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, while also going 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 the W802A doesn't really stand out at this price, so 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.
With TVs such as the Panasonic ST60 out there, the little yellow marker denoting the "world record standard for the money" has moved out even further. Despite some improvements over last year's HX750, an LCD like the Sony W802A has to compete against plasmas that seem to improving at a much faster clip.
The Sony's black levels are now decent, whereas the HX750's could only be described as "crappy." The difference is apparently thanks to the Frame Dimming activated via the "Adv. Contrast Enhancer setting." We usually avoid turning on such extras since they usually provide unnatural contrast, but here it's well executed and significantly improves black levels. Shadow detail was also very good, with the dimming not leading to crushing on even the darkest scenes.
Color is one area where the W802A can't compete, especially against the similarly priced DT60 and the much cheaper ST60. Skin tones were the most subdued of the testing group, and colors were muted.