SONY A8H OLED 4K TV REVIEW
Sony has started to release this year’s lineup of their OLED TVs, beginning with their entry level model, the Sony A8H. Besides being a tongue twister, the A8H hassome impressive performance, and looks to be decent improvement over last year’s model,the A8G. Hi, I’m Brandon, a Test Developer at RTINGS.com,where we help people find the best products for their needs. In this video, we’ll start by looking atthe design and inputs of the TV, and then we’ll move on to our test results for thepicture quality. We’ll also look at the motion handling,input lag and sound. Throughout the video, we’ll be comparingthe Sony to competing models which are currently available. For an updated comparison of models as webuy and test them, you can check out the full review on our website. And If you’d like to skip straight to ourtest results, then see the links in the description below. Let’s get started. We bought the 55” model to test, but it’salso available in 65” as well. We expect this larger size to have very similarperformance. In Europe, there is also the A85 series, withthe only difference seemingly being the stand. Let’s start with the design. The Sony A8H has a very clean design, it’sfairly simple in shape, but quite elegant. The build quality is also superb, it feelssolid with no obvious issues in it’s construction.
The stand supports the TV well and there’salmost no wobble. The bezels are quite thin, ever thinner thanlast year’s model, and it sits close to the ground thanks to it’s low profile stand. If needed, the stand also has a secondaryheight setting that sits the TV up much higher. This provides enough room to fit most soundsbars and other small electronics. The back of the TV is plain, with just a cut-outfor inputs along with a VESA mount. If you do decide to wall mount it, it’ll lookgood as the back panel will align flush with the wall, and the TV itself is extremely thin. The controls, or shall I say control, is locatedon the left side of the TV where there’s just a single button. This is a step down from last year’s modelwhich at least had three buttons. With this button, you can turn the TV on oroff, change the channel, change the input source, adjust the volume, and restart theTV. You do this through a series of short andlong presses to navigate the on-screen menu. Although I’m not sure anyone wants to gothrough that, so make sure you have the remote nearby. Now let’s take a look at the inputs.
The Sony A8H has a pretty decent selectionof inputs that should satisfy most people. Some of the inputs are facing out the leftside, and the rest are located in a cut-out on the back of the panel, facing downwards. There are 4 HDMI 2.0 ports, 3 USB ports, anEthernet jack, a TV Tuner, a Digital Optical Audio Out, an Analog Audio Out, an IR input,and lastly a Composite In, although there’s no adapter included in the box. HDMI port 3 supports ARC and eARC, which isa nice addition over last year’s model, which only supports ARC. You may notice there aren’t any HDMI 2.1ports, which is disappointing considering competing models, like LG CX, do support it. Although it doesn’t matter too much, sincethis TV doesn’t support VRR or 4k @ 120Hz, some of the main features of HDMI 2.1. There isn’t much in the way of cable management,as you can only route the cables through the back of the stands.
If you plan on wall mounting, you’re goingto have to find you’re own solution. First we’ll start with the contrast, whichis regarded as one of the most important aspects of picture quality. The contrast ratio is the relative brightnessof the brightest white compared to the darkest black that a TV can display. A high contrast ratio helps dark scenes appearmore detailed, especially in a darker environment. Because this is an OLED TV, the pixels areself-emissive, meaning each one can be turned off to give a true black. This gives the TV a remarkable contrast ratioand is one of the main selling points of OLED displays. Content on this display will appear deep andfull of detail, even in dark scenes. Another advantage of self-emissive pixelsare the viewing angles, which is how accurate the picture remains when viewed off center. Light emitted from an OLED pixel is dispersedfairly evenly across all angles, lending this TV to have exceptional viewing angles. This is great if you plan on using it in awide-open environment, where some viewers may not be seated directly in front of thescreen. While still not perfect, it’s better thanmost LCD displays, even those that implement a wide viewing angle technology, like theSamsung Q90T. We actually measured slightly better viewingangle performance on last year’s model, but this is likely due to panel variance ormargin of error, and we expect them to perform similarly in person. Now onto the gray uniformity, which is howeven and uniform colors appear throughout the display. Ideally, every pixel of the display will bethe same brightness and color as every other pixel, but unfortunately, this isn’t alwaysthe case. Screen uniformity issues can result in someareas of the display appearing darker or brighter than their surroundings. This is what’s known as the dirty screeneffect, and it can be distracting when viewing fast moving content, such as sports, likefootball or hockey.
Luckily, this TV has outstanding gray uniformity,so there shouldn’t be an issue here. Even in dark scenes, we didn’t notice anyvertical or horizontal lines that some other TVs struggle with. It is worth noting that gray uniformity canvary between units, so yours may perform differently than ours. If you come across a panel that doesn’tcorrespond to our results, let us know in the comments below. As for black uniformity, as expected, thisTV performs perfectly. This is because the pixels are self-emissive,and turn off when displaying black. So there won’t be any backlight uniformityissues as found on some LCD displays. If your TV is in a brighter environment, thenit’s important to have good reflection handling to counter-act distracting glare. Like with all OLEDs we’ve tested, the A8Hhas excellent reflection handling. The display has a glossy finish, but it doesgreat job at cutting out light thanks to it’s anti-reflective coating. This creates clear, defined reflections whichsome may prefer over the more diffuse reflections found in TVs like the Q90T.
