. What immediately catches the eye is that this OLED shows very good black detail, without the annoying flickering pixels that we sometimes saw in the 2019 AG9 / AG8. The A9 even scores a bit better here than the A8 and thus reaches the level of the Panasonic models.
The “User” image mode is well calibrated. As always, we see that Sony opts for slightly cooler gray scale (very slight blue overtone). The gamma value of 2.4 gives a very cinematic image, you can set the “Gamma” setting to 0 in an average living room for a gamma of 2.2 that works slightly better in ambient light. An alternative is the “Cinema” image preset, which is a bit more intense. Color reproduction is excellent, the errors are below the visible limit.
Sony KD-48A9 OLED TV – HDR
The A9, like all Sony OLED models, supports HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG. Whether Sony will ever find HDR10 + important enough remains to be seen.
This 48-inch model scores very similar to the LG CX that we previously reviewed. The peak luminance on a 10% window scores approximately 679 nits, and on a 2% window 782 nits. The completely white screen achieves 140 nits. The Sony seems to score slightly better on small, clear details and very white images, but on average content, the LG seems to have a head start. In any case, it results in very typical OLED results for HDR.
We also see no surprises in the color range, the A9 scores 67% Rec.2020 range and 93% DCI-P3. Choose the “User” image mode for very nice results. The Sony A9 reveals a lot of black detail.
Like all Sony TVs, it seems to ignore metadata and performs dynamic tone mapping itself. In doing so, he hides all white detail above 2,000 nits. The images leave a very good impression, with excellent color reproduction and a tangible depth. Losing some white detail, of course only if the content exceeds 2000 nits, did not cause any problems.
Sony KD-48A9 OLED TV- Gaming, Reflections and Viewing Angles
The viewing angle is very wide, as we are used to from OLED screens. Really sitting right in front of the screen is not a requirement for the best picture. Avoid direct light, even if the screen handles reflections quite well. In the normal image modes we measure a lag of 101.6 ms, which is too much for decent gaming. In game mode, the lag drops to 18.4 ms, an excellent result.
Sony KD-48A9 OLED TV- Sound quality
Good news, Sony also opted for its “Acoustic Surface” technology for this small size. In addition, the TV uses the screen as a speaker membrane, and makes it vibrate with two actuators to produce the sound waves. For the low frequencies, the A9 uses one woofer module. The 55 inch A8, on the other hand, is equipped with two woofers.
The A9 still delivers the great sound that we are used to from Acoustic Surface, but you can hear that bass is a bit under-represented. It seems to us that the set hits the limits a bit faster than the A8, but there is still enough volume. Also perform the short test procedure with the remote to adjust the sound for the room acoustics.
The Sony A9 supports Atmos, but for really good-sounding surround you better rely on an external solution. But beware, placing a soundbar in front of this TV is not really an option, you cover part of the screen.
For the lag measurement we use a Leo Bodnar Display lag meter. For all other measurements we rely on a Spectracal C6 HDR2000 Colorimeter, Xrite i1 Pro spectrophotometer, a VideoForge Pro pattern generator, and the Spectracal Calman for Business software. We use an HDFury Vertex to analyze any HDR problems.
Sony KD-48A9 OLED TV – Conclusion
Sony gave its first 48-inch OLED TV its own model number: the A9. Is it a successor to the AG9? Or does it lean more towards the A8? The difference between the two is small, but to be clear: it seems to us that this is rather a smaller version of the A8. And that’s good, the A8 is after all better equipped than the AG9. It is a pity that Sony did not provide HDMI 2.1 connections, especially now that the PS5 is at the door. We would have liked HDR10 + support, but that is not a deal breaker. The price, on the other hand, is relatively high. For a 55A8 you pay only 100 euros more, and compared to the LG 48CX it is 300 euros more expensive.
The Sony KD-48A9 offers all the beauty of a Sony OLED TV in a smaller size. The X1 Ultimate still delivers top performance for, for example, the elimination of color bands in soft gradients. The A9 delivers fantastic black detail, both in SDR and HDR and the problems with flickering pixels we saw last year have disappeared. X-Motion Clarity, the renewed Black Frame insertion technique ensures top motion sharpness. You can enjoy the image to the fullest. The slightly smaller Acoustic Surface setup still delivers great sound.
If the price of the A9 is closer to that of the LG 48CX, we would easily raise its score by half a point.