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Review Sony Bravia XR A80J (XR-65A80J)

Tough OLED TV

Sony is back with another excellent OLED TV: The Bravia A80J impresses with a picture quality that is close to the flagship model A90J.

Karakter
Sony Bravia XR A80J (XR-65A80J)
Sony A80J delivers exceptionally great image quality with excellent contrast and color reproduction. The sound from the built-in speakers is also excellent.
The Sony screen must (so far) do without the gaming features VRR and ALLM - this is promised via an update. Only two of the four HDMI inputs are HDMI 2.1 compatible.
  • Size/type: 65″4K OLED
  • Resolution: 3840 x 2160 (4K Ultra HD)
  • Operating System: Google TV (Android 10)
  • Inputs: 4 HDMI (2 x 2.1), 3 USB
  • Outputs: HDMI eARC, optical digital audio output
  • HDR: HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision
  • Other: Acoustic Surface speakers

The Sony A80J is so far the most affordable OLED TV the Japanese can offer from its brand new 2021 range. It has a lot in common with its big brother A90J – Sony’s flagship model – which we tested back in March, and were very impressed with. The big question is therefore how much of the performance they have managed to keep in the slightly cheaper little brother!

The A80J takes over the torch from last year’s model A85, which we also have good experience with. It uses the same formula as last time, where the OLED panel is taken from the LG Display, while Sony itself is responsible for image processing and sound. This has proven to be a winning combination in the past, but is it enough to assert itself in this year’s TV race?

More affordable

The A80J ticks in with a slightly nicer price tag than the top model: In fact, you can buy a 65″A80J for what a 55″ A90J costs! In addition, the 77″ version will of course be significantly cheaper than an 83″ A90J. In this test, we have considered the 65-inch XR-65A80J, but the performance will largely be the same for all screen sizes.

Sony, on the other hand, has not launched any 48″ OLEDs in the new series: So far, they are contuning with last year’s model KD-48A9, which must do without the latest innovations. It’s a bit of a shame, because it’s already clear that Sony has made some significant improvements to this year’s TV lineup.

Sony XR-65A80J. (Photo: Sony)

Bravia XR A80J vs A90J – differences

The A80J has received a number of updates, but the most important change is hidden under the hood: the new Bravia XR video processor with “cognitive intelligence” as it is so nicely called. This is the same advanced image engine that we find in the top model A90J. But from there there are some differences between the two:

While the A90J uses an extra fine-tuned and bright OLED panel with extra cooling (Sony calls it the XR OLED Contrast Pro), the A80J has to settle for a more ordinary panel, without the latest innovations. The A80J also has a slightly scaled-down speaker solution, with slightly fewer and less powerful speaker units.

In addition, the A80J has to do with a simpler remote control, without the great backlight from the top model. We experienced that this gives a slightly “cheaper” feeling with less tactile buttons.

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Visually, there are also some design differences: While the A90J has a super-thin, almost seamless frame around the OLED panel, the A80J has a slightly thicker appearance with a large draft protruding from the back. It is similar to the confusion on last year’s model A8H, and feels a little less modern, simply.

Otherwise, it is worth mentioning that the A80J is actually a little more flexible to place. It has the advantage of a 3-way stand with both wide, narrow and raised setting. The latter also provides space for a soundbar under the TV.

The feet of the A80J can be raised so that you can fit a soundbar underneath. (Photo: Sony)

Ease of use and features

The Bravia XR-65A80J comes loaded with the latest Android user interface, which has now changed its name to Google TV. The new Google platform has a new start menu, which provides a full overview of your most used apps, as well as TV channels and connected devices. It also provides direct recommendations for content, based on preferences and what you have previously viewed. The A80J has a wide range of streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video in its portfolio.

The user experience has received a clear boost this year: the menus have become more logical, and the TV responds quickly to commands. This allows the Android screens to compete better with the smart solutions from Samsung and LG. The A80J also supports Airplay, Chromecast and Google Assistant, with a built-in microphone in the remote control.

The Sony screen has also received new HDMI inputs, which among other things support 4K video at 120 frames per second – perfect for PS5 and Xbox Series X. But – just like on the A90J, only two of them are fully HDMI 2.1 compatible.

This does not have to be a problem, but it should be mentioned that one of these inputs also functions as an audio return channel (eARC). Thus, in practice, you only have one HDMI 2.1 input available if you use an external soundbar.

