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Sony’s newest OLED soars, but can it best LG?

  • July 12, 2020

For better or worse, OLED TVs are still somewhat synonymous with LG. It’s understandable, given LG’s track record of releasing award-winning OLED TVs and because LG Display manufactures most of the OLED panels that come to market. And while the Sony A8H doesn’t quite blend performance, software, and design as deftly as, say, the LG CX, it’s nevertheless a fantastic TV with the performance chops we’ve come to expect from OLED TVs.

The A8H’s brightness, color production, and overall contrast justify its hefty price tag. That said, if you’re ready to invest in a TV of this caliber, you owe it to yourself to take stock of the A8H’s closest competitors—depending on your circumstances, you might find that one of them better suits your needs.

(Note: Due to COVID-19 complications, this review leans heavily on test results in lieu of hands-on time with the TV.)

About the Sony A8H OLED TV

Sony A8H OLED Android Smart Platform

The A8H features a built-in Android smart platform, which offers plenty of flexibility despite a layout that’s sometimes difficult to navigate.

The Sony A8H OLED TV is available in two sizes:

  • 55-inch (Sony XBR-55A8H), MSRP $1,899.99
  • 65-inch (Sony XBR-65A8H), MSRP $2,799.99

We received a 65-inch A8H for our lab tests, but different sizes of TVs in a series tend to perform very similarly to to one another, and this is especially true for OLED TVs. To put it another way, the only noteworthy difference between the 55-inch A8H and the 65-inch A8H is the screen size.

Here’s a rundown of what you’re getting with the Sony A8H, regardless of which size you choose:

  • Panel type: OLED
  • Resolution: 4K (3,840 x 2,160) resolution
  • HDR support: HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision
  • Dolby Atmos: Yes
  • Native refresh rate: 120 Hz
  • Color: DCI-P3/10-bit color space
  • Smart platform: Yes (Android)
  • Processor: X1 Ultimate

The Sony A8H features a built-in smart platform powered by Android which offers a wide selection of apps.

Performance Data

Sony A8H OLED SDR Performance

Whether watching SDR or HDR content, the Sony A8H performs at the highest level.

Before testing each TV, we make sure the panel is turned on and receiving a continuous signal for at least 24 hours, allowing the pixels plenty of time to warm up. The Sony A8H received the standard warm-up time before any readings were taken.

For SDR tests, we used the Sony A8H’s “Custom” picture setting. For HDR tests, we also used Sony’s “Custom” picture setting. We’ve chosen these settings because of their accuracy (Sony informed us that these picture modes were ideal for picture-perfect calibration). Results may vary across picture modes.

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We use a standard ANSI checkerboard pattern for most of our basic contrast tests—including the ones reported below—but we also use white and black windows ranging from 2% to 90% to test how well the contrast holds up while displaying varying degrees of brightness.

I’ll expand on our test results throughout the review, but for now, here are some key takeaways:

• HDR contrast (brightness/black level): 252.3 nits/0.001 nits (ANSI checkerboard)
• SDR contrast (brightness/black level): 108.8 nits/0.001 nits (ANSI checkerboard)
• HDR peak brightness: 705.9 nits (10% white window)
• HDR color gamut coverage: 97% (DCI-P3/10-bit)
• SDR color gamut coverage: 100% (Rec.709)

Connectivity

Sony A8H OLED Connectivity Inputs Ports

Some of the A8H’s ports can be found on the side of the panel.

The A8H is equipped with a standard set of inputs that should satisfy most people, but there are some caveats to this that I’ll be getting into further in the review. For now, let’s take a look at what you’ll find on the back of the Sony A8H’s panel:

• 4x HDMI 2.0 (4x eARC) ports
• 3x USB 2.0 ports
• LAN ethernet port, optical audio output
• 3.5mm headphone jack

What We Like

Stunning contrast that only an OLED TV can pull off

Sony A8H OLED Contrast

The Sony A8H offers the superb contrast we’ve come to expect from OLED TVs. When it comes to brightness, the A8H performs at a slightly above-average level—it’s good enough, but we’ve seen a couple OLED TVs that get brighter.

The main draw of OLED TVs is their ability to produce perfect black levels. While traditional LEDs rely on a backlight to illuminate pixels, the pixels of an OLED TV are self-illuminating (AKA emissive) which allows each and every one of them to turn off as the picture necessitates. Perfect black levels make for better contrast, and better contrast makes for a better picture. The Sony A8H demonstrates this feat beautifully, producing a high-contrast picture that traditional LED TVs typically struggle to pull off.

If I were asked to point to an OLED Achilles’ heel it would surely be the tech’s tendency to lack the sort of brightness we’re used to seeing from higher-end LED TVs, particularly those that feature quantum dots. As far as OLEDs go, though, the Sony A8H gets respectably bright. You won’t be blasted with brightness like you would be if you were sitting in front of a quantum dot TV, but the A8H is capable of climbing to 700 nits and beyond during HDR content. In general, it seems to get about as bright as the LG CX, one of the A8H’s closest competitors in 2020.

Excellent color production

True to the OLED tradition, the A8H produces a sensational spectrum of ultra-vivid color, covering 100% of the standard Rec.709 color space and a whopping 97% of the expanded P3 color space. In practice, this translates to a phenomenal viewing experience regardless of whether or not your content has been mastered for HDR.

