Tech review: Sony A8H 4K Oled TV is perfect for cinephiles

The A9G's base stand has given way to a pair of metal feet that barely raise the TV above the console.
The A9G's base stand has given way to a pair of metal feet that barely raise the TV above the console.PHOTO: SONY

The Sony A8H 4K Oled TV is a flagship television set in all but name. While it may not be the designated successor to last year's A9G flagship model - which is still available in stores - the A8H uses the same X1 Ultimate processor as the A9G.

This means all the fancy-sounding features of the A9G that affect its image processing, upscaling performance and motion handling are also available on the A8H.

In fact, the only major advantage of the A9G over the A8H is probably its superior TV speakers, though the price difference between them (the 55-inch A8H is $4,599 compared to $7,999 for the A9G) can easily get you a top-notch sound system.

Sony continues to fiddle with the design of the TV stand. The A9G's base stand, which replaced its predecessor's easel stand, has given way to a pair of metal feet that barely raise the TV above the console.

For those with a soundbar, the feet can be adjusted to a higher height setting so that the screen is not blocked by the soundbar. The metal feet also help with the cable management - cables can be routed through the feet, thus hiding them from view.

The TV itself consists of an ultra-thin Oled panel with a thicker but flat plastic chassis, which houses the ports and internal electronics, that is grafted on the lower back. Overall, the A8H looks elegant without any extraneous elements to distract from its excellent screen.

Like many of Sony's recent premium TVs, the A8H uses actuators to vibrate the screen such that the audio seems to come directly from the screen. These speakers can get very loud, though the power output is half that of the A9G's. The bass is also not as good as that of a standalone subwoofer.

To my disappointment, the A8H's four HDMI ports do not support the latest HDMI 2.1 standard and hence lacks gaming-centric features such as variable refresh rate and auto low latency mode. It seems like a major omission seeing as these features would have been supported on the upcoming Sony PlayStation 5 console.

The A8H does have the Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC) feature on one of its HDMI ports, which allows full-resolution audio such as Dolby Atmos to pass between TV and soundbar.

High dynamic range (HDR) video formats such as Dolby Vision, HDR10 and HLG formats are supported by the A8H, though not the HDR10+ format championed by Samsung.

The built-in Netflix app offers a Netflix Calibrated mode that claims to display videos as they were intended by content creators to be viewed. However, I found this mode to be less dull and not as vibrant as the TV's Cinema or Dolby Vision modes.

Also included in the TV out of the box are the Amazon Prime Video and YouTube apps. Since the A8H runs on the Android TV platform, you can install TV-optimised versions of Android apps such as Spotify and Twitch from Google Play Store.

This Android TV implementation is Sony's most polished effort yet. It does not freeze occasionally like with older Sony Android TVs. Sony has also added short helpful explainers for its TV settings.

Unlike recent TVs from LG and Samsung, the A8H does not have an Apple TV app. However, Apple AirPlay 2 is supported, so you can stream content from an Apple device.

The A8H's picture quality is exquisite. The screen looks uniform without any banding or splotches in the 4K Blu-ray version of Blade Runner 2049. Images appear natural and realistic and not too vivid. The motion processing is restrained - I only noticed it being overly smooth and artificial at the higher settings.

Perhaps the only criticism of the A8H is that, like recent Oled TVs, it is not as bright as LED TVs or even older Oled models. But I find the brightness level more than acceptable when watching movies with the lights turned on.

The TV's upscaling performance is excellent, too. While DVD movies (at 480p resolution) still have a soft, grainy look, they appear smoother with less noise than other TVs I have tested. Meanwhile, 1,080p Blu-ray movies are almost as sharp as the 4K versions.

At $4,599 for the 55-inch version, the A8H is priced to compete with LG's latest CX Oled TV (from $4,099). In fact, the prices for both TVs converge at $5,999 for the 65-inch model.

The Sony probably edges it for me in the picture quality department and the wide range of apps for the Android TV platform. But the LG CX is the better option for gamers who intend to buy a next-generation console.


FOR

Exquisite picture quality

Good audio for TV speakers

Elegant design with height adjustable stand

AGAINST

No HDMI 2.1

Lacks variable refresh rate

SPECS

Price: $4,599 (55"), $5,999 (65", version tested)

Picture features: Maximum resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels, HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision

Audio features: 30W output (Actuator + Subwoofer), Dolby Audio, Dolby Atmos, DTS Digital Surround

Operating system: Android TV (version 9)

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

Features: 4/5

Design: 4.5/5

Performance: 5/5

Value for money:4/5

Overall: 4.5/5

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