The Sony A80L is a mid-range OLED TV that combines premium performance with an affordable price
- Impressive SDR and HDR images
- Peerless picture processing
- Premium design and finish
- Limited brightness
- Only two HDMI 2.1 inputs
- No HDR10+ support
Sony has ploughed a successful furrow in the mid-range OLED TV market with its A80 Series, and the Sony A80L continues where its predecessors left off.
The lineup combines clever designs and stylish finishes, with impressive levels of performance and extensive features such as Google TV and Acoustic Surface technology. The A80L, A83L and A84L are the latest generation and have had huge 83in models added to their range of screen sizes.
Sony A80L review: Key specifications
|Screen sizes available:||55in XR-55A80L|
|Resolution:||4K/UHD (3,840 x 2,160)|
|HDR formats:||HDR, HLG, Dolby Vision|
|Audio enhancement:||Dolby Atmos, Acoustic Surface Audio+|
|HDMI inputs:||2 x HDMI 2.1, 2 x HDMI 2.0b|
|Freeview Play compatibility:||No|
|Tuners:||Terrestrial, cable, satellite|
|Gaming features:||4K/120Hz, VRR, ALLM, Game Mode|
|Wireless connectivity:||Dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, Chromecast, AirPlay 2|
|Smart assistants:||Google Assistant built-in, works with Amazon Alexa|
|Smart platform:||Google TV|
Sony A80L review: What you need to know
The Sony A80L is a 4K (3,840 x 2,160) HDR smart TV that uses a standard WRGB OLED panel. It forms part of the Bravia XR range of TVs, and offers four screen sizes: 55in, 65in, 77in and 83in. Sony provided the 55in XR-55A84L for the purposes of this review.
The picture is powered by Sony’s Cognitive XR processor, and it runs the latest iteration of the Google TV operating system. Along with a host of processing features, there’s also support for HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision, but not HDR10+.
The design is stylish, with a stand that can be used in three different positions. There’s also Sony’s Acoustic Surface Audio+, support for Dolby Atmos and a pop-up bar that puts all the game-related settings in one convenient hub.
Sony offers this particular TV in three distinct model numbers – the A80L, A83L and A84L – which is bound to cause a degree of consumer confusion. However, they all appear to have identical specifications, with the latter two simply being retailer exclusives.
Sony A80L OLED review: Price and Competition
Whether you choose the Sony A80L, A83L or A84L the pricing appears to be the same, with the 55in model reviewed here available for £1,999. If you prefer a bigger screen, retailers are asking £2,499 for the 65in model, £3,999 for the 77in version, and £5,499 for the new 83in whopper. The first three screen sizes are available now, with the 83in model expected later in the year.
LG is an obvious alternative, with its feature-packed mid-range C3 55in OLED slightly cheaper at £1,899. Although if you want the benefits of QD OLED with its increased peak brightness, the 55in Samsung S90C is definitely worth considering at only £1,899.
If you prefer LCDs, Samsung also offers an extensive range of 4K Neo QLED TVs with Mini LED backlights. The mid-range 4K model is the QN90C, and the 55in version can be picked up for only £1,899.
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Sony A80L review: Design, connections and control
The Sony A80L looks identical to the previous generations, so you get the same stylish and minimalist design finished in Titanium Black, with a pair of slim aluminium wedged feet that are dark silver and have a diamond-shaped cross-section.
The overall build quality remains excellent thanks to a metal trim, and the matte black rear uses a grid pattern that adds texture while also hiding a removable panel for tidier cable management. You have a choice of using the feet or wall mounting with an optional 300 x 300 VESA bracket.
If you decide to use the feet, their ingenious design offers a choice of installation options: close together for narrower surfaces; further apart for wider surfaces; and with the panel raised higher to accommodate soundbars without blocking the screen.
There are four HDMI inputs, one of which supports eARC (enhanced audio return channel), and all of which support 4K/60Hz, HDCP 2.3, and high dynamic range in the shape of HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision (but not HDR10+).
