Sony just revealed its XBR-A1E Bravia 4K OLED TV here at CES 2017, the company’s flagship TV of 2017. The news confirms Sony’s rumored, big shift in display technology for the living room. OLED TVs have been LG’s thing over the last several years, with most other TV makers focused on LCD panels. But now — finally — there’s some pretty significant competition coming in.
Sony says that moving to OLED allows it to offer a TV with “unprecedented black levels, rich and lifelike color, dynamic contrast, blur-less image, and a wide viewing angle.” LG would probably disagree with the whole “unprecedented” thing, but it probably holds true compared to Sony’s previous televisions. Sony isn’t actually producing OLED screens; they’re likely being provided by LG Display (which is separate from LG Electronics and the competing TV business). The company declined to identify the vendor of its OLED displays.
Support for Dolby Vision HDR is built in, and a chip called the 4K HDR Processor X1 Extreme (emphasis ours) powers the whole thing. The TV is very, very thin. Not quite to the same extent as what LG unveiled earlier today, but the svelte look still required Sony to move a lot of the TV’s internals to the fold-out stand around back.
The A1E Bravia series will be available in 55-, 65-, and 77-inch sizes. Sony isn’t yet saying how much it will cost; for context, LG’s OLEDs range from $2,500 (55 inches) way up to $20,000 for a 77-inch Signature G6 TV. So it’s rather difficult to guess what the asking price on these will be. Sony also hasn’t given a release date, though TVs announced at CES typically launch by spring.
OLEDs truly do offer superior black levels and more vibrant color compared to a majority of LCD sets. We haven’t seen Sony’s new Bravia firsthand yet, but hopefully picture quality will be top notch. But there’s another, fun weird Sony thing about this TV: the sound. There aren’t conventional speakers visible anywhere. Instead, Sony came up with something it’s calling Acoustic Surface sound technology. Here’s the company’s description of how it works:
Taking advantage of the OLED’s backlight-less structure, Sony developed a new Acoustic Surface sound technology. Thanks to the ingenious design, the entire screen resonates with rich sound emanating directly from the screen itself.
So audio from your movies and TV shows will sound like it’s coming directly from the display itself. But will it sound good? Sony claims this approach “produces a wide sound and image synchronization from all angles, even off to the sides.” The idea isn’t altogether new, and similar implementations have sounded... less than great. But if you’re buying a TV this nice, odds are you’ve got or at least plan to get a sound system that does the picture half justice.
Like its other televisions, Sony’s new Bravia runs Android TV. You can control it with the Google Home speaker, download a slew of streaming apps from Google Play, or cast content to the OLED screen from a smartphone, tablet, or PC. The company’s PlayStation Vue internet TV service will also be getting some prominent positioning, if the press release is any indication, and Sony will include its Ultra 4K video service as well. So if you’re not a fan of LG’s webOS TV software, theoretically Sony should offer similar image quality — but a different underlying platform.
Sony’s also refreshing its LED TV lineup with new models including the X940E and X930E series. They’ve been upgraded with faster performance compared to last year’s line and also support Dolby Vision and improved HDR output. You can learn more about those at Sony’s website.
Lead image by Vlad Savov.