Lest you’ve forgotten, back in 2008 Sony launched the world’s very first OLED TV. The XEL-1 was lovely too, delivering breathtaking picture quality from a gorgeous design. There was a problem with this OLED ground-breaker, though: its screen was just 11 inches across.
Now, a mere nine years later, Sony has finally returned to the OLED fray - and this time it’s packing something much, much bigger. Its new A1 OLED series is out now in 65-inch and 55-inch sizes - which gives them plenty of room for squeezing in 4K pixel counts.
Add to this new-found abundance a unique sound system that uses the screen as the speakers and Sony’s most powerful picture processing engine, and it’s easy to see why AV fans have been buzzing about the A1 range from the moment Sony first announced it at CES.
Before we dive too deep here, though, keep in mind that OLED is still expensive and Sony's take on the technology is no different. The 55-inch version, the one we'll cover in depth here will run you around AU$5,300.
Sony has been putting extra effort into the design of its products for the past couple of years, and this effort is writ large all over the 55-inch 55A1.
Sony’s idea with the A1 (or A1E as it's known in the States) was to focus 100% on the TV’s picture, keeping the bodywork around the image to an absolute minimum. The result is a TV with nothing more than an incredibly thin black frame around all four sides of its screen. There’s no hint of any speakers, a stand or even a Sony logo to distract you from what you’re watching.
The screen is supported in picture frame fashion by a leg that angles out from its rear, while sound duties are performed by the screen itself rather than normal speakers. Yes, you read that right: the screen itself delivers the sound.
How? By using rear-mounted ‘exciters’ to vibrate the TV’s flat screen surface. We’ve seen flat speakers before, of course. However, no TV has ever applied this technology to its own screen - and nor, so far as we know, has any brand ever managed to deliver a stereo effect from a single flat surface like Sony has with the patented audio solution it’s created for the 55A1.
You can argue that the way the supporting leg juts out from the rear runs starkly counter to the ultra-skinny design ethic so dominant in the TV world at the moment. You can, though, fold the leg in if you want to wall mount the TV and, actually, from a typical viewing angle, the way the ‘lean-to’ design enables Sony to limit structure from directly around the picture makes the 55A1 look less cumbersome than almost any other TV.
Connections are found at the base of the lean-to leg, and are plentiful. Highlights include four HDMIs, three USBs, an RS-232 port so you can add the TV to a wider home automation system, and an Ethernet port for people who would rather hardwire the TV to their network than use the built-in Wi-Fi system.
Screen Sizes available: 65-inch and 55-inch now, 77in later in the year | Tuner: Freeview HD | 4K: Yes | HDR: Yes (HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG) | Panel technology: OLED | Smart TV: Yes/Android | Curved: No | Dimensions: 1228 x 711 x 86mm (W x H x D) | 3D: No | Inputs: Four HDMI, three USBs, Wi-Fi, RS-232, satellite and terrestrial RF inputs, headphone jack, audio line out, subwoofer line out, optical digital audio output