The Sony Bravia XR A80J has dazzling picture quality and might be the best 4K OLED TV of 2021.
Sony’s A80J came out in April, and I recently bought the 65-inch model at a local Best Buy.
The A80J is powered by the new Google TV software platform. It pulls recommendations from Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max and others into a single menu on the home screen.
HDR support includes Dolby Vision, HDR10 and HLG. Right away, you will notice the lifelike, fluid motion of people and places on the screen. The TV has a 120Hz refresh rate.
The NextGenTV tuner supports ATSC 3.0, the new over-the-air broadcast standard that is currently rolling out across the U.S. The tuner is backwards compatible and receives ATSC 1.0 broadcast signals as well.
With Google Assistant built into the remote, it’s easy to pull up a roster of movies and TV shows by a favorite actor or director.
Google Chromecast is built into the A80J to cast streaming apps, pictures or videos from your smartphone or tablet. The TV also supports Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit.
The Sony A80J is packed with enough features to please the average TV consumer wanting the best picture quality and the home theater enthusiast.
These TVs come out of the box pretty much calibrated so you don’t have to take a course on TV calibration to enjoy your new set. I’ve read some reviewers and customers feel like they need to make a few adjustments. But I think it really boils down to taste.
At the time of this review, the 65-inch version of the A80J was priced at $1798 on Amazon.
Table of Contents
- Picture quality
- Google TV
- Google Assistant
- NextGenTV (ATSC 3.0)
- Remote Control
- Price, screen sizes and availability
The panel looks like a thick pane of glass that happens to be a television. The frame of the TV is barely noticeable and the logo is subtly tucked in the left corner. It’s really all about the picture here.
The TV comes with a set of metal legs, but I opted to use mounting holes and a SANUS mounting kit that I bought at Best Buy when I picked up the TV.
One major difference between the A80J and it’s more expensive sibling, the A90J, is the audio system. The A80J has speakers that are 30W and supports Dolby Atmos audio. The speakers on the A90J are 60W.
The 30W speakers are certainly listenable.
But like with any TV, it doesn’t deliver quality audio the way a soundbar does. That was a non-issue for me because I already knew that I was using a soundbar with the TV. I’m able to control the soundbar using Sony’s TV remote because I hooked it up to the HDMI.
There are 4 HDMI ports on the back and 2 of them support HDMI 2.1.
One of the reasons why OLED TV’s produce such a remarkable picture is due to the contrast ratio.
Like all OLED TVs, the Sony A80J has an almost infinite contrast ratio because it doesn’t rely on local dimming to dim or mute certain zones to create contrast. You hear about local dimming sometimes when we’re talking about LED TVs.
With an OLED, each pixel on the screen can be turned on and off. So there’s no blooming in dark scenes.
The A80J supports HDR10, Dolby Vision, and 120Hz refresh rate, giving the picture a more life-like resemblance.
Cognitive Processor XR
All TVs in Sony’s 2021 lineup have the “Cognitive Processor XR.” Sony says this processor actually understands how people see and hear, and helps create a more immersive experience.
I was really blown away when I watched Season 7 of Bosch in Dolby Vision. The first few minutes of the episode demonstrated just about everything that makes watching an OLED TV a premium experience.
I did notice that while testing out Picture Mode, the TV will pick up when you’re watching something in Dolby Vision, or HDR10 and give you different options for adjusting your picture.
Choosing Dolby Vision Bright vs Dolby Vision Dark may be useful for certain programs, but again, it may just boil down to taste. I have enjoyed trying out Netflix Calibrated Mode, which is meant to deliver a “studio quality” picture. It looks dark, but sometimes interesting.
The IMAX Enhanced setting promises to deliver a remastered picture and audio on some programs.
The TV’s brightness had no problem with natural light in the room. Even while sitting at an angle, you will see a very crisp picture.
The A80J runs on the new Google TV software. It’s a version of Android 10, which is gradually replacing Android TV software. It debuted last year on what I consider the best streaming device out right now, the new Google Chromecast with Google TV.
One of the most useful things about Google TV is that it aggregates and recommends movies and TV shows from a variety of streaming apps.
