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Review: Sony KD-55A8 (A8 series) OLED television

Review: Sony KD-55A8 (A8 series) OLED television
3 - 1 review

The differences between successive models can sometimes be very small. For example, the 2019 AG8 had so much in common with the 2018 AF8 that we could hardly speak of a new model. The new KD-55A8 (Sony omitted the G in this model number) does look quite a step forward.

Sony KD-55A8 – specifications

  • What: Ultra HD OLED TV
  • Screen size: 55 inch (139 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 [19659004] 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: 1,227 x 733 x 326 mm (incl. base)
  • Weight: 18.6 kg (incl. base)
  • Consumption: 131 / 0.5 watt ( Energy label B)
  • List price: 2,100 euros

A complete overview of all Sony 2020 models with their specifications can be found in the Sony 2020 TV line-up . All other line-ups for 2020 can be found here .

Sony KD-55A8 – Design

The super slim OLED screen with the small dark metal edge has a slightly wider edge of about 14 mm at the bottom that Allows room for a discreet Sony logo and underlines the screen, so to speak.

The back may look thicker than its competitors due to its bold right angles, but that only saves a few millimeters.

The metal feet left and right ensure a stable position, and through plastic clips on the side of the foot you can hide the cabling a bit neater. In the normal position, the screen is barely 2 cm above your furniture, and that is not enough to place a soundbar. By mounting the feet differently, the screen is lifted, so that more space is created. A smart choice that Sony already offered last year.

Sony KD-55A8 – Connections

Like other high-end models, the KD-55A8 (A8 series) is equipped with four HDMI connections. Unfortunately, just like on the XH95 we saw a few weeks ago, these are all HDMI 2.0 connections. They are ready for Ultra HD HDR. If you want the best quality for your external HDR sources, choose the “Improved setting” in the settings (Settings / Watching TV / External Inputs / HDMI Signal format). You also have to do without most HDMI 2.1 features on this model. Only eARC extended Audio Return Channel, is offered. Support for gamer features such as ALLM or VRR is missing.

The device also has three USB connections, an optical digital output, and a composite video, and stereo minijack input. Those who listen with a headset can use it both wired and wirelessly via Bluetooth. All connections point to the side or down, so that wall mounting is no problem.

Sony KD-55A8 – Ease of use and smart TV

Where the AG8 had to make do with an older chipset, the KD-55A8 (A8 series) ) now also equipped with the better MediaTek MT5893 chipset, which we also found on the XH95. She has a quad-core ARM Cortex-A73 CPU with 2.5 GB RAM, Mali-G71 GPU and 16GB 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, please visit our Android 8 (Oreo) overview article . We are working as soon as possible on a new version for Android 9.

Last year, Sony gave its menus a major upgrade that greatly improves the ease of use. Entries now appear in a ribbon at the bottom of the screen, and you can hide, add, or even add apps yourself. The “Inputs” key becomes a handy quickstart bar.

The menu key (gear) 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 underneath now expand when you click on them. We find that just a little less clear. A good improvement is the addition of an image and some explanatory text to each setting.

Remote Control

The remote control is the same as the version that you find with the AG9, with the only difference that it is finished in brushed black and not in brushed metal color. So here no illuminated keys like we found on the XH95. We find this remote very useful. It feels good in the hand. The buttons are easy to press and the layout is well organized. All essential functions are within the 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 find only the playback buttons 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.

Functions

The A8 is equipped with a double TV tuner for digital TV (DVB-T2 / C / S2) but only has 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 a great media player that knows what to do with all major video and sound formats.

Sony KD-55A8 – Image processing

The KD-55A8 (A8 series) is certainly not a carbon copy of the 2019 AG8. Just like the XH95 it got Sony's best image processor, the X1 Ultimate. With that, the A8 delivers great performance. Rapid detection of video and film frame rates and excellent deinterlacing make it very rare to see jagged edges or moiré effects (important for many digital TV set-top boxes). The noise reduction is very good, both for random noise and compression noise (blocking). It is best to leave them in the “low” position, especially if you also want to get some extra sharpness from the excellent Reality Creation. For Ultra HD sources, however, you should leave that to avoid errors in very fine detail. With “Smooth gradations”, Sony still has the best solution for combating color bands. You should always leave the 'low' setting activated, in content with serious problems you can consider 'middle', although that makes the image a bit softer. As a small downside, we see that running texts (the 'tickers' of a news channel) sometimes shake slightly.

Sony has now also introduced X-Motion Clarity on its OLED devices. As on the LG CX this is a “black frame insertion” (BFI) technique, with adjusted duration of the black frame. It used to be fixed at 60Hz, which causes flicker. By setting “Motionflow” to “User” and “Brightness” to 1 or 2, the screen gains a lot of detail in fast-moving images, while it loses relatively little brightness and no flicker is visible. With 'Smoothness' on 2 (for motion interpolation' and 'Brightness' on 1, we now saw the maximum amount of detail. The maximum setting for Smoothness (3) does provide nice smooth images, but also introduces too many visible problems. [19659002] Main settings

In our article about the professional calibration of a TV you can read all about the possibilities to achieve the best picture settings with a professional. home cinema information guide by Here you will find an explanation of the main picture settings and tips for setting up your TV.

