Last Updated: November 2, 2013
KDL-V5100 Sony LCD TV Review
Least expensive 120Hz Sony BRAVIA 1080p LCD Series
A great picture at the price of entry-level HDTVs
Sony KDL-V5100 series represents Sony's relatively inexpensive 2009 entry HDTV option to 120Hz technology. As one may expect, V5100 sets do not come with the latest interactive features and Internet-enabled content, nor has Sony invested in some stylish design as is the case with Sony's XBR9 HDTVs.
However, you get basically all the picture controls found on Sony's more expensive series. Furthermore, when it comes to the most important deliverable of any HDTV - picture quality - these Sony LCD TVs are capable of solid picture performance that is much in line with that of Sony's most expensive high-end CCFL-based XBR9 series.
Overall, despite a few issues with screen uniformity and secondary color inaccuracy, V5100 HDTVs represent a most attractive HDTV option from a top brand. More in this Sony LCD product evaluation.
A no ordinary HDTV capable of improved color accuracy thanks to the new Triluminous Quantum Dots backlight technology
Introducing the Sony KDL-V5100 120Hz LCD HDTVs
Inasmuch as Sony's S5100 series represents Sony's introduction to the 1080p full HD platform, the Sony KDL-V5100 series represents Sony's entry-ticket to 120Hz refresh rate technology. In fact, V5100 Sony LCD TVs represents Sony's most affordable 120Hz 1080p LCD HDTVs within the 2009 Sony HDTV lineup.
The V5100 series comprises four models, the 55" KDL-55V5100, 52" KDL-52V5100, 46" KDL-46V5100, and the 40" KDL-40V5100.
All models share exactly the same specifications and therefore we expect similar picture performance. Best-selling Sony LCD TV within the V5100 series is the 52-inch in view of its relatively inexpensive price for a 120Hz HDTV from a top brand.
In terms of features, Sony's V5100 is almost equivalent to Samsung Series 6 B610 HDTVs.
V5100 Sony LCD TV sets do not come with the latest hot spec in HDTV entertainment - Internet-enabled TV content. For this, you have to jump onto the more expensive W5100 series. The latter also comes with 120Hz refresh rate but otherwise, share very similar features to the Z5100 and XBR9 series we reviewed on our site - including the same BRAVIA Internet features and DLNA streaming support. Apart from interactive features, W5100 sets also come with the improved Bravia Video Engine 3 and 100,000:1 instead of the 50,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio found on V5100 Sony LCD TVs.
However, Sony's less expensive V5100 HDTVs get nearly the same treatment when it comes to picture related features as Sony's premium series. This explains the very similar picture performance between Z5100 sets and Sony's more expensive HDTVs.
Additional features on the V5100 Sony LCD TV sets include Sony's MotionFlow 120Hz technology, Bravia Engine 2, a 50,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, and direct 24p input support. Sony also specifies a 5000:1 on-screen contrast ratio for the V5100 sets. Sony is one of the few brands that lately are specifying also the more important on-screen contrast ratio in addition to the more common dynamic contrast. The latter larger numbers are often quoted by TV makers to help them drive sales.
As with the rest of the Sony lineup, there are also plenty of connectivity options, including four HDMI inputs, three of which are placed on the side instead of the rear connection panel. Equally important, these Sony LCD HDTVs come with Sony's Smart eco menu. This includes a room light sensor to adjust the screen brightness automatically in according with the light present in the room.
The V5100 Sony LCD TV series ...in detail
V5100 sets take a rather ordinary look, without the design refinements found on the more expensive Z5100 and XBR9 Sony LCD TV sets.
The only design accent is a black strip along the bottom of the screen that fades into a mirror finish to complement the glossy piano black frame.
Sony does away with the invisible speaker system adopted on its premium models or the more popular down-firing speakers adopted by many TV makers on their HDTVs. Instead V5100 Sony LCD TVs come with a horizontal speaker enclosure just beneath the screen finished with a matte-black speaker grill.
The V5100 series remote control is somewhat more compact than that provided with XBR9 sets. And unlike the XBR9 remote, the V5100 clicker includes less button clutter - making it feel much easier in use.
