A Review of Sony’s Premium 4K HDR OLED TV, The A8G (XBR55A8G) (XBR65A8G)
Stephan Jukic – October 8, 2019
Sony’s A8G OLED 4K ultra HD HDR TV is one very good OLED edition and though it costs more than some of its LG OLED rivals or comparable LCD TVs, it still provides a fantastic overall level of display performance and quality. This TV delivers exceptionally good colors, typically perfect OLED black levels and contrast, and its motion handling is downright superb. On the other hand, along with some minor flaws, the A8G is a fair bit pricier than its very similar rival the LG B9 OLED. That said, the A8G still offers exceptionally high quality and visual punch for the price it retails at.
• Remarkable color performance
• Excellent motion handling
• Typically superb OLED black levels, contrast and dimming precision
• Fantastic viewing angles
• Really, really good content upscaling for all resolutions
• Not nearly as bright as similar or older OLED competitors
• Serious price/quality competition from other TVs
• Risk of burn-in due to OLED display pixels
• Mediocre native sound system
• Connectivity & Gaming input weaknesses
The bottom line here is that we like the Sony A8G, a lot more than we liked the flagship Sony A9G OLED. This TV delivers much of the same quality while being a lot cheaper than its 2019 flagship OLED cousin from this brand. What’s more, in a couple of specs, the A8G performs a bit better than the A9G, which makes it all the more agreeable. On the other hand, LG gives the A8G some very stiff competition with its C9 and B9 OLED TVs.
What We Liked about the A8G
As we made clear in our comments above, there’s plenty to like about the Sony A8G. This model is not only a generally outstanding 4K HDR TV by any measure, it’s also very good by OLED standards. Furthermore, though its price isn’t as good as we’d like, the A8G certainly dents the wallet much less than certain other TVs can and definitely offers plenty of extremely good, premium-level picture quality. What we like about the A8G OLED by far outweighs what we don’t like about this television and we’re now going to give you a rundown of our favorite features and specs for this model.
Starting things off, we have the single most impressive aspect of the A8G’s performance, which is its color rendering capability. All OLED TVs can deliver exquisite black levels and contrast, since both are integral parts of how their technology works but color quality is never guaranteed, which is what makes the A8G’s capacity for it more impressive. This TV especially delivers incredibly strong WCG (wide color gamut) performance that’s close to the highest we’ve ever seen in any OLED HDR TV. WCG color is a key part of high quality HDR color delivery for high dynamic range content and the A8G nails it at just over 98% coverage. In fact, in this spec, it outperforms even the pricier A9G. Aside from this, the A8G OLED also manages to offer very good 10-bit color gradients (again for HDR content) and its color accuracy is fantastic after a bit of calibration, though it’s also decent even right out of the box before any tinkering.
OLED Dimming, contrast & black rendering
Like we said above, OLED TV technology is almost by default guaranteed to offer up incredibly good black levels, contrast, local dimming (though in OLEDs we call it OLED dimming) and black uniformity. These are some of OLED’s biggest strengths and for good reason, since they’re so important to high picture performance and perception of excellent visuals. The A8G delivers all of these specs amazingly. We can basically say that for each of them, its performance is pretty much perfect and especially for high quality content like HDR movies. The black uniformity offered by the A8G is totally perfect, the contrast ratio is basically infinite and dimming for sharp contrast and distinctions between bright and dark sections on the screen is perfect down to the level of a single pixel.
No LCD TV can hope to match these specs because unlike LCD 4K TVs, OLED models like the A8G create or deactivate light right inside each of their 8.29 million pixels, and can activate it or turn it off totally in each pixel.
Motion handling excellence
The A8G OLED delivers nearly the same quality of motion handling as the Sony A9G or any of LG’s OLED TVs for 2019. Its motion blur control is nearly perfect and completely beats anything we’ve seen from any LCD 4K HDR TV, regardless of price. As for the A8G’s delivery of motion interpolation for content at all sorts of different frame rates, it’s great too, with superb playback of content at 30fps, 60fps and of course the same 120fps that this TV’s screen natively outputs.