The Sony screen is otherwise well-suited for gaming, with a dedicated game mode that we measured to about 16 milliseconds delay/input lag. But be aware: At the time of writing, the Sony A80J does not support the so-called VRR – variable refresh rate, which Sony has promised an update for during the year.

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The Sony A80J comes with a standard remote control. It's not as sleek as the premium control A90J is equipped with - but it does the job. (Photo: Audun Hage)

Bravia Core

The A80J also comes with Bravia Core preloaded – Sony’s new streaming service. It is reserved for the latest 2021 models with Bravia XR processor, and offers fresh feature films from Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Those who buy a Bravia A80J get a 2-year power subscription plus 5 so-called “Movie credits” with the purchase (A90J gives 10). The streaming service offers several classic Sony titles, while you have to trigger a credit to watch recent movies.

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Bravia Core is Sony's new streaming service. (Photo: Audun Hage)

Bildekvalitet

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Side by side with big brother: The A80J (right) is not far from the A90J in overall picture quality.

Since the A90J has already set the bar for image quality so far this year, we were naturally excited about how close it is possible to get with the cheaper A80J. And happily enough, there are more similarities than differences: In fact, little brother comes so close to big brother, that you will have a hard time telling the difference in many areas.

The A90J is clearly the brighter of the two: When watching TV in daylight, as well as picture content with bright areas, there is no doubt that the A90J appears more contrast-rich, dynamic and lively. That said, the difference is far smaller than we expected.

We have criticized older Sony models for having rather low brightness, and as you know, the A90J received a powerful and long-awaited boost in this area. But now it turns out that this probably has as much to do with the image processing, as the image panel itself: The Bravia XR video processor is known to be similar on both the A80J and A90J, and it may look like this makes up much of the difference.

We challenged the A80J with a number of our favorite test scenes side by side with the A90J, and in many cases it was tricky to see a big difference between them. Although the A90J has a little more sparkle and intensity in the brightest parts, the A80J follows suit, delivering excellent brightness as well. Color reproduction, contrast and level of detail in dark areas are also close to identical.

Both 2021 models have a significantly better reproduction of HDR video, with far greater contrast between the dark and light areas. The new processor has obviously become much better at analyzing the image material and adjusting the contrast according to what the OLED panel is able to reproduce (so-called tone mapping). So even though the A80J has a slightly lower brightness at maximum intensity, it manages to follow its big brother all the way to the finish line.

The A80J is also very familiar (that is, excellent) when it comes to sharpness and movement. We checked out the new Easy Money series from Netfllix, which is served in 4K resolution and Dolby Vision HDR format. The 2021 models with XR processor have a captivating ability to reduce noise, without the image becoming muddy and two-dimensional. The scenes from Easy Money appear razor sharp, and at their best they look almost 3D-like!

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The Sony A80J serves razor-sharp and high-contrast images with great realism. Here from the Netflix series Easy Money. (Photo: Audun Hage)

Sound quality

The A80J uses Sony’s well-known Acoustic Surface Audio technology, where the sound is sent straight out of the OLED panel using small actuators on the inside. And even though the A80J has a slightly simpler speaker setup than the A90J on paper, it sounds excellent in practice.

The sound comes straight out of the picture with a clear and distinct voice reproduction. We played Dua Lipa’s Lost in your Light from YouTube, and were impressed by the clarity and the strong vocals. The bass is deep and powerful enough to give a real live feeling. The guitar strumming also comes out clearly and distinctly. There is also very good synchronization between the sound and the image on the screen, which increases the realism considerably.

Here you can actually survive without a separate soundboard. And that’s more than we can say about the majority of TVs we test…

Conclusion

Sony has in many ways set the bar for picture quality so far in 2021: The amazing A90J is among the most powerful we have tested so far this year. But it also has a relatively juicy price! Therefore, it is gratifying that the cheaper A80J also achieves many of the same benefits.

Let it be known that the A80J has a slightly more robust design, and less luxurious remote control: It is very similar to the top model where it really matters, with raw image processing, vibrant sound and excellent usability via the Google interface.

We have yet to test LG’s C1 and G1 models, Panasonic’s top models, not to forget the Samsung Neo QLED (test coming soon!) – but so far Sony’s new 2021 models look very promising. And considering the favorable price development on last year’s model A85, we believe the A80J has the potential to become one of this year’s best OLED purchases. Definitely worth a recommendation!

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