Last Updated: November 2, 2013
2011 Sony LED TV Lineup
Full Product Evaluation - Part 2
Entry-Level and Step-Up Sony LED HDTVs
Up to a few years ago, entry-level series from major brands were bare-bones sets that delivered a good enough picture but nothing else.
This is no longer the case; in particular, the least expensive HDTVs from all major TV players generally deliver a lot of features and conveniences for the affordable price. Equally interesting is that jumping onto the LED TV bandwagon typically calls for approximately no more than an extra $150 over corresponding CCFL-LCD TVs.
This also holds true with this year lineup of entry-level Sony LED TVs, which come with numerous features and conveniences for the affordable price. In particular, a major feature present on all Sony LED TVs, including entry-level sets is Internet TV, or as is being referred to by Samsung and LG, Smart TV.
It is true that Sony's entry-level and step-up LED TVs do not come cheap - in that entry-level LED TVs from other TV brands come at a cheaper price. However, if you were to compare like with like in terms of features, you would find that these Sony HDTVs are selling within the same price bracket as HDTVs from other leaders in the HDTV market.
A no ordinary HDTV capable of improved color accuracy thanks to the new Triluminous Quantum Dots backlight technology
Entry-level and Step-up LED TVs: Discussing each TV series in detail
While features vary according to series, yet there are a few basic and not so basic features that are present on all 2011 Sony LED TVs, irrespective of series.
Basic Feature Set:
1] A compact and pleasing slim design characterized by a minimalistic look and a swivel/tilt stand as standard.
2] LightSensor Technology customizes picture brightness to help you save energy; a built-in light sensor automatically adjusts the picture brightness based on the amount of light in the room.
3] Presence Sensor saves energy when you’re not around. The built-in motion sensor scans the room; if no movement is detect in a pre-set period, it turns off the picture leaving only the sound on, and automatically turns the TV off if no movement is detected after an extended period, thus minimizing any unnecessary power usage.
4] Internet Video (without web browsing support) is available on all Sony LED TVs; in addition, all Sony LED HDTVs come with DLNA-enabled network connectivity (Ethernet and Wi-Fi ready), and are Skype-ready.
5] Extensive Connectivity even on entry-level sets complemented by 4 HDMI with and x.v.Color, CEC (for use with Bravia SyncTM to control multiple compatible devices via the TV remote) and audio return channel, PC input via both DSub and HDMI, composite and component video inputs, digital audio out, headphone output, and 2 USB2.0 ports supporting MP3, JPG, and MPEG1/2 video playback.
6] Extensive User-Adjustable Picture Controls with a minimum of 10 adjustable picture modes, four color temperature presets, 7 gamma presents, and a two-point fine temperature setting.
7] Audio comes at 10W RMS per channel over the TV rear facing speakers; it comes with sound elevation effect and surround sound simulation over the TV stereo speakers. Sound quality is relatively good for a flat panel HDTV especially at average volume levels.
8] Other features include PIP, Twin picture, TV Guide on screen, built-in TV manual, and mobile app control
Entry-level Series - EX520 and EX523: Sony's cheapest LED TVs
Sony KDL-46EX523 with Internet Video and built-in Wi-Fi
The Sony KDL-EX520 and EX523 series represent Sony's cheapest LED TVs for 2011. Each of these series includes a 32-inch, 40-inch, and a 46-inch HDTV.
These are 60Hz 1080p LED TVs that come with the same basic feature set detailed above except for the presence of a built-in Wi-Fi adaptor on the slightly more expensive EX523 series.
These are Sony's entry-level LED TVs but unlike entry-level sets from Samsung and LG, Sony LED TVs come fully equipped with the latest hot spec for 2011—Bravia Internet Video, or as is being referred to by other TV makers, Smart TV.
Difference in online pricing between corresponding EX520 and EX523 sets varies between $50 and $100. However, online pricing seems set to favor the EX523, with the Sony KDL-46EX523 selling on amazon at under $950 while the 46-inch KDL-46EX520 is selling at $900.
At this price bracket, one cannot classify these HDTVs as 'cheap LED TVs' despite being the most affordable LED TVs within Sony's lineup, but these Sony LED TVs are selling at the same price bracket as corresponding Smart TV sets from Samsung and LG.
We did not review these LED HDTVs but we expect the two series to perform the same in view of their identical picture-related feature set. Customer feedback posted online is extremely positive, with an average customer rating that exceeds four stars out of five for sets within the EX523 series. All customers agree about the solid picture quality especially with HD material and their pretty good sound, but then remark about the rather narrow viewing angle; the latter is typical of edge-lit LED HDTVs.