It does create a slight purple-ish tint tothe reflections, but this shouldn’t be an issue when viewing content. Also important for a bright environment isthe peak brightness, which is how bright a screen can get when displaying content. Along with reflection handling, a brighterscreen can help overcome distracting glare from the sun or other light sources. Peak brightness will differ depending if contentis mastered for SDR or HDR. For SDR content, the Sony gets decently bright,at about 430 nits at it’s peak. Keep in mind this is at it’s peak, and thebrightness of the display will change depending on the scene, as well as how long it is beendisplayed. This is due to the Auto Brightness Limiterand you can see how it affects brightness in our full measurements on screen now. It doesn’t get as bright as LED backlitdisplays, which is a clear advantage in their favor, but it is a decent step up over lastyear’s A8G. If you plan on watching HDR content, thenthe ability to produce brighter regions of the image is important for impactful highlightdetail. This is what really helps content ‘pop’in HDR, especially on OLED displays. For HDR content, the A8H has decent brightness,getting up to 780 nits in our 2% window, but again, there is a lot of variation dependingon the window size and scene duration. It can get as low as 150 nits in a 100% window,but we still expect most people to be pleased with the HDR performance.
That said, it may not get bright enough forsome HDR enthusiasts, who plan on watching content that was mastered at 1000 nits. Bright LED displays, like the Samsung Q90T,are going to offer better highlight detail since they can easily hit above 1000 nits,although they’ll lack some of the benefits of OLED. Also important for HDR is the ability to takeadvantage of wider color spaces that content can be mastered in. In this regard, the Sony is no slouch, asit covers about 97% of the P3 color space, and around 75% of the Rec 2020 color space. This is great and HDR content will look richand saturated. The Sony also has a pretty good color volume. It excels in dark colour reproduction, althoughit does struggle with displaying very bright colors due to it’s ordinary brightness. Now let’s look at the pre-calibration measurements,which is how closely the colors align with our calibration target, after only changingsome basic picture settings. Out of the box, the A8H has great color accuracy. The gamma is nearly perfect and most colorinaccuracies won’t be noticeable. Although the white balance is a little off,resulting in a color temperature that’s a bit warmer than we prefer. Before moving onto motion handling, it’simportant to note that this is an OLED display, and there is the risk of permanent burn-inif displaying static content for long periods. OLED pixels use an organic compound to emitlight, which degrades with usage. You can see our video here for an investigationinto this issue, however, we don’t expect this to be a problem with how most peopleuse their TVs. Now let’s take a look at the response, orthe time it takes for a display to change from one color to the next. A slow response time can result in a blurrytrail behind fast moving objects, so it’s important to have a fast response time, tohelp reduce motion blur. Since this is an OLED panel, it has near-instantaneousresponse times. We measured an 80% response time of just 0.2ms,and a 100% response time of 2.3ms. Motion blur will not be an issue here, althoughthe instant response times can make low frame-rate content appear to stutter. If that bothers you, you can enable motioninterpolation in the settings. To make motion appear smoother, this TV caninterpolate low frame rate content up to 120fps. It works fine for slow moving scenes, butunfortunately there’s a lot of artifacting during quick movement. This likely due to the TV interpolating intensescenes, which other TVs tend not to do.
Another way to improve motion blur is to enableBlack Frame Insertion. BFI turns the display off between frames toreduce motion blur caused by the sample and hold technique of modern displays. You can learn more about how this here. The TV can flicker at 60Hz or 120Hz no matterthe framerate of the content, which is nice as it can be adjusted depending on the user’spreference. Since the TV doesn’t have a backlight, thereisn’t any PWM flickering. We did measure a slight dip in brightnessevery refresh cycle, but this shouldn’t be noticeable to the naked eye. Now onto Input Lag, which is important forgaming as you want the TV to feel responsive to your inputs. This TV has low input lag and it’s a greatimprovement over last year’s A8G, which is slower by about 10 to 30ms. With game mode enabled, we measured an inputlag of around 18.5ms in most scenarios. Outside of game mode, it jumps up to 93msin 4k and 110ms in 1080p, so make sure to turn game mode on if you want to have a responsiveexperience. Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, thisTV doesn’t support Variable Refresh Rate, which may be disappointing to some.
This is in stark contrast to the similarlypriced LG CX, which supports VRR and [email protected] Those looking to do PC gaming or to preparethemselves for next-gen consoles may want to look elsewhere. The TV also struggles with properly displayinga 1440p image, but it does fine with 1080p and 4k. It’s capable of 120Hz, but only with a 1080psignal. Doing so at 1440p causes it to skip frames. Now let’s take a look at the sound. Like other Sony TVs, the A8H is using Sony’sAcoustic Surface Audio, which is just a fancy way of saying it vibrates the screen to producesound. This actually works quite well and it hasa good frequency response with little compression at max volume. However, it does lack low and sub bass that’dyou’d find in dedicated room speakers or a sound bar. The microphone in the remote can automaticallyadjusts the frequency response of the TV, based off the acoustics of the room, whichis nice touch. Finally, let’s take a look at the smartfeatures. Like other Sony TVs, this one is running AndroidTV version 9.0. Because of this, there’s a huge varietyof apps that can be accessed through the Google Play store. Navigating the menu is very smooth, and it’spretty fast to get to where you need, thanks in part to customizable quick menu. The remote also has mic to summon Google Assistant,which works well for the most part, but it can’t change certain settings. Unfortunately, there is a row of ads on thehome screen, but these can be removed with some tinkering. So overall, the Sony A8H is an excellent TV. It’s an OLED that delivers great picturequality on all fronts. Compared to it’s predecessor, the A8G, it’sa solid step up thanks in part to it’s improved brightness, color volume, and input lag. However, some may find it’s feature setdisappointing when compared to other models like the LG CX. The CX offers a better gaming experience becauseof it’s lower input lag and VRR support. The Sony does have a slight edge in picturequality though, so if gaming isn’t a huge focus, it’s still a good pick. If you’re looking for a display with a higherpeak brightness that offers great detail in highlights, then there’s the Samsung Q90T.