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The Bravia A1 is a cool piece of art

Despite its minimalist design, the Sony Bravia A1 takes up a fair amount of space because of its easel stand. Therefore, your TV console should have a depth of at least 35cm to fit the TV set comfortably. The Bravia A1's easel stand doubles as the su
Despite its minimalist design, the Sony Bravia A1 takes up a fair amount of space because of its easel stand. Therefore, your TV console should have a depth of at least 35cm to fit the TV set comfortably. PHOTO: SONY
Despite its minimalist design, the Sony Bravia A1 takes up a fair amount of space because of its easel stand. Therefore, your TV console should have a depth of at least 35cm to fit the TV set comfortably. The Bravia A1's easel stand doubles as the su
The Bravia A1's easel stand doubles as the subwoofer and holds the electronic guts of the TV set.PHOTO: SONY

The first 4K Oled TV set from Sony is all screen and a minimalist masterpiece

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Sony's first 4K Oled (organic light-emitting diode) TV set, the Bravia A1, is bold, unique and all screen - a smooth featureless slab of black propped up by an easel stand. It is like an outrageously large digital photo frame with impeccable picture quality.

There are no speaker grilles, in stark contrast to older Sony TV sets which had giant booming speakers attached to the sides. Instead, the screen itself is the conduit for the audio. Four actuators at the back vibrate the Oled screen to generate sound. The easel stand doubles as the subwoofer and holds the electronic guts of the TV set. A removable panel fitted with speaker fabric hides the TV connectors, which include four HDMI and three USB ports.

Don't worry, the vibrations are minute enough that they cannot be detected by your eyes. I could, however, feel them with my hand on the screen. More importantly, the audio is very good for integrated TV speakers. Clear and impressively loud, the audio seems to emit from the screen itself, which adds to the immersion.

However, there is a downside to this design. Even though the Oled screen is only about as thick as my smartphone, the entire TV takes up a fair amount of space, thanks to its easel stand. Hence, your TV console should have a depth of at least 35cm to fit the TV set comfortably. The screen leans back slightly, though this does not affect the viewing experience.

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I was also disappointed to find out that not all its HDMI ports are HDMI 2.0-compliant, which supports 4K output at 60 frames per second (fps) with High Dynamic Range (HDR). Only ports 2 and 3 support this - the other two HDMI ports support 4K at 30fps.

The A1 is technically not Sony's first Oled TV. In fact, the Japanese electronics giant was the first to launch an Oled TV about a decade ago with the XEL-1, though it did not catch on, probably because it was expensive, small (11-inch screen) and had a limited production run.

For the Bravia A1 Oled TV, Sony reportedly sourced the Oled panel from LG. But the panel is just part of the equation - the video processing is handled by Sony's own X1 Extreme processor and software.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $8,999 (55 inches), $12,999 (65 inches)

    PICTURE FEATURES: Maximum resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels, HDR, Dolby Vision (at a later date)

    AUDIO FEATURES: 50W output (actuator + subwoofer), Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Pulse, DTS Digital Surround

    OPERATING SYSTEM: Android TV (version 7.0)

    CONNECTIVITY: 4 x HDMI, 3 x USB, Optical output, Ethernet, Wi-Fi

  • RATING

  • FEATURES: 5/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 2/5

    OVERALL: 5/5

In fact, I felt that the A1 handled certain transitions from a well-lit scene to a dark scene better than LG's flagship Oled TV. For instance, I had noticed some greyish banding on the LG TV in certain scenes of the La La Land Ultra HD Blu-ray movie but saw no signs of this with the A1.

Overall, the picture quality of the Sony TV is very similar to that of its LG rivals. Colours look suitably vivid and stunning in the Planet Earth II Ultra HD Blu-ray disc, thanks to the TV's HDR feature.

Like LG's Oled TVs, the A1 will support both HDR10 and Dolby Vision, though the latter will be enabled in a future update. It will also get support for the Hybrid Log-Gamma HDR format for broadcast TV at some point.

The remote control looks identical to the one bundled with last year's flagship model. It is black with a soft-touch rubberised coating that can wear off over time.

Its directional arrow keys are small and difficult to press, which is aggravating when navigating the menus. I also found that I have to point the remote control's IR sensor at the bottom of the TV set for it be reliably detected.

Kudos to Sony for having the latest version - 7.0 (Nougat) - of Android TV on its set. But I still feel that the platform is more suited for a media player or console, rather than a full-fledged TV.

For one thing, the interface is less elegant than some of its competitors - the Action Menu shortcut that lets you access TV-specific settings seems tacked on, compared with the rest of the Android TV options. I also encountered the occasional lag during video playback while turning up the TV volume.

However, its Android roots means it should be familiar to many smartphone users. It also has access to a wide range of curated TV-centric apps from the Google Play Store, compared with other TV platforms.

The review set I tested is the 55-inch, $8,999 version (KD- 55A1), but Sony also offers a 65- inch model for those with deeper pockets. The latter costs $12,999, matching the local retail price of LG's 65-inch flagship W7 Oled TV.

• Verdict: Sony's first Oled TV has a minimalist, unique design that stands out from its rivals. Its picture quality is comparable to that of the best Oled TVs. However, Android TV still feels a tad clunky.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2017, with the headline 'The Bravia A1 is a cool piece of art'. Print Edition | Subscribe