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The art of minimalism

by Steve Withers Apr 22, 2017 at 7:57 AM

  • SRP: £4,999.00

    What is the Sony A1?

    The BRAVIA A1, or A1E in the US, is Sony’s first proper consumer OLED TV. The company have been making professional OLED monitors for the last few years but now they’re targeting TV enthusiasts. As a result Sony have pulled out all the stops as far as the A1 is concerned, offering an OLED TV that uses a 4K Ultra HD 10-bit flat panel and includes the X1 Extreme processor. The A1 will support High Dynamic Range, specifically HDR10, right out of the box and Sony plan to add support for Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) and Dolby Vision later in the year when they upgrade to Android 7.

    All that would be enough for most companies but Sony haven’t stopped there and the A1 also includes Acoustic Surface technology which actually uses the entire screen as a speaker. It’s an inspired decision that will help differentiate the A1 in what promises be a competitive OLED market this year. The A1 comes in two screen sizes – the 55-inch KD-55A1 which will set you back £3,499 and the 65-inch KD-65A1 which costs £4,999. Both prices are correct at the time of writing (April 2017) and are fairly hefty, so the A1 will need to perform to justify its price tag. We’re reviewing the 65A1, so let’s set it up and see if Sony have delivered.

    MORE: What is an OLED TV?


    Sony KD-65A1 Design
    As a company Sony have always been at the cutting edge in terms of their design and the A1 is the most eye-catching TV they’ve made to date. The innovative approach to the sound system means that from the front all you see is the screen. There’s nothing else – no speakers, no bezel and no stand, in fact there's barely room for the Sony logo, which is relegated to the bottom left hand corner. The entire TV is finished in black and there's a 5mm black border around the image on the screen and the panel itself measures just 7.8mm deep, making the A1 a text book example of minimalism. Obviously since the screen is all you can see from the front and there’s no space beneath it, if you plan on using a soundbar it will need to be positioned beneath the screen.

    Whilst we doubt anyone will complain about the visual aesthetic of the A1, we suspect that the convoluted easel stand may divide opinion. The main issue that people might have with the A1 is that when mounted on its stand it sits at an incline, so depending on how high you’re sat relative to the screen that may or may not be a problem. Sony will make claims that this slope is designed to optimise the viewing angle of the TV but first of all this is an OLED TV so optimal viewing angles are a non-issue and secondly that would only be true if you're sat at a higher angle than the TV, which we suspect most people won't be. The more obvious answer is that, like Panasonic's DX902, the angled stand is designed to prevent the TV from toppling forward.

    The stand itself is composed of a hinged rear section that pulls out and is locked into position before being attached to a weighted base to provide support and stability. We strongly recommend you actually follow the instructions because whilst the A1 is well made, this movable rear section could be accidentally damaged. It’s also very heavy and quite awkward to pick up, making it a two-person lift, although even then it's not the easiest TV to move around and we actually found it rather difficult. The problem is that the screen gets in the way, so unless you have long arms you can't reach the bottom of the rear stand and you obviously can't use the rear actuators as hand holds. To be perfectly honest, if we owned the A1 we'd seriously consider buying a third party VESA stand, just as many people have done with the DX902, to eliminate the angle.
    Sony KD-65A1 Design
    Once set up on its stand the A1 looks a bit like a child’s blackboard, with the rear section supporting the screen at an angle. The base of the screen and the rear of the stand require an area that is at least 468mm wide and 339mm deep in order to support the A1 in a stable fashion. If you don’t like the angled nature of the A1 using its stand, you do have the option of wall mounting the TV instead. There’s a removable panel on the back of the rear section, where you’ll find holes for a 400 x 200 VESA bracket. All you need to do is lock the rear section into place against the panel and then attach to the wall bracket. When you lock the rear section in place next to the panel the total dimensions are 1451 x 832 x 86mm (WxHxD) and the A1 weighs 29.8kg.

