Sony A8F 4K UHD HDR OLED TV Review (XBR55A8F, XBR65A8F)
Stephan Jukic – June 4, 2018
OLED oh OLED, the technology that builds some of today’s absolute highest performing 4K HDR TVs has found a comfortable home in Sony’s lineup of televisions and with the 2018 release of the A8F, successor to Sony’s mostly fantastic 2017 A1E, we can see that this company has decided on keeping OLED 4K displays around. We’re glad to see that because the A8F definitely delivers the goods on sheer quality and we’d go so far as to say that it’s a better performer than last year’s Sony OLED model was, in some ways by a major margin.
This isn’t to say that Sony’s A8F doesn’t have its issues, because it does, in terms of both price and minor issues with burn-in, but on the whole, this might just be the single best 4K HDR television that Sony creates in 2018.
- Excellent motion handling
- Fine HDR and SDR color delivery
- Perfect OLED contrast and dimming
- Solid 4K TV for gamers and PC use
- Very good OLED-delivered viewing angles
- Fantastically bright for an OLED TV
- Some possible problems with burn-in
- LG alternatives cost a bit less
In terms of raw display performance, we can’t recommend the Sony A8F enough. However, this is one expensive Sony television, even by OLED 4K HDR TV standards, and that is a problem for some budgets, especially since alternatives from LG exist which perform almost identically well but cost several hundred dollars less.
What We Liked
As can be expected when it comes to a review of a high-end 4K UHD OLED HDR TV like the A8F, there are plenty of things we liked a great deal about this model. This isn’t to say that the A8F isn’t without defects (no TV we’ve ever seen is perfect) but its quality traits are without a doubt numerous and several of them in particular are worth mentioning, especially for readers who aren’t familiar with what OLED TV display technology can generally do.
Some of the following qualities are ones that the A8F shares almost lock-step with its 2018 LG OLED competitors, and there are two fundamental reasons for this. First, because OLED TV displays tend to have certain absolute (and very favorable) specs that the fundamental nature of their technology produces, and second, because Sony uses LG’s own OLED panels for its A8F and 2017 A1E models. Weird as that might seem from a competitive point of view, the reasoning on LG’s part might just be that at least they win a portion of the profits no matter what in this way.
Fantastic OLED contrast and black levels
One of the most fundamental characteristics of OLED display technology is the way in which it creates absolute perfect black levels when necessary. This is possible because unlike LCD/LED TV displays, those of OLED TVs are capable of turning off light completely in each individual pixel on their screens as needed for content. No backlight bleed, no halo effects around dimming zones and no washed out “blacks” to speak of for the right kinds of content. A consequence of this is that contrast ratios in OLED TVs like the A8F are basically infinite, since the black level sits at 0 nits. This also has the benefit of making what luminosity the TV puts out stand out much more sharply in both dark and well lit rooms. However, brightness isn’t a problem with the A8F due to what we cover in our next good point:
Incredible peak and sustained brightness
The Sony A8F is without a doubt the brightest OLED TV we’ve reviewed so far in 2018. Not only does it literally outshine any of LG’s 2017 4K OLED HDR TVs in terms of maximum peak brightness (particularly when set to display high dynamic range content), it also delivers superior performance in terms of sustained, broad area brightness, again particularly for HDR content but also when displaying ordinary SDR video. This by itself is impressive by the standards of OLED UHD TVs (which have been steadily getting brighter year over year), but it’s even more impressive due to the simple fact that the peak brightness this TV is capable of goes well above what even most premium LCD HDR 4K TVs can deliver. At its maximum, the A8F can shine at over 800 nits. Only a small few ultra-premium LCD HDR 4K TV models for 2017 or 2018 can pull that same feat off. That an OLED TV does this is fantastic.
These extraordinarily high levels of peak brightness further contribute to this model’s equally extraordinary contrast performance and OLED dimming capacity.