However, only two are HDMI 2.1 with support for 4K/120Hz, VRR (variable refresh rate) and ALLM (auto low latency mode). This puts all of Sony’s TVs at a disadvantage to models from LG and Samsung, both of whom include up to four HDMI 2.1 inputs on their TVs.
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 ports. The wireless connectivity is equally extensive, with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, Chromecast and AirPlay 2.
This year, all three varieties of the A80L include Sony’s premium finish smart remote, with its handy backlight. It’s comfortable to hold, easy to use and sensibly laid out, with buttons for navigation, playback and directly accessing Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ and YouTube. It also has a finder function, so you’ll never lose the remote down the back of the sofa again.
Sony A80L review: Smart TV platform
The Sony A80L uses Google TV as its operating system, and it remains responsive, well designed and intuitive to navigate. By its nature the smart platform is rather Google-centric, but the full-screen homepage provides recommendations and allows you to customise the layout.
The main video streaming apps are available, including Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV+, Now, YouTube and Google Play, as are all the TV catch-up services via YouView. There’s also support for 4K, HDR10, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos where available.
Naturally, Google Assistant is built in, turning the A80L into a fully functioning smart assistant with voice control, plus there’s support for Chromecast and Google Home. If you prefer alternatives, the Sony also works with Alexa, while Apple fans can enjoy support for AirPlay 2 and HomeKit.
Sony offers its Bravia Core streaming service to owners, and the A80L works with the optional Bravia Cam. The latter adds gesture control, video chat and a proximity alert to control your kids’ viewing distance. Finally, an Eco Dashboard keeps all eco-related settings in one handy location.
Sony A80L review: Image quality
As with all Sony TVs, the A80L defaults to the Eco picture mode. This setting may be more energy-efficient, but it’s also wildly inaccurate with an excess of blue in the greyscale and oversaturated colours. This results in average errors (Delta Es) of 11.9 for the greyscale and 9.7 for the colours.
The Custom mode is better but still not great, with too much blue visible in the greyscale resulting in an average Delta E of 5.1, which is above the visible threshold of three. Colours are more accurate, with errors averaging 2.7.
This greyscale inaccuracy is somewhat disappointing, especially when compared to previous generations, but the included calibration controls allow for significant improvements. A few tweaks and the greyscale hits an average error of 0.9 and colours hit 0.8, which is essentially perfect.
In general, the A80L delivers a superb level of performance with SDR content, with all the usual OLED strengths such as deep blacks and clear shadow delineation. The contrast is impressive, the colour rendering richly rewarding, and the screen uniformity is excellent with no banding.
The Cognitive XR processor does a peerless job of upscaling lower-resolution content, bringing out all the fine details without introducing unwanted artefacts. The picture processing is equally impressive, reducing compression artefacts such as macro blocking or mosquito noise.
Along with image processing, motion handling is another Sony strength, and the A80L displays exceptionally smooth movement, with images that appear free of judder or other artefacts. True Cinema improves the motion for movies without adding the dreaded soap opera effect, while frame interpolation is useful for improving perceived resolution when watching fast-paced sports.
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Sony A80L review: HDR performance
As with previous generations of this TV, the Sony A80L isn’t particularly bright, even for an OLED. The peak luminance hits around 600cd/m² on a 10% window, and 141cd/m² on a full-field pattern, but despite these limitations, the tone mapping does an excellent job of tracking the PQ target precisely, thus ensuring the image remains faithful to the content creator’s original artistic intent.
Regardless of whether an HDR grade uses 1,000, 4,000 or 10,000 nits, this creative intent is correctly rendered, and in terms of high dynamic range, the Sony supports HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision, with only the less common HDR10+ missing. The benefits of Dolby Vision’s dynamic metadata certainly pay dividends in enabling the A80L to produce some excellent HDR imagery.
The use of Sony’s XR Triluminos Pro technology allows the A80L to cover 99% of the wider DCI-P3 colour space, but more importantly, the coverage of the various saturation points of DCI-P3 within BT.2020 is also very accurate, aside from some minor undersaturation in red. The greyscale is equally impressive, with average errors well below one, and thus imperceptible.