So you don’t have to spend time trolling through one streaming app after another finding a new movie or TV show to watch.
You will likely get more out of your streaming subscriptions by letting Google do the work for you. It makes personalized recommendations based on your viewing history and other personal data.
You control recommendations by heading to the bottom of the home screen and choosing which services you subscribe to.
Live TV tab
Google TV is only getting better with age. When I bought the TV, the “Live” tab supported a channel guide for YouTube TV and Sling TV.
Over-the-air channels coming in from a TV antenna can also appear in this channel guide. Recently, Google has added support for Philo, an entertainment-based live TV service.
Google Assistant is built into the remote.
So if you press the assistant button and ask for Clint Eastwood movies; not only can you get a list of movies broken down by genre, you can also filter your results even further by looking at free.
The listings come from your streaming subscriptions and free services. Sometimes you will still find some rental options in your search results, but overall it’s very reliable.
You can ask Google Assistant for weather reports, sports scores or tell it to play a specific show on Netflix.
NextGenTV (ATSC 3.0)
Aside from all the streaming options, there is another way to get free live TV and local channels from Sony’s newest OLED TVs.
The over-the-air tuner supports ATSC 3.0 (NextGen TV), the new broadcast standard for local broadcast stations.
NextGen TV has the ability to deliver local channels in 4K, HDR picture resolution along with Dolby Atmos audio. This new broadcast standard is currently rolling out across the United States.
All you need is a decent TV antenna to get local channels such as PBS, NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX for free.
The tuner inside the Sony A80J supports both NextGen TV and the current broadcast standard, ATSC 1.0. So you’re still able to receive the over-the-air channels under the current broadcast standard until ATSC 3.0 arrives in your area.
The remote control is long, sleek and has a plastic build.
There’s a huge assortment of buttons — 41 of them to be exact. At the top, there are dedicated launch buttons for YouTube, Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video.
The challenge for TV makers in 2021 is: How do you create a remote control that can accommodate customers who still subscribe to cable, and at the same time, lean heavily into streaming?
And I think that’s what is influencing the design and features of Sony’s remote control.
There are two buttons that take you to a channel guide that can aggregate over-the-air and Pluto TV channels. (The channel guide will also integrate from a cable TV feed.) The guide button serves up a grid-style guide familiar to anyone who has used a cable TV box.
The TV button gives you a horizontal footer menu at the bottom of the screen with the same channel lineup.
There’s a navigation wheel along with channel and volume rockers. Home and Back buttons on the bottom of the remote can help you get to the home screen and navigate in and out of apps.
One super handy button for me is the display button at the bottom right of the remote. You can easily find it in the dark, and get a clock to pop-up on the upper right hand corner of the screen.
The remote has everything I want In terms of controls for a streaming and over-the-air setup.
For the A80J models, the one thing that’s missing on the remote is backlit buttons.
Not counting the center wheel, there are 41 buttons on this remote control. That’s a lot to navigate in the dark. If you are spending the extra $1,000 for the A90J, a backlit remote is included. (Sony also sells the backlit remote separately.)
If I’m spending this much for a TV, I should get a backlit remote — especially when it has this many buttons. Keep in mind, the last generation of NVIDIA Shield 4K streaming device costs $150, and the backlit remote is included. Excluding a backlit remote for the A80J was a misstep on Sony’s part.
But overall, I’m glad I bought the TV.
The picture quality has been nothing short of outstanding. If you’re considering an OLED TV in 2021, you would be hard pressed to find a better TV at this price.
Price, screen sizes and availability
This review is based on the 65-inch model of the TV, also known as the XR-65A80J.
But Sony released two other models. The 55-inch XR-55A80J and the 77-inch XR-77A80J only differ by screen size and price.
The A80J OLED TVs have all the same features and should perform the same. The A80J has a more expensive sibling, the A90J, which sports a larger, more robust 60W speaker system and backlit remote control.
Founder and Editor of The Cord Cutting Report. Before launching the site in 2016, he worked for more than two decades as a staff writer or correspondent for a number of daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe. His enthusiasm for tech began with the Atari 2600. Follow @james_kimble