Included on the remote is a Tools button that gives access to a list of convenient functions and menu shortcuts. The TOOLS menu items vary based on current input and content. Other hot keys include a Favorite key and a Theater button that accesses directly the Cinema picture mode.
Another difference is in the menu system. This takes a rather simple and more traditional menu structure instead of the Sony's XMB interface. A much-appreciated aspect with the V5100 menu is that the main menu categories - Picture, Sound, Screen, Channel, USB, Lock, and Setup - stay visible on the left-hand side no matter where you are in the menu. There are also short descriptions of the various menu functions apart from a product support page with contact details for Sony customer support service.
Features and Conveniences
Sony's V5100 HDTVs do lack the hottest specs of the day - Internet-enabled TV content found on premium Sony LCD TVs. These sets also come with Sony Motionflow™ 120Hz processing instead of 240Hz. While the former may represent a handicap to those looking for interactive TV content, the latter does not represent much of a loss in terms of features. It is true that 240Hz requires a faster pixel response time to support the higher refresh rate that eventually contribute to better blur-free motion. Yet the difference between 120Hz and 240Hz is extremely difficult to discern especially with normal program content.
Same as Samsung, Sony interpolates the extra frame necessary for every video frame using the so called ME/MC (motion-estimation/motion-compensation) system to generate the 120Hz TV frame rate. Sony Motionflow dejudder processing can be set to either 'Standard' or 'High' apart from being switched off, with the 'High' setting providing a higher level of smoothness, rendering film-based content more video-like.
As expressed in our XBR9 Sony LCD TV review, Sony's Motionflow dejudder processing does not support separate blur reduction and judder control as is the case with the dejudder processing implemented on Samsung's 2009 premium HDTVs. This means that you cannot really enjoy the benefits of blur reduction without the added smoothness of dejudder - rendering film-based content more video-like without maintaining the natural cadence of film.
Picture Controls: When it comes to the V5100 picture controls, these Sony LCD TVs come with almost the same set of features and picture controls as found on the more expensive series. In this respect, the V5100 series offers the usual set of picture settings.
There are three main picture preset modes - Vivid, Standard, and Cinema - in the main menu, each of which can be adjusted independently per input. The Cinema mode can be activated directly via the Theater button on the remote. An additional Custom picture mode is also available to store your preferred settings while a Game mode is available under the Advance settings menu. The Game mode disengages most of the advanced video processing - e.g. Motionflow processing - to minimize delay between controller and screen action. Interesting is that the Game mode can also be set separately for each external input.
Each of these picture modes come with noise reduction settings and three color temperature presets; a white balance picture control under the Advance picture settings menu helps fine tune color temperature.
Apart from the usual picture controls like brightness, contrast, color saturation, hue, and sharpness control, additional picture controls include a gamma setting which can be set to low, medium, and high. There is also a backlight control to adjust the brightness level of the backlight source while a clear white adjustment enhances the whites and other light colors. Sony's Advanced Contrast Enhancer automatically optimizes the backlight and contrast to better render dark picture scenes.
CineMotion provides the 2:3 pulldown and includes two settings apart from off with one of the auto settings providing additional motion estimation processing to render a smoother picture quality and reduces artifacts of moving objects. Like most settings on these Sony LCD TVs, the CineMotion feature can be set separately for each input.
The V5100 Sony LCD TVs include four aspect ratio modes for HD sources and a zero-overscan mode for full 1080i/1080p 1:1 pixel mapping.
Additional features: As indicated in our introduction, this is one of those 2009 HDTV series that come with a Smart eco menu and includes a room light sensor that automatically adjust the screen brightness accordingly. There is also a mode to turn off the screen but leave the sound on, and another to turn the TV off automatically after a set period of inactivity. In this respect, the Sony's less expensive series get the same Smart eco menu found on the more expensive series.
These Sony LCD TVs come with plenty of connectivity options - including four HDMI inputs, three of which are placed on the side instead of the rear connection panel as seen in the adjacent picture.
