Launched at CES 2018, the AF8 sits right below the current A1 range (which continues as the flagship OLED series), comes in 55in and 65in screen sizes and most notably, features much of the same technology that powers the A1.
We took a closer look at the 65in model – the KD-65AF8 – to see what it has in store for us…
Let’s start with the main stats: the KD-65AF8 has an Ultra HD 4K resolution, an OLED panel (still sourced from LG Display) and supports the standard High Dynamic Range format (HDR10) and broadcast Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG). Dolby Vision HDR support is also confirmed, although that will happen via a firmware update.
And, happily, that’s it for HDR. There’s no word on whether Sony will adopt HDR10+ as well (unlikely, as it's not part of the Alliance and Sony intimated it was more than happy with HDR10 and Vision for the moment), and it hasn’t felt the need to employ more HDR modes, either.
The KD-65AF8 is powered by Sony’s proprietary 4K HDR X1 Extreme processor – the very same picture engine used in the A1 OLED and ZD9 LCD TVs. First released in 2016, the X1 Extreme is responsible for delivering more accurate noise reduction and detail enhancement, along with accurately controlling all eight million self-illuminating pixels on the OLED panel to deliver the pitch blacks, rich colours and strong viewing angles we expect from OLED panels.
The 65in TV also features the Acoustic Surface technology (where actuators vibrate the panel to make a sound) we first saw on the A1 models.
All that means we're likely to see (and hear) a similar level of performance from the KD-65AF8 as the Award-winning KD-65A1 - which can only be a good thing.
Android TV continues to power the Sony TV interface, while built-in YouView gives you access to all the UK catch-TV services like BBC iPlayer. In the interest of fairness, the KD-65AF8 will work with both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa – meaning you’ll be able to control elements of the Sony OLED with both smart voice assistants. Other features include Chromecast built-in, HDCP2.2 certified HDMI connections and Bluetooth.
The new OLED might well seem familiar on paper, but where the KD-65AF8 shows a discernible difference from the A1 range is in design.
Instead of the 'standless' design of the A1 models, which saw them perching on the full-length of its screen – a gorgeous design, but admittedly difficult to fit on to most AV racks – the KD-65AF8 sports a more sensible and traditional rectangular stand. It may not look as stunning as the A1s, but it most certainly will fit on to even small TV stands – it’s a very practical decision from Sony that customers will no doubt appreciate.
The 65in screen remains free of any superfluous lighting, large logos or cables. A super narrow frame ensures that your whole attention is fixed on 65 inches of glorious 4K HDR OLED.
The back panel is rather chunky, but as before, all the connections are hidden under panels. There’s no fancy cloth cover like on the A1, but it looks tidy.
More after the break
Also hidden under the KD-65AF8’s back panel are two actuators and a subwoofer that forms Sony’s Acoustic Surface technology.
Instead of traditional TV speakers (which use tiny drivers), the AF8 uses actuators that vibrate the panel directly (which effectively makes the whole panel a speaker driver) to deliver better TV sound.
Combined with the built-in subwoofer (you can see the vents for the sub at the back panel), it certainly sounds much bigger, richer and more solid than the usual tinny TV speakers.
Does the new back panel design make a difference to the sound in the new AF8? We'd need to do a proper side-by-side comparison in our test rooms, but on its own in a brief demo, the AF8 managed to deliver a loud, bold and expansive sound even on a busy trade show floor.
As we’ve mentioned, the KD-65AF8 uses the same 4K HDR X1 Extreme processor we’ve seen in the A1.
That might well make you wonder what kind of improvements (if any) we’ll see in terms of picture performance: will the 65AF8 offer the exact same picture quality as the 65A1? We're still waiting for more information from Sony as to whether the AF8 series has had other picture technology tweaks, or indeed if it's using the same OLED panel as the A1s.
As the second-in-line OLED range, it seems unlikely that it would surpass the flagship A1 range, or if it will deliver the exact same picture performance. But that isn't a bad thing considering the five-star and Award-winning status of the A1 OLEDs.
At the Sony stand at CES, the KD-65AF8 was helpfully placed alongside the A1 models, and from what we could see, the picture performance seemed nearly identical to us. Even accounting for the dim lighting at the show, the black levels looked solid and deep, while also revealing a huge amount of shading and detail. Colours looked rich but without looking overegged - it looked like Sony has retained the natural tonal balance that we liked so much in the A1.
We can't wait to get the TV in our test rooms later this year to have a proper look, but we already like what we see. How the Sony KD-65AF8 will fare against new rivals (some of which do have new picture processing built-in) is something we can't wait to find out, too, but Sony's strong form with OLEDs has us excited for a heated competition.
We have a long list of questions we still need to ask Sony about its new AF8 series, and will be sure to update this page when we get more details. But even from our brief, first look, the KD-65AF8 seems to offer a fighting chance of being a top OLED performer this year.
What will be crucial to its success is pricing. With the AF8 sporting a more sensible design and retaining plenty of current technology, we're hoping that will be reflected in a more competitive price than last year. The KD-65A1's original price at the time of launch was £4500, although it's now come down to around £3800.
While prices for Sony's 2018 TVs have yet to be announced, Sony did hint that the KD-65AF8 wouldn't see much of a big price cut from the A1. We're hoping for at least a couple of hundred pounds cheaper, but even if it's on par with current OLED rivals, we're looking at between £4000 and £3000.
We reckon Sony is off to a good start here, but we'll have to until springtime to see how the new Sony KD-65AF8 fares against such high expectations and fierce competition.