Superb HDR color rendering
In addition to all of the superb contrast and brightness specs mentioned above, the A8F, like all OLED HDR TV’s we’ve reviewed for at least a couple years, delivers some truly fantastic color rendering. This model can create wonderfully vibrant and realistic color palettes in both SDR and HDR modes and it offers up some truly superb DCI-P3 and 10-bit color performance. In practical terms, these two last specs mean that any Dolby Vision HDR or HDR10+ HDR content you watch on this television will look downright fantastic. The deep perfect blacks and high levels of peak brightness that the A8F can also deliver only contribute to the visual perception of magnificently lively color reproduction.
Excellent motion handling
OLED TVs pretty much offer superb motion handling by default, due to the nature of their display technologies, but even this high level of performance has been tweaked for incremental improvements year over year as new OLED models emerge. The A8F embodies this beautifully, thanks to the combination of LG’s impressive display manufacturing chops and Sony’s extremely powerful picture processing engine, the 4K HDR Processor X1™ Extreme. All major metrics of motion performance, such as those for response time, flicker avoidance, motion blur levels, and motion interpolation for playback of content with different frame rates are excellent. Most importantly, because OLED TV displays like the A8F create their light and color right inside the screen’s pixels themselves, response times for changing content patterns on the screen are extremely fast. This means there’s virtually no motion blur to be seen for any type of reasonably high quality content.
The Sony A8F is in other words fantastic for fast-paced TV action of nearly any kind.
We loved the A8F’s design too. This year’s Sony OLED completely abandons the highly unique form of the 2017 A1E in favor of something much more conventional but it still looks great. Though we do wish Sony had kept the in-screen sound system of the A1E for the 2018 model. That was a cool little gimmick that created some great audio realism when characters on the screen spoke. In essence, the A8F looks quite a bit like LG’s lower priced OLED TVs, in terms of its stand and overall look. The body is entirely plastic but sturdily built and nothing sits loose or feels truly weak. Furthermore, the extremely slim bezels along the display edges make for a nicely immersive viewing experience. Since this is an OLED TV, the display itself is extremely thin (since it requires no bulk for LED placement). However, the presence of the TV’s hardware along the back lower half of the display does still mean that the A8F will stick out a bit from your wall if that’s how you decide to mount it.
Smart TV platform and Google Assistant
On a final note regarding complex features we particularly like, the smart TV platform of Sony’s 2018 TVs is the latest version of Android TV and while it lacks a bit of the fluid, easy usability of rival smart TV platforms like WebOS from LG or the fantastic Roku TV, we still like it plenty. Android TV offers a tremendous selection of apps with many more available for download from the gigantic Google Play marketplace. All of the major streaming media apps such as Netflix, Amazon, HBO, Vevo, Spotify and even Sony’s own special 4K movie download service are present but most importantly of all direct access to Google Play means that you can download just about any TV-compatible app from what is one of the World’s largest app marketplaces. For this reason more than any other Android TV is a great smart interface for what is already a superb piece of hardware technology.
Furthermore, the A8F’s version of Android TV also includes the downright fantastic new Google Assistant voice command software, letting you speak to open numerous apps, check the weather, open access to connected devices and search for content across apps. Google is still refining its voice assistant technology but the version of Google Assistant in the A8F already stands out for its quality among similar technologies from rival brands like Amazon’s Alexa, which are becoming ever more popular in most of the 4K TVs of 2018.
What We Didn’t Like
The A8F is one fantastic television but it’s also not without a flaw or two. OLED TVs are usually generally better performers than their LCD counterparts in terms of display and motion handling in particular, but they do come with their own unique issues. Here are this model’s biggest flaws, though only one of them comes close to being what we’d call a possible deal breaker.
It’s too expensive
First and foremost, the A8F is expensive for what it offers. This is the only flaw we could find for this television which might actually be something of a deal breaker for buyers who aren’t dedicated Sony fans. Yes, OLED 4K TVs do generally cost more than equally sized LCD counterparts but in this case, LG’s C8 OLED model for 2018 offers virtually identical display, motion and audio performance but costs several hundred dollars less than the A8F. This is almost inexcusable from our point of view.
