Sony launch A1 OLED and XE Series Ultra HD 4K TVs in UK
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Sony appear to have got some of their swagger back after launching the A1 Ultra HD 4K OLED TV at CES.However, the company’s new line-up not only includes their first large screen OLED TV in 55-, 65- and 77-inch screen sizes but also their latest 75XE94, 65XE93 and 55XE93 flagship UHD 4K LED LCD models as well. All three models will support High Dynamic Range, with HDR 10 included at launch and Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) and Dolby Vision added later via a firmware update. These TVs also use the X1 Extreme 4K HDR processor that was launched on the ZD9 last year and the good news for owners of that model is that it will also be upgraded with Dolby Vision. Sony had more good news when they announced that all their 2016 and 2017 Android TVs will be upgraded to HLG later in the year.
- 4K UHD (Ultra HD)
- Smart TV
- Content Streaming
- High Dynamic Range (HDR)
- Dolby Vision (HDR)
We visited Sony at their UK head office to get a better look at their new TV line-up and a few demonstrations of the latest technology included in the 2017 UK models. The first port of call was naturally the A1 OLED TV with its ‘Acoustic Surface’. This involves four actuators – two either side – that vibrate the OLED panel itself, effectively using it as a giant speaker. There is 50W of amplification in total, 10W for each of the actuators and 10W for the built-in subwoofer. We were able to hear the A1 in action and the sound was very good and was even able to track images moving on the screen. Sony demonstrated this using an specially animated bird, a scene from Hotel Transylvania 2 and an Alicia Keys concert video. When you touched the screen you could actually feel it moving but this did not appear to have any detrimental affect on the image quality, even at full volume. Sony said that the large surface area of the screen itself means they only have to move the panel very slightly to generate the sound, thus ensuring it doesn’t visibly affect the picture quality.
Sony were also keen to demonstrate the near black performance of the A1 in a blacked out room and the company claimed that their OLED TV deliver better detail just above black thanks to the X1 Extreme 4K HDR processor. The company also demonstrated the other benefits of the X1 Extreme 4K HDR processor, showing how the combination of Object-based HDR remaster, Super Bit Mapping 4K HDR and Dual database processing can deliver a superior HDR experience. However even if you don't have an HDR source the X1 Extreme 4K HDR processor can deliver an HDR-like experience with HDR upscaling, which is automatically included on most of the picture settings except the Cinema Pro and Game modes. Speaking of gaming, Sony also had a specially modified version of the new game Horizon Zero Dawn, which allowed them to switch instantaneously between 4K HDR and 1080p SDR. The results were impressive and there's no doubt that 4K HDR gaming on the PS4 Pro takes the experience to another level with increased detail and realistic highlights. Sony's higher-end TVs also include a dedicated game mode for HDR gaming to reduce input lag and further improve your gaming experience.The A1 Series 4K HDR OLED TV doesn’t just feature this ‘Acoustic Surface’ but its use allows the A1 to have an incredibly minimalist design, with just the screen itself visible to the viewer. The A1 also includes the X1 Extreme 4K HDR processor which incorporates Object-based HDR remaster, Super Bit Mapping 4K HDR and Dual database processing. There’s also expanded colour accuracy thanks to TRILUMINOS technology and there the 4K X-Reality PRO image processing. The A1 will include the latest version of the Android Smart TV platform which lets you explore a world of movies, music, photos, games, search, apps and more. There's Voice Search to find content, ask questions and control your TV, Chrome Cast built-in, so you can easily send content from your smartphone or tablet to the TV and access to Google Play. There's also Sony’s exclusive Content Bar user interface, which allows you to comfortably browse content quickly and intuitively without disrupting your TV viewing. At the rear there is a removable panel for tidier cable management and when using the A1 with its stand the screen is at a slight angle, which Sony claim is optimal based on their market research, although you can also wall mount it flat using a standard VESA bracket. Sony have yet to confirm pricing on the A1 but pricing is rumoured to be around £3,300 for the 55-inch model and £4,700 for the 65-inch version.The XE94/93 models include many of the same features as the A1, except that they use LCD panels rather than OLED and don’t include the Acoustic Surface technology. The XE94 comes in a single 75-inch screen size that uses a full-array direct LED backlight with local dimming. The XE93 comes in 65- and 55-inch screen sizes and features the Slim Backlight Drive+ with a quad-edge LED structure to allow for an ultra-slim design and precise local dimming. Along with the X1 Extreme 4K HDR processor, 4K X-Reality PRO image processing, TRILUMINOS panel and Android TV, both TVs also include X-tended Dynamic Range PRO to enhance both HDR and non-HDR content. The XE94 and XE93 use a new speaker design that fires the sound forward to improve the audio quality. Sony have softened the colour of the silver stand on both models and redesigned the edge of the panel to make the XE94 look slimmer. The rear panel now has a cream colour and uses a similar design to the ZD9 for tidier cable management. There is a new optional wall mount for both models, although they are also VESA compatible. Sony have yet to confirm pricing on the XE94 but it is rumoured to be around £5,500, but the company has confirmed pricing on the XE93 with the 55-inch version retailing £2,400 and the 65-inch model costing £3,200.The XE90 Series comes in 75-, 65-, 55- and 49-inch LCD screen sizes and also uses a full array LED backlight. This model features the X1 4K HDR processor with Object-based HDR remaster and Super Bit Mapping 4K HDR technology. There’s also local dimming, X-tended Dynamic Range PRO, a TRILUMINOS display, 4K X-Reality PRO image processing and the latest version of Android TV. There’s a silver stand that’s similar to the XE93/94 and a black bezel with a silver trim around the outer edge. Sony have confirmed pricing on part of the XE90 range, with the 55-inch model costing £1,700 and the 65-inch version retailing for £2,500. There is no pricing yet for the 49-ich model but the 75-inch version is rumoured to be priced at around £4,500.The XE85 Series features 75-, 65- and 55-inch LCD screen sizes with edge LED backlighting. Like the XE90 it includes the X1 4K HDR processor with Object-based HDR remaster and Super Bit Mapping 4K HDR technology. There’s also a TRILUMINOS display, 4K X-Reality PRO image processing and the latest version of Android TV, along with an ultra slim design, an open silver stand and a choice of a black or silver bezel. Sony has yet to officially confirm pricing on the XE85 range but the 55-inch model is rumoured to be £1,600, the 65-inch £2,500 and the 75-inch around £4,500.Finally there’s the XE80 Series which can be bought in 55-, 49- and 43-inch LCD screen sizes. This Ultra HD 4K HDR TV includes a TRILUMINOS panel and the X-Reality 4K image processing, along with Android TV. The XE80 uses an ultra slim form factor, with a sleek rear design and clean cable management for table top mount. There is also a silver open stand and a black bezel around the screen. Sony have yet to officially confirm any pricing for the XE80 but it is expected to be between £1,000 and £1,200 across the range.
The first ranges to ship will be the XE93 and XE90 models in early spring, with the rest following in late spring and early summer.
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