A small to medium sized living area shouldn’t stop you from having a truly great TV. From this point of view, it’s a bit of a shame that real flagship models have grown to at least 55 inches in the past few years. For many, this is too great. But in 2020, everything changed.
As you’d expect, the first 48-inch OLED TV was launched by LG – the company behind the OLED TV panels currently used by all manufacturers. On the heels of LG is the Sony KD-48A9 TV. It is arguably the best TV under 50 inches ever made.
This is by far the best you can buy right now, although the extraordinary quality comes at a price. In this review of the Sony Bravia KD-48A9 OLED TV 4K HDR, we take a closer look at the functionality of the new model in order to identify its pros and cons.
Sony 48A9 review
The Sony KD-48A9 TV (in the Western Hemisphere XBR-A9S) inherits much of the design from the 2019 Sony AG9 . The thin OLED panel has very narrow, dark bezels (less than 1cm). The bottom one is slightly wider, with the Sony logo on it. In profile, the TV looks a little thicker and is due to the fact that the rear module looks more on a smaller screen. In fact, it is slightly thicker than the competition (6 cm versus 4.7 cm for the LG OLED48CX ).
The metal base plate is rounded at the front and provides a solid base for the device. There are clamps on the back for routing cables. After connecting the cables, the connection box can be hidden under the cover. The pedestal stand is just under 47 cm wide and has such a low profile that there is only a 5 mm gap between the bottom edge of the TV and the surface on which it is installed.
The downside of this compactness is that any soundbar placed in front of the device will cover a significant portion of the screen. Sony hopes you won’t find it necessary to purchase a soundbar thanks to the vibrating screen technology used in the 48A9.
The core of the KD-48A9 OLED TV is the Sony X1 Ultimate processor found on the 2019 AG9 , XH95 , A8. It debuted in 2019, but remains the company’s best TV chip. Thus, the performance of these devices is almost identical. X1 Ultimate quickly detects all video and movie frame rates and provides excellent deinterlacing.
Therefore, you rarely see jagged edges or moiré effects (and this is still important for many digital TV boxes that output a 1080i signal). News feed lines (tickers) can sometimes shake slightly, which is a slight drawback. Superior noise reduction eliminates both background noise and digital compression noise (visible “squares”).
Low is the preferred setting for both settings, especially if you also want to use Reality Creation for extra sharpness in TV shows. For Ultra HD sources, Reality Creation is not recommended, it can cause errors in very small details. “Smooth gradation” is still one of Sony’s best solutions over other manufacturers.
How is the Sony 48A9 TV different from the 2019 AG9? Like the X-Motion Clarity option of the A8 series , this small OLED TV features new Black Frame Insertion (BFI) technology with adjustable duration. If the old BFI 50 Hz option caused visible flickering, this does not happen in the new version.
Set Motionflow to Individual and Brightness to 1, and details in fast-moving images will be better with no apparent loss of brightness and no visible flicker. You can set the Smoothness yourself depending on your preference. A value of “2” is preferred as a good compromise between smooth image and too many artifacts.
Sony KD 48A9 uses the same panel as LG 48CX. The uniformity is excellent on bright images. But the darkest test screens show very light vertical stripes (1 to 3% gray). They are only visible in the immediate vicinity of the device. In other words, a good result, typical for OLED screens.
Select the “Individual” picture mode, which gives the best results. Leave the brightness in the middle position, then the image will be bright enough for most conditions. If the ambient light is strong, the screen brightness can be increased. It is advisable to leave the light sensor on.
What is immediately striking is that the 48A9’s OLED display shows very well black details without the annoying flickering pixels that sometimes interfered with viewing in the 2019 AG9 / AG8 . The A9 is even slightly better here than the A8 and thus reaches the level of Panasonic models.
Picture Mode “Individual” is well calibrated. Sony always chooses a slightly colder gamut (a very light blue tint). A gamma value of 2.4 gives a very cinematic image. An alternative is the Cinema image preset, which is slightly more intense. Color rendition is excellent, errors are below the visible limit.
