Sony A1E 4K HDR OLED TV at CES 2017

Sony A1E

LG is no longer the only OLED game in town. The Sony A1E is based on an OLED panel from LG Display, but Sony’s not-so-secret sauce includes the X1 Extreme processor, a serious powerhouse with three main functions: a dual database for noise reduction and 4K upscaling, Super Bit Mapping that smoothes gradations by reproducing the equivalent of 14 bits from an 8-bit source, and object-based HDR remastering that identifies individual objects in the image.

Like several other Sony TVs for 2017, the A1E supports Dolby Vision high dynamic range as well as HDR10. In addition, it’s based on Android TV with voice search, and Chromecast (formerly Google Cast) lets you send content from a mobile device to the TV. And with Google Home, you can control the TV by voice with a Google Home device.

In a particularly brilliant move, Sony eliminated speakers from the A1E altogether. Instead, a pair of actuators are mounted on the back of the screen, and the entire screen vibrates to reproduce stereo sound. Called Acoustic Surface, this is actually not a new idea—I wrote about it 20 years ago—but it’s the first time I’ve heard of a TV screen being used as the transducer.

I would think this might affect the image, but in the demo I saw, there was no softening or other problems. It could be a problem at low frequencies, but a woofer in the support structure takes care of that.

That demo included some side-by-side comparisons with another company’s OLED—I can’t say which one, but you can probably guess. In a clip from an Alicia Keys concert, the sound was far better on the Sony. Visually, the Sony looked much better as well, with more detail, better color, and deeper blacks, especially on SDR content. As usual, the TVs were not calibrated—in fact, they were in vivid mode! And of course, this was s demo presented by Sony, so who knows what would happen in an objective side-by-side. Still, the delta was quite evident.

The A1E will be available in 55″, 65″, and 77″ screen sizes, but launch date and pricing were not disclosed.