Incredible OLED Viewing Angles
OLED technology basically doesn´t suffer from viewing angle problems and that’s wonderful for big living rooms with lots of cozy viewing space off to the sides. With LCD TVs, most display panels come with a technology called VA display, in which the pixels are vertically aligned in such a way that they nicely create deep black levels but also badly distort light output, contrast and color off to either side of the screen. Some LCD TVs come with IPS displays that offer broader pixels which do indeed create good viewing angles but the trade-off is weaker black levels and contrast. OLED by contrast (literally almost) offers the very best of both worlds: excellent viewing angles and superbly perfect black and contrast levels regardless. This is what the A8G offers and if it’s what you think you need, you couldn’t do better than this TV’s OLED technology.
overall HDR delivery
When you combine exquisite overall color accuracy, top-notch HDR color performance (wide color gamut and 10-bit color gradient rendering), high brightness and perfect black levels/contrast, what you get is a 4K TV with spectacularly good general HDR functionality. OLED 4K HDR TVs are some of the best televisions on the market for really enjoying your favorite HDR-mastered movies and TV shows and the A8G is a wonderful example of this quality at work. Furthermore, this TV not only supports all three major HDR formats (HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG), it also renders them exceptionally well because of the above.
Upscaling of non-4K HDR content
One of the lingering problems that exists behind all the incredibly good display technology of today’s best 4K HDR TVs is that the UHD content necessary to make the most of it is still fairly uncommon in the greater scope of TV entertainment. This is something that no 4K TV can fix but what the A8G and pretty much all modern UHD TVs can do is make regular content look better than it normally would by upscaling it to look sharper. The A8F does this really, really well not just for 1080p video but also for lower video resolutions like 720p broadcast HD and regular old-fashioned 480 DVD/broadcast movies or shows. Its great color rendering also helps out a lot with well-mastered non-HDR programming.
Smart TV Platform & Functionality
To top things off, the A8G’s remote comes with voice control, support for products like Google Assistant and integrates fully with a huge range of major streaming media apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and so forth. Overall, we love it mainly for it sheer flexibility.
What We Didn’t Like
Despite all of its numerous high quality features and technologies, the Sony A8G is certainly not perfect. While we think the benefits and good qualities of this TV totally outweigh its defects, defects there are and not all of them related to raw picture/tech performance. The A8G also suffers from a slight cost/benefit problem that we’ll get to in a bit. Here are the biggest problems with this model, in descending order of importance, and some of them general to OLED technology as whole.
Not quite as bright as expected
First and foremost, we have the brightness specs of the A8G. Quite simply they’re just not as good as they could be. While it’s true that OLED TVs can’t come close to matching the maximum possible luminosity of today’s best LCD 4K HDR TVs, OLED has still come a long way and for many models, peak display luminosity is much, much better than it’s ever been before. In the Sony A8G, this is also the case but this TV really doesn’t get as bright as it could if you compare it to some of the best we’ve seen from OLED, especially in 2017 and 2018 editions from both LG and Sony. That said, the A8G still powers up the luminosity quite vibrantly when it needs to and its extremely strong black levels compensate for a lot by increasing the visual perception of very strong brightness under the right lighting conditions.
Serious price vs. quality and alternatives issues
The second major problem with the A8G has nothing to do with its specs, technology or features, which are mostly excellent. It lies in the price of this edition compared to what competitors offer. The A8G ultimately performs almost equally to LG’s C9 and B9 OLEDs. It is however quite a lot pricier than the B9, costing almost exactly as much as the C9. As far as that goes, this isn’t so bad, especially if you compare the A8G to the A9G, which is absurdly expensive compared to its relative performance, but still, you could just as easily save a few hundred bucks buying one of LG’s B9 OLED editions, get nearly the same overall performance specs and still be happy unless you’re particularly picky about performance details.
The burn-in problem of OLED
This particular issue with the A8G isn’t at all isolated to this TV in particular, instead it’s something that all OLED TVs risk falling victim to. Basically, with OLED, graphic elements from content that remain static on the screen for a long time can create a ghostly outline of themselves on the screen even when other content is being played back later. This is called “burn-in” and it’s especially likely if the TV is left on for hours a day, every day, playing back something like a 24 hour news feed that has the same scrolling digital elements somewhere in its content. Most home users of the A8G or any OLED TV won’t deal with burn-in for years if ever in the lifetime use of their TV but it’s something to consider depending on why you want one.
