Remember the kid at school that was just good at stuff? Sailed through their exams without worry, made every sports team starting line-up and was annoyingly likeable with it? That kid is the Sony Bravia A1 OLED.
While many of its peers have been getting to grips with 4K OLED for a couple of years, this is Sony’s first punt at the technology.
But if you were expecting its debut to come with some first-time nerves, think again. This set makes 4K OLED look easy.
Sony Bravia A1 OLED design: Super-slim but no stand
Sony’s never been one to shy away from bold design, and for its first 4K OLED, it’s really gone to town on the wow factor.
With the A1 though, its boldness lies in its minimalism. There’s no stand here – the screen plonks straight down on top of your TV rack, so all there is facing you is the picture and its barely there bezel.
The trickery here lies around the back. The A1 uses a kickstand to prop it up, almost like a picture frame. This does mean it sits on a bit of a lean – about 5 degrees if you’re measuring – but from the front, it’s not noticeable unless you’re looking for it.
That stand acts as more than just support for the TV too. Most of the brains of the set are built into the stand in order to keep the OLED screen as slim as it can be (which, for the record, is really, really slim). It’s an optical illusion of sorts, and it works.
There are some things to bear in mind with this design though. With no stand to hold up such a big screen (our test sample is 55in, but it’s also available in 65in), you’re going to need a pretty large TV rack for it to sit neatly.
It stands sturdily enough that it would happily hang over the edges of something smaller, but we can’t help but feel such a stunning design deserves better.
There’s also wall mounting, of course, which the A1 is well equipped for too. Fold the kickstand down flat and use a standard VESA mount to get it on your wall – it’ll stand a little proud compared to the likes of LG’s Wallpaper W7, but it gives a rather nice suggestion that it’s floating in mid-air.
Sony Bravia A1 OLED picture: Stone cold stunner
If you’ve ever seen OLED, you’ll know why it’s the future of telly. And 2017 feels like the year it’s properly coming into its own. We've already seen some cracking sets this year, but for us the A1 sits at the top of the pile.
Sony, just like Panasonic’s EZ1000, is using a panel from LG in the A1. That’s a good start – LG knows a thing or two about putting together a good OLED. Combine that with Sony’s top-notch processing, and it’s on to a winner.
The picture is an absolute treat. I fired up The Life of Pi on 4K HDR Blu-ray and the opening scenes alone were enough to show me what this TV can do with colour, the rich reddy browns of the forest floor standing boldly alongside the punchy green hues of the trees. They'll look like this wherever you sit too, thanks to really wide viewing angles.
As vivid as colours are, they’re also masterfully balanced. The A1 laps up the subtler shading that lesser TVs would gloss over, for a realistic image that’s hard to fault.
The detail up for grabs is as good as it gets too. Landscapes have a real sense of depth and dimension to them and the textures in hair and clothing look as crisp and insightful as if they were there in front of you.
Motion is handled superbly as well. Sony has long been a dab hand in this respect, and MotionFlow is among the best processing out there. I set it to standard and found it really firms up the movement in camera pans and tracking shots, without adding in any unnatural smoothing.
Of course, the hero feature of an OLED is its contrast performance, and the A1 certainly doesn’t disappoint. When the ship carrying Pi and his family sinks, the stormy seas that swell against the night sky are intensely gloomy but deeply detailed at the same time.
The set’s HDR talents comes into play here too (the A1 currently supports HDR10, with support for broadcast-standard HLG and Dolby Vision coming later this year). As Pi plunges into the sea and catches sight of the ship’s lights shining through the murky depths, the precision and intensity with which they stand out against their shadowy surroundings is remarkable.
Switch it up to some HD TV and the upscaling on board here really proves its chops. While there’s an expected drop in detail, it’s still a hugely insightful picture, with sharp outlines, the same excellent colour balance and no discernible noise.
Motion remains unshakeable, contrast is still as good as it gets, and both the shadow and highlight detail here get the thumbs up. Your regular Blu-ray collection is in safe hands.
The only time the A1 feels unsteady is when watching standard definition. It’s soft on detail and pretty noisy – not unwatchable, but not hugely enjoyable either.
If you’re paying £3500 (S$6320) for a TV, I suspect you’ve probably moved on from the dark ages of SD. There are enough HD channels and stacks of content out there now to ensure you shouldn’t ever have to put yourself through it.