Input lag for gaming
The gaming input lag settings of the A8F aren’t bad at all. For most casual gamers they’re actually perfectly good. However, if you’re one of those users who pays careful attention to shaving off every possible millisecond of input lag for your console gaming needs, the A8F is easily outperformed by numerous cheaper 4K TVs and even other premium LCD models from Sony. Almost across the board, its input lag levels are slightly higher than we’d like. Again, they’re not bad but they could be better. The Sony X900F for example, which we also reviewed recently, definitely does better on this front, so it’s a bit odd that the pricier and generally better-performing A8F wouldn’t at least perform equally.
Possible problems with burn-in
Burn-in is always a concern for OLED 4K TVs or OLED displays of any kind. LG has done a lot to reduce this possible problem since it started manufacturing its earliest OLED display panels for the TV market in 2014 but even now, OLED pixels remain delicate things and content that stays on the screen in a fixed spot for prolonged periods of time can indeed create a bit of a “stain” in the OLED panel itself. Since burn-in takes a while to develop in an OLED TV, it’s still a bit early to tell just how much of it the A8F will create but we’re guessing that there will be at least some for many users´ models.
Value vs. Price & Bottom Line
Sony’s XBRA8F OLED 4K HDR TV absolutely offers the sort of performance that most people will go crazy for. So for this reason, you should expect it to not be cheap. However, given the alternative options from LG’s own equally good OLED 4K HDR TVs for this year, we’d say that you’d get better value from one of them. If you want fantastic OLED quality with full HDR trimmings just like those of the A8F, the LG C8 will deliver the same specs while costing at least a couple hundred less. If however you’re insistent on Sony technology, then yes, the A8F is worth buying. It truly is a great performer.
Key Sony XBRA8F TV Specs
- Screen sizes: 55 in XBR55A8F, 65 in XBR55A8F (TV being reviewed is 55 inches)
- Smart TV: Android TV with Google Assistant voice assist
- HEVC (H.265) Included: Yes
- VP9 Included. Yes
- HD to UHD upscaling: Yes
- HDCP 2.2 Compliance: Yes
- HDR Support: Yes, HDR10, Hybrid Log Gamma, Dolby Vision
- Refresh Rate: 120Hz native refresh rate
- Screen Lighting: OLED Display
- Resolution: 3,840 x 2,160 pixels UHD
- Wireless Connectivity: Yes, includes both built-in WiFi and Ethernet port
- Remotes: Sony smart remote and Sony remote app for iOS, Android
- Connectivity: 4 HDMI (all of them 2.0a and HDCP 2.2) ports, 3 USB ports, 1 Ethernet port, 1 Digital Audio Out, all located in eternal One Connect box
- Sound: 10 W+10 W with Dolby™ Digital, Dolby™ Digital Plus, Dolby™ Pulse and DTS Surround Sound support
- Contrast Ratio: infinite (native, real contrast)
- Peak Brightness: 836 nits (cd/m2)
- 3D Technology: N/A
- Processor: 4K HDR Processor X1™ Extreme
Display Performance Metrics
The following are the several categories of key display metrics for picture performance in the Sony A8F HDR TV. They may vary slightly from unit to unit so they should not be taken as absolutes. However, they should maintain a generally high level of similarity in all units that makes them good enough to be reliable indicators of quality. Different sizes of TV display can change some of these metrics slightly (for example, larger edge-lit LCD 4K TVs tend to have weaker local dimming and peak brightness) and though the A8F maintains identical display specs in all of its sizes, some TV models come with specs variations for certain specific sizes.
The following metrics of display performance for contrast, black level, color performance, brightness and motion handling (all of which are the most important aspects of display performance) essentially bear out what we said above about the A8F: This model is one fantastic 4K TV in general and quite possibly the best OLED 4K HDR TV we’ve reviewed to-date (though we’re in the process of also reviewing LG’s OLED offerings for 2018, so this might change). The XBRA8F not only performs exceptionally well across the board, it also offers the best levels of display brightness we’ve ever seen in an OLED 4K TV; they even put to shame what most LCD TVs can do today.
