When it comes to buying tech gadgets, I believe that second-best is often good enough. That's why I'm excited about products that sit right below the flagship model, such as the Sony Bravia XR A80J OLED TV. It is not the best TV you can buy from Sony. The A80J is outclassed by the A90J, which uses a newer, brighter OLED panel, has better image processing and comes with more powerful speakers. But are these differences worth S$1,900? That's how much more you can expect to pay for the 55-inch A90J instead of the equivalent A80J. While I did not test the A90J, I'm convinced — after two weeks with the A80J — that the latter is the better deal. After all, you can get a 65-inch A80J for S$4,999 while the smaller 55-inch A90J is going for S$5,499. And size does matter for TVs.
- 4K resolution with HDR10, Dolby Vision, and HLG
- 2x HDMI 2.1 ports (4K@120Hz)
- Comes in 55″, 65″ and 77″ (tested) sizes
- 3-way multi-position stand
Design-wise, the A80J lets its screen do the talking. Bezels are narrow while its back is relatively sleek and flat with a thicker bottom plastic half. The A80J comes with a three-way stand so you can adjust the TV legs to your console (narrower or wider). The legs can also be configured to raise the TV to accommodate a soundbar. Most of the ports are easily accessible on the left side, though both its HDMI 2.1 ports are further inside. Unlike the LG C1, only two of the A80J's four HDMI ports support the 2.1 standard that enables gaming-centric features such as 120Hz at 4K resolution. However, one of these HDMI 2.1 ports (HDMI 3) is also the ARC/eARC for your receiver or soundbar. You'll have to choose between the PS5 or the Xbox Series X if you're lucky enough to have both.
This year, Sony has switched to using Google TV for its new models. First seen on the latest Chromecast, Google TV has a different interface from its Android TV predecessor. Based on your viewing habits, the revamped Home screen will recommend content from streaming services such as Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+ and even Spotify. But there's no recommendations from Netflix. Other useful smart TV features, like screen casting (Chromecast and Apple AirPlay 2) and voice controls, are available. Overall, Google TV is a nice, albeit minor change from Android TV. You can also access Sony's own TV settings easily via a shortcut key on the remote control. These settings, like the picture modes, are key to getting the best out of the A80J. The remote itself is a fairly standard, plasticky affair with app shortcuts (no Disney+ though) and supports voice input for Google Assistant.
Because OLED screens can display true blacks and manage light sources without blooming, movies, especially HDR or Dolby Vision ones, look and feel more immersive on the A80J. I felt like a voyeur following the protagonist in Kingdom: Ashin of the North as she ventured into a dark cave holding only a flickering torch. Meanwhile, the glints from the sun in the opening of La La Land was bright enough to make my eyes squint. However, the A80J's screen is far from the brightest. You probably have to turn off the lights to get the best HDR performance out of it. It also did well upscaling non-4K content to match the TV's sharp resolution. The A80J's Acoustic Surface Audio+ technology claims to create the illusion that the sound is coming directly from the screen. I didn't find it that convincing, and would recommend a good soundbar instead.
The Sony Bravia XR A80J is not considered among the best OLED TVs in the market. But the differences are marginal. The A80J is an excellent OLED TV that compares well against similarly-priced rivals like the LG C1. While the C1 scores higher for its gaming features, I prefer the Google TV interface on the A80J. The 55-inch version is also listed at S$3,599 on the Sony store on Lazada. This is actually less than the LG C1's recommended retail price (S$4,099). Of course, you can find slightly cheaper offers for the A80J (as well as the C1) from retailers on Shopee and Lazada.
Note: Review unit provided by Sony.
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