Imagine making a product so good, so utterly brilliant that, when asked for a follow-up, you change a minor detail or two, give it a slightly different name and call it a day. To be honest and in entire seriousness, that’s exactly what Sony did with A8F – it took the Sony A1E OLED from last year, added a subwoofer and swapped out the stand, and re-released it as the Sony BRAVIA A8F OLED.
One way to see this situation is that Sony clearly made a competent product this time last year. It sold well, but as a company it felt that the large, slate-style kickstand was holding it back from even greater glory. Hence the reason to make the same TV with a different stand. On the other hand, you could see this is as the single greatest lazy move in the history of TV making, one that is both impressive and also completely confusing.
There’s also option three, the most likely answer, it’s both lazy and a great marketing move.
Because Sony didn’t change the processor, the panel, the operating system or any display technology inside the TV, it’d be fair of us to post the same review of the A1E OLED (easily one of the best TVs of last year, mind you) and move along. But, instead of doing that, and in spite of our better judgment, we’ll treat the A8F like it somehow isn’t the exact same TV that we saw 12 months ago.
The A8F is a super slim OLED screen that’s housed in what Sony calls a ‘slate’ design – or at least that’s what it called the design last year with the A1E.
The slate design has become slightly more modernized by switching the kickstand pedestal for a flat base, but by and large it’s still a monolithic sheet of glass that has no front-facing speakers … or really any speakers at all.
Instead of traditional drivers that blast sound out of a three-inch woofer, Sony utilizes exciters to ever-so-slightly vibrate the screen. Representatives from Sony claim this is a more practical way to produce sound – and while it’s not Dolby Atmos-like quality like LG’s OLED, it’s a unique solution to the age-old problem of speakers maring a TV’s aesthetic.
Spin the TV around and you’ll find the removable panel that houses the TV’s connections. It’s a slightly more elegant solution than LG’s flat cable that runs from the soundbar to the TV, and again, if it served the A1E OLED well, it will clearly work for the A8F, too.
The A8F will be available in two sizes, a 65- and a 55-inch version, which, again, mirrors the A1E’s line-up.
Smart TV (Android TV)
This will be a short one. The A8F will use the exact same version of Android TV that the A1E currently uses. The good news is that Sony TVs with Android TV will have access to Google Assistant in the new year – which is especially good for those of us with burgeoning smart homes.
Despite the fact that Sony’s OLED panel is nearly a year old at this point, it’s still gorgeous. And although other manufacturers have upped the visual performance with their software, Sony’s A8F can still hold up against them – yes, even against LG’s current crop of 8-Series OLEDs.
A major driving force behind the panel’s performance is the X1 Extreme processor. It remains unchanged since last year, but it’s still capable of stellar upconversion, superb noise reduction, excellent motion handling and object-based HDR, basically everything you’d need when creating a top-tier image.
If those terms are somewhat obscure, the best way to describe the A8F’s performance in real life is with the word ‘subtle’. Sony’s OLEDs aren’t as bright as Samsung’s QLED TVs, nor are they as vibrant as LG’s 8-Series OLEDs. But the A1E and A8F do an exceptional job displaying visually rich, striking images without any oversaturation whatsoever. If you’re looking for the most pristine picture on the market, the A1E/A8F are it.
There is one significant drawback to both the A1E and A8F, however. Currently, in terms of HDR formats, the panels only support HDR10. Sony representatives told us that the long-touted Dolby Vision update will be coming in the near future, with one PR representative telling us it could be by the end of January. Until that happens, though, Samsung’s top tier TVs use HDR10 and HDR10+, while LG has HDR10, Dolby Vision, Hybrid Log Gamma and Advanced HDR by Technicolor.
Still, in spite of its lack of HDR formats, HDR performance overall is still amazing thanks to an infinite contrast ratio and decently bright highlights.
Before wrapping up, we should spend one second on the only other real change to the A8F: the additional woofer located behind the speaker grille on the back panel. Sony says it helps add additional bass response to the TV. This wasn’t something we could confirm on the crowded show floor at CES, but it is logical based on the specs.
We can say without reservation that the Sony Bravia A8F will be a fantastic television in your home. That’s because we’ve already put the A1E through its paces last year, and it was, undoubtedly, one of the best TVs of 2017. We’d wish for something a little more innovative from Sony on the A8F, but can appreciate that sometimes it’s best to leave good things just the way they are.
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