Sony XBR A1E Review – The Best OLED TV Around?
It’s time for my Sony XBR A1E Review, a model that offers one of the best pictures on the market.
The TV is great from almost all points of view – picture, design, smart system, inputs. Even its smart system is 10 times better than most. However, the only chapter that has room of improvement is the price, which is higher than other competing models.
So are the A1E’s features so great to make it worth more than the others? Can it be “the best OLED TV around”?
So Let’s Get To The Review
Creation year: 2017
Price: $3,2098 at the time I wrote this review (55″ model)
Cheapest place to buy: Amazon
Best for: Watching sports or action movies
- The most beautiful design on the market, with no visible stand or speakers
- Exceptional pictures, with best contrast rates you can see. Black levels and color depth are also very high
- No local dimming necessary, as the dark images are already perfect
- Very wide viewing angles, with color saturation starting to decrease just at 45°
- Motion blur control is perfect, judder is absent even in very fast scenes
- Great up-scaling engine, even for 480p content sources
- Excellent audio system, despite not having any visible speakers. The total sound is around 50watts, which is more than most 4K TVs
- The smart system doesn’t shine, but it does its job perfectly for a TV of this price
- Low input lag for 4K gaming
- The remote has a very complicated design, with lots of buttons that you don’t really need
- Higher input lag for 1080 games
- The brightness feature isn’t as good as the other picture proprieties of this TV
- Regarding the price, it is still hard to afford for most
1. Appearance & Design – Absolutely The Best On The Market
Having to buy the OLED panels from its direct competitor LG, the only one that produces them, Sony had to come off with something incredible. But really incredible!
And what’s a better way for a TV to impress if not through its design?
The A1E series brings in something completely new on the market from this point of view. It comes with a gorgeous, very thin screen with minimal black edges. However, the icing on the cake is the absence of the bottom stand, which is known to somehow “destroying” the look of any modern TV.
In addition to this, Sony managed to keep away any visual derangement. Besides the lack of a stand, the TV is also speakers and logo free. You see nothing but the gorgeous images, in other words. Any possible screen distraction is absent.
Therefore, if I had to choose the best TV in the world judging exclusively after design, Sony’s A1E would certainly be my pick. The visual experience it offers is beyond any existent TV, in my opinion.
2. Picture Quality – It Still Can’t Be Surpassed
When it comes to picture quality, there isn’t any single bad thing about the A1E. The colors are extremely deep, black uniformity is very accurate and contrast is the best one possible.
However, its picture aren’t any better than LG’s 2016 and 2017 line. That’s not a bad thing at all, because LG OLED’s picture are the best ones you can ever see in a TV so far. Therefore, the A1E has around the same image quality – it’s not any better, but it can’t be surpassed by them either.
Contrast & Black Levels
Thanks to OLED technology, the A1E’s picture forms from thousands of pixels that turn on and off alone. For this reason, Sony’s A1E model is capable of an infinite contrast ratio.
The black levels are also the deepest on the market, together with LG’s lines. Once the pixels turn off, they don’t create any light, so the result is the deepest black possible. The lightest shades of whites produced by this TV are also amazing, consequently the contrast will be the best one you can get in a TV at this point.
Despite being one of the major problems of LED TVs, the local dimming is not an issue for the A1E.
Thanks to the absence of a real backlight source, OLED TVs don’t actually need any local dimming feature. The deep blacks stay black, thanks to OLED’s pixels ability to turn completely on or off.
Therefore, despite not having a real local dimming feature, the A1E provides perfect pictures even in a very dark room.
If there was any weak point in A1E’s picture features, it would probably be the brightness.
This TV’s peak brightness is definitely under most LED TVs, but this is quite normal, as this is the only chapter where OLEDs aren’t better. Its Automatic Brightness Limiter feature prevents it from getting too bright. However, it’s not as bad as it seems. The A1E can deliver a great image even in a very bright room, but its pictures are visibly better in an average to dark space.
When it comes to color depth, the A1E literally shines.
It has a very large color gamut (in HDR included), the shades are very smooth and there is not gradation mark visible to the human eye. The color saturation is the typical one for OLEDs, however the color are not too bright to become aggressive.
3. Viewing Angles
OLED TVs’ technology came with a permanent solution to every LED TV’s problem- viewing angles.
And the A1E follows this rule, as it brings in very wide viewing angles. Although not perfect, this TV’s average viewing angle is somewhere around 45°.
The black levels and the contrast remain perfect at a much bigger distance from the front, however the color depth is the one that decreases slowly after 30°. At 45° the difference starts to become more visible, so try not to go beyond this distance if you care about perfect colors.