Sony has offered a pixel shift setting in their TV menu options which will shift an entire image to one side by a couple pixels and then in another direction very gradually. The shifting is nearly invisible but it reduces the risk of burn-in. There’s also a Panel Refresh setting that puts all of the TVs pixels through a prolonged refresh cycle to keep them working properly. This takes a good hour to run but it only needs to be done once a year at some point.
On a semi-final note, we have to state that the Sony A8G (and every other Sony OLED TV for 2019 or before) only offers HDMI 2.0 connectivity. Unlike Samsung’s 4K TVs and LG’s OLED models, which all offer multiple HDMI 2.1 ports (which offer 4K at 120Hz), there are none of these on the A8G, meaning that you’re stuck at 4K passthrough at 60Hz. It’s not a big deal but it might piss off gamers who want to give their TV a go at higher frame rates during gameplay.
Mostly mediocre audio
The Sony A8G has decent sound quality for casual viewing of content at regular volumes and it can even get quite loud if you need it to, but distortion starts to hit at higher volumes and bass is only decent at best. Like we said, if you’re just watching the news, a regular Netflix show or some casual TV movie, this model works fine, but if you want truly deep, heavy audio for your favorite loud movies or sportcasts, you’ll definitely need an external soundbar or speaker system.
Value for Price & Bottom Line
The bottom line for the Sony A8G is that we highly recommend it in comparsion to Sony’s other major 2019 release the A9G. This model is not only a pretty much equally good performer, it’s also quite a bit cheaper. The Sony A9F is an even better 4K UHD OLED TV but if you want a true 2019 model, then the A8G is your best bet if you’re a dedicated Sony fan. It performs beautifully and very likely won’t disappoint. On the other hand, we stick to our idea that LG’s B9 offers basically identical quality for an even cheaper price and that LG’s C9 delivers superior performance to the A8G at the same price as this model. So unless you’re really in love with all things Sony, both of these OLED alternatives are, in our opinion, better choices.
Key Sony A8G OLED Specs
• Screen sizes: 55 inch XBR55A8G, 65 inch XBR65A8G,
• Smart TV: Android TV 2019 Oreo 8.0 Edition
• HEVC (H.265) Included: Yes
• VP9 Included. Yes
• HD to UHD to 4K upscaling: Yes
• HDCP 2.2 Compliance: Yes
• HDR Support: Yes, HDR10, Dolby Vision, Hybrid Log Gamma
• Refresh Rate: 120Hz native refresh rate
• Screen Lighting: OLED TV display
• Resolution: 3840 × 2160 pixels 4K UHD
• Wireless Connectivity: Yes, includes both built-in WiFi and Ethernet port
• Remotes: Sony smart Sony smart remote with voice control
• Connectivity: 4 HDMI ports (all of them 2.0a and with HDCP 2.2, port NONE with HDMI 2.1 enhancement), 3 USB ports, 1 Ethernet port, 1 Digital Audio Out. See more on connectivity details further below in review.
• Contrast Ratio: OLED, infinite (native, real contrast)
• Absolute Maximum Peak Brightness: 640 nits (cd/m2)
• 3D Technology: N/A
• Processor: Picture Processor X1
Display Performance Metrics
The following detailed sections cover all of the gritty details of just how well the Sony A8G delivers on the display metrics that are genuinely important for good performance during playback of any content and games. In other words, the sections and subsections that follow cut through all the noise, marketing lingo (usually from manufacturers) technical abstractions and other confusing information to tell you how well this TV does at delivering the key specs you actually need for a great picture.
For the sake of really giving an impression of how good this TV is, the following sections cover the essentials of TV black levels, contrast, dimming capacity, brightness, color delivery, motion handling and input capabilities. We also cover inputs under the main connectivity section but here we’ll go into details about how the A8G OLED 4K HDR TV’s inputs do with rendering of motion for movie, console, and PC gaming content.
