Sony had a good year for high-end picture quality in 2012, delivering some of the best-performing LED TVs on the market in the HX850 and XBR-HX950 series. While there are a couple of potential heroes in this year's lineup -- the extremely expensive "Triluminous" W900 and the even more expensive Ultra HD 4K X900 -- the step-down 2013 model reviewed here is more of a good Samaritan.
Despite the "8" moniker, the W802A is actually closer to last year's disappointing HX750 than the excellent HX850. The cosmetics have received a small update, with a jewel-like chamfered edge, and the internals have also seen some changes. The panel is now a passive 3D LCD and features an edge-lit LED backlight, sans the local dimming that made the HX850 so good. To get local dimming from Sony in 2013, you'll have to pay nearly double for the step-up models.
The good news is that the W802A is a little better than the HX750 and goes for $200 less. With a little bit of tweaking it can achieve perfectly decent quality for an LED-based LCD. It's also plenty sleek, with a nice mix of features.
On the other hand, unless you're a gamer who appreciates its minuscule input lag, the W802A doesn't really stand out at this price. Unless you really want passive 3D with a Sony nameplate, or you really like its looks, it's tough to recommend over models like the Panasonic ST60.
Editors' Note: This review was updated to include testing for gaming-related input lag, but its rating has not been modified. See the Picture Quality section for more.
Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the Sony KDL-55W802A, but this review also applies to the other screen size in the series. Both sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.
Though the technologies inside are different, the W802A and W900 look almost identical in terms of design. Both feature a slim black bezel with a "Quartz-cut" edge that glows green in the light. The W802's cylindrical base resembles something you'd find on a modern bar stool, with a brushed-aluminum appearance and a handy swivel so it can reach the Beer Nuts. The only incongruous part of the design is the large silver Sony "box" at the bottom of the bezel. It looks like it could detach, and I wish it could, but it doesn't.
The remote control is fine but not particularly special. It has a dedicated Netflix button, and a shortcut for the newish SEN (Sony Entertainment Network). Sadly, it's missing a backlight, but you could always purchase a Logitech Harmony 650 instead.
Sony's 2013 menu system has seen the biggest overhaul in years. Gone is the XMB (Xross Media Bar) which has been replaced by a more traditional, vertical menu. It's animated with big, helpful icons for inputs and picture settings, but they also slow navigation.
|Key TV features|
|Display technology||LCD||LED backlight||Edge-lit|
|Smart TV||Yes||Internet connection||Built-in Wi-Fi|
|3D technology||Passive||3D glasses included||Four pairs|
|Refresh rate(s)||120Hz||Dejudder (smooth) processing||Yes|
|Other: MHL port, Miracast, NFC "ready," additional passive 3D glasses (TDG-500P, $9.99 each)|
While competitors have let their imaginations run wild with features like voice control, gestures, and electronic pens, Sony keeps things a little more simple. Sure, you get Miracast mirroring with compatible phones, MHL, and an optional NFC remote, but mostly the TV's features are unchanged from last year.
The W802A uses "Dynamic Edge LED backlighting," but on this TV that means "frame dimming." Apparently it dims the entire backlight at once and not select portions individually; in other words, it not true local dimming as found on the HX850 and W900A. Sony's specifications use the term "Motion Flow XR480," but according to a Sony rep we spoke to, the panel has a native refresh rate of 120Hz. The other 360 apparently comes from mumbo jumbo.
The biggest change for Sony is the use of a passive 3D panel, and it now includes four pairs of 3D glasses. Additional pairs can be had from Sony for $10 each, and of course most third-party glasses should work fine, too. The passive 3D also enables split-screen gaming on one screen with Simulview glasses (available separately) and compatible games.
Smart TV: The interface has changed a little since last year -- no more scrolling lists or separate, competing interfaces -- and now the SEN (Sony Entertainment Network) is the default repository for apps. All of the apps sit on one screen, lined up in tile form like terra-cotta warriors, and I found the layout preferable to scrolling through a seemingly endless vertical list via the XMB. Happily, the "Home" page allows for shortcuts to your most-used apps, which means you won't need to even load the slow SEN in most cases. Interestingly, the only way to open the SEN is with the remote shortcut; it isn't available from the Home page.
Unlike some competitors there is no app store; just a long list of preloaded apps which includes the inevitable litany of disposable games. Both Yahoo Widgets and CinemaNow have disappeared from the roster with no appreciable additions to last year's Smart TV list. I'd argue that most people would only be interested in Netflix, Hulu, and perhaps Pandora anyway.
The Sony features a Web browser, but as it lacks a pointer, necessitating navigation via the TV remote, it's DOA to me.
The company is currently offering 12 months of Hulu Plus and Netflix, and 30 days of Music Unlimited with the purchase of this TV. As usual, we recommend hooking the TV up to a receiver or a decent sound bar to get the best out of Music Unlimited.
Picture settings: The TV offers a a number of fine-tuning settings such as a 10-point grayscale, which wasn't available last year, as well as a few gamma selections and a large array of picture presets. Unlike some competitors however, it doesn't offer a color management system.