Picture Control Picture Color Sharpness / Movement
Wide Mode: Auto
4/3 Default: Normal
Auto Display Environment: On
Image Range: +1
Image Mode: User
Auto Image Mode: Off
Light Sensor: On Brightness: Max
Contrast: 90
Gamma: -2
Black Level: 50
Black Adjust: Off
Adv. Contrast Optimization: Off
Peak Illumination: Mid
Color: 50
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: LowMotionFlow: Auto, or Smoothness 2, Brightness 1.
Movie Mode: Auto

Sony KD-55A8 – Image Quality [19659017] Our test model of the KD-55A8 (A8 series) is a 55 inch version and we don't think it has a new type of OLED panel. In any case, the pixel structure is identical to that of last year. The 65 inch version does use a 2020 panel as we saw on the LG CX.

The screen had excellent uniformity, and was practically free from vertical bands. They remain visible on very dark screens (1 to 3% gray), but you must be close to the image. Keep in mind that this may vary from model to model, but it is very rarely a visible problem in normal content.

In the “User” picture mode you get the best result. The image is relatively clear (270 nits), and you can increase that even further by setting “Peak lighting” to high (430 nits). In that case, leave the light sensor on. The “User” mode is also set to a gamma value of 2.4. It is intended for viewing by eclipse. If that is not always the case, set the “Gamma” to 0 or choose the Cinema image preset if you regularly look at a lot of light.

The calibration is exemplary. The gray scale is slightly too cool (very light blue overtone). The screen shows excellent black detail and sometimes only omits the darkest nuances. On the other hand, we saw hardly any problems with flickering pixels in very dark images on the A8, something that the AG8 and AG9 still struggled with. The color reproduction is excellent with beautiful, natural skin tones.

Sony KD-55A8 – HDR

Sony supports HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG. HDR10 + will remain absent until further notice. Results for OLED screens have been very similar for several years, although Sony often submitted slightly less high brightness. This year the screen is slightly brighter. We got peak luminance of 728 nits on a 10% window and even 873 nits on a 2% window. On a completely white window, the A8 delivered 150 to 160 nits. It is impossible to say whether we are just lucky with this panel or allow Sony to slightly higher brightness.

The “User” image mode is excellently calibrated, with all black detail visible. The Sony apparently does not take the metadata into account and performs a dynamic tone mapping itself. White detail above 1500 to 2000 nits is clipped away. The tone mapping also seems to emphasize a little more contrast, which gives the image some depth, despite the sometimes missing white detail.

With a color range of 93% DCI-P3 and 67% Rec.2020, it scores well . He also puts those colors to work in practice, his color reproduction is excellent and can be counted among the best in this category.
Just like on the XH95, you cannot immediately see that you are in HDR [19659029] mode, you have to go to the full settings menu for that.

Sony KD-55A8 – Gaming, Reflections and Viewing Angles

OLED screens provide the best viewing angle so that you can enjoy it even when you are not sitting directly in front of the screen. strong contrast and rich colors. The screen copes fairly well with reflections, although it is still advisable to avoid direct incident light.

In the normal image modes we measure a lag of 109.7 ms, which is too much for decent gaming. In game mode, the lag drops to 18.2 ms. An excellent result.

Sony KD-55A8 – Sound quality

The 'Acoustic Surface' technology has been a part of Sony's first OLED model. permanent part of the offer. The screen is used as a loudspeaker diaphragm, two actuators make it vibrate and thus produce the sound waves. Two woofers are built in for the low frequencies. The total power decreased from 40 Watt on the AG8 to 30 Watt on the A8.

The sound quality is excellent, Acoustic Surface delivers a fine sound with a reasonable bass line. You can also compensate for room acoustics on this model. For that you follow a short test procedure with the microphone of the remote control and you're done. The A8 delivers plenty of volume, and avoids excessive distortion when you turn the volume up far. That will suffice for most viewers, even for a dash of music. The Sony supports Atmos, with good spaciousness, but for a real surround experience you still have to go to an external solution. Pay attention with the settings, for example Sony activates surround in the music preset and you may not want that. You can turn it off.

Review equipment

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. To analyze any HDR problems we use an HDFury Vertex. More info about our measuring equipment can be found here .

Sony KD-55A8 – Conclusion

Where the AG8 was a rather lackluster breakdown of the AF8 , the A8 is a real upgrade. A more powerful Android chipset, new menus and remote, and the X1 Ultimate processor. The main flaw at Sony is the absence of a full HDMI 2.1 connection, and the accompanying gamer features. For a high end model and with the announcement of the PS5 just behind it, it remains difficult to understand. We would also have liked to see HDR10 + support.

The A8 delivers excellent image quality. The X1 Ultimate processor guarantees top upscaling and image processing, with an extra good point for the “smooth gradation” option that eliminates color bands. The OLED screen not only delivers pitch black but also shows excellent black detail. Sony has also eliminated the light flickering in very dark images. The new 120Hz Black Frame Insertion improves detail reproduction in fast-moving images, without sacrificing too much clarity. Supplemented with good sound and a nice and above all smooth user experience of Android 9 combined with the new remote and menus, this is a nice total package. The KD-55A8 (A8 series) is priced at the level of the LG CX. This makes it relatively expensive for the time being.

Negatives

  • No HDR10 +
  • Minimal loss of white detail in HDR
  • Except eARC, no HDMI 2.1 features

Pros

  • Excellent image processing
  • Improved motion sharpness [19659090] Top black value and a lot of black detail
  • Unique sound solution with support for Atmos
  • Excellent user experience (Android 9 and remote)
  • Two setup options (one for soundbar)

Homecinema Magazine

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