Black Level, Local Dimming and Contrast:
Black levels, local dimming and contrast are all entwined together in any 4K TV and thus deserve being covered together. However, a calrification needs to be made here. Specifically, OLED TVs don’t come with local dimming the way it works in an LCD TV. Unlike LCD TVs, in which local dimming is created by LEDs behind the screen being turned off individually or in clusters, OLED display brightness is created inside each individual pixel on the screen. In 4K TVs, this means that 8.29 million pixels can be made to shine or completely stop emitting light as needed for a virtually perfect control of dimming and brightness. This is essentially called OLED dimming and it far outdoes any local dimming technology in any LCD TV in terms of sheer precision. The A8F, as an OLED TV obviously comes with OLED dimming and yes, it’s as perfect as can be expected.
Furthermore, because light in pixels can be completely shut off in this model, the TVs maximum black level can be total when needed, with no light at all coming from darkened sections of the screen. A further result of this is perfect infinite contrast ratios. All OLED TVs are capable of the above to pretty much the same degree. However what the A8F does is create a perception of even better contrast because its capacity for brightness is so damn high, as we cover in our next section.
Peak brightness is the maximum possible spot HDR or SDR luminosity of a 4K TV display or a section of it as measured in units of brightness called nits (or cd/m2, which is the same thing) under different conditions. Sustained brightness is the highest possible sustained HDR or SDR brightness that the TV screen can manage over different conditions or areas of illuminated display.
The A8F absolutely excels at delivering the above. OLED TVs used to be almost universally dimmer than their 4K LCD cousins but LG (the maker of this Sony model’s actual display panel) has been working to push the brightness of organic light emitting diodes up over the last few years. With the A8F they’ve succeeded to a level we’ve never seen before. This model can deliver spot levels of peak brightness that are HIGHER than those of most LCD 4K HDR TVs even, and that just makes everything else about this television’s picture performance look better. The numbers below demonstrate what we mean:
- Overall SDR peak brightness for normal content: 324 nits
- Peak 2% display area display SDR brightness: 441 nits
- Peak 10% display area SDR brightness: 442 nits
- Peak 100% display area SDR brightness: 161 nits
- Sustained 10% SDR brightness: 349 nits
- Sustained 100% SDR brightness: 155 nits
- Overall HDR peak brightness for normal content: 643 nits
- Peak 2% display area display HDR brightness: 836 nits
- Peak 10% display area HDR brightness: 705 nits
- Peak 100% display area HDR brightness: 186 nits
- Sustained 10% HDR brightness: 384 nits
- Sustained 100% HDR brightness: 180 nits
Sony’s A8F delivers some of the absolute best color performance we’ve ever seen in any 4K TV of any kind to-date. In terms of key metrics for high dynamic range color delivery, this television really knocks the ball into the outfield, with 99.30% DCI-P3 color space delivery and over 75% of the even larger and much more difficult to cover Rec 2020 space being covered. That’s downright impressive. In terms of 10-bit color support for smooth gradations between 1.07 billion colors, the A8F also performs admirably, with superb blending of values and tones. Additionally, even at very high levels of brightness or during extremely shadowy scenes, it rneders vibrant, remarkably accurate color reproduction that really makes a difference.
All of these above specs make for a fantastic HDR content viewing experience (especially if you use the A8F to watch Dolby Vision movies and shows. However, even for reproduction of normal SDR TV and movie content, the Sony A8F is a fine performer, delivering excellent virbrancy, accuracy and realism for most reasonably well-produced content from cable TV, streaming sources, media players and external devices of any kind. Color volume at high levels of brightness and in shadowy scenes is also very good in SDR. White balance delta E, color delta E and Gamma in the A8F sit at excellent levels of 0.22, 1.51 and 2.09 respectively. We’ve seen better in cheaper 4K TVs but these aren’t bad values at all. Color temperature in this OLED TV is also highly impressive, being nearly perfect. Older OLED TVs tended towards cooler, rather distracting temperatures due to the bluish light of their organic light emitting diodes. The A8F avoids this little defect remarkably well.
