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Sony A80J (XR-55A80J) review: A first-class all-rounder that’s sure to please

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
1,299
inc VAT

The Sony A80J is a mid-range marvel that delivers great pictures and extensive features at an affordable price

Pros 
Fantastic SDR images
Superb HDR performance
Excellent audio quality
Cons 
No HDR10+ support
Only two HDMI 2.1 ports
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The Sony A80J is the mid-range model in the company’s 2021 OLED lineup, and while it doesn’t include the brighter XR Contrast Pro panel found on the high-end Master Series A90J, it’s powered by the same super-smart Cognitive Processor XR chip.

In addition to various Sony-specific picture and sound enhancement technologies, there’s support for Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos and IMAX Enhanced, alongside two HDMI 2.1 inputs with a host of next-gen gaming capabilities. All of which makes this stylishly designed and attractively priced OLED TV a real winner.

Sony A80J review: Key specifications

Screen sizes available:55in XR-55A80J
65in XR-65A80J
77in XR-77A80J
Panel type:OLED
Resolution:4K/UHD (3,840 X 2,160)
Refresh rate:120Hz
HDR formats:HDR, HLG, Dolby Vision
Audio enhancement:Acoustic Surface Pro+, Dolby Atmos
HDMI inputs:2 x HDMI 2.1, 2 x HDMI 2.0
Freeview Play compatibility:No
Tuners:Terrestrial, cable, satellite
Gaming features:4K at 120Hz, ALLM, Game Mode
Wireless connectivity:802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2, Chromecast, AirPlay 2
Smart assistants:Google Assistant built-in, works with Alexa
Smart platform:Google TV

Sony A80J OLED review: What you need to know

The Sony A80J is a 4K (3,840 x 2,160) HDR smart OLED TV that incorporates the company’s new Cognitive Processor XR and Acoustic Surface Pro+ sound system. You can buy the A80J in 55in, 65in and 77in screen sizes, and for this review, Sony has provided a Sony A80J 55in, also known as the XR-55A80J.

The A80J supports Dolby Atmos audio and runs Google TV with Chromecast and Google Assistant both built-in. It also supports HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision and IMAX Enhanced – but not HDR10+. All the key streaming apps are present and correct, including a full complement of UK TV catch-up services, but Freeview Play is not supported.

Sony A80J OLED review: Price and competition

The Sony A80J has enjoyed some significant price reductions since its launch and the 55in model can now be picked up for just £1,299. That’s a great price for a mid-range model that’s bursting at the seams with cutting-edge tech and features. If you fancy something bigger, retailers are asking £1,799 for the 65in model, and a surprisingly reasonable £2,999 for the massive 77in version.

LG is Sony’s obvious competitor in the OLED market, and its feature-packed mid-range C1 55in OLED is even cheaper than the A80J at £1,099. The Philips 806 55in OLED includes the company’s proprietary Ambilight backlighting and can be picked up for an equally tempting £1,099. Finally, there’s Panasonic, which takes a higher-end approach to OLED and offers the excellent mid-range JZ1500 55in OLED, which currently retails for £1,499.

If you prefer LCDs, Samsung is the best option with an extensive range of 4K and 8K Neo QLED models that make use of Mini LEDs in the backlight. The mid-range 4K model is the QN90A, the 55in version of which can be picked up for £1,199. For bright room performance, LCD models still have a significant advantage over OLED panels, though they can’t compete with their pixel-level control and infinite contrast ratios.

Sony A80J OLED review: Design, connections and control

The Sony A80J proves the company hasn’t lost its touch when it comes to designing a smart-looking TV, with this mid-range beauty using a flush metal bezel that’s barely visible and an understated matte black finish on the edges and rear panel. The 55in A80J measures 1,227 x 53 x 712mm (WDH) and weighs 17.8kg without its stand, and overall build quality is really rather impressive.

The A80J features a three-way multi-position stand and this is a great idea that provides you with a number of installation choices. You can either go for a wide setting for maximum stability, a narrow setting for smaller TV stands or a raised setting that provides added clearance under the screen for a soundbar. You can also wall-mount it using a 300x300 VESA bracket.