    The dimensions of the A1 with the rear section extended and the stand attached are 1451 x 834 x 339mm (WxHxD) and it weighs 36.2kg. The rear section not only has the the VESA holes behind a removable cover but it also contains a subwoofer that works in conjunction with the actuators that minutely vibrate the screen itself to create the audio. You can see the actuators attached to the back of the panel on either side of the rear section. The rear section also includes all the connections, most of which are near the bottom and face downwards for tidier cable management. Overall the A1 is a genuinely striking piece of industrial design and whilst it might not be cheap, it certainly has the build quality to help justify the asking price.

    The A1 is simply the most striking TV design that we've ever seen

    Connections & Control

    Sony KD-65A1 Connections & Control
    As mentioned in the previous section, all the connections are in the rear stand with most of them towards the bottom and facing downwards. There are two connections on the left hand side of the stand, as you face the TV, and here you'll find a USB port and a CI (Common Interface) slot. Having a USB port that's easy to access might come in handy because reaching the other connections is actually quite tricky, depending on how long your arms are and how easily you can access the rear of your TV. It might be easier if the TV's wall mounted but using the stand means that the screen itself blocks direct access to the connections and we often found ourselves stretching to reach an HDMI input.

    As far as the downwards facing connections go you get four HDMI inputs but once again Sony seem to be short changing owners when it comes to these connections. All the HDMI inputs support 4K, HDR and HDCP 2.2 and one of them (HDMI 3) supports ARC (Audio Return Channel). However only two (HDMI 2 and 3) can support 4K up to 60p, the other two (HDMI 1 and 4) are limited to 30p. This makes absolutely no sense, the savings must be minuscule and on a flagship TV that costs £5,000 we'd expect all the HDMI inputs to support 4K up to 60p.

    In terms of the other connections there's an Ethernet port, two more USB ports and terrestrial and twin satellite connectors for the built-in tuners. Along with the LAN port, the A1 also has built-in WiFi (802.11a/b/g/n/ac). There's an optical digital output, a hybrid input for composite video and analogue audio and a hybrid output for analogue audio, headphones and subwoofer out.
    Sony KD-65A1 Connections & Control
    Disappointingly the remote included with the A1 is Sony's standard controller which they include with all their other TVs. Aside from the fact that this controller has the same rubberised finish and low-profile buttons that annoyed many people last year, it would be nice for a flagship TV like the A1 to have a more high-end controller. The one that is included is perfectly adequate, it's reasonably well designed, solidly made and comfortable to hold. However the buttons can be hard to find in the dark and we did hit the wrong one by accident on occasion.

    However all the buttons you'll need are there, including dedicated keys to take you to Netflix and the Google Play Store. There's also Voice Search on the remote, using a dedicated button and a built-in microphone. The Voice Search feature on Android TV gives you easy access to Google search, allowing you to find content across different services without the hassle of time-consuming text entry. You can also get recommendations, so simply asking for “romantic comedies” for example, will bring up a list of suitable options. The A1 also comes with an infra-red (IR) blaster that lets you control other devices from the TV remote, so you can use it to control your set-top box for example.

    If you'd like an alternative to the provided remote control, there is also Sony’s TV SideView remote app, which is available free for both iOS and Android. It's a well designed and effective way of controlling the TV and certainly makes for a viable alternative but we generally find that if we want to quickly change channel, it's always easier just to grab the remote control, even if the little rubber buttons are annoying.

    There's an extensive set of connections but only two of the HDMI inputs support 4K at 60p

    Features & Specs

    The big selling point of the A1 is that it uses an Ultra HD 4K 10-bit flat OLED panel with a resolution of 3840 x 2160, which is obviously provided by a third party and no prizes for guessing who. However it's the addition of Sony's proprietary video processing that makes the A1 so exciting to TV enthusiasts. So you get the 4K HDR Processor X1 Extreme, which was originally launched on the ZD9 last year, and this includes 4K X-Reality PRO with dual database processing, superbit mapping for 4K HDR and object-based HDR remastering.

