Sony Bravia A8G 55-inch 4K Smart TV Review

Sony Bravia A8G 55-inch 4K Smart TV Review

Last Updated on October 1, 2021 by Daniel Osakwe

You probably think of LG when it comes to OLED TVs – it is the only company in the world that produces enough panels to supply the entire market. The TV companies (namely Sony and Panasonic) are expanding on this technology with their own processors, in-house designed bezels and stands, and their own smart TV platforms – or, in the case of Sony, the platforms of a licensee.

Therefore, LG produced a TV that differs from LG TVs in both form, function, as well as price, and is therefore worth looking at more closely.

In addition to this, the Sony A8G OLED (Sony AG8 in Europe and the UK) combines an LG OLED panel with Sony’s X1 Extreme Processor and Google Assistant.

Despite its higher price, it’s the best upscaling, motion processing, and photo customization option for Sony’s newest A8G/AG8 OLED model.

Design

sony briva

Sony’s B9 TV uses the same OLED panel as LG’s B9 and C9 TVs, but because of its minimalist design and crescent-shaped stand, it’s more interesting than LG’s. Thus the LG B9 OLED has a different appearance than that of the LG B9 OLED that uses a pedestal to hold the TV upright.

As far as cable management goes, you can string cords through the back of the legs of the stand if you want a different look, which should keep your entertainment center looking tidy.

The bezel on the front of the TV is quite minimal, but it’s a bit chunky in the back. There are four HDMI ports with HDCP 2.3 on both the 55-inch and 65-inch versions of this TV, plus digital audio out, 3.5mm auxiliary, and three USB ports.

TV enthusiasts should note that the Sony A8G/AG8 doesn’t support eARC or HDMI 2.1 (something not amended for the Sony A8H OLED 2020 follow-up).

In case of a lost remote, there are physical buttons and volume controls located near the ports on the back.

In regards to the remote, it’s probably our least favorite design choice of the A8G – with such an advanced and beautiful TV, it’s astounding that Sony still ships it with an overly large remote.

There’s no doubt that Sony wanted to create an all-in-one remote control that can control cable boxes, playback controls, smart TVs, and set-top boxes with a numerical keypad and color-coded buttons. However, the remote is bulky, heavy, and requires line of sight to use except for voice searches with Google Assistant.

We’re grateful that Sony includes an IR extender with the TV, but we’d prefer a Bluetooth remote with more streaming service shortcuts and a remote finder button instead.

Smart TV (Android 8.0 Oreo)

smart tv

With the same Android Oreo as the A9G OLED, the step-down A8G also offers a familiar row-based design that helps set Android TV apart from other smart TV platforms, such as Tizen and WebOS.

Some TVs may have ruined Android TV for you – since some TVs simply can’t handle the platform’s resource-intensive visuals – but the A8G/AG8 offers a relatively deep catalog of apps available at the bottom.

An app’s content is represented visually in each row. You will see YouTube videos recommended based on your previous viewings in the YouTube row. As well as the Netflix, Google Play Movies & TV and Play Music rows.

Despite making it relatively easy to find new content, this design can bury the app library, which may require a bit of scrolling. Among the apps supported are Disney Plus, YouTube TV, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Crunchyroll, CBS All-Access, ESPN, Starz, HBO Now, among many others.

The built-in Chromecast is by far the best way to Cast whatever content you want to watch from your phone on the TV. If you want to use the Sony remote app on your phone, there are a number of third-party apps available for download. If you wish to share media with several people, this feature is perfect – for example, a group of friends who want to show you different YouTube videos and can take turns casting games or photos – or if you wish to show off some quick photos with the family on the big screen.

Sony’s A8G includes Google Assistant, which is especially useful if you’re trying to find a particular actor/actress in a movie. In addition to Google Assistant, you can also control your TV from other Google smart speakers, like Google Nest Minis, and even Amazon’s Alexa gives some limited access to the TV’s features. During this review, we were unable to test AirPlay 2 or HomeKit because they were not available from Sony.

HD/SDR Performance

Even older 4K TVs can show Ultra-HD content, but only the Sony A8G/AG8 allows you to see it in its best light, no matter how old or how bad the content is. Because of its multi-faceted upscaling process which reduces grain, sharpens edges, and enhances colors, the X1 Extreme Processor is at the forefront of that performance. Sony does this to a greater or lesser degree than all other 4K TVs, but it’s one of the most effective.

In order to test the A8G’s mettle, we put on the DVD of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, a classic worth watching every few years. What happened? Despite its New Zealand backdrop, the Shire looked especially verdant on the A8G, with bright green grass and blue skies, and the forest of Lothlorien and the Mines of Moria had an almost ethereal appearance.

