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Sony A80L Review: The Smart OLED Choice?
We tested Sony’s Bravia XR A80L OLED TV to see if it’s worthy of a place on your shortlist.
IS The Sony BRavia XR A80L OLED Right For You?
The Sony Bravia XR A80L is expected to be one of the most popular models in the Sony 2023 TV Lineup. Just like its predecessor, the A80K, you can expect a brilliant performer for movies, TV, and gaming. But, with the battle to be crowned the best in the OLED market getting more and more competitive year on year, is this TV with a relatively traditional WRGB OLED panel really worth it?
Well, considering it’s already picked up a What HI-FI 5 star review, Sony’s 2023 entry-level OLED has every right to be in the conversation, and we’ve got plenty of thoughts to share with you throughout this review.
|Sony Bravia XR A80L
Available Sizes: 55” 65” 75”
Price: £2,399 - £5,499
(See Latest Pricing)
|✅ Rich, authentic and true-to-life colours
✅ Impressive black levels and detailing
✅ Great 4K Upscaling
✅ Brilliant for mixed content usage
|❌ Not the brightest OLED
❌ Only two HDMI 2.1 inputs
❌ Audio could do with a bass boost
We know time is precious, so we’ve also filmed a full Sony Bravia XR A80L Review for you to watch over on our YouTube channel!
Sony's 2023 OLED Options
The Sony A80L sits in the middle of Sony’s 2023 range, above their LED models and below their premium QD-OLED model, the A95L. If you'd like to find out more about the entire range, feel free to watch our Sony TV 2023 Buying Guide.
This year, Sony has simplified its approach to OLED TV’s and reduced the number of options from five to three. We’ve now got the A80L, the A90K (continued from last year and available in 42” and 48” sizes only) and the A95L QD OLED, which sits at the very top of the range.
|SHS Top Tip💡: You might be able to find Sony A84L models online. However, these are just slight variants of the A80L with a few minor tweaks. On the whole, this is a very similar model, so this review will be relevant for that model too.
If OLED isn't your thing, we've also reviewed the Sony Bravia XR X90L Full Array LED over on our YouTube channel which might be a great brighter alternative for your space.
Why Choose OLED?
Despite new innovations, OLED TVs still remain one of the most popular options for people looking for a new TV and offer a great alternative to LED models.
In terms of panel technology, OLED TVs have self-lit pixels which can be individually turned on and off to give more control over the picture quality. You can expect truer blacks, better contrast and a more vivid colour profile. Generally speaking, OLED models aren’t as bright as LED panels but they are preferable for those looking for a more cinematic picture.
Key Tech Highlights
Cognitive Processor XR
The brains behind this TV is the Sony Cognitive Processor XR, which was introduced a few years ago. Sony is renowned for its processing, and the XR processor has been designed to really push the levels of realism you can achieve from your Sony TV.
This year we see an upgrade to the processor with XR Clear Image, which, to keep things really simple, improves noise reduction and the clarity of motion by reducing blur. So, that means things like text should be clearer with less blooming, and the action that you see on screen should be much smoother too.
We’ve also got things like OLED XR Contrast Pro to help balance light across the screen and adjust brightness levels for a more accurate picture. XR 4K upscaling to upscale content more effectively and XR Triluminos Pro to really focus on the colours and produce more natural and vivid visuals.
New Game Menu
A big thing for Sony this year is their newly developed game menus, which is something that feels slightly overdue.
Catching them up to the likes of LG and Samsung, once you plug your console in, you will have access to a host of important game settings like a VRR toggle, motion blur reduction, black equaliser, crosshair functionality, and screen size customisation.
They’re all handy bits of functionality and a good step in the right direction when it comes to gaming.
Heat Mapping Software
Disappointingly, there’s no heatsink on this TV like there was on the A90J, which would’ve been a good way to upgrade this model from last year’s A80K.
However, it does offer unique heat mapping software that has been designed to support the panel when it comes to increased brightness. You’re not going to get the same level as you would with an MLA OLED or QD OLED, but they are definitely pushing OLED brightness more each year.
New for this year is an eco dashboard, which appears as an app on the Sony TV homepage. You can easily monitor how eco-friendly you’re being and how much power you’re saving with your different settings by growing the tree within the app.
Small changes like changing the idle power will save you energy and money, so it's definitely worth playing around with it during setup.
Google TV & Bravia Core
All Sony Bravia TVs use Google TV as their OS, which we regard as our favourite operating system that we’ve tested. It’s easy to get setup and personalise, is intuitive to use, and the recommended content is normally spot on and it’s not overrun with ads like some other operating systems.
We also get Bravia Core on this TV, which, for those not familiar, is Sony’s own streaming service where you get quick access to Sony content for free at up to 80 mbps (depending on your internet connection), so higher quality than the likes of Netflix and Disney+ (15 mbps + 25 mbps), which is a nice bonus to have.
As far as looks go, the A80L is a pretty standard looking TV for a Sony model nowadays, but it’s still a great looking and premium TV. It's slim and would look great wall mounted or you can use the updated multi-position legs to place it on top of your media unit.
It is slightly deeper than something like the LG C3, but that’s to accommodate the actuators we’ve got in this TV for sound. Around the edges, we’ve also got a super slim bezel, which does look premium and maximises how much of the screen we’re seeing.
In terms of connections, we’ve got a total of four HDMI ports. Unfortunately, there are only two HDMI 2.1 inputs with 48 gbps and full 2.1 bandwidth. It would have been nice to have increased this to 4 HDMI 2.1 ports, as only one of these supports eARC. So, if you’ve already got a soundbar and a PS5, you won’t be able to add another source.