    The A1 supports High Dynamic Range in the form of HDR10 but, via a firmware update later in the year, it will also support Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) and Dolby Vision. Thanks to Sony’s TRILUMINOS Display technology, Live Colour Technology and Precision Colour Mapping, the A1 promises a wider colour gamut that has been enhanced for greater accuracy with HDR. There's also Motionflow XR for motion enhancement and frame interpolation, along with a new HDR gaming mode. One feature that is missing from the A1 is 3D support because Sony have dropped the format from all their 2017 models.

    The other big selling point of the A1 is the use of Acoustic Surface technology to create a 'speaker-less' design that essentially uses the entire screen as a speaker. This is an inspired idea from Sony and completely sets the A1 apart from the competition. Thanks to this approach to delivering sound there are no traditional speakers and all you see is the screen itself. There are dual actuators attached to the rear left and right of the panel and these literally vibrate the screen to generate the sound. There is also a built-in subwoofer in the rear of the stand which is intended to give the audio some much needed low-end presence.

    MORE: What is Dolby Vision?

    Sony KD-65A1 Features & Specs
    Sony KD-65A1 Features & Specs

    As with most of Sony's other TVs, the A1 uses Android as the operating system for its Smart TV platform and whilst the implementation is improving, it's still not perfect. At one point we did lose the settings menus at the bottom of the Home page for no obvious reason and we were forced to turn the TV off and on again in order to get it back. However generally the Android platform was robust and responsive and we like the changes made to the layout. Sony have made a much better job of presenting all the available apps and content with a series of tiled layers that you scroll down through and then across. The recommendation bar is useful and allows for better integration of Netflix and BBC iPlayer, among other video streaming apps, not to mention Google Play, YouTube and YouView. Our review sample was still running Android M (6.0.1) but Sony will be upgrading their TVs to Android N when the HLG and Dolby Vision update is released later in the year.

    MORE: Read a review of Sony's Android TV system

    There's an impressive set of features with an HLG and Dolby Vision upgrade promised for later in the year

    Sony KD-65A1 Recommended TV Settings

    Picture Settings – Out-of-the-Box

    As is normal for a Sony TVs the A1 ships in the Standard Picture Mode, so for an image that accurately replicates the industry standards, you'll need to select either Cinema Home or Cinema Pro. We used the Cinema Pro mode for our night time setting and the Cinema Home mode to create a daytime setting but the Cinema Pro setting is the only one that is free of additional processing that can't be turned off in all the other modes, so if picture fidelity is important to you this should always be the mode you use for critical viewing. The majority of the settings are fairly self explanatory and Sony have renamed some of their controls to reflect what they actually do, which is handy.

    The only area that was unusual was in regards to the brightness of the A1. There is a OLED brightness control and with X-tended Dynamic Range off we could get our night mode target of 120nits with the control at the maximum setting. This meant that we needed to engage X-tended Dynamic Range (XDR) in order to get a brighter image for a day time setting. Unlike on Sony's LCD TVs, where XDR actually manipulates the image based on the content, on the A1 it appears to just be a low, medium or high brightness setting. In fact to get exactly the same brightness measurement of 120nits, you can use XDR off and a Brightness setting of max, an XDR setting of low and a Brightness setting of 31m, XDR medium and a Brightness setting of 16 and XDR high with a Brightness setting of 6. We're not exactly sure why Sony have taken this approach but it's probably related to using the same firmware on A1 and their high-end LCD TVs.