The Cognitive XR processor doesn’t just handle upscaling, image processing and the Triluminos tech; it also offers a host of features designed to get the most from HDR. This includes XR HDR Remaster to detect objects and punch up the delivery, as well as XR OLED Contrast Pro to help get the most out of those inky blacks, without losing detail in the shadows and highlights.
The limitations in terms of peak and full-screen brightness are rarely apparent, although a film such as The Revenant, with its bright snowy landscapes, pushes the A80L to those limits. Thankfully, the tone mapping ensures the image retains plenty of pop and doesn’t clip detail in the highlights. Speaking of detail, the processing reveals every pixel in this film’s native 4K photography.
The A80L is especially strong when dealing with darker images, where its natural strengths come to the fore. The switch to night in 1917 is superbly rendered, slowly drawing out details in the darkness as the image gradually brightens, and juxtaposing the glowing flares in the sky with the blackness of the shadows as they eerily move across a ruined village.
Another strength is this TV’s wide colour gamut and overall accuracy, which allows the A80L to reproduce all the richly nuanced colours in The Greatest Showman without drifting into oversaturation. The images retain all the colourful punch that was intended, but flesh tones remain natural, and the combination of the wider colour gamut and HDR ensures breathtaking visuals.
To test the Sony A80L we used Portrait Displays’ Calman colour calibration software
Sony A80L review: Gaming
The Sony A80L makes for a generally solid gaming TV, aside from being limited to only two HDMI inputs that support 4K/120Hz with VRR and ALLM, though this shouldn’t be a major issue unless you own multiple next-gen consoles. Gamers are rewarded with detailed, colourful and punchy images that benefit from Sony’s superior motion handling to deliver very smooth gameplay.
New this year is a game hub that collates all the gaming information and settings in one pop-up bar. This makes fine-tuning your game status, settings and assist functions quick and easy. The A80L automatically goes into game mode when a console is detected, delivering an input lag of 16ms with a 60Hz signal, and dropping below 10ms at the higher frame rate of 120Hz.
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Sony A80L review: Sound quality
The Sony A80L includes the brand’s clever Acoustic Surface Audio+ technology, which basically turns the entire screen into a speaker by imperceptibly vibrating it using rear actuators. This generates audio that helps anchor the dialogue and sound effects to images on the screen.
A pair of rear bass drivers help boost the low-frequency effects and manage to deliver some surprisingly deep bass. There’s also sufficient power in the amplifiers to create an expansive soundstage that can go loud without distorting or losing its overall composure.
The sound quality is very good, with clear dialogue that emanates directly from the screen, a detailed mid-range and some nice width. The Cognitive XR processor effectively differentiates between dialogue, music and sound effects, while Voice Zoom 2 enhances speech clarity.
The inclusion of eARC allows the A80L to pass through lossless audio, including DTS, while the audio from the built-in apps can also be sent to a soundbar or AV receiver using ARC. If you own a Sony soundbar, Acoustic Centre Sync even allows you to use the TV as the centre channel.
The Atmos decoding uses psychoacoustic processing to create audio with greater dimensionality, but the amount of real immersion is limited. The XR Surround processing does something similar with non-Atmos content, and the A80L is also ready for Sony’s 360 Spatial Sound audio format.
Sony A80L review: Verdict
The Sony A80L is very much a case of second verse, same as the first; but when the song is this good, who’s complaining? This mid-range OLED TV delivers fantastic pictures and surprisingly good sound thanks to its clever Acoustic Surface sonic wizardry.
The design remains smart, the Google TV OS is even smarter, and the low input lag results in very responsive gaming. Given this gaming prowess, the inclusion of only two HDMI 2.1 inputs remains frustrating, as does the lack of HDR10+ support, and the uncalibrated image accuracy could be better. But the picture processing, motion handling and HDR tone mapping are top-notch, making the A80L deserving of recommendation. However, the almost identical and cheaper A80K is also worth considering.