These metrics get pretty specific and minor variations can happen from one unit to the next, but they’re still pretty accurate in general. In LCD TV, some metrics of picture quality can also vary between different screen sizes. However, for the A8G there are only two sizes and in any case, this isn’t quite as much the case with OLED TVs as it can be with LCD because with LCD TVs where there might be particular variation is in how well backlight specs for brightness and contrast deliver in larger vs. smaller editions of the same model. This doesn’t really happen with OLED. Since the A8G is an OLED TV, our review of one unit and display size is a pretty excellent indicator of the A8G’s general quality.
Black Level, uniformity, Local Dimming and Contrast:
What we can very simply but absolutely say about the A8G is that you’ll get near perfection from all four of the above. This isn’t just hyperbole, it’s a statement of fact. In OLED 4K TVs, each individual pixel of the 8.3 million on the screen can have its own internal light activated or deactivated individually or in groups as needed. And because the light source is literally inside the pixels (or close enough to it), local dimming works on a pixel-precise level. And because totally dimmed pixels neither emit nor bleed light through neighboring pixels, contrast and black levels can be nearly perfect and close to infinite. Obviously this also means perfect black uniformity. In effect, because of the above, an OLED edition like the A8G suffers from pretty much no backlight glow during dark scenes and presents no halo effect at all around lit objects against a dark background on the TV.
What these qualities in OLED TVs most mean though is that on the above key performance specs, they can totally kick the crap out of most LCD TVs. Basically, Unlike OLEDs, LCD TVs create luminosity through a backlight system of arrayed LEDs that are behind the LCD screen and its pixels, and create dark/bright areas by a combination of the LEDs being turned off in sections and the display pixels blocking out backlight selectively as needed.
The best LCD TVs come with full-array LED backlighting and multi-zone local dimming, meaning that they have hundreds of LEDs covering the entire back of their screen and dozens or hundreds of local dimming zones in which some of these LEDs shut off selectively for better black levels, but even in these cases, some light always bleeds through along the edges between bright and dark content. Furthermore, even hundreds of LEDs and hundreds of dimming zones are nowhere near as precise as the pixel-level equivalents in an OLED display. This is what most makes this technology so spectacular in certain ways.
The difference in effect between OLED and LCD as described above can be very small to the naked eye if you’re comparing really good LCD 4K HDR editions like the Samsung Q90R to a model like the A8G but it’s still notable and compared to OLED precision, it’s enormous.
When it comes to brightness, we need to explain a couple things about how we’re measuring it in the Sony A8G or any of the 4K TVs we review. The main measurements to consider are absolute maximum peak brightness and sustained brightness in nits (cd/m2) at across different percentage areas of the screen (from 2% to 100%). We then also measure how bright the A8G is on average throughout the viewing experience. These measurements are given for the TV when it’s set to view SDR (normal TV, streaming and broadcast) content and high dynamic range (HDR) content of the kind that’s now more available for today’s increasingly common HDR TVs like this model.
The overall brightness of the Sony A8G is far from bad, and compared to that of its pricier cousin the A9G, this TV is nearly the same. Furthermore, compared to rival 2019 OLED 4K HDR TVs from LG, the A8G holds its own exceptionally well. However, it’s when we compare the maximum luminosity of this model with older 2017 and 2018 OLEDs that we see a much weaker performance, and that’s a bit of a disappointment because both LG and OLED were really heading down a line towards breaking the 1000 nit mark on their HDR OLEDs.
We’re not exactly sure why this has happened to the 2019 OLED televisions but its visible and unfortunate considering the value of high peak and sustained brightness. That said, we repeat that the A8G is one very reasonably bright 4K TV. On absolute maximum peak brightness in HDR mode, this OLED edition performs decently enough at over 740 nits and when it’s being used in normal SDR content mode, maximum display brightness is still respectable at just over 350 nits. In fact, in HDR mode as measured by absolute peak brightness, the A8G is probably the brightest of all the 2019 OLED HDR TVs we’ve reviewed so far. On the other hand, the overall display brightness of the A8G is only moderately good in SDR mode in particular and only slightly better in HDR content viewing mode. In other words, this particular OLED TV is decent at brightness while hitting a couple very strong highlights of luminosity.
