I was in a trendy hotel in Sydney when I decided to indulge in some controversial and downright dirty behaviour. I was going to do something that you’re really not supposed to. Something naughty.
I was going to test Sony’s shiny new A9F OLED by plugging my Xbox One X into it.
65-inch Sony Bravia OLED Master Series TV (A9F)
WHAT IS IT?
A 65-inch 4K OLED TV that has been designed to watch content the way the creators intended
$4,998 for the 55-inch and $6,499 for the 65-inch(JB Hi-Fi) - $3,000
Sleek and fast interface, good in-built sound, super pretty
Cinema mode is a huge focus for this TV, and I just don't like it
Just The Specs, Please.
The A9F is a 4K HDR TV that’s equipped with a brand new X1 picture processor, which allows object-based super resolution, HDR remaster, super bit mapping and Dual database processing.
In terms of sound, it has in-built Acoustic Surface Audio+ which is delivered through three actuators and two sideways-facing subwoofers.
The A9F also contains a Pixel Contrast Booster, a Netflix Calibrated Mode and runs on Android TV 8.0 Oreo.
You can find the full list of specs here.
My time with the A9F was short lived, so I can’t do a proper deep dive into it. But I can share a few nuggets.
Most major smart TV manufacturers are placing increasing emphasis on the interfaces of their machines. They aren’t just screens you watch content on, they are the hubs in which that content lives. As these interfaces get better they may render the usefulness of products like the NVIDIA shield (which I love) or even consoles for streaming somewhat superfluous. After all, why plug in an extra thing when you can access the majority of the content you consume right from your TV?
My experience with the AF9 is one of the best I’ve had this year. It uses Android TV Oreo, and not only is it sleek and easy to use – it’s fast. Really fast.
I was delighted by the seamless transition with the remote – every app opened instantaneously and I didn’t cop a single loading screen. Even on hotel Wi-Fi.
Even switching between HDMI 1 back to the interface hub was smoother than anything I have ever experience before. It was also incredibly intuitive. At one point I switched from HDMI 1 (which had Red Dead 2 open) back to the home interface to open the picture settings. The TV immediately went into split screen mode to show both the game and the settings, which allowed me to see how the changes impacted on the picture.
Sadly it did not do the same with apps I was running natively from Android TV. If Sony want users to spend as much time as possible in its hub, it should allow this split-screen capability so they can see the impact that messing around with the settings has while logged into the likes of Stan and Netflix.
That being said, I imagine that if I was watching these through the Xbox One/HDMI 1 instead, it would give it the same split-screen treatment as it did for Red Dead Redemption 2. So that’s at least one way to take advantage of the system to adjust the settings you want. Just watch them on your console, instead.
Lastly, I liked that the interface is customisable. The icons are static and you can move them around so you favourites are at the front of the list. It’s a simple feature, but important for everyday enjoyment.
I’ve said this about TVs in the past – but this kind of usability is far more important to me than perfect black levels and real-to-life picture quality. This is because it has a direct impact on my ability to access the content I want in a seamless and convenient way on a daily basis. And I will happily say that when it comes to this TV – Sony has a winner on its hands.
I’m by no means an audiophile – as long as a sound system doesn’t sound like trash I’m happy. It’s for that reason that you’ll never find me shopping for a whole audio setup for my lounge room. I just don’t care enough. The furthest you’ll see me go is a soundbar.
It’s for this reason that I appreciate a TV that has great sound built into it. It means that I can enjoy listening, as well as watching, The Fast and the Furious without having to put in any effort.
And this is another area that the A9F delivered on. It uses Sony’s Acoustic Surface Technology, which utilises three actuators to vibrate the OLED panel, as well as two subwoofers. Not only does it feel cool when you place your hands on the screen, it results in really great audio for what it is.
This thing is pretty sexy. The minimalist approach and slim bezels means it will fit nicely into most living spaces – whether that be on a cabinet or wall-mounted. Even the Sony Logo takes a back seat to design, appearing small and understated in the left hand corner of the border.
The only aspect I’m not a huge fan of is the lean-back design, which can also be found in previous generation Bravias. But to be fair, this is a personal preference.
Smart Home Hub
One of the key messages Sony is pushing for this TV is that it isn’t just another product that can be added to a smart home ecosystem. It’s designed to be the smart home hub itself.
I wasn’t able to personally test these capabilities, but I did get to briefly see it in action in the show room. The engineer demonstrated using Google Assistant through the TV to control multiple lights, a smart vacuum cleaner and a Nest camera.
It all worked quite seamlessly, though the Nest feed took a really long time to come up on the screen.
So while I can’t offer a definitive opinion on how well this will all work on a daily basis, I certainly like the idea of the A9F acting as a smart home hub.
And for anyone who is an Amazon Alexa user, it will work with the series too.
Cinema Mode can be divisive. After using it on several TVs now, I have come to the conclusion that I’m not a fan of it in general – even on the A9F, which its been designed for it. It’s too washed out and muddy for my taste.
But it’s important to point out that this doesn’t mean that its bad. If you’re a fan of cinema mode, you might love it on the A9F. It’s a subjective setting that I happen to not like.
I found myself switching back to standard and dynamic modes while streaming Stan and playing Red Dead Redemption 2. And I loved every second of these experiences. My standard 4K go-tos – Planet Earth II and Preacher looked beautiful in these modes. Unsurprisingly, they popped the most when I switched to dynamic.
But if I’m being honest – the majority of my time was spent on horseback whilst wielding a custom-made pump action shot gun. Red Dead Redemption 2 had been out for less than a week and I was in the throes of addiction.
Similar to cinema mode, game mode was simply too washed out. In fact, these two modes looked almost identical to my eyes. I know parts of the Wild West colour pallet are supposed to be dull – but not to that extent. Once again I found myself most happy with the standard and dynamic modes – and they were truly breathtaking.
I found myself staying up far too late so I could continue wandering through this beautiful but harsh world. And while I may have done that regardless of where I was playing the game, this TV made the experience all the more pleasurable.
Should You Buy It?
I’m not about to recommend dropping thousands of dollars on anything I only spent a night with – but the A9F is incredibly impressive. Picture quality aside (because we expect that from Sony, anyway), it was just such a pleasure using the ecosystem.
If you’re in the market for a large, top-of-the-line TV that falls into this price bracket it’s definitely worth thinking about. You can learn more about the series over at Sony’s website.
The author tested this TV during an overnight stay at the Ovolo Hotel in Woolloomooloo as a guest of Sony.
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