Sony was one of the first manufacturers to challenge LG at home after opening up to competitors to use their patented OLED technology. The combination of LG’s OLED panels with Sony’s advanced know-how on the audio and video side has proven to be a successful recipe, with several potent models on the merit list.
The model we are testing here, Sony KD-55AG8 is a scaled-down and more affordable “little brother” to this year’s flagship model AG9. It has to cope with a slightly weaker video processor (X1 Extreme versus X1 Ultimate), and thus does not have as hefty image processing as the top model.
On the other hand (and perhaps just as interestingly), Sony has retained its ingenious Acoustic Surface technology that reproduces sound directly via the OLED panel. In addition, you get a modern user interface with the latest version of Android TV on board.
That alone is enough for the AG8 to stand out as an interesting challenger to LG’s own OLED screens.
Sony’s OLED screens have a tight and sleek design in dark black. It makes them feel a little more elegant and exclusive than many of the competitors. Here, no shiny chrome or luminous logos interfere. When you watch the TV from the side, it is easy to catch the jam-thin OLED panel. At the same time, it has a clear “hump” on the back, which contains all of the speakers, power supply and other electronics. It extends slightly more than the rest of the TV and also makes it protrude a little more when mounted on the wall.
The curved base is both stylish and smart, as it makes it possible to mount the TV in two different heights. The screen can either be lowered all the way down to the table or raised a few centimeters, thus making room for an external soundboard.
Ease of use and features
Sony har lagt sin lit til Google og er en mangeårig bruker av Android til sine TV-er. KD-55AG8 er ikke noe unntak og kommer lastet med 8.0 versjonen som har fått en rekke brukermessige forbedringer. Menystrukturen har blitt mer oversiktlig, og det merkes dessuten i AG8 sitt tilfelle at TV-en har blitt veldig rask. Appene laster lynhurtig og menyvalgene gir umiddelbar respons. Man får følelsen av å ha med en topp moderne TV å gjøre … i alle fall nesten! Fjernkontrollen må dessverre betegnes som et ”gufs fra fortiden”, med masse knapper som heller ikke er spesielt deilige å trykke på. Vi mener en TV av AG8 sitt kaliber hadde fortjent Sonys nye premium fjernkontroll i børstet stål, lik den man finner på XG95 og AG9, men den gang ei.
Those who drool on Sony’s top model AG9, but are not willing to shell out almost 3,000 or more, can safely consider AG8 as an alternative. With the exception of the blood-trimmed video processor X1 Ultimate, there is actually not much that separates the two models in terms of fat. Equipped with the (X1 Extreme) video processor (X1 Extreme) was until recently the roughest Sony could deliver, and it still does an outstanding job of handling various types of imagery. Here we will especially highlight the natural movements, which are incredibly “smooth” without tendencies to jerk and snatch, even when it goes very fast on the screen.
The Sony screen is equipped with a number of pre-programmed picture modes, and we land on the movie setting Cinema Pro as the most color neutral. Here you get a very natural image without excessive color saturation or sharpness.
When it comes to overall image quality, there are no big surprises with the AG8 – neither in a positive nor a negative sense. Here you get a state-of-the-art OLED panel with all that entails in terms of pictorial excellence: the contrast is really great, and the deep black level makes it a pure pleasure to watch films and series in darkened surroundings. Of course, there is no hint of bright bumps or “halo effect”, as you have to live with on most LCD screens. At the same time, we must state that AG8 is very similar to its predecessor AF8 in terms of images, and it does not seem to have happened very much on the image front since the previous generation.
When we tested big brother AG9, we were mostly brilliantly satisfied with the image quality, but also noticed that the brightness lacked a bit of “gunpowder” – something that was especially noticeable in the most demanding HDR scenes. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that AG8 is also relatively weak in light output. Sony has chosen to favor small micro details over maximum contrast. This clearly affects the intensity in light scenes (max. Approx. 550 nits).
This must be seen in view of the fact that LG has just made a complete overhaul of its 2019 models. Here, the brightness received a significant boost (up to 7-800 nits). With a price around 2,000, the Sony screen is located in the middle between LG’s own B9 and C9 models, and by direct comparison it is easy to see that these LG models have significantly more glow and intensity in the bright parts.
The impression we are left with is that the Sony KD-55AG8 provides excellent image quality, but it does not manage to sweep a competitor like LG off the “home turf”.
It is first and foremost on the sound side that Sony’s weapon gears differ markedly from other OLED screens. While competitors use traditional speaker elements mounted at the bottom of the screen, Sony has used the OLED panel itself as a speaker diaphragm. Behind the picture panel are two “vibrators” that make the panel swing and create sound. And as strange as it may sound, it works incredibly well!
The Sony screen excels with crystal clear and rich sound, and best of all it comes straight out of the screen. This provides a very accurate connection between what you see and hear, and actually contributes to better speech intelligibility.
The dialogue between the everyday superhero Luke Cage and his nemesis Cottonmouth (Marvel’s Luke Cage – Netflix) sounds captivatingly crisp and present. The same can be said about Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul and other series where dialogue plays an extra important role for the action.
Sony’s sound solution is no direct replacement for expensive, thoroughbred soundboards with Atmos surround sound – but it is livable. That’s not often we say!
Sony’s most affordable OLED for 2019 is undoubtedly a very nice TV. Here you get extremely strong image quality with all the superlatives we associate with OLED, in addition to tight aesthetics and fine build quality. Ease of use is also taken care of with Android TV and good connection options (minus for reliable remote control). The biggest bright spot on the Sony TV, however, is the sound. AG8 belongs to an exclusive bunch of TVs where we can actually say we are happy with the built-in speakers. This makes the Sony AG8 an exciting alternative for you who want the best possible picture and sound, without a lot of knick-knacks and wires.