This approach - while surely appreciated by those that are constant swapping gear, is not ideal for those that have a fixed system layout.
KDL-V5100 Sony LCD TV Series - Performance Analysis
V5100 Sony LCD TVs are capable of very good overall picture quality that is very much in line with Sony's high-end XBR9 HDTVs. As already expressed earlier on, while these sets miss the more advanced features found on Sony's premium HDTVs, when it comes to picture features, these LCD HDTVs got the same treatment from Sony as the premium series. This in itself helps explain the relatively solid picture found on Sony's entry-level 120Hz LCD HDTVs - something which is very much praised by both experts and consumers.
V5100 HDTVs are capable of excellent deep blacks and overall good shadow detail that is quite natural especially in the brighter parts of the image. However, as further shown in a highly technical review by D. Padilla on TelevisionInfo.com for the 52-inch model, gamma does not remain completely linear at the lower end of the scale. In simple terms, gamma determines how light output changes with a change in the video signal at the input. This lack of linearity leads to a sort of crushed shadow detail in the darker parts of the image. This is practically the same shadow performance as found on the more expensive XBR9 HDTVs. But as with the XBR9, activating the Advanced Contrast Enhancer helps improve shadow detail in the darker parts of the image.
Most accurate out-of-the-box picture mode is the Cinema picture setting; this can be conveniently activated via the remote using the Theater 'hot' button. Color temperature in Cinema mode however is slightly on the bluish side though this can be partially corrected through proper calibration.
Color accuracy: Accuracy of the primary colors is close to perfect. But when it comes to overall color accuracy, Samsung does a lot better; even the latest 2009 premium LG LCD TVs and the PS80 LG plasma TV are very good in this respect.
View Processing: MotionFlow 120Hz dejudder processing do perform well - with the best setting being 'Standard' for a more natural effect with film-based content.
With 1080p/24 content, these Sony LCD TVs preserve the cadence of film when the 2:3 pull-down CineMotion is set to Off - while showing none of the jerky motion associated with the 2:3 pull-down process.
These Sony LCD TV sets are also capable of properly deinterlacing 1080i video-based content though they fail when it comes to 1080i film-based content. With standard definition sources, video performance is average - resolving every detail from DVD content but showing more jaggies with diagonal lines than Samsung or LG HDTVs.
Images from a PC look crisp - with text that remains clear both via HDMI and also with the set VGA input.
Screen Performance and Uniformity: There is a slight issue with screen uniformity similar to that found on XBR9 Sony LCD TVs, where uniform dark content on the screen appears rather brighter at the center than around the screen edges and corners. But this uniformity issue would not be visible with general program content.
Off-angle performance is relatively good but somewhat below average for a conventional LCD as a result of the rather sharp drop in contrast with viewing angle. In fact, actual test measurements for contrast ratio performance featured on TelevisionInfo.com show that contrast would fall to below 50% of its peak at less than 30 degrees away from the center as against the typical 40 degrees for the average LCD. However, what this 30-degrees implies in practical terms is that these V5100 Sony LCD TVs still offer more than adequate viewing angle in the home - as long as all viewers sit within the recommended viewing distance from the screen.
On the other hand, as one may expect, the matte screen on these Sony LCD TVs - though not exactly matter - handles bright lighting relatively well, doing better than plasmas and the 'Ultra Clear' shiny screen on Samsung LCD TV sets.
Sony's KDL-V5100 HDTVs represent an affordable 120Hz LCD HDTV option from a top brand. They do lack interactive features and their overall design is not as sleek as some of the competition within this price category.
Otherwise, these Sony LCD TVs are capable of a great picture thanks to their deep blacks and good shadow detail. Do not expect these to match those from the best plasma TVs, nor the deep blacks of the latest LED TVs but... Color accuracy is also generally good and you get plenty of connectivity options.
Bottom line: If what you are after is a solid picture at a relatively affordable price, the Sony KDL-V5100 series represents a most interesting line of 120Hz LCD HDTVs from a top brand.
For our 2009 KDL-XBR9 Sony LCD TV review, please check here...