Sony Does About-Face – Introduces OLED 4K/UHD TV With Dolby Vision

3 minute read
| Analysis

For a long time, Sony has had an excellent reputation for building great TVs. However, until yesterday, only LG was selling those magnificent OLED 4K/UHD TVs. Now, Sony has joined the fray with its own branded OLED 4K/UHD sets, and they’re amazing. And not only HDR but Dolby Vision to boot.

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This odyssey, if one can call it that, started back in early 2016 when CNET’s David Katzmaier noted that Samsung and Sony, while opting for HDR, were forsaking Dolby Vision. “HDR is TV’s next big format war, and Samsung and Sony could find themselves on the losing side.” That article, by the way, has wealth of information on HDR and Dolby Vision and is an excellent primer. If you aren’t familiar with Dolby Vision, read Katzmaier’s awesome article.

Sony XBR-A1E 4K/UHD TV

Image credit: Sony

Now, all that’s changed. On January 4th, Sony announced, in this press release, the new BRAVIA OLED 4K HDR TVs. The model number is XBR-A1E. Why is this significant?

OLED Technology

Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) TVs are considered superior to any other kind of current display technology. They are consistently the #1 rated TV’s by CNET. Unlike LCD/LED/Nanocrystal 4KTVs, OLEDs are not backlit. Each pixel, like the legendary Plasma technology, is self-illuminating. That means spectacular black levels and high contrast ratios. Also, OLED pixel elements have a very fast response time compared to Liquid Crystals.

For several years now, only LG has been selling OLED displays. LG is the world’s leader on the fabrication of large OLED panels. (Samsung makes only very small ones for watches and smartphones.) But there have been several problems. First, OLED TVs have been quite a bit more expensive that LCD TVs thanks to problematic yields. Second, Sony probably has better expertise in imaging electronics and scalers than LG, and so there has been some pent up demand for a quality Sony 4K/UHD TV with an OLED display.

Nevertheless, the rumor mills says that Sony will acquire the OLED panels from LG and, of course, provide its own enclosure, electronics and software. (Sony uses the Android OS for its smart TVs.)

Sony XBR-A1E 4k.UHD TV

Smart. Put the electronics in the stand for balance and space. Image credit: Sony

The Specs

The A1E series will come in 77, 65 and 55-inch sizes. Prices have not been announced, but there is some thought that, with OLED prices coming down rapidly, the Sony 55-inch model will be affordable by mere mortals, perhaps around US$2,000.

Another significant technology development by Sony is the “Acoustic Surface Technology” in which the entire display is a speaker element. Details are scarce (stereo?), and those who already have a 5.1 or 7.1 sound system with great external speakers will not be as impressed. Still….

From Sony:

  • Features OLED display technology. 8 million self-illuminating pixels brings a significantly enriched visual experience with unprecedented black levels, authentic color, blur-less image and a wide viewing angle.
  • Features Acoustic Surface technology: the entire screen resonates with great sound emanating directly from the screen itself. This allows a perfect unification of picture and sound that conventional TVs cannot deliver.
  • 4K HDR Processor X1 Extreme provides the ultimate 4K HDR viewing experience by incorporating three picture-enhancing technologies: object-based HDR remaster, Super Bit Mapping™ 4K HDR and dual database processing.
  • Features vibrant, expanded color with TRILUMINOS™ Display, further enhanced for color accuracy.
  • Uses 4K X-Reality™ PRO to produce stunning detail with Sony’s unique algorithm of reality creation database for any content, such as TV broadcasting, DVD, Blu-ray Disc, Internet video and digital photos.
  • The cutting-edge design: The Acoustic Surface technology lends to cutting-edge design of the A1E series by doing away with conventional speakers usually located around the TV. The result is a unique stand-less form factor with no distraction from the picture
  • Android TV lets you explore a world of movies, music, photos, games, search, apps and more, including PlayStation™ Vue and Ultra services. Voice Search to find content, ask questions and control your TV. With
  • Chrome Cast built-in, you can easily send content from your smartphone or tablet to the TV. With access to Google Play™, you can enjoy what they like to do on a smartphone or tablet, from their TV. With Google Home compatibility, voice-control the TV via the Google Home device for a smarter connected home.
  • HDR compatible to receive and process the new video standard signal with higher brightness, higher contrast and more vibrant colors via Internet video services, HDMI and USB port. Supports Dolby Vision HDR format.

Tech Escalation

Every year, the TV industry includes new technologies to both compete and also keep prices balanced. In previous years, 2013, simple 4K TVs had only 8-bit SDR. But now, 10-bit HDR, Dolby Vision, and OLED are coming together. Customers can be confident in a TV that’s very future proof. That’s because a lot of 4K/HDR content is still 8-bit/SDR.

But that’s changing fast. The studios, content developers and providers are coming on strong in advanced 4K/UHD and HDR. This new OLED 4KTV by Sony signals that 2017 will be the pivotal year in the balance between features, cost, and 4K/UHD content.

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