    All our measurements were done with a Klein K-10A colour meter, a Murideo Fresco Six-G pattern generator and CalMAN Ultimate calibration software. If you want to set your new TV up correctly then you can follow the steps in our PicturePerfect Guide or watch the video above.
    Sony KD-65A1 Picture Settings – Out-of-the-Box
    The out-of-the-box greyscale was generally good but, as you can see in the graph above, there was a slight excess of blue and a corresponding deficit of green across most of the scale. As a result there was a visible push towards blue in whites and this is shown by the errors (deltaEs) going as high as six. Since the A1 includes both a two- and a ten-point white balance controls, we expect no issues when it comes to calibrating the greyscale. The gamma tracking was also reasonably good, with the A1 measuring between 2.3 and our target of 2.4.
    Sony KD-65A1 Picture Settings – Out-of-the-Box
    The colour tracking was also relatively good, aside from the fact that the many of colours were being skewed by the excess blue in the greyscale. However the colours were all tracking their saturation points quite closely, so once we’ve calibrated the greyscale and removed the excess of blue and brought green back up, the primary and secondary colours should fall right into place. As is always the case with Sony TVs there is no colour management system (CMS), which does rather limit our options in regards to calibrating the colour.

    The initial image accuracy was generally very good and even better after calibration

    Picture Settings – Calibrated

    As already mentioned in the previous section, the A1 includes a two-point white balance control, which you can use to make general adjustments to the greyscale before fine-tuning with the ten-point white balance control. Although there are no colour management (CMS) controls on Sony TVs, we generally find that after calibration their displays can be extremely accurate despite this and thus do benefit from the greyscale being calibrated.

    MORE: Should I get my TV professionally calibrated?

    Sony KD-65A1 Picture Settings – Calibrated
    Using the two-point white balance control on the A1 we were able to decrease blue (and red slightly), which resulted in a far more accurate greyscale, in fact almost all the errors were already below one, so we could have just stopped there. However in the interests of producing the most accurate measurements for the review, we used the ten-point to fine-tune the performance and adjust the gamma, so that the curve tracked 2.4 precisely and the overall errors were now almost zero.
    Sony KD-65A1 Picture Settings – Calibrated
    As we anticipated, based on previous experience with Sony TVs, once we had calibrated the greyscale the colour tracking fell into line and the result was an excellent level of colour accuracy. There were some minor errors, particularly in the hue of magenta, but since there is no CMS our options in this area were limited. We tried using the global Hue control to correct the magenta errors but that adversely affected the other colours, so ultimately we left magenta as it was and it didn't appear detrimental to actual viewing material. Overall the A1 was capable of a near-reference level of accuracy when it comes to its greyscale, gamma and colour gamut.

    Picture Settings – High Dynamic Range

    The measurements shown below are for an out-of-the-box performance using the HDR Cinema Pro mode and based upon a simple setup with X-tended Dynamic Range set to High and Brightness at maximum. As you can see the EOTF (Electro Optical Transfer Function) tracked very closely to the SMPTE 2084 (PQ) target, with the luminance beginning to roll off at 70 IRE. The greyscale is also tracking very well and overall the errors were mostly below one, except when the curve rolls off, where there is a slight increase to four.
    Sony KD-65A1 Picture Settings – High Dynamic Range
    Although the A1 tracks the PQ EOTF very closely and the greyscale tracking is excellent, since it uses an OLED panel it does have the limitations associated with that technology, specifically that of peak brightness. We measured the peak brightness of the A1 on a 10% window at 685nits, that was in the Cinema Pro mode with X-tended Dynamic Range set to High and Brightness set to maximum. In addition, using a full-field peak white test pattern the A1 measured 152nits, thanks to the ABL (Automatic Brightness Limiter). This peak brightness and full field performance is on a par with the LG W7 that we measured recently and slightly better than than the Philips 901F that we reviewed earlier in the year.

    MORE: What is High Dynamic Range (HDR)?

    Sony KD-65A1 Picture Settings – High Dynamic Range
    The A1 performed very well in terms of its maximum colour gamut, delivering 96% of DCI-P3 using xy and 98% using uv coordinates, which equates to 71% of Rec. 2020. This is higher than Sony's XE93 that we reviewed recently and higher than the LG W7 that we measured last month. The graph above shows how the A1 tracked against Rec.2020 and, within the limitations of its native colour gamut, it was very good.

