Here at CES 2017 in Las Vegas, Sony Bravia has unveiled what might be the most alluring TV on the entire showfloor: the new XBR-A1E, the company's first ever OLED television.
The quibble here is that Sony is dead last to jump on the OLED bandwagon (following LG, Samsung, Panasonic, and even Hisense), and in a market with an ever increasing focus on tons of brightness (a weakness for OLED) and quantum-dot bolstered color—the key elements in the HDR format—it's hard not to wonder if the A1 isn't too little too late, or already outpaced.
Well, at least until you see the thing.
Sure, it's not the brightest, most colorful TV ever made necessarily, but it also doesn't need to be. Sony may be late to the OLED party, but OLED is also just getting to where it's entirely sound from an engineering perspective.
And Sony has LG to thank. The company has sunk tons of R&D into hammering out problems big and small with its 4K OLED displays—and you can bet that this is an LG OLED panel dressed up in a Sony suit. That means it's amply bright for HDR—at least a sustainable 600 nits, but probably more. It means no "vignetting" or excessive image retention like the earliest OLEDs, too. And don't forget about panel lifespan.
But yes, this is basically another LG OLED panel—available in 55, 65, or 77 inches, just like LG's 4K OLEDs so far. It's both HDR10 and Dolby Vision compatible, with the same incredible contrast, perfect viewing angle, and rich color saturation as LG's 4K OLEDs. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it looked entirely identical to LG's flagship W7 OLED.
However, the touches that are unique to Sony are what really make the A1E stand out—it might be my favorite TV from CES 2017. Yes, it's a 4K, HDR-capable set with Sony's Android TV platform—that's all spec fluff. And yes, it will be undoubtedly very expensive. But what's really cool about it are two physical traits.
The first is the design. The standless look is pretty "in" this year—in fact, everyone seems to be focusing on wall mounting and externalizing speaker solutions. The A1E's stand is quite interesting and, as it usually the case with Bravia TVs, maybe a little divisive.
It's basically a big "A" shape—perhaps where the OLED model's "A-series" moniker comes from. It leans out from the back of the TV and curls under, putting the bottom of the screen directly on the floor—or, more realistically, a tabletop stand. It's not clear if the A1E can be wall-mounted, but I would assume it can.
However, the coolest new feature here is Sony's "Acoustic Surface" technology. Never able to stop themselves from doing weird things with audio and speakers—see the "wedge" TVs with giant side-mounted woofers, and Bluetooth speaker lightbulbs—the A1E doesn't have the usual on-board TV speakers. The entire screen is a speaker.
Wait, what? Yes. Because OLED panels are so thin and don't need a backlight to create light and color, Sony used this opportunity to engineer a bizarre audio solution. The surface of the screen emits sound, providing, in Sony's words, a "perfect unification of picture and sound unattainable by conventional TVs." I haven't heard it yet, but can only guess it's at least interesting.
In either case, Sony's beautiful-looking new OLED hits all the right spec benchmarks while delivering a refreshingly new design. Frankly, I like it better than almost any OLED design to come before it, not least of all because the screen is flat.
While I can't say it's one of the best TVs we'll see in 2017 without getting it into the lab, it's a safe bet picture quality enthusiasts and videophiles should be pretty excited.
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