The Sony A85 is the most affordable OLED series Sony has to offer for the model year 2020. It is based on the same formula as previous generations, with a state-of-the-art image panel taken from LG, while Sony itself has been responsible for image processing and sound. Here, the Japanese once again use their innovative Acoustic Surface speaker technology, where the sound comes directly from the TV screen – which also contributes to a distinctive, minimalist design.
This year’s model has received a number of updates, but the most important change is hidden under the hood. The A85 is equipped with Sony’s X1 Ultimate video processor, which is already known for raw image performance. In addition, it boasts Android smart TV and support for the latest video formats. All this contributes to a very potent total package.
The user interface is Android-based, and the Sony screen has a number of current streaming services to offer.
The Sony A85 uses a 4K OLED panel from LG, combined with Sony’s own patented image processing. It gives a really nice result!
Sony A85 Design
Sony’s OLED screens can be claimed to be among the most stylish TVs on the market. Like its predecessors, the A85 has a sleek design with a dark, rounded frame in brushed metal, and stands on two discreet metal feet.
Here there is no flashing light that can interfere with the picture experience: However, we notice that the A85, like most OLEDs, has a very glossy screen surface. This means that the TV will be sensitive to both mirror images and light sources in the room. Not to mention fat marks from the little ones! Be aware of that!
The OLED panel is thin from the side, but the screen also has a thicker part where the electronics and speakers are located. This means that the TV will protrude a lot when mounted on a wall.
Ease of use and features
The A85 comes loaded with the popular Android system from Google (version 9.0). Sony was one of the first manufacturers to use Android, and the current version has received a number of improvements. The menus have become more clear, and the apps load quickly. Thanks to the Google platform, the range of services is also very wide, and now also includes Disney +.
The A85 also has support for Google Assistant voice control, and a built-in Chromecast that makes it easy to stream or share content via your Android phone. Apple users can enjoy support for Airplay and Homekit, which make it easier to control your TV and share content via iPhone.
We have long criticized Sony for their prehistoric IR remotes. Therefore, it is good that the A8 series has now also received the updated premium remote control with Bluetooth transmission. It has become far more comfortable to use, and does not even need to be pointed directly for the TV to respond.
The Sony A85 supports both Dolby Vision HDR as well as standard HDR10 and HLG. It also boasts Netflix Calibrated Mode, which offers studio-quality Netflix content. On the other hand, there is no support for the open HDR10 + with dynamic metadata, which Amazon Prime, among others, uses. Why not, Sony?
Lacks HDMI 2.1
The Sony A85 comes with 4 HDMI inputs, 1 of which is equipped with the high-definition audio return channel eARC. Unfortunately, one has to look far for HDMI 2.1, which is the latest craze on the connection front. This means that a number of newer features, primarily gaming-related – excel with their absence.
The A85 has to do without VRR (variable refresh rate) and ALLM (auto low latency mode), not to mention HFR (High Frame Rate, 4K / 120 hz). We think this seems a bit ill-considered by Sony, which is also a game console manufacturer. The newly launched Playstation 5 will not necessarily require all of these features, but will definitely take advantage of them.
HDMI 2.1 or not: We measured the delay (input layer) to about 15 milliseconds in Game mode, which is excellent.
The Sony A85 has received a real upgrade of the “image engine” compared to its predecessor AG8. The worst-case processor X1 Ultimate previously existed only in the most expensive Master Series top models.
The Sony processor has many advanced features in the toolbox, including the Pixel Contrast Booster which improves color and contrast, and not least the X-Motion Clarity which will ensure extremely smooth and seamless movements. We were naturally excited about what Sony has achieved with its new picture tricks, and we were not disappointed: Here, both ordinary TV users as well as “trained eyes” will probably be powerfully impressed.
First of all, the A85 has an impressively strong, wide and natural color spectrum: In season 1 of Cobra Kai (Netflix), there is a party where the karate bud Robert visits a skate park. These outdoor scenes are basically ordinary TV content without any special imponator factor. But Sony manages to make them look scary realistic! The turquoise blue sky shines towards us with an intensity and color depth we have hardly seen before, without it feeling exaggerated or oversaturated in any way. Skin tones and grass still look very natural and nuanced. Here it feels as if the Sony screen has received a proper “vitamin injection” compared to last year’s model.
We move from the skate park and onto the karate mat (what nostalgia!), And it does not take many milliseconds to register that something has also happened on the movement front. The predecessor AG8 with X1 Extreme processor was already very good at motion sharpness. But the A85 has actually become even smoother, sharper and retains focus better, without breaking up during fast movements and camera pans. The undersigned is quite sensitive to this, but the Sony A85 is doing insanely well – among the best I’ve seen when it comes to motion.
The Sony screen is also very good when it comes to noise, or rather the absence of noise. Aggressive noise reduction can often cause an artificial layer to form over the image, erasing the smallest details. It’s like pouring the baby out with the baby water! However, Sony has a very effective and at the same time gentle noise reduction: it manages to filter out annoying block noise without fussing over the small details.
When it comes to contrast and black level, the OLED screen is as usual in its ace. We notice, however, that the A85 has got a little more detail in the dark areas, while there is more dynamism in the lightest parts. The Sony screen has also got a little better brightness than its predecessor. It’s not dramatic, but enough to make it noticeable. However, the A85 cannot measure up with the Panasonic HZ2000, which delivers up to 900 nits.
The special speaker solution is an ace up its sleeve for Sony: the Acoustic Surface technology consists of small “actuators” that vibrate the image panel in time with the audio signal. This provides both audible and visual benefits.
On most TVs, you can often experience a small discrepancy between what you see and hear, because the speakers are mounted at the bottom of the picture. On the Sony screen, on the other hand, the sound comes straight out of the screen, which provides a much better connection between the sound and the action.
The Sony screen excels with very clear and distinct sound, and good fullness in the bass, thanks to the extra bass speaker on the back. The sound can also be optimized: with the help of the remote control’s built-in microphone, you can make a quick “room correction” that balances the frequency response. Overall, it sounds very good.
Of course, Sony’s sound solution does not manage to catch up with large soundboards with Atmos surround sound, and discerning ears will surely want to upgrade eventually. And you can do that well – the A85 supports high-resolution eARC, and the built-in speakers are invisible and out of the way anyway…
Sony A85 is in many ways a great TV: This year’s model has received an important upgrade on the picture front, which means that the A85 can compete better against the other OLED competitors from Philips, Panasonic and not least LG itself. Sony’s image processing is among the best in the industry when it comes to motion and color reproduction, and is capable of producing truly magical images! Sony’s party trick is the potent built-in speaker solution that provides strong and clear sound without being visible to the naked eye. On the other hand, it is a bit disappointing that the A85 is not updated on the connection front with the latest HDMI 2.1 features. This is not a “dealbreaker” if you are not going to use the TV for new-fashioned gaming consoles, but worth noting. With that in mind, we do not hesitate to give the Sony A85 a clear recommendation!