In comparison, LG’s C9 2019 OLED 4K HDR TV delivers much weaker peak luminosity than the A8G and even on average SDR and HDR brightness is a fair bit weaker. What’s really surprising about this are two things: first, that LG’s 2018 and 2017 OLEDs were much more luminous (along with Sony’s editions) and secondly, that you’d expect the LG editions to consistently do a bit better since Sony actually gets its displays for these TVs from LG itself. It’s difficult to believe that the former brand would sell its better OLED displays to the latter in such a competitive market.
Below are the A8G’s specific measured specs across different settings:
Sony A8G SDR Brightness
- Overall SDR peak brightness for normal content: 287 nits
- Peak 2% display area display SDR brightness: 352 nits
- Peak 10% display area SDR brightness: 348 nits
- Peak 100% display area SDR brightness: 156 nits
- Sustained 10% SDR brightness: 285 nits
- Sustained 100% SDR brightness: 152 nits
Sony A8G TV HDR Brightness
- Overall HDR peak brightness for normal content: 617 nits
- Peak 2% display area display HDR brightness: 759 nits
- Peak 10% display area HDR brightness: 625 nits
- Peak 100% display area HDR brightness: 140 nits
- Sustained 10% HDR brightness: 388 nits
- Sustained 100% HDR brightness: 139 nits
The Sony A8G offers up remarkably great color delivery that’s way above average and in fact better than that of its pricier cousin the A9G. This applies especially to its rendering of HDR color in the form of Wide Color Gamut coverage, but the TV’s 10-bit color gradation rendering is also excellent. In other words, this 4K TV is stunningly vibrant while also delivering strong color accuracy and volume. It can handle both HDR and SDR color delivery exceptionally well and we’d even go as far as to say that its color rendering for ordinary non-HDR movies and programming is also improved by the A8G’s superbly good color delivery technology for HDR content.
Moving on to the key metrics of the A8G’s color performance, this Sony OLED renders very good Wide Color Gamut (WCG) at 98.2% of the color space, and we consider this to be downright great. In addition to this, the A8G delivers decent color volume, with great color accuracy being maintained even during playback of dark shadowy scenes. More negatively though, where this TV ends up being a bit weak is on playback of very bright content. In this case, the A8G’s color saturation is mediocre because the white subpixels that are responsible for brightness tend to de-saturate the vibrant pure colors that should stand out even under conditions of high luminosity in onscreen content. LG’s rival model the C9 and Sony’s own other major 2019 OLED the A9F both do a much better job on this last spec.
As for color accuracy out of the box and post-calibration, these are specs that we measure by the key specs of white balance delta E, color delta E and Gamma. In the A8G, they are excellent after some moderate adjustment in the TV’s picture control menus but right out of the box, they’re only just decent (or at least they were in the unit we reviewed). Like we said though, calibration improves them immensely.
Pre calibration settings and post calibration settings for these key color accuracy settings are as follows:
Sony A8G Pre-calibration color settings
- White balance delta E: 4.1
- Color delta E: 1.9
- Gamma: 2.14
Sony A8G post-calibration color settings
- White balance delta E: 0.43
- Color delta E: 1.22
- Gamma: 2.19
Motion Handling & Upscaling:
The motion handling of the Sony XBR-A8G is generally excellent. All OLED TVs tend to deliver really good motion control settings and especially fine motion blur moderation with the A8G being no exception to this. This all makes it an incredibly good 4K TV for any fast-paced content or high-intensity games you can throw at it. On the other hand, the extremely strong motion blur response time of the A8G can also create stutter in certain types of lower frame rate content and in order to counter this, the A8G offers up some excellent motion interpolation settings such as black frame insertion for smoothing out low frame-rate content on its native 120Hz display. The overall result is that content played back at assorted different frame rates is delivered very little blur, flicker or distortion.
In more specific terms, the A8G delivers superbly good, nearly instant pixel response time that sits at just 0.2 milliseconds. This is a measurement of how quickly a TVs pixels change color or brightness in response to content changes. Furthermore, the A8G offers up nearly perfect flicker-free playback, black frame insertion and motion interpolation technologies for extremely smooth playback of content from disc media, TV broadcasts, streaming media and nearly anything via HDMI connectivity. The A8G’s judder control is also superb and fully robust, with extremely clean playback of 24p movie content being supported from any source at all, be it streaming media, HDMI-connected media device or even broadcast and cable TV.