Connectivity is good, with four HDMI inputs, three of which face downwards and one of which faces sideways. One of the downward-facing inputs also supports eARC (enhanced audio return channel), and all the HDMI inputs support 4K/60Hz, HDCP 2.3, and high dynamic range in the shape of HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision (but not HDR10+).

However, as with all of Sony's 2021 OLEDs (even the flagship models), only two of the HDMI inputs support 4K/120Hz and ALLM (auto low latency mode). Since one of these inputs also supports eARC, that means anyone with both the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 consoles could find themselves unable to enjoy the benefits of both simultaneously. There’s also no support for VRR (variable refresh rate), but this feature is expected to be added via an imminent firmware update.

In terms of other physical connections, there are aerial and satellite connectors with dual tuners, an Ethernet port for a wired connection, an optical digital output, AV inputs, a headphone socket, and three USB-A ports. The wireless connectivity is covered by built-in Wi-Fi (802.11ac), Bluetooth 4.2, Chromecast and AirPlay 2.

The included remote control is the standard Sony zapper, and it looks rather nice, with curved corners and a brushed metal effect. The wand is comfortable to hold and easy to use with one hand. The buttons are sensibly laid out, and include navigation and playback controls, along with direct access buttons for Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ and YouTube.

Sony A80J OLED review: Smart TV platform

The Sony A80J uses Google TV as its smart platform, and the result is a well-designed and slick interface that improves significantly on previous Android systems. This new platform has been designed for TVs from the ground up, rather than simply repurposing the operating system from Android smart devices. As a result, it’s more intuitive to use and more responsive in operation.

The home page serves up content in a manner that’s better suited to accessing key features and apps, while also focusing on the things you want to watch, and providing plenty of opportunities to customise the layout. All the main streaming apps are present and correct, including Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, YouTube and the UK TV catch-up services.

READ NEXT: The best smart TVs to buy this year

The platform includes voice search, which makes finding your favourite content easier, and there’s Google Assistant built-in. This turns the A80J into a fully functioning smart assistant, and there’s support for Chromecast, too. If you prefer Alexa, it also works with that smart assistant, providing a degree of hands-free control, while for Apple fans there’s AirPlay 2 and support for HomeKit.

Sony A80J OLED review: Image quality

The Sony A80J benefits from the company’s imaging expertise by combining the strengths of OLED with its new Cognitive Processor XR that’s designed to emulate how the human eye actually sees the real world. Those are some fairly lofty claims, but Sony knows a thing or two about picture quality and the new processor delivers the goods.

For a start, the A80J gets all the basics right with excellent uniformity and no signs of banding, dirty screen effect or colour tinting anywhere on the panel. It also handles reflections well, while the viewing angles are very wide, ensuring everyone can enjoy an optimal image, no matter where they’re sitting.

For whatever reason, Sony has decided not to jump on the Filmmaker Mode bandwagon, which is ironic considering it’s the only TV manufacturer that actually owns a movie studio. However, the Custom picture mode does the job nicely with an average Delta E of less than one reflecting impressive accuracy across the colour spectrum in SDR (the closer to zero a Delta E score is, the more accurately colours are reproduced). There’s a slight excess of blue in the greyscale, but that’s easy to correct using the calibration controls.

It’s impossible not to be impressed by the amazing contrast and highly effective upscaling and processing on offer from the A80J. A film like Interstellar fully benefits from the deep blacks and impressive shadow detail, while the white spaceships really pop against the dark background. The processing also does a fantastic job of drawing out every pixel to deliver exceptional sharpness.

Motion handling has always been another of Sony’s strong points, and the A80J continues that tradition with processing that keeps the action flowing smoothly while still retaining that all-important cinematic feeling. There’s no obvious judder, blurring or other unwanted artefacts, but at the same time, the processing doesn’t introduce the dreaded soap opera effect.

Sony A80J OLED review: HDR performance

The Sony A80J might not have the brighter panel found in the flagship A90J, but it’s still capable of delivering just under 700cd/m² on a 10% window, and 130cd/m² on a full-field pattern. It covers 99% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut and does so with decent accuracy, achieving an average Delta E score of 2.2. It’s also able to take advantage of OLED’s inherent strengths, with deep blacks, improved shadow detail and a pixel-level of precision when rendering specular highlights.

