The Sony KD-55A1 is arguably the most innovative high-end TV you can buy right now. It combines a peerless OLED picture performance with eye-catching industrial design and a groundbreaking new approach to TV audio, with Acoustic Surface technology meaning the screen is also the speaker.
This big, cool cat is the current king of the TV jungle as you can see in our list of the best TVs you can buy.
Sony A1: design
Being a design icon, the A1 doesn’t use anything as vulgar as a conventional pedestal stand. Instead it prefers to recline on a hinged support, which also happens to ingeniously house an integrated 8cm subwoofer and assorted connectivity.
This languid pose translates to a 6 degree recline, so make sure your AV furniture is trendy and low, so you can watch it at the right angle. Minimalism is the name of the game.
There’s a vanishingly thin bezel and no visible speakers. That’s because the panel itself creates audio, courtesy of two sonic actuators bonded onto the rear. These vibrate, creating high and mid-range stereo audio (and no, that doesn’t mean the picture vibrates as well). The total power output is a remarkably powerful 50 watts - 2x20w going to the stereo actuators, with 10W reserved for the onboard subwoofer.
The remote control, by contrast, is nothing fancy but does the requisite job.
The Sony A1 range
This review is specifically about the Sony Bravia KD55A1 which uses a 55-inch panel. The other models in the range are the Sony Bravia KD65A1 which is 65 inches across and even better. There's also the humungous Sony Bravia KD75A1, but good luck finding (or affording) that one…
Sony KD-55A1: Performance
In short, picture quality is breathtaking.
Sony’s 4K HDR X1 Extreme image engine does an outstanding job with both 4K and regular HD sources. Blacks are genuinely deep, fine detail is high and the set’s Triluminos colour gamut ravishingly wide.
The screen’s HDR performance is pronounced. HDR10, DolbyVision and HLG are all supported, while object-based HDR remastering makes a class leading fist of ‘upscaling’ regular SDR material. The latest iteration of Sony Super bit-mapping technology also removes banding from less than perfect streaming services.
All this conspires to make for a superb home cinema screen. However OLED’s ability to deliver intense black can benefit more than just movies. Playing Resident Evil Biohazard (PS4) on the A1 is far more spine-chilling than exploring it on a regular LCD TV. The impenetrable black areas outside the beam of your flashlight become absolutely terrifying.
As mentioned, this set’s sonic performance is also something else. Sony’s Acoustic Surface Audio system is hands down the best TV audio implementation I’ve heard in years. There’s no need to consider a soundbar, indeed the only sensible upgrade would be a full blown home cinema system.
Sony Bravia KD55A1: features
Like all connected Sony sets, this OLED hotshot uses the Android smart TV OS with built-in Chromecast. It’s not my favourite smart TV platform, but it does make it a easy to cast content (video and JPEGs) from compatible smartphones, and there’s also some welcome customisation on top. Sony’s Discover Bar presents handy thumbnails for On Demand TV and streaming content, plus your own networked video material.
Netflix, Amazon Video and YouTube all stream in 4K, while YouView replaces the standard Freeview HD programme listing. There’s a full range of Catch-Up TV services (from iPlayer, ITV Hub, My5 and All4) from the roll-back TV guide.
Connectivity includes four HDMIs, all HDCP 2.2 compliant, and a trio of USBs, one of which supports timeshifting onto USB drives up to 2TB. Naturally, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are standard. The screen doesn’t support 3D though. But then you guessed that, right?
Sony KD-55A1 4K UHD OLED TV: verdict
The A1 can hardly be described as a budget buy, but the 55-inch version feels very temptingly priced. The larger-screened versions are admittedly rather more aspirational, but the 65-incher is not 'over-priced' as such.
Overall, the A1 is sensational 4K OLED TV debut for Sony. It boasts adventurous design, innovative audio and knock-out picture performance. HDR image processing is particularly impressive with regular SDR sources, which will of course constitute most of your viewing for some time to come.
This is Sony at the top of its TV game, and the best you can get without moving into the 'Serious Money' end of the market.