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Sony prices XBR-A1E OLED TV higher than LG, starting at $5,000

After LG, Sony is the second major TV maker to sell OLED TVs in the US this year, starting in April. They'll be a lot more expensive though.

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Nobody said Sony's OLED TV would be cheap. Well, somebody did, but they were wrong.

The storied Japanese TV maker will start shipping its first large-screen, mass-market OLED-based TVs this April in the US, and they're available for preorder now. The A1E series will come in a 55-inch size for $5,000 and a 65-inch size for $6,500.

There will also be a 77-incher, but pricing and availability were not announced. Sony will confirm pricing for the A1E series in other countries, including Canada, next month. (For what it's worth, $5,000 converts to about £4,100 or AU$6,600.)

Those US prices are quite a bit more than what LG, the principal OLED TV proprietor, is charging for most of its 2017 OLED TVs. LG Display manufactures essentially all of the world's OLED TV panels, including those used by Sony. Panasonic and Philips also sell OLED TVs in Europe.

OLED-based TVs like the LG B6 from 2016 deliver the best picture quality CNET has ever tested, for a price that's significantly higher than most LCD-based televisions. I expect the 2017 models from both LG and Sony to continue that trend.

Here's how 2017 OLED TV pricing from Sony and LG compares so far.

Sony vs. LG 2017 OLED TV pricing

Brand Model Size US price Availability
LG OLED55C7P 55-inch $3,500 Now
LG OLED65C7P 65-inch $4,500 Now
LG OLED55E7P 55-inch $4,500 May
Sony XBR-55A1E 55-inch $5,000 April
LG OLED65E7P 65-inch $6,000 March
Sony XBR-65A1E 65-inch $6,500 April
LG OLED65G7P 65-inch $7,000 March
LG OLED65W7P 65-inch $8,000 March

It's also worth noting that if you want an OLED TV now, the 2016 models are still available. In my opinion, none of the improvements offered by the 2017 sets listed above will make a big enough difference in picture (or sound) quality to be worth spending substantially more on the 2017 C7 over the 2016 B6, currently selling for $2,000 (55-inch) and $3,000 (65-inch). Of course I won't know for sure until I can test one.

Sony's secret sauce: Video processing

So will Sony's A1E series OLED TVs be worth $1,500 or $2,000 more than LG's C7 series? I don't know because I have yet to test either, but Sony has been talking up its advantages, including image quality, audio and styling, since the sets were first announced at CES.

In side-by-side demos Sony conducted there and at a separate event in February, the A1E was pitted against a 2016 LG G6 OLED TV. Sony wanted to demonstrate its superior video processing, and in that demo the A1E did look better in a couple of ways -- as I expect from any demo arranged by a TV maker. I won't know how much those differences show up in real-world conditions, and whether they'll be worth Sony's steep premium, until I can test one in a full review.

The other differences are more obvious. The screen of the A1E itself acts as a speaker to produce sound, so the audio emanates from the picture itself. It eliminates speakers around or behind the TV for what Sony is calling a stand-less form factor. Set on a shelf, the TV leans back slightly, supported by a sort of big kickstand.

sony-a1e-series-13.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

Just like LG OLED TVs, the A1E will be compatible with both primary kinds of HDR content, HDR10 and Dolby Vision. Sony TVs like the A1E as well as the XBR-X930E/940E and the Z9D series will receive a firmware upgrade later this year to enable Dolby Vision.

I look forward to reviewing the A1E series soon.