Tech

Hands On: Sony Master Series Bravia A9F 4K HDR OLED TV

How many acronyms can you fit in one name? Well when you’re discussing one of the best televisions on market, apparently a lot. When I was introduced to this technical beauty it was described to me as ‘cinema inspired’ and it sure lived up to the concept.

The good

  • The hardware behind it is phenomenal, producing exceptional quality.
  • Android TV is a wonderful operating system with Google Assistant.
  • Acoustic Surface Audio+ is outstanding – depending on room size you could scrap the soundbar.

The bad

  • The microphone was hit and miss and often didn’t recognize my “Hey Google” command.

The verdict

The Sony ‘Master Series’ Bravia A9F 4K HDR OLED TV is what I’d go so far to say as the most ‘correct’ television available for purchase at the moment. And by correct I mean representative of exactly how a scene was filmed and designed to look like. I almost listed the price as a flaw of the A9F but OLED technology the world over is still very expensive – you’re paying for the best. The 55-inch model I’ve reviewed retails for $4,998 and the 65-inch model is on shelves at $6,499. I’m not going to pretend that this amount of money is necessary for a television, but if you want the top of the range, this is where you’ll find it.

HARDWARE

When talking televisions you’ll find that the physical panels that make up the screen are mass produced by a few select companies and are sold to other brands, where the rest of the TV is built. This means that the real difference and quality that we find in high end models is almost exclusively due to the image processor and internal controllers – which is how the Sony A9F shines.

Sony have developed what they’re calling the X1 Ultimate chip to handle all of the image processing in this television and it does a phenomenal job. We’ve know for a few years now that Sony are industry leaders in motion handling and ensuring that pan/moving shots look exceptional – but now they’ve taken over in every sense of the word with their new processor and OLED controller labelled the ‘Pixel Contrast Booster’. I can honestly say I’ve never seen quality to rival what I saw on the A9F.

For the uninitiated, OLED is the acronym for ‘organic light-emitting diode’ and the technology is undoubtedly the latest and best thing to happen to displays. To give you an incredibly brief summary, unlike it’s predecessors, OLED gives the television the ability to COMPLETELY turn off each pixel of the screen individually, which is to say that your blacks are pure black. You’ll also see a considerable change in contrast as the processor now has control over the brightness of each tiny little pixel.

So between the new X1 processor, Pixel Contrast Booster and pre-existing leading motion technology, it’s clear to see why the Bravia A9F is top of the line.

AUDIO

This television might just have some of the best sound I’ve ever heard out of the box. We’ve reviewed a lot of audio products here at EFTM and a significant amount of those are soundbars, but I’d argue depending on the room size – you almost don’t need ANYTHING other than the TV audio produced by the Bravia A9F. This can be attributed to what they’re calling Acoustic Surface Audio+.

The audio for the A9F comes through the screen in three channels (left, centre and right) as well as the two side-facing subwoofers that deliver big bass. Previous Sony TV’s have been equipped with surface audio but only ever through two channels, left and right. The addition of the centre channel allows for content to be considerably more directional than ever before. When sitting directly in front of the screen the experience is relatively surround in that you’ll distinctly hear the audio move across the room, less so behind you but we’ll leave that to the 5.1 systems.

The bass wasn’t comparable to that of a dedicated floor-bound subwoofer but it was big enough to impress and for those that haven’t used anything but TV audio before, it will blow your mind.

ANDROID TV

One aspect of your TV you that you probably haven’t given great thought is the operating system (OS) – the software providing you with your main functions, menus, settings, etc. I haven’t met anyone in the street that’s asked about the OS of a television when being recommended a certain product. But why not? Well because for the most part, TV operating systems have been uniform and very bare bones. We haven’t needed them to do much and subsequently they haven’t – but as we reach new limits with hardware and what we’re physically able to achieve at this point, it’s time for the software game to be stepped up.

The Bravia A9F is fully geared with Android TV, an operating system designed around content discovery across multiple apps. The home screen of the OS looks a little like;

And as you can see it gives you access to all of your different apps (Netflix, Stan, Amazon, etc) as well as a quick overview of what’s available in each. You have the ability to re-arrange each row to where you want it as well as to remove any row you don’t want to see.

The other wonderful thing about Android TV is that it has Google Assistant built-in. Commands such as “Hey Google, Bodyguard” will display a fact page about the new Netflix series as well as a quick link to the app so you can dive straight in.

Naturally it has all of the standard Google Assistant features like calendar, weather, routines, etc, so you can really make the most out of using your TV as a main hub. There is a question to be raised whether you’re better off with a Google Home Hub as your visual assistant or the television itself but the game is moving too quick for it’s own good… it’s too early to tell. I know personally I have a Google Home Mini as well as an LG Google Assistant speaker and a Google Pixel that are all constantly waiting to hear the “Hey Google” command that can so often end up being recognized by more than one device at a time.

The only issue I had regarding Google Assistant had nothing to do with the operating system, but more the microphone. I found that unless speaking DIRECTLY toward to mic it wouldn’t pick up my “Hey Google”, but everything after that phrase was relatively seamless.

Ultimately the Sony Master Series Bravia A9F is an exceptional television, and if you have the money for it, I would highly recommend giving it a test drive. You can pick up a 65-inch for $6,499 and the 55-inch for $4,998.

Studying Cyber Security and working for Macquarie Media Limited, John is a huge nerd with a passion for video games and computers.

You will often find him in the streets advocating for the benefits of gaming or just generally nerding out.

Feel free to email with any questions or comments: [email protected]

Hands On: Sony Master Series Bravia A9F 4K HDR OLED TV
2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. paul

    November 5, 2018 at 7:23 pm

    • John Abood

      November 6, 2018 at 8:11 am

      Good catch Paul – if it stays at that price point it’s a great deal!

      I’ll keep the article updated when the price drops on official websites 🙂

      EDIT: It seems they’ve put it back up to $4,995. Keep your eyes open for a good deal on this unit.

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