Sony W802A review: Sleek Sony LED LCD gives decent picture

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.

Connectivity: The biggest "upgrades" to last year's connectivity offerings are MHL compatibility and Wi-Fi direct. I'm not an advocate of MHL, which requires a physical cable, and I think users would agree that streaming via Wi-Fi is preferable by a smartphone.

The standard physical connections include four HDMI (with one offering MHL), three USB ports, one component/composite, one standalone composite and Ethernet. For a complete list of inputs and outputs, check out the Specs section of this review.

Picture quality
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 be 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 W802A only achieves those deeper black levels when you activate the "Adv. Contrast Enhancer" setting, which seems to turn on the frame dimming feature. 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.

Update: If you play fast-paced video games, this TV's excellent input lag measurement--the lowest we've seen so far--might make it more appealing to you. Check out our in-depth test for more, which includes a discussion of the subject, a subjective evaluation of the W802A's lag and comparisons to other TVs.

Click the image at the right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV's picture controls worked during calibration.

Comparison models (details)
Sony KDL-55W900A 55-inch LED-based LCD
Sony KDL-55HX850 55-inch LED-based LCD
Panasonic TC-L55DT60 55-inch LED-based LCD
Samsung UN55ES8000 55-inch LED-based LCD
Panasonic TC-P55ST60 55-inch plasma

Black level: In our six-strong lineup, the W802A sat near the bottom, while the two Panasonics bookended performance with the best (ST60) and worst (DT60) black levels. While the Sony placed next to last, there was still a significant jump in the depth of black over the poor DT60, with the W802A able to provide some light and shade in even the most difficult scenes.

The W802A was the weakest of the three Sonys for outright black levels, however. The picture wasn't as accomplished as the HX850's, which had much better black, but for such a crude, frame-dimming system it still worked relatively well. The W900A, which also has local dimming, also looked darker than the W802A.

Where the W802A outperformed the more expensive W900 was on shadow detail. The W802A was able to divine more out of the murk in the testing scenes of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II." This is likely due to the relatively low gamma brought on by the frame dimming system, but it's preferable in our view to the washed-out black levels caused by leaving frame dimming turned off.

At the beginning of Chapter 12 the camera spins around a mountaintop where Voldemort has gathered his army. As the camera closes in on "You-Know-Who," the folds in his robes are more easily definable on the W802A and more of the valley and mountain behind Hogwarts is illuminated. The Samsung ES8000, for its part, also showed a similar level of onscreen shadow detail.

Color accuracy: Of all the sets in our lineup, the W802A had the least saturated colors, with the weaker blues and skin tones brought out by the intensely colorful "Watchmen." On all of the TVs, bar the W802A, Doctor Manhattan's blue skin is vivid, but on the Sony his skin and the light he outputs and transmits onto others - particularly his girlfriend Laurie -- was more purple than blue. Again this could be caused by the relatively light gamma, but again the trade-off was worth it.

On the movie "The Tree of Life," the lighter blues and skin tones again manifest themselves in the scene where the mother lounges on the grass (Chapter 5). The Sony looked the weakest amongst the other TVs, all of which featured more saturated colors in comparison.

Video processing: Despite all of its good work on the basic image-quality side -- particularly in regards to generating convincing blacks and shadow details -- the W802A isn't the best video processor. While it was able to get the full 1080 lines in moving resolution via Impulse mode (which inserts black frames), the lower light output and flicker make it difficult to watch. The TV also failed the 1080i film test with large artifacts in the scrolling lines. It was able to pass 24p cadence correctly, however.

Uniformity: Even with the strongest contrast enhancer on, the TV still exhibited issues with black uniformity with spotlights/leaking from all three corners. Without frame-dimming, the set's uniformity problems looked identical to the Panasonic DT60, with yellow spotlights along the top and light leakage out of the corners.

One of the benefits of this particular screen, though, is off-axis viewing. There was only a slight loss of contrast at extreme angles, with color fidelity and black levels remaining relatively intact.

Bright lighting: Of the lineup of TVs, the Sony W802A had the second glossiest screen after the DT60, which resulted in more reflections in a lit room. However, the reflection was "fuzzier" than the W900's, which had more reflective "detail" -- the reflection of myself was dimmer on the W900 but I could see my face more clearly. Which is better? Fewer reflections, and hence the W900.

Sound quality The only TV I've heard this year that I would want to listen to music on is the Panasonic VT60 . You can expect no such sound quality on the W802. Music listening is decidedly average, even with all the sound processing turned off. The sound profile tends towards the bottom end of the spectrum, leaving no room for high-frequency instruments like cymbals or glockenspiels. The bass in Nick Cave's "Red Right Hand" is distorted, and the vocals tended toward distant and echoey rather than in-your-ear menacing.

The TV does have more muscle than last year's HX850, though, with better bass reproduction and more middle frequency spaciousness. Male voices are more present and the explosions of the Bridge scene of "Mission: Impossible III" have more oomph.

3D: At its default 3D intensity, the W802A had too much depth and the visuals were a little disorienting on deep, intense 3D material such as "Hugo." Changing the setting in the 3D menu to Auto (Low) solved this problem. Whether left at default or in Auto, both modes were able to track motion well and, as expected from a passive set, left no trace of cross-talk in the demanding "ghostly hand" test (Chapter 1, 4.44) where Hugo's pale hand is contrasted against a dark background.

As this TV is a passive model you do get a halving in resolution, and this manifests itself as interlacing through images, though it had no detrimental effect on movement. The upside is that you get a brighter image than you do on an active 3D TV.

GEEK BOX: Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.003 Good
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 1.99 Poor
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 1.9 Good
Near-black error (5%) 0.406 Good
Dark gray error (20%) 2.599 Good
Bright gray error (70%) 0.607 Good
Avg. color error 2.883 Good
Red error 2.413 Good
Green error 3.856 Average
Blue error 3.115 Average
Cyan error 3.629 Average
Magenta error 2.193 Good
Yellow error 2.09 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
1080i De-interlacing (film) Fail Poor
Motion resolution (max) 1080 Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 330 Poor
Input lag (Game mode) 16.9 Good

Sony Kdl 55w802a Calibration report

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Sony KDL-55W802A

Part Number: KDL-55W802A
Low Price: $1,439.40 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Enhanced Refresh Rate 480 Hz
  • 3D Passive 3D
  • LED Backlight Type Dynamic Edge
  • Display Format 1080p (FullHD)
  • Energy Star Qualified EPA Energy Star
  • Diagonal Size 55 in
  • Type LED-LCD
  • Network connectivity Wi-Fi
    MHL
    NFC
    Ethernet
  • SmartTV Yes
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