    MORE: What is Wide Colour Gamut (WCG)?

    Sony KD-65A1
    The graph above shows how the A1 tracked against the DCI-P3 saturation points within the Rec.2020 container and here the Sony did a fairly good job, with the primary and secondary colours tracking their targets closer than they did in the Rec. 2020 test. There was some under-saturation of red and green but in general the colours were near their targets which resulted in natural-looking colours with actual HDR material.

    We measured the Relative Colour Volume, which takes the display's own peak brightness and measures the colour volume relative to that peak brightness based on the CIE L*a*b* colour graph and 140 data points. For the A1 we got measurements of 125% against Rec. 709, 84% against DCI-P3 and 57% against Rec. 2020 but these measurements aren't taking into account the maximum nits that the content is graded at, which is obviously much higher than the peak brightness of the OLED TV.

    Alternatively we can look at the Perceptual Colour Volume, which uses the PQ EOTF out to 10,000nits and the Rec. 2020 colour gamut measured using the ICtCp colour graph which takes into account human visual perception. This measurement uses 393 data points and delivers a number expressed in Millions of Distinguishable Colours (MDC). So a theoretical display that could deliver 10,000nits of peak brightness and 100% of Rec. 2020 would be able to deliver 997 million distinguishable colours or an MDC number of 997 and by comparison the A1 produced an MDC number of 335.

    The A1 delivered a sublime picture with SDR content and also impressed with HDR as well

    Picture Quality

    Black Levels and Contrast Ratios

    Since the A1 uses an OLED panel it shouldn't come as a huge surprise to discover that the black levels and contrast ratios were superb. Using our target peak brightness of 120nits we measured the black level at zero, which equates to an on/off contrast ratio of infinity. The ANSI contrast ratio was equally impressive and measured 957,500:1, resulting in standard dynamic range images that had incredible depth. We were also pleased to see that the A1 was able to deliver better defined details just above black, avoiding unwanted crush and producing excellent shadow detail.

    Screen Uniformity

    The screen uniformity was less straight forward and whilst the A1 did excel in certain areas it also suffered from some of the same issues that we have seen on every other OLED TV we've tested. First of all the good news, the A1 delivered excellent uniformity on a full field grey pattern and was free of any vignetting or dark edges. The Sony was equally as impressive with a full field white pattern, with an image free of any dirty screen effect (DSE). However when using a 5% grey pattern there was visible banding and two bands in particular that were particularly noticeable. This kind of banding has been seen on every OLED panel that we've tested and in the case of the A1 we weren't normally aware of it. However there was some slight banding evident with football as the camera panned across the pitch, although we really had to go looking for this and we suspect most people wouldn't notice.

    We had no problems with image retention, even after we had high contrast test patterns up for a while, which is good news for gamers. Unlike LG's OLED TVs, the A1 neither dimmed a static image nor switched to a screen saver after a certain period of time and the only anti-image retention features we could find were a Pixel Shift feature that intermittently shifts the pixels to prevent image retention and a Panel Refresh feature that Sony recommend using once a year. So it would appear that Sony have a slightly more relaxed approach to the issue of image retention and screen burn but since we had no problems with either, it would seem their confidence is justified. One area where OLED is particularly strong is in terms of viewing angles and the A1 delivered perfect images in our tests with no drop-off in contrast or colour, even at extreme angles.

    Motion Handling

    Despite the fast response times of OLED panels they use a 'sample and hold' approach that results in motion that is more like an LCD TV than a plasma. Thankfully the motion handling on Sony TVs is very good and often one of the main reasons that consumers choose their TVs, especially if they're football fans. We measured the motion resolution at around 400 lines which is about average for an OLED TV and obviously this increases to the full 1080 if you engage the Motionflow frame interpolation. This can introduce a certain degree of smoothing, although that won’t necessarily be an issue with sports content and we would encourage experimentation with the Smooth, Standard and Custom controls to find a setting that you prefer for sports. If you're a fan of black frame insertion (BFI) the A1 doesn't have a Clear mode as on the XE93 but you can set Clearness to High in the Custom mode and that adds BFI. However when it comes to film-based content we would always recommend using the True Cinema mode which increases the frame rate without introducing interpolation, thus improving the motion whilst retaining a nice film-like quality. As an alternative you could set Smoothness to zero and Clearness to High in the Custom mode and see what you think of that, however BFI will lower the brightness so you'll need to compensate for that and although we didn't see any flicker that might be an issue for some people.

