For Your Viewing Pleasure
Tan Jee Yee 
The Sony Bravia A1 OLED TV screen is barely thicker than most smartphones, and comes with a leg stand in the back that doubles as a sub-woofer

In 2008, Sony bestowed upon the mortal realm the XEL-1, the world’s first OLED TV. At that time, it was also the thinnest television, at 3mm. So thin was the 11-inch screen that Sony had to connect it to a non-detachable base just so that it could have buttons and I/O ports. Priced at US$2,500, the TV only ever stood in the living rooms of the super rich.

Nine years later, Sony is back on the OLED game with the Bravia A1 OLED TVs sporting OLED screens and other bells and whistles such as 4K resolution and smart TV capabilities. The price tag may still be prohibitively high for a lot of people, but just like the XEL-1, the new Bravia OLED, which is available in 55- and 65-inch screens, is a sight to behold.

And what a gorgeous machine it is, starting with the super slim bezel that maximises the viewing area. Sony has also done away with the TV stand; instead, the screen is propped up photo frame-style with a stand in the back. The result is a thin black frame that appears to float when you are right in front of it. There isn’t even a Sony logo to distract you.

The lean is barely perceptible unless you place it very high. Most of the time, though, you are likely to be distracted by the amazing image quality and how it all fits inside a screen that is as thin as most smartphones today.


OLED wonders

You might be wondering what the entire OLED business is. An acronym for Organic Light-Emitting Diode, OLED screens work differently from the standard LCD LED screens. The pixels of LCD screens are illuminated by an LED backlight while each pixel in an OLED screen lights up individually.

The result is remarkably dark blacks in an image, something described as “true black”, as the OLED pixel would not light up the parts of the image that is black. Combine this with the brightness of the whites, an OLED panel is able to produce incredibly vibrant images.

Bright areas look brighter and rich colours look more richly saturated. Yet, it would seem that Sony’s engineers have done more to ensure that the images don’t look too forced or unbalanced.

The only thing about the picture quality is that it is not very bright although I can’t really tell having been accustomed to the standard LCD screen at home. But that doesn’t mean that the image quality suffers. If anything, darker-toned films actually look better on this TV.

Other impressive qualities include the high definition (HD) upscaled to 4K which is insanely good. At one point, I didn’t realise a 480p movie was streaming because it was upscaled well enough that I thought it was in full HD.

Viewing angles are great too. For instance, there is no loss of contrast and colour intensity when viewed from the side.

Innovation in sound

The leg propping up the TV serves another purpose. It has a sub-woofer built into it, providing a deep bass sound output with a nice low rumble. It is not common for a television set to provide a sub-woofer without a home theatre system, so this is a nice addition.

That is not all. While most TV speakers are down-firing or back-firing, the Bravia OLED speakers actually fires through the television screen. By using rear-mounted ‘exciters’ to vibrate the TV’s flat screen surface, the sound is delivered straight to the ears of the viewer, not bounced off another surface.

No TV has ever applied speakers to its own screen – in fact, this delivery of stereo effect from a single flat surface is patented by Sony, created specifically for the Bravia OLED. The result is sound quality that is crisp and rich. Combined with the built-in sub-woofer, it is unlikely that you will even think of purchasing a separate home theatre set.

Usually when you touch the screen with the volume up, you will notice a slight vibration. Not with the Bravia OLED. Even at maximum volume, the screen seems to remain still while the speakers blare and rumble. Hence, no issue about distorted images here.


Bang for your buck?

Rounding up the features are the smart TV capabilities. Rather than provide their own proprietary smart TV operating system, Sony has opted for Android TV. This essentially gives it access to a majority of streaming services that Android device users would be familiar with, including Netflix and YouTube. There are also TV-specific apps and games that you can download.

The TV also has an in-built Chromecast, meaning you can effectively stream from your computer onto the big screen without the need to purchase an additional dongle.

All in all, the Sony Bravia A1 OLED TV is fantastic. Great images, combined with an innovative sound system and solid smart TV capabilities makes it a perfect standalone entertainment system. But there is a steep price to pay for such premium features – the 65-inch is priced at RM21,999 while the 55-inch costs RM14,999.

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 260.