However, the A1E’s image is still more than decent even at more than 60° from the front, thanks to the great contrast rates and deep blacks.
4. Motion Blur
The A1E has one of the best motion control features on the market. Just like many other OLED TVs, it manages to produce a completely judder-free picture without making the image look unrealistic.
For people who love perfect images, there is the “MotionFlow” effect that clarifies the picture even further. However, the risk of that is the famous soap-opera effect, that can lead to pictures that look too smooth.
But all in all, Sony A1E’s motion blur is definitely one of the best ones around. For this reason, action movies or sports will look excellent on this TV, thanks to its very fast response time. Even with “Motionflow” turned off, there shouldn’t be any judder even in scenes of great speed.
5. Up-scaling Engine
Sony’s up-scaling technology, the 4K X-Reality PRO, makes miracles when it comes to converting very low content. 420p DVDs look more than decent on the A1E, also thanks to its great noise reduction mechanism.
However, compared to the X900E, the A1E delivers up-scaled content with better saturated, deeper colors. Even if there’s basically no difference in image quality, the colors of the A1E are visibly deeper.
Cable-based content is up-scaled quite good, even if there’s still a noticeable difference between it and higher content sources. The colors are deep, the pictures are clear without being too smooth and the details are preserved.
1080p content looks great, as there isn’t a very big difference between it and native 4K content. Both look like superior quality images.
So the A1E does a great job when it comes to up-scaling lower content. The final pictures are clear, deep and blur-free, in all cases.
6. Audio System – Surprise, surprise!
After buying OLED panels right from LG in order to make competing TVs, Sony had to compensate their “lack of originality” somehow. And they did find a way. An innovative sound technology called Acoustic Surface, that produces sound right from the screen.
Now, who would have believed that a sound produced in the middle of the screen would be much better than a speaker one? Probably no one, I’m not even sure if Sony ever believed that.
However, it is true. The A1E comes with one of the best audio systems around, despite using a totally new, apparently inefficient technique. The TV is speakers free, which improves a lot the visual experience. Let’s face it, who wouldn’t like a TV with no speakers, that only derange the image?
The A1E’s sound is produced behind the frontal scree, through a totally new technique. However, the result is unbelievable.
It delivers a total of 50 watts sound, with good bass sounds and frequency response included. It may not be the very best on the market, but it is surely in top 10.
7. Smart System – Enough For Everyone
Sony maintains the trend and keeps Google’s smart system for the A1E as well. Despite being one of the most complicated smart engines (compared to Samsung’s Smart Hub, for example), Android TV allows access to a lot more applications than its contenders.
Unlike other 4K TVs, the A1E is free of ads and it comes with the possibility to disable even menu ads, that can be present on the first row (they’re actually the so-called “recommendations”).
The remote doesn’t look any better than the X800D’s one. In fact, it keeps the same unfriendly design – large with a bunch of inefficient buttons, that could anytime be replace by at most 10. Obviously, the voice control feature isn’t absent, as the initializing button is right on top.
So despite having a more difficult smart engine, the A1E keeps it stable from this point of view. It doesn’t come with something incredible, but it doesn’t lack any important feature for a TV of this level.
8. Gaming – Could Have Been Better
To start with the good, Sony A1E has a decently low input lag in 4K gaming (around 30 ms). Definitely not the lowest you can see, but it does offer a great gaming experience. Considering it also controls judder perfectly, even very fast scenes won’t be a problem.
Now here comes the bad. Native 4K games are quite rare still, and even if this TV comes with a relatively low input lag for this kind of content, things are different when it comes to 1080p games. The input lag is relatively higher – not significantly, but around 15 ms more. That’s already quite high for most gamers, so they won’t be too delighted with this TV.
Also, note that gaming mode should be turned on whenever playing a game, otherwise the input lag will stay at 90 ms. And that won’t give you an amazing experience…
Therefore, the A1E doesn’t necessarily excel in gaming. Though it can offer a great experience in native 4K content, its input lag stays quite high for a 1080p source. So it’s not really it’s strong point.
So Is It The Best TV Around?
Judging after picture quality, it could be. Though there are several 4K TVs that produce pretty much the same superior images, the A1E is for sure one of them.
However, if it had a lower input lag in every kind of content, it would probably be one of the serious contenders for the “Best TV you can buy” title. However, not everyone needs it for gaming, right?
The amazing design, great picture features and perfect motion control are things that make it an irresistible TV, but the high price quite cools down buyers’ enthusiasm.
So this TV is “to buy”, but only if you afford it. It surely won’t disappoint you at all, on the contrary, it will probably be like heaven. But unfortunately, it’s not a TV any of us can buy…yet!