On the Sony stand, we made a beeline for the KD-65A1, the 65in model in the company’s new A1 series of 4K OLED TVs. 75 and 55in screen sizes are also available.
The KD-65A1 looks gorgeous thanks to Sony’s one-slate concept, where there’s absolutely nothing to distract you from the screen.
The bezel surrounding the TV is sliver-thin, and its “stand-less” design means all you see is the 65in 4K picture – nothing else. It’s a simple, yet very effective and elegant design.
The “stand-less” concept is a bit of a misnomer, though: there is a stand that props the TV up, but you certainly can’t see it from the front.
Sony has even removed the Sony logo from the front panel – there isn’t any branding in sight at all when you look at the screen face-on.
That’s a bold move from Sony, who clearly hopes the OLED A1 series makes a lasting statement.
There is a Bravia logo stamped on the back of the panel, but it’s still very subtle.
It’s worth noting that because of the way the TV is designed, you will need a rack that’s long enough to support the length of the TV screen.
Since OLED pixels generate their own light, there’s no need for any backlighting and means that OLED TVs are much slimmer than LCD screens.
The KD-65A1 is approximately 8mm thin. That doesn’t get the prize for the thinnest screen we’ve seen at CES – LG’s Signature W (Wallpaper) OLED wins that at just 2.57mm thin – but Sony said it’s not fussed about competing for “the slimmest screen in the world” accolade as they want to focus on performance quality.
Sounds perfectly reasonable to us, and the panel is plenty slim enough.
Sony has given plenty of thought to the way the back of the screen looks, too. The back panel is made of glass, and there are no connections in sight to mar that sleek look.
All the connections (including four HDMI inputs, optical output, three USB ports, tuners, power) are cleverly housed in the bottom half of the stand, and you can cover the entire panel up with a fabric grille.
The stand doubles up as the wall-mount, too, by folding it in so it’s flat against the screen.
Apart from finally using an OLED panel (provided by LG Display), the tech behind Sony’s Ultra HD 4K picture isn’t massively new.
The OLED KD-65A1 uses the X1 Extreme 4K HDR processor that we’ve already encountered in its premium ZD9 series. It makes sense as the LCD ZD9 series was launched in the latter half of 2016, meaning the technology developed for it is still pretty new for Sony (and for us).
Sony claims the X1 Extreme chip is responsible for delivering more accurate noise reduction and detail enhancement. The X1 Extreme is also tasked with accurately controlling all eight million self-illuminating OLED pixels on the 65A1 to deliver the pitch blacks, rich colours and strong viewing angles we expect from OLED panels.
The TV also features HDR (High Dynamic Range) using the standard HDR10 format. New to the KD-65A1 is support for Dolby Vision HDR – which is what certain Netflix 4K shows like Marco Polo use, too.
At the time of launch, there’s no support for the new HDR variant, HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma), as used by the BBC for the Planet Earth II 4K trials on iPlayer. However, Sony does have plans to implement it into the A1 later in the year.
The KD-65A1 also inherits the ZD9’s “object-based HDR remaster”, which looks at specific objects in a picture when it’s upscaling standard or high definition content to 4K HDR. Sony claims this lets it control exactly how those objects should look in HDR, rather than just boosting the picture’s contrast and colour as a whole.
The KD-65A1 uses the same remote you get with the ZD9 flagship
Android TV is set to make a return as Sony’s smart home interface and we’re hoping to see the latest Nougat 7.0 version installed in the KD-65A1 by the time we get it in for review.
We didn’t see the smart interface in action, but expect core apps such as Netflix, Amazon Video and BBC iPlayer to make their way on to the UK model.
Sony has shied away from designing any new smart remote, sticking with the same remote you get with the KD-65ZD9BU. We’ve no complaints about this as the existing remote is practical, responsive and intuitive to use.
And as a final nail in the coffin for 3D TVs, Sony – one of the last manufacturers to do so – has finally stopped supporting 3D in any of its 2017 TVs.
The two actuators are located in the strip of metal on the back panel, while the 8cm driver and port are on the stand
For Sony, using an OLED panel also opened up the possibility to get creative with how it delivers sound.
As TV screens get bigger in size, Sony claims the disconnect between the picture and the sound (usually from speakers under the screen, or on the side) becomes greater.
Sony aims to solve this issue by making the sound come from the screen – literally.
Instead of conventional speakers, the 65A1 has two actuators placed directly behind the OLED panel that vibrate the panel directly to make a sound.
It’s part of Sony’s new Acoustic Surface technology, and the 65A1 also has an 8cm driver and a tiny reflex port housed in the stand to give more oomph to the sound quality.
But wait: won’t this method affect the longevity of the OLED panel if it’s constantly vibrating away? Sony has assured us that it has done extensive testing to ensure it doesn’t warp the OLED panel, and has also included DSP to make sure the sound isn’t affected when you wall-mount the TV, either.
Even from our brief listen in Sony’s demo room, the sound coming from the screen felt weightier, more focused and localised to what was happening on screen.
We’ll have to wait until we get the 65A1 in our testing rooms for a proper listen, but we’re intrigued by how it will perform against normal speakers in rivals TVs.
In a darkened demo room, the KD-65A1 simply disappears.
We’ll reserve final judgement for when we get the screen into our own testing rooms, but when Sony played us 4K HDR footage of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the black levels looked so deep that you could barely make out the screen itself.
The yellow text and bright pinpricks of stars in the iconic opening crawl looked bright, clear and popped from the screen in a very impressive manner.
Sony has a good record with motion and the OLED screen held up pretty well with slow pans and fast action scenes in the film.
Reds and blues looked deep and vibrant, with the KD-65A1 showing off those rich hues that we love so much about OLED panels.
Every object in the demo footage – clouds, blades of grass, woven material, sheep – were all etched crisply and conveyed with a convincing level of subtlety on the 65A1.
Sony admitted that the TV was set up in ‘vivid mode’, so we’re looking forward to seeing how impressive the screen looks after we’ve put it through our usual THX calibration.
It’s an exciting time for fans of OLED. LG may have the head start with its Award-winning range of OLED TVs, but it looks like Sony and Panasonic are going to give the Korean giant a run for its money.
There’s no word on pricing just yet, but considering Sony’s flagship LCD KD-65ZD9BU costs £4000 and OLED is still a premium technology, we don’t expect the 65A1 to come cheap.
The Sony KD-65A1 has definitely made a great first impression, and we can’t wait to get the TV into the What Hi-Fi? offices to have a proper look.