When it comes to picture quality, a lot of Sony’s efforts have been focused on producing the most accurate picture possible. So, although this might not be the brightest OLED on the market right now, this model definitely retains more detail, clarity and produces a much truer to life image than its competitors.
From our testing, we’ve highlighted 5 things this TV does really well when it comes to picture quality:
✔️Phenomenal black level and exceptional details in even the most shadowy and dark scenes
✔️Stunning colour, that’s rich, vibrant and true-to-life
✔️Precise texturing of things like skin-tones and clothing
✔️Beautifully balanced picture that’s refined and controlled
✔️Motion handling was really impressive making it a great performer when testing it out for sport, gaming and high-octane action scenes.
There’s no HDR10+ on this model, but for HDR10 content, we’ve been really impressed by the level of detail and realism of the image quality. When we tested the different Dolby Vision settings, our thoughts echoed last year. Dolby Vision Bright is best. You will experience vibrant colours, pure and bright whites, and overall a more impressive picture.
Admittedly, it’s not the OLED with the highest peak brightness, and it struggled slightly with reflections, but its balance and control across every type of content were really impressive. It delivers images exactly as the director intended and definitely ranks among the very best TVs in this category. It’s a great option if you’re really into your movies, but it’s also going to be a good choice for standard viewing, sports, and gaming too.
Sony A80L vs Sony A80K
We also put the Sony A80L head to head with last year’s A80K. Straight away, there’s no major visual jump, but there are some slight differences in performance worth mentioning.
There is a slight improvement in the quality of blacks with the new model, which in turn gives us slightly better contrast too. We were able to notice slight differences in the reproduction and noticed the A80L came across slightly more vivid. Skin textures feel a bit more true to life with their natural tones and enhanced sharpness.
Having watched both TVs for several hours with a variety of content, we wouldn’t say there’s a noticeable step up in brightness. That’s not to say there will be no difference if we were to measure the nit rates and things like that. However, from what we call ‘real-world testing’ it’s comparable to last year's model and is a reminder of why specs and testing don’t deliver the full picture (excuse the pun).
It’s down to these slight incremental changes, but that does mean that when you look at both models side by side, you are more drawn to the A80L. We also did some blind A/B testing with the entire office, and everyone has said the newer model would be their choice - it’s just hard to put your finger on why exactly, but it is an overall improvement in picture and image quality.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the Sony A80L’s audio system, there isn’t anything new over last year’s model. However, Sony still remains the only TV brand to use built-in actuators in its OLEDs to vibrate the screen itself for enhanced audio performance.
This technology is called Acoustic Surface Audio+, and it uses 3 actuators and 2 regular woofers to create sound that emerges directly from the screen. This helps position the sound much more accurately and adds another layer of realism to performance.
If you’ve watched our YouTube channel, you’ll know we love all things home audio, and we’ve reviewed a lot of soundbars, which would probably be our personal preference for this TV.
However, for those of you who aren’t looking for a separate audio setup, the A80L offers pretty impressive performance from the TV speakers alone. It does a great job of replicating the action on screen, with sound emanating from the correct areas and producing dialogue that’s clear, projected, and easy to follow.
We would say this TV could do with a bass boost, as it feels a little weak in that department, but considering how slim this TV is and the size of the woofers, it doesn’t come as a surprise.
As a Sony Bravia model, you’ve also got the benefits of acoustic centre sync, which means if you use a Sony soundbar, the TV speakers will work in tandem to provide an even more encompassing audio performance. This might not be for everyone, but it’s definitely worth bearing it in mind if you’re tempted by the offer of a Sony soundbar.
In terms of gaming specifications, we’ve got 4K/120Hz, VRR, and ALLM, making this a really solid option for the gamers out there.
This TV has clearly been designed with the PS5 in mind, and Sony is actually labelling it “Perfect For Playstation”. Because of that, there are benefits you unlock when you connect it up to a PS5.
The TV will automatically calibrate HDR tone-mapping for games, though you’ll want to double check in the settings that it's all working correctly.
As mentioned earlier, the addition of the new game menus was a great benefit to the overall gaming experience. If you’d like to find out more about them, make sure you watch our gaming section of our Sony Bravia XR A80L review over on YouTube.
When it came to hands-on testing, we were thoroughly impressed by the whole experience. The realistic picture, depth of contrast, and vivid colours make for a really immersive gaming experience and draw you deeper into whatever you’re playing. Motion was handled really well too, and we’ve experienced no issues with frame rate while we’ve been playing.
Is the Sony A80L Worth It?
For us, the Sony A80 model is a solid all-rounder every single year that performs very well for all types of content. While the A80L hasn’t received a major overhaul compared to last year’s model, it could be argued that a big upgrade simply wasn’t needed.
It’s possible that Sony has chosen to innovate their QD OLED and Mini LED models as a priority. Or, you could suggest that the A80K and even the 2021 A80J TVs offered such a strong performance that they didn’t require much innovation.
Either way, we don’t think Sony is looking to push the A80 models to be the most premium OLED they can make. We think it’s designed to sit at a place in the range that gives people the choice of accessing great OLED performance without the top of the range price tag.
This TV is undeniably in the sweet spot of OLED performance, and truthfully, this will be a tough model to beat at this price point.
Of course, there are other options out there, coming in at lower prices, that will offer exceptional performance too (the LG C3 rings a bell). But who said there was anything wrong with a bit of healthy competition?
So, although there’s no denying this is a premium priced OLED, it’s clear Sony has backed that up with quality and premium performance.
It might not be a master of anything specifically, but this TV is a jack of all trades, and you wouldn’t be disappointed if this TV was sitting in their living room, that’s for certain. That being said, there’s still definitely more testing and comparisons that need to be done before we can confidently say where this TV sits, but it’s definitely laid a good foundation.
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