    Standard Dynamic Range Content

    Test patterns are all well and good but it's actual viewing material that really matters and here the A1 certainly delivered the goods. The benefits of OLED were plain to see, with the deep blacks and inherent dynamic range giving images a depth and solidity that LCD TVs just can't achieve. The viewing angles are incredibly wide, the calibrated greyscale, effective gamma and accurate colours all played their part and Sony's X1 Extreme processor was just as impressive, upscaling lower resolution content to match the 4K panel. The result was that whatever the content we were watching was beautifully delivered and even when it came to standard definition broadcasts like Agents of SHIELD the A1 handled the image with great aplomb.

    Once we moved on to high definition content the improvements were even more obvious with dramas and documentaries looking particularly impressive. Naturally the kind of high quality documentaries that are on both BBC2 and BBC4 gave the A1 the chance to really shine, producing wonderfully detailed images that retained a natural and realistic appearance. The Sony also handled the video streaming services well, with both Netflix and Amazon delivering marvellous looking images. The third season of Better Call Saul has just started and looked superb, whilst the occasional episode of Chef's Table revelled in the precise and detailed image that the A1 can produce.

    When it came to football, as mentioned earlier, there was a hint of banding but the motion handling was excellent. This makes the A1 a great TV for sports fans, especially if they like fast-paced sporting action. The Sony was particularly impressive with Blu-rays and Moana looked simply stunning, with the deep blacks and pixel-precise processing combining with the marvellous greyscale and colour accuracy to deliver incredibly detailed computer animated images that popped off the screen. The Blu-ray release of Rogue One was equally as impressive, with the A1 rendering the detailed picture with remarkable precision and accuracy so that the location work retained its sense realism whilst the various battles remained suitably visceral. The darker scenes had lovely blacks but retained detail in the shadows to ensure an image that had real depth.

    High Dynamic Range Content

    Whilst an OLED TV is obviously superior to an LCD TV with standard dynamic range content, the situation is less clear cut when it comes to high dynamic range content. Naturally an OLED TV still has incredibly deep blacks, allowing it to deliver more detail in darker scenes thanks to the increased dynamic range of HDR. In addition each pixel is self illuminating and thus the tiny specular highlights in an HDR image, like sunlight glinting on water, can be delivered with far greater precision by an OLED TV. The colour gamut is almost 100% of DCI-P3 and the tracking is also very good, as a result an OLED TV is capable of delivering accurate colours, particularly at lower luminance levels. However where an OLED struggles is in terms of actual peak brightness, with a measurement of 685nits being less than half the luminance levels of Sony's XE93.

    The A1 demonstrated all these strengths and weaknesses, with a film like The Revenant looking absolutely stunning in many respects. The level of detail was quite incredible from every pore and hair on Leonardo DiCaprio's face to the vast landscapes that dominate his journey of revenge. The colours were accurate, the black levels and shadow detail superb and the tiniest specular highlights were delivered with precision. As a result the peak highlights still looked bright on a relative basis, even if they don't measure as such on an absolute basis. Yes the HDR images didn't have quite the same impact as they did on the XE93 but at the same time there were no issues with haloing or a loss of contrast off-axis. Our new favourite test disc is Planet Earth II and the images that the A1 delivered were spellbinding with one incredible shot after another.

