Sony’s blinding 85-inch 8K TV made us squint, while its OLED made us smile

We walked into Sony’s CES 2018 press conference expecting to see the company’s new A8F OLED TV — and it is gorgeous, as expected — but the 85-inch 8K HDR TV prototype that’s on display came as a complete shock, and now we’re giddy with excitement.

This show is all about looking to the future. Manufacturers view this massive trade show as their prime opportunity to show what they’ve got, and in the case of television, paint a brilliant picture of the future. While Samsung’s 146-inch MicroLED “The Wall” TV is a stellar example of this, Sony’s 10,000 nit-capable 85-inch 8K HDR television represents a paradigm shift for LED/LCD TVs, and redefines what high dynamic range (HDR) could mean in the future.

Let’s start with the fact that Sony has been delivering outstanding LED/LCD TVs over the past few years, routinely landing models on our lists of Best TVs You Can Buy. This is a credit to Sony’s outstanding processing, most recently issued in the form of its 4K HDR X1 Extreme chips, which render outstanding pictures, brilliant and accurate colors, and sparkling HDR contrast. This latest TV utilizes similar processing technology, optimized for 8K resolution and upscaling, but tacks on an incredibly advanced Full Array Local Dimming (FALD) baklight system which, when paired with Sony’s LCD panels, results in an almost eye-blistering 10,000 nit peak luminance.

You don’t have to be a tech expert to sense that 10,000 nits sounds like a lot of … well, nits. But as a quick explainer: Nits are a measurement of brightness — think of it as shorthand for candelas per meter squared (cd/m2), or lux. To put things into perspective, until now, the  brightest TVs on the consumer market peaked at about 2,000 nits. Sony’s latest TV can get 5 times brighter than the best TVs sold to date.

It’s fair to wonder if we need a TV that can get that bright. Really, do we want to feel like we’re staring at the sun when looking at a picture of the sun on our TVs? No, of course we don’t. But that’s not how Sony will use this newly developed power. They say that, with great power comes great responsibility, and though Sony stops short of being a superhero, it does need to judiciously handle how that brightness is applied.

The point here is that Sony has the ability to add spectacular highlights to HDR images that are extremely intense. An image of the sun will never be rendered at this TV’s full brightness capabilities. Rather, the reflection of sun off of small surfaces will be given extra juice to help develop a more lifelike, vibrant image — something closer to what we experience in real life. And that’s that point of HDR imaging: to deliver a picture that is closer to what we see in day-to-day life — something that feels more familiar and real.

You can’t really see how spectacular Sony’s unnamed prototype TV is in our video — we don’t have the camera to capture it, and no other TV or computer monitor can show it off yet. We do, however, hope that our unfettered enthusiasm gives some indication of just how exciting we find this TV technology. To be sure, it proves that OLED and MicroLED aren’t going to kill LCD-based TVs any time soon — there’s still room to innovate.

A8F OLED TV

It’s almost unfair that Sony’s 85-inch 8K HDR TV is stealing all the headlines, because the company’s new OLED — a follow-up to the outstanding Bravia A1E OLED launched last year — is deserving of a great deal of attention as well.

The differences between the A8F and the A1E, which will continue to be sold as Sony’s flagship OLED, are few, and mostly brought down to form factor. The new OLED has a more conventional stand, and, therefore, a more conventional back than the easel-style A1E OLED. This means two things: easier setup for the owner, and lower cost. In other words, its a more practical, conventional OLED TV that should be less expensive than Sony’s flagship, and more competitive with OLED TVs offered by LG and Panasonic.

Enjoy our video of these two outstanding Sony televisions, and be sure to check out our CES page, where you’ll find nonstop coverage of all the latest tech being shown aon the CES 2018 show floor. For even more CES fun, you can also check out our 8-hour a day live broadcast from the show at our YouTube channel.