As with all of Sony’s TVs, there is no separate picture mode when watching HDR10 or HLG, with the TV staying in the same mode but changing certain settings. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and the tone mapping in the Custom mode is superb, tracking the ST.2084 curve used for HDR precisely. This results in fantastic images that pop while also retaining the original artistic intent.

The wider gamut not only produces more saturated colours but also greater nuance. This is especially true in a film like Dune, where the A80J is capable of reproducing all the different hues of the shifting desert sands. It’s also able to bring out all the fine detail in the opulent production design, costumes and special effects.

The A80J also supports Dolby Vision, where the addition of dynamic metadata allows the OLED to surmount its inherent brightness limitations compared to LCD. Watching the film 1917 demonstrated OLED’s remarkable contrast capabilities perfectly, with the ruined town at night full of deep blacks and dark shadows as the bright flares illuminated the buildings.

The inclusion of IMAX Enhanced means the A80J can unlock the full benefits of IMAX’s proprietary picture processing. If you’re wondering where you can take advantage of this feature, a number of Marvel movies are available in IMAX Enhanced on Disney+, and there’s also supporting content on Sony’s high-bit rate Bravia Core streaming service and 4K Blu-ray discs.

To test the Sony A80J we used Portrait Displays Calman colour calibration software, which can be purchased here.

Sony A80J OLED review: Gaming

The Sony A80J is a good TV for gaming, but not perfect. For a start, there’s the previously mentioned problem of only having two inputs that support 4K/120Hz and ALLM. There’s also no support for VRR, but that should be added soon, and there’s a tendency to dim the image when a HUD has been on screen for a while. This is obviously to avoid issues with image retention or screen burn but can become annoying if you’re prone to marathon gaming sessions.

READ NEXT: Our favourite TVs for gaming

Otherwise, the A80J’s gaming credentials are solid, with a 16ms input lag in the game mode with a 60Hz signal. The Sony also supports 4K/120Hz gaming, and under these circumstances, the input lag drops to a very respectable 9ms. The overall gameplay is pleasingly slick and responsive, the motion handling is excellent, and images are impressively detailed. Playing Call of Duty on the PS5 reveals punchy HDR with bright specular highlights, saturated colours and deep blacks.

Sony A80J OLED review: Sound quality

The Sony A80J employs Acoustic Surface Audio+ tech that ingeniously turns the screen into a speaker by using a pair of rear actuators to literally vibrate the panel and generate sound. The vibration is imperceptible to the human eye, but audio actually emanates from the screen. The addition of two front-facing bass drivers also boosts the low-end performance, and when combined with 30W of built-in power, the result is a surprisingly good sonic performance.

As a result, the A80J creates a room-filling presence, and the XR processor applies sophisticated processing to place effects on and around the screen. There’s also onboard decoding for Dolby Atmos soundtracks and an auto-calibration feature that optimises the sound quality based on the environment. Dialogue is clear and focused on the action and, as long as you don’t push it too hard, the amplification has enough headroom to reproduce the most dynamic of soundtracks.

Of course, no TV can compete with an outboard audio solution, but if you do choose to pair the A80J with a Sony soundbar, Acoustic Centre Sync uses the TV’s Acoustic Surface as the centre channel, while the soundbar handles everything else. It’s a clever bit of synergy that makes the most of the TV’s sonic capabilities.

Sony A80J OLED review: Verdict

The Sony A80J is a cracking mid-range TV that delivers impressive pictures, great sound and a solid set of features. The design is smart and the Google TV platform even smarter, with a responsive and intuitive interface, a customisable layout, and all the main streaming apps. The remote is effective, and there’s a decent set of connections, although including only two HDMI 2.1 inputs feels a little stingy on Sony's part. But that moan aside, the gaming performance is impressive and the input lag low.

The picture quality is superb with both SDR and HDR thanks to accurate colours, deep blacks and bright specular highlights. The image processing is top-notch, the motion handling is excellent, and the tone mapping is spot-on with HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision. There’s no HDR10+, but otherwise, the A80J is hard to fault. It even sounds fantastic thanks to Sony’s clever Acoustic Surface tech, so if you’re looking for a top-drawer mid-range all-rounder, look no further.

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