    We ended up watching parts of a number of other discs that we enjoy, including the day-glow Kaiju of Pacific Rim and the trippy images in Lucy. The Ultra HD Blu-ray of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them looked fantastic with the colours of the various beasts being rendered with remarkable subtlety and the nighttime street scenes revealing the bright headlight reflections on the wet roads. The dark often dusty and smokey scenes of 15th century Spain in Assassin's Creed were also effectively reproduced by the A1, whilst the opening scene of Passengers sees the Avalon slowly appear out of an incredibly detailed star field. As is often the case the Sony didn't perform as well with Pan and was unable to properly render the sun setting behind the mountain in the 'Arriving in Neverland', which meant some content was being clipped, but otherwise the A1 produced a superb HDR performance.

    Sony use of Acoustical Surface technology is inspired and sets the A1 apart from the competition

    Sound Quality

    Sony KD-65A1 Sound Quality
    As mentioned earlier in the review, the A1 has a 'speaker-less' design that employs Acoustic Surface technology to use the screen itself to generate the sound. It might sound crazy but it's based on well established principles and the result is a TV that has nothing but the screen at the front. For those that remember Sony's first 4K TVs with their huge speakers on either side of the screen, it would seem that the the company has gone from one extreme to another. The technology works thanks to actuators behind the panel that literally vibrate the screen creating sound waves – there are two on each side and they are driven by 10W of amplification each. There is a subwoofer built into the rear stand that also has 10W of amplification and this provides the bass element, whilst the actuators handle the mid-range and higher frequencies. Sony include Clear Audio+ and S-Force Front Surround, both of which are intended to provide a more immersive experience, along with their DSEE (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) and Clear Phase technology which are designed to get more from your streaming music sources.
    Sony KD-65A1 Sound Quality
    If the idea of using the screen itself sounds like science fiction the good news is that it really works and being faced by just a screen and no visible source for the sound is very effective. In fact the A1 is the best sounding TV since Sony's old 4K models with the huge speakers on either side of the screen, so dropping the speakers entirely appears to have worked. The Sony delivered crisp and clear audio that was capable of going very loud without distorting. We were concerned that since the panel is physically being moved, it would in some way affect the image but although we could feel the screen vibrating, we were never aware of it affecting the image in any adverse way. This is because the surface area of the screen is so large that only minute vibrations are required to create the sound. The big winner was dialogue which was quite literally emanating from the screen but sound effects and music were also rendered with precision. You may already have an outboard audio solution but if you decide to use the built-in sound you won't be disappointed and we applaud Sony for their ambition and vision in adopting this approach.

    The input lag was a bit high in 1080p but better when it came to 4K gaming

    Input Lag & Energy Usage

    We measured the input lag on the A1 using our Leo Bodnar tester, along with an HD Fury Integral to inject HDR metadata and an HD Fury Linker to upscale the signal to 4K. That allows us to test the 1080p SDR and HDR lag times, as well as the 4K SDR and HDR input lags, and even add a 4:4:4 chroma signal. In the Cinema Pro mode we measured the input lag at 102ms, so you'll definitely need to use the Game mode, and once we did the lag dropped to 47ms for 1080p SDR and HDR signals, regardless of whether the signal is 4:2:2 or 4:4:4. That lag time is disappointing and a little high for serious gamers, although most people would probably find these lag times acceptable.

    As with the XE93 that we reviewed recently, things improved when we moved to a 4K signal and the lag dropped to 29ms, again for both SDR or HDR signals and regardless of whether those signals were 4:2:2 or 4:4:4. We assume that the higher lag time in 1080p is due to upscaling the image and the increased processing of the X1 Extreme. Whether you're gaming at 1080p or 4K you should always keep the processing to a minimum, that's why it's important to use the Game mode and turn off any unnecessary features. You should also avoid using the Motionflow frame interpolation feature because even in Game mode this will increase the input lag to over 100ms.

    In terms of the A1’s energy consumption it proved to be higher than comparable LCD models and using a full window 50% white pattern we measured the Standard picture mode at 114W and our calibrated Cinema Pro mode at 85W. Once we moved on to HDR the level of energy consumption obviously increased and the A1 was drawing 164W with our optimal settings.