Cinephiles will be especially pleased with the A8H’s tightly calibrated color; 4K, UHD Blu-rays really sing, and if you routinely stream HDR content via Netflix, prepare to be impressed.

Sony A8H OLED Color Production

If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having to watch Mel Gibson, the Sony A8H will at least provide a clear picture.

Great motion handling with added motion enhancement software

If choppy, blurry motion drives you bonkers, fear not: The A8H features excellent motion handling across all types of content. Its terrific base-level performance in this category is bolstered by Sony’s X-Motion Clarity feature, which tweaks the fundamentals of black frame insertion by allowing the content itself to govern the size and duration of each black frame. In practice, this allows for a less artificial-looking motion smoothness, particularly during film content, shot in 24FPS.

You still might notice dips in brightness with X-Motion Clarity enabled, but it’s a nice feature to hang your hat on, especially if sub-par motion handling is something your eyes can easily spot.

What We Don’t Like

Not a good fit for avid gamers

If you’re part of the niche market that’s looking to land a new TV for the purposes of next-generation gaming, you should know that the Sony A8H doesn’t feature HDMI 2.1 ports and therefore doesn’t support variable refresh (VRR) rate or auto low latency mode (ALLM). This makes it a sub-optimal choice for folks hoping to take advantage of everything the forthcoming Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 will have to offer, at least from a technical standpoint.

The A8H does include eARC support with its HDMI 2.0 ports—which is nice if you’re hoping to pass Dolby Atmos audio to an eARC ready sound system like Sonos’ Arc soundbar. But without HDMI 2.1 support, the A8H won’t be able to support next-gen gaming features like 4K gaming at 120FPS. In fairness, this hardware omission will only matter for a relatively small subset of potential buyers, but when staring down the consequences of a high-end investment, it’s worth poring over the details.

Sony A8H OLED Design Stand

The preposterously thin panel sits atop two slightly angled “blades” which can be adjusted to accommodate a soundbar. The design is relatively ho-hum when compared to the A8H’s eye-catching picture.

Ho-hum design

To nitpick about the design of a TV as impressive as the A8H is admittedly fussy, but I do find myself wishing that the TV’s design was less utilitarian and more stylish. Make no mistake: The ultra-thin profile that OLED TVs are renowned for is still very much on display. The A8H’s panel is not much thicker than a smartphone, which is a remarkable feat on its own.

But I find that the panel’s stand—a pair of sturdy, slightly duck-footed blades—belies the TV’s incredible picture. I do appreciate that the setup can be adjusted to accommodate a soundbar (the blades can be rotated to give the panel more of a lift), but I’d describe the TV’s overall design as “chunky” rather than “sleek.”

On a brighter note, Sony’s newest remote control is quicker to respond and slimmer than the remotes that shipped with Sony TVs of years past.

Should You Buy It?

Yes, but be sure to look into other options first

Sony A8H OLED Remote Control

The new Sony remote control that’s included with the A8H is narrower and more responsive than the remote control that previously shipped with Sony OLED TVs.

With so many TVs on the shelves these days, it’s a rare thing to find yourself face to face with one of the best TVs money can buy. The Sony A8H is part of this club. But if you’re going to shop the best of the best, it’d be silly to limit your search—there’s a good deal of money on the line, after all.

Among the TVs that can also call themselves card-carrying members of this clique, the LG CX (a 2020 release) and the LG C9 (its 2019 predecessor) are the A8H’s closest competitors. These OLED TVs rival the A8H in peak brightness, color production, and motion performance. Crucially, they edge the A8H out when it comes to features—both the CX and C9 feature HDMI 2.1 ports, and the CX will eventually support FreeSync, software that will enhance next-generation gaming experiences.

If you know for sure that you want a high-end TV but you haven’t necessarily settled on OLED as your picture technology of choice, there are a handful of QLED options to choose from that likewise offer luxurious performance, albeit of a different nature. Quantum dot TVs won’t serve up the perfect black levels that contribute to an OLED TV’s signature look, but top-shelf QLED TVs tend to trounce OLEDs in the all-important category of peak brightness. If the room you plan on furnishing with a new TV gets a heck of a lot of sunlight, you may want to trade the “O” in your OLED-shopping quest for a “Q.”

Here’s the bottom line: Unless you’re a diehard Sony fan, there are other factors to consider if you’re looking to invest in a posh TV experience. If you’re a diehard gamer, or you’re looking for something with a bit more style, we’d suggest looking at the LG CX series. That said, while the price tag is high, the Sony A8H is a phenomenal TV that anyone would be lucky to own.

Meet the testers

Michael Desjardin

Michael Desjardin

Senior Staff Writer


@Reviewed

Michael Desjardin graduated from Emerson College after having studied media production and screenwriting. He specializes in tech for Reviewed, but also loves film criticism, weird ambient music, cooking, and food in general.

Julia MacDougall

Julia MacDougall

Senior Scientist


@reviewed

Julia is the Senior Scientist at Reviewed, which means that she oversees (and continually updates) the testing of products in Reviewed’s core categories such as televisions, washing machines, refrigerators, and more. She also determines the testing methods and standards for Reviewed’s “The Best Right Now” articles.

Checking our work.

We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.

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