HDR and motion processing
The Sony OLED 48A9 TV, like all Sony OLED models, supports HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG. It remains to be seen if Sony will ever consider HDR10 + important enough. The peak brightness in the 10% gray window is approximately 679 nits, and in the 2% window it is 782 nits. The all-white screen has a brightness of 140 nits. Very typical OLED results for HDR.
The color scheme also does not present surprises. The KD-48A9 covers 67% of the Rec. 2020 range and 93% of DCI-P3. For very good results, select the “Individual” picture mode. The Sony A9 shows a lot of detail in shades of black. Like all Sony, this TV ignores metadata.
It does the dynamic tone mapping itself. It hides all white details over 2000 nits. The images leave a very good impression, with excellent color reproduction and tangible depth. The loss of some white detail, of course only if the brightness exceeds 2000 nits, does not cause any problems.
The viewing angle is very wide, as we are used to seeing with OLED screens. In fact, sitting directly at the screen is not a prerequisite for viewing the best picture. Avoid direct light, even if the screen does a good job of handling glare. In normal picture modes, the measured latency was 102ms, which is too much for a decent game. In game mode, the input lag drops to 18.4 ms, the result is excellent.
Sony has also chosen Acoustic Surface technology for this small TV. In addition, the Sony KD-48A9 OLED uses the screen as a speaker membrane and vibrates it with two actuators to create sound waves. At low frequencies, the A9 uses a single woofer. As a reminder, the 55-inch A8 is equipped with two woofers.
The A9 still delivers great sound that you quickly get used to with the Acoustic Surface. But you can hear that the bass is a little underwhelming. It seems that the TV reaches its limit a little faster than the A8, but the volume is still sufficient. A short test procedure is required using the remote control to adjust the sound according to the acoustics of the room.
Staying true to the Android operating system, Sony revamped its menus in 2019, making the TV much easier to use. Connected devices are now displayed on the ribbon at the bottom of the screen. You can hide, add them or even add applications yourself. Thus, the “Inputs” button becomes a convenient quick launch panel.
The menu button (gear) calls the “Quick settings” panel at the bottom of the screen, which you can configure in the same way as the “Inputs”. The picture settings are still grouped into categories such as Brightness or Motion, but the settings below them are now enabled when you click on them. A nice improvement is the addition of an image and explanatory text for each setting.
The Sony 48A9 OLED TV comes with a beautiful new version of the remote control. It is thin, fits well in the hand, beautifully finished with brushed metal. It is a pity that the keys are not backlit like on the XH95. All basic functions are at hand. There are direct buttons for Netflix and Google Play. The remote works with IR, as well as via Bluetooth, so you don’t need to aim.
The A9 is equipped with a dual TV tuner for digital TV (DVB-T2 / C / S2), but only has one CI + slot. Thus, viewing and simultaneously recording another channel is only possible with unencrypted channels. In addition to Chromecast, you can use Apple Airplay 2. The TV is compatible with Apple Homekit.
The Sony KD-48A9 Master Series OLED connection list is identical to that of the A8. There are four HDMI ports, unfortunately all versions are 2.0. This is bad news for those with a PS5 or Xbox Series X vision. HDMI 2.1 features like ALLM and VRR are also missing. One port offers eARC. All connections are suitable for Ultra HD HDR.
There are also three USB ports, a composite video input (via a splitter) and a stereo headphone minijack, and an optical digital output. Headphones can also be connected via Bluetooth. All connections point to the side or downward, so wall mounting is not a problem. There is Wi-Fi and an Ethernet connector.
Sony has given its first 48-inch OLED TV its own model number: A9. Is this the successor to AG9? Or is he leaning more towards the A8? The difference between them is small, but it seems to us that this is rather a smaller version of the A8. And this is good, because the A8 is better equipped than the AG9.
It’s a shame Sony didn’t provide HDMI 2.1 connectivity, especially now that the PS5 is here. HDR10 + support would also be nice, but that’s not a hindrance. The price is relatively high. The 55A8 costs only € 100 more and is € 300 more than the LG 48CX. In exchange, you can enjoy the image to the fullest. So the TV justifies its price.