    How future-proof is this TV?

    4K Ultra HD Resolution
    HDR Support
    Colour Space (percentage of Rec.2020 - 100% best) 71%
    10-bit Panel
    HDMI 2.0a Inputs
    HDCP 2.2 Support
    HEVC Decoding
    4K Streaming Services
    Smart TV Platform
    Picture Accuracy Out-of-the-Box (score out of 10) 8
    What do these mean?


    OUT OF

    The Good

    • Superb blacks and contrast ratio
    • Fantastic dynamic range
    • Impressive colour accuracy
    • Excellent video processing
    • Wide viewing angles
    • Acoustic Surface is inspired
    • Beautiful design

    The Bad

    • Minor banding just above black
    • material
    • Screen is at an angle
    • Expensive
    You own this Total 12
    You want this Total 12
    You had this Total 0

    Sony BRAVIA KD-65A1 HDR 4K OLED TV Review

    The Sony A1 is a genuinely striking piece of industrial design that combines minimalist art and cutting-edge technology to great effect, delivering an OLED TV that is gorgeous to look at when it's both off and on. The use of an Acoustic Surface to produce the sound is simply inspired and will go a long way to helping the A1 stand out from the competition. When you look at the A1 from the front all you can see is the screen, so there's nothing to distract you from the superb images that it creates. The use of actuators behind the panel means that the audio is literally emanating from the screen and the sound quality is the best we've heard from a TV in the last few years. There's a host of features including a 10-bit 4K flat panel, a wide colour gamut and high dynamic range, specifically HDR10, although Hybrid Log-Gamma and Dolby Vision are being added via a firmware update later in the year. The A1 includes Android TV and whilst the system still isn't perfect there is a major update planned which should deliver the platform's full potential. There's no 3D this year, the remote is disappointing, two of the HDMI inputs are limited and the 1080p input lag is a bit high but otherwise were struggling to think of negatives where the A1 is concerned.

    In terms of its picture quality the A1 is hard to fault with the deep blacks and incredible dynamic range that we expect from OLED. The performance just above black was also impressive and there was excellent shadow detail. The screen uniformity was good, although there was some minor banding just above black, but the viewing angles were incredibly wide and we had no issues with image retention. The A1 delivered a superb performance with standard dynamic range content thanks to its contrast performance, colour accuracy and processing. Images were bursting with detail and the motion handling was effective, although there was some very minor banding on football. The A1 was equally as impressive with high dynamic range content and although not as bright as many LCD TVs, the colour gamut was wide, the images detailed and the peak highlights delivered with wonderful precision. This resulted in some incredible HDR images that revealed the full potential of OLED and often took your breath away. The Sony KD-65A1 certainly delivers an impressive combination of design style, technological innovation and extensive features that shows Sony is a company that has got its swagger back in no uncertain terms.

    The only questions left are whether the A1 is worth the asking price and what are the alternatives. Well, price is always relative but there's no denying that the design, build quality, features and performance go a long way towards justifying the £4,999 price tag of the 65A1. As far as the competition is concerned it's still early days but with the LG 65E7 costing the same, the A1 starts to look like better value when you consider that both have similar feature sets but the A1 has a more striking design and the Acoustic Surface sound system. If anything the A1 might find its biggest competitor is its own sister LCD flagship the KD-65ZD9 which at just £3,499 is looking very tempting, especially when you consider the similar features and superior peak brightness. However the KD-65A1 remains another great addition to what is fast becoming an incredibly strong line-up this year.

    MORE: Read All OLED TV Reviews

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £4,999.00

    The Rundown

    Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level


    Screen Uniformity


    Colour Accuracy


    Greyscale Accuracy


    Video Processing


    Picture Quality


    Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box


    Picture Quality Calibrated


    Sound Quality


    Smart Features


    Build Quality


    Ease Of Use


    Value for Money




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