As a result of the noise reduction algorithm and OLED panel that can replicate true black, dark scenes which on other TVs would have appeared grainy and grey on the A8G/AG8 looked amazing.

Its only downside is that it can suffer from black level crushing with insufficient data – so the nearly black color will turn pure black instead of its natural color – and scenes with a lot of colors can become overwhelming. (The Rivendell scene from The Fellowship of the Ring has a sickening orange hue when viewed with the standard settings.)

One other difference, which may not matter to most people, is that the X1 Extreme Processor doesn’t do object-based HDR enhancements as the X1 Ultimate Processor does. In other words, the A9G’s screen might look sharper and more vibrant than on the A9, but we didn’t notice it nor was it affected by it.

All in all, this TV is better in HD and SDR than most other TVs – and all of this is before you even begin to see the full potential of 4K HDR content.

4K/HDR Performance

In the past, OLED TVs were criticized for their lower brightness levels than LCDs, but the A8G/AG8 offers 800 nits of peak brightness. Despite being less than popular displays such as Samsung’s Q90 QLED and Vizio’s Quantum X series – both of which easily top 2,000 nits – it’s a marked improvement over previous generations.

Due to its perceived improvement in brightness, the A8G/AG8 looks great both in dark settings and in brightly lit settings and helps HDR content look more vibrant and impactful.

In terms of color grading, Sony tends to be more conservative and its images tend to be more muted. Based on its reference-grade counterpart, Sony’s Pro OLED mastering monitor, the BVM-X300, the A8G/AG8 produces natural-looking pictures right out of the box and can be fine-tuned exactly how you like with Sony’s customizable options. With regard to image presets, Vivid, Standard, Film, Game, Custom, Graphics, and Photo can be used for most situations.

If you want to adjust the strength of MotionFlow or CineMotion, you’ll have fewer options, but for most users, the default settings (set to ‘5″ and ‘High”) are adequate.

Compared to both Sony’s A9G/AG9 and X950G/XG95, there’s no Netflix calibrated mode, and there’s no screen synchronization tech like AMD FreeSync or Nvidia G-Sync.

If it detects a game console, the A8G/AG8 will automatically switch into low-latency mode, so that’s a plus.

Format-wise, this TV supports Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HLG, as well as Dolby Atmos passthrough if you have a compatible soundbar or speaker system.

There are not many screens that can compete with the A8G/AG8 in terms of contrast for cinephiles and TV binge-watchers. As a result, it is a great companion to shows such as Night on Earth or Altered Carbon, which alternate bright and dark areas. The fact that a TV can treat both without gradation or color banding is truly amazing.

Sound

Sony’s Acoustic Surface Audio technology is used to enhance the A8G/AG8’s excellent picture performance on top of its use of traditional down-firing speakers. In general, Sony’s proprietary technology is relatively good, but not quite as good as a more traditional soundbar.

Acoustic Surface Audio, which debuted on Sony’s A1E OLED in 2016, uses actuators attached to a TV’s back to create sound.

It results in a sound that seems to emanate from the middle of the screen and casts a wide soundstage: Voices seem to come directly from the actors and actresses, and the music fills the whole room, even though there is no bass. The only drawback to Sony’s Acoustic Surface Audio solution is the loss of clarity that comes with the larger soundstage. Sadly, when the dialogue is loud and open, the bass gets lost and lacks power. However, traditional speakers rarely do any better in these conditions, which is particularly troublesome when your TV is as pricey as this OLED TV.

Here are some other panels to consider…

LG’s B9 and C9 OLED TVs from 2019 are the biggest rivals for the A8G/AG8, as they use exactly the same panels with a slightly different processor, speaker and exterior design, and WebOS rather than Android TV.

The reason you’d pick an LG OLED is that it’s about $500 cheaper – and sometimes more if it’s on sale. It may be worth the extra money for people who are looking for better upscaling and motion handling than the Sony A8G/AG8, but a less critical consumer might not.

Pros Cons
Ultra-customizable picture IR remote is really awful
Best motion processing Fairly expensive
Amazing 4K HDR performance

Conclusion

The A8G/AG8 really impressed us after more than a month of use. With its natural, frame-perfect images and utterly smooth motion, Sony is known for upscaling, converting DVD HD/SDR footage into modern-looking HD/SDR. The Sony TV’s Acoustic Audio Surface technology and its plastic remote control that uses an IR blaster to operate make us nervous, but the picture quality is its only strong point.

This camera offers significant savings over Sony’s A9G/AG9, which is why we recommend buying it instead. The A8G comes with a few additional features, but it looks similar in many respects, so the little extras don’t really matter.

Despite that, it’s still pretty pricey, especially when compared to the LG B9 and C9 OLED – both of which cost cheaper and offer comparable picture quality at a more affordable price. While Sony’s proprietary technology is lost, those who save $500 will totally appreciate it.