As expected, more popular of the two series is the EX523; best-selling sets within the entry-level category include the 32-inch KDL-32EX523 and the 46-inch KDL-46EX523 Sony LED TVs; at the time of this write-up, these LED TVs are selling on amazon at $600 and $950 respectively.
Step-Up Series EX620: Sony's entry-level 120Hz LED HDTVs
The KDL-EX620 series is a 120Hz equivalent of the EX520 in that it comes with the same feature set except for a 120Hz panel. This means that picture-wise, we expect the Sony EX620 LED TVs to have practically the same picture quality as the 60Hz entry-level series. However, the EX620 should be capable of eliminating judder with 24p movie content, something the EX520 and EX523 cannot. The reason is that 60Hz HDTVs have to use 3:2 pulldown processing to display 24p movie content; this leads to a visual artifact in the form of a jerky movement when viewed on 60Hz HDTVs. [For more information on judder, image smoothness and panel refresh rate, please refer to our LCD Response Time article.]
EX620 Sony HDTVs are not among the most popular. Present reduced online pricing favors the KDL-EX720 series 3D HDTVs—with the latter selling on sites like amazon and Best Buy at practically the same price as corresponding EX620 Sony LED TVs.
Available screen sizes include 40-inch, 46-inch, and 55-inch; best-selling model at the time of this write-up is the 46-inch KDL-46EX620 but at $1060, it is practically selling at the same price of the 46-inch 3D EX720 HDTV. This explains the relatively low consumer interest in EX620 Sony LED TVs.
Mid-range Series EX720: Sony's most affordable 3D HDTVs
The Sony EX720 line is the series that covers the largest number of TV screen sizes within the 2011 Sony lineup—five in total. These include 32-inch, 40-inch, 46-inch, 55-inch, and the first of two massive 60-inch sets. This is also the least expensive range of Sony LED TVs than come with 3D and a built-in Web browser; included also is what Sony defines as XR 240.
The latter is a somewhat misleading term in that many would interpret this as 240Hz refresh rate when in reality EX720 Sony LED TVs still make use of the same 120Hz refresh rate panel as found on EX620 HDTVs. The difference between the standard 120Hz refresh rate of the EX620 and XR 240 is that the latter combines the use of a scanning LED backlight in conjunction with the 120Hz panel refresh rate.
Sony's XR 240 main benefit over standard 120Hz refresh rate is when handling of 3D TV content in that it will still allow for the proper cadence of 1080p/24 film based 3D content. It also delivers superior motion resolution both with 2D and 3D. In the case of 2D, it supports the full 1080 lines of the HDTV standard when Motion Flow is set to either Clear or Clear Plus in which case backlight scanning is activated to improve motion performance. However, the improvement brought about by the XR 240 feature when Motion Flow is activated over standard 120Hz refresh rate HDTVs is difficult to discern with the unaided eye especially with normal program content.
Worth mentioning that while brands like Samsung and LG do include customizable dejudder processing on their 120Hz and 240Hz HDTVs to enable the user to adjust the smoothing effect brought about by the higher refresh rate, this is not the case with Sony's implementation; instead, Sony settles for just four dejudder presets. This means that unless you set Motion Flow to off, you will still experience some artificial smoothing with 1080p/24 film material.
The EX720 series does not come with built-in Wi-Fi but this is the first of 2011 Sony LED TV series to include the full suite of Internet Video in that apart from the numerous streaming services, it also come with a Web browser. However, the latter is more of a sales feature in that as stated under part 1 of this Sony LED TV review, the present web browser feature is practically of no use even for light Web browsing. Other brands did not do much better with their TV Web browser but Sony's implementation is one of the slowest on any TV.
As is typical with active 3D TV sets, Sony does not include the proprietary 3D glasses. Strangely enough, Sony does not even include a pair of its 3D glasses with its very expensive flagship LED HDTVs even though some major retail sites are offering the Sony 3D glasses kit for free with selected Sony 3D TVs.
Sony KDL-EX720 HDTVs are extremely energy efficient and are capable of a relatively very good picture for a step-up series but do not expect the picture quality of the more expensive premium LED TVs.
Best out-of-the-box setting is the Cinema picture mode. Once calibrated, these HDTVs are capable of a clear overall picture with good shadow detail thanks to the relatively accurate gamma, accurate colors, and good grayscale tracking across the entire brightness range except