Sony A9F TV and Freeview SmartVU X review

We check out the latest from Sony and Freeview.

Remote control pointing at smart TV

More and more consumers are streaming content, often directly through their TV or via media boxes (such as Apple TV or Roku) or dongles (see “Freeview SmartVU X”).

However, after a few years some people are finding that their TV still works, but the apps they use to access content don’t.

The Sony A9F and Freeview’s new plug-in device both run Android TV. While it’s not the most sophisticated operating system, Android TV has advantages over the bespoke systems used by various TV manufacturers.

The system links to your Google account and offers the same video and music apps that you might have on your phone or tablet. In fact, it suggests you download those you already have on your other devices when you first set up the system, which is nice if you like continuity.

Navigation is simple, and will feel familiar to anyone who has used YouTube.

This year the rollout to update Android TV to Oreo (8.0) has begun for some TVs. While it’s not the latest version, which is Pie (9.0), regular updates like this are vital to keep your devices secure and working properly. It’s something that doesn’t happen often with other TV systems.

Freeview SmartVU X

$140

Freeview's SmartVU dongle plugs directly into one of your TV’s HDMI ports.

SmartVU X is a Freeview-branded product from Dish TV. This small circular dongle plugs directly into one of your TV’s HDMI ports and gets power from either the mains or a USB port on your TV.

It comes with a remote that has a built-in microphone, so you can use Google’s voice command system. It also has dedicated buttons for Netflix, YouTube and, of course, Freeview.

As well as on-demand services, the SmartVU X can stream live TV, straight out of the box.

The live TV function worked well for me, but the electronic programme guide (EPG) didn’t. It wouldn’t load and I didn’t know what was on any other channel. It was like watching TV in the 80s (but with more channels).

Despite the issues, I found this a great way to get local content into my usual streaming diet.

Sony A9F (55”)

$4040

TV screen technology has hit a plateau, with 4K content still coming in but 8K still a way off. It’s a hard task for the general consumer to see much difference between one 4K HDR TV and another, unless you have them side by side to look for differences (as we do in our full tests).

That said, let me tell you that Sony’s A9F OLED TV has a fantastic screen. I watched high-def sports, movies and video games and it all looked as great as I expected from this type of screen. The OLED screen comes all the way down to the base, so you need to wall mount it or have the right surface to put it on.

The A9F also has slightly better sound than most similar ultra-thin TVs, due to having larger-than-normal speakers behind the screen. Cleverly, if you have a stereo system with left and right channel speakers, you can plug the TV into your amplifier and use it as a centre speaker.

The TV and Freeview device were loaned to the writer by Sony and Freeview.

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Thomas B.
03 Sep 2019
Technology for all

Hi,

While its really great to see items on new technology and some reference to captioning, it would be also great to look at accessibility more widely. For example, many TVs also include Audio Description on some programmes. While its great to have AD on TV One and 2 etc, unfortunately Sky and Vodafone don’t include any AD on their own channels.

Whereas Netflix and Apple also provide titles with captioning and AD.
Also many TVs include a range of features to assist those with a hearing loss, someone who may just need the text enlarged, through to someone who needs a screen reader to read aloud menus, controls and in some cases the TV guide.
Sony and the SmartVu because they use Android also include the Android screen reader so another good reason to look at both these options.

Unfortunately the same can’t be said for many home appliances. Often controls are not that easy to use,, print can be small or have limited colour contrast. Often many now are using multi-level menu systems and for me as a blind person, they are becoming harder to use if not almost impossible.

Consumer some years ago use to comment on how accessible appliances were, and it would be great to see this being reintroduced. Did you know that 1 in 5 New Zealanders has a disability, and as we age many of us will acquire one or more disabilities later in life, and making it even more difficult to continue to do the things we may have done most days as part of our life.

Consumer staff
05 Sep 2019
Re: Technology for all

Hello Thomas,

Thank you so much for your comments. I have passed this onto our testing team as I know they're keen to push out more content around technology accessibility, and this is very valuable feedback.

Kind regards,

Natalie - Consumer NZ staff