However, one negative aspect of the Sony A8G is that it lacks some of the very useful gaming/movie playback technologies that premium ultra HD TVs from rivals like Samsung and LG come with. So in other words, in the A8G, there’s no AMD FreeSync or Nvidia G-SYNC for your favorite PC games.
Input Performance for Gaming and PC:
Regardless of a lack of input enhancing variable refresh rate technologies, the Sony A8G delivers very decent input performance when connected to external consoles like the Xbox One X or the PlayStation 4 Pro. We’ve seen much better input lag specs from Vizio’s, TCL’s or Samsung’s 4K TVs at any price range and from LG’s own OLEDs as well but despite this, the A8G doesn’t do too badly for intense console gaming even at high frame rates or with 4K resolution, broad color features and HDR enabled.
Here are some of the key specific specs for its gaming performance in different console setups:
- 4k @ 60Hz: 29.9 ms
- 1080p @ 60Hz: 45.1 ms
- 1080p @ 120Hz: 21.3 ms
- 1080p @ 60Hz outside Game Mode: 115 ms
- 4k @ 60Hz + 10 bit HDR: 29.7 ms
- 1440p @ 60Hz: 29.6 ms
- 4k @ 60Hz Outside Game Mode : 89.2 ms
- 4k @ 60Hz @ 4:4:4: 29.5 ms
- 4K @ 120Hz: N/A
- 1440p @ 120Hz: 21.9 ms
- 1080p with FreeSync: N/A
- 4K with interpolation activated: 85.7 ms
The Sony A8G offers broad and excellent support for different resolutions, frame rates and color settings when connected to a PC rig as well. The following specs show this clearly:
- 1080p @ 120Hz: Yes
- 1080p @ 60Hz @ 4:4:4: Yes
- 4k @ 60Hz + 4:4:4: Yes
- 1440p @ 60Hz: Yes
- 4k @ 120Hz : No
- 4k @ 60Hz @ 4:4:4: Yes
- 1440p @ 120Hz: Yes
Unfortunately, the Sony A8G lacks the newer HDMI 2.1 standard in its HDMI ports. Samsung, LG, Vizio and others have started to adopt this but Sony has decided to wait a bit longer it seems. This could be because HDMI 2.1 isn’t really important for any current 4K UHD TV or media content quite yet and it makes no difference for HDR delivery, but it would still be nice to have as an option, especially for gamers. That said, aside from the HDMI 2.1, this TV delivers perfectly modern connectivity in the form of multiple HDMI 2.0, USB and other key ports. It’s perfectly good enough for just about any content or device you want to hook up to it.
The following are the Sony A8G’s ports and their specifications:
- HDMI : 4 (HDCP 2.2 & full HDMI 2.0a capacity)
- HDMI 2.1 : N/A
- USB : 3 (USB 2.0 x 3)
- Digital Optical Audio Out : 1
- Analog Audio Out 3.5 mm : 1
- Tuner (Cable/Ant) : 1
- Ethernet : 1
- HDR10 support: Yes
- HDR10+ support: No
- Dolby Vision HDR support: Yes
- Hybrid Log Gamma HDR support: Yes
- Dolby Vision HDR: Yes
The Sony A8G TV models also offer audio connectivity in the following types.
- 1 Passthrough ARC Dolby Digital
- 1 Passthrough Optical Dolby Digital
- 1 Passthrough eARC support
- 1 Passthrough DTS:X via DTS-HD MA via eARC
Sony has released the XBR-A8G 4K ultra HD HDR LCD Smart TV models in two different sizes. Thus, you have the choice of a 55 inch or 65 inch model. All models are basically identical in their specs and performance and between them only very minor screen performance variations such as those we described in our visual specs intro section above might be the case.
The two sizes of Sony XBR-A8G 4K ultra HD TV all sell for the following prices, found in the link below at the time of this writing. Bear in mind that these are subject to sometimes frequent downward change and it’s a good idea to click the following Amazon links for real-time pricing and all available discounts on this model.