Motion Handling & Upscaling:
The motion handling specs of the Sony A8F are as excellent as you might expect them to be if you know a bit about how well OLED 4K TVs tend to perform on this front. Sony has in any case always been a great brand for high level motion handling even in its cheaper 4K TVs, so you can image just how well one of its flagship models with the power of OLED display responsiveness will work. Motion blur on the A8F is downright minimal. Since the pixels on the TV produce their own light and color, their response time for changing both as content shifts and moves across the screen is fantastic, with a specific response time of between 0.3 and 2 milliseconds. No LCD TV can compare to this because LED response times are naturally much slower as light passes through the entirely separate pixels of an LCD screen.
The A8F also offers excellent motion interpolation of content at all major typical frame rates (24p movies, 30fps TV content, high frame rate streamed video and games on its native 120Hz display panel. 24p Blu-ray discs, DVDs, cable TV and broadcast TV sources as well as streaming media from both native apps and apps inside external streaming media devices can all be played judder-free if they happen to be 24p formatted. Backlight flicker is also nonexistent in the A8F, since as an OLED TV, it has no flickering LED backlights to begin with.
Input Performance for Gaming and PC:
The Sony A8F is a reasonably good TV for gamers who want to hit 4K and HDR notes with their console gaming if they have the right kind of accessory technology. We’ve seen better performance on this front from most of Samsung’s 4K TVs and, surprisingly, even their cheapest models as well as those of Vizio or TCL but the A8F still delivers levels of input lag that are good enough for the vast majority of casual console gamers across several different color, HDR and resolution settings. Furthermore, because of its fantastically high-quality HDR color performance the visuals on any HDR or 4K games you play will be stunning. The following are the specific specs for its gaming performance in different console setups:
- 4k @ 60Hz: 29 ms
- 1080p @ 60Hz: 46 ms
- 1080p @ 120Hz: 22 ms
- 4k @ 60Hz + HDR: 31 ms
- 1080p @ 60Hz + HDR: 47.7 ms
- 4k @ 60Hz Outside Game Mode : 92.2 ms
- 4k @ 60Hz @ 4:4:4: 31.1 ms
- 4K @ 60Hz @ 4:4:4 + 8 bit HDR: 29.8 ms
- 4K with interpolation activated: 93.2 ms (leave the interpolation off)
We should also note that Sony has built the A8F with some truly superb compatibility with PC hardware for use as a giant sort of PC monitor. This TV offers up full 4:4:4 chroma subsampling support and 1080p @ 120 Hz support when coupled with PC rigs. Other fully supported resolutions and color settings for PC connectivity include those mentioned above in our input lag listings.
The Sony A8F, like all of Sony’s newer 4K TVs, offers up a full package of today’s now standard and essential advanced connectivity specs. For connecting it to pretty much any external media device in the most useful possible ways, no user should have any problems with this model. In other words, it comes equipped with multiple HDMI, USB ports and other crucial connectivity slots. The television however lacks full HDMI 2.0 HDR supported bandwidth in all four HDMI ports. Instead only ports 2 and 3 offer this. The following are its ports and their specifications:
- HDMI : 4 (2 and 3 come with HDCP 2.2 and full HDMI 2.0a capacity)
- USB : 3 (USB 3.0)
- Digital Optical Audio Out : 1
- Analog Audio Out 3.5 mm : 1
- Tuner (Cable/Ant) : 1
- Ethernet : 1
- HDR10 support: Yes
- Hybrid Log Gamma HDR support: Yes
- Dolby Vision HDR: No but coming later in 2018 firmware update
The Sony XBR-A8F TV models also offer audio connectivity in the following types.
- 1 Passthrough ARC Dolby Digital
- 1 Passthrough ARC DTS
- 1 Passthrough Optical Dolby Digital
- 1 Passthrough Optical DTS
Sony XBRA8F Pricing & Availability
The Sony XBR-A8F’s two currently available different size ranges are selling for the following prices found in the links 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.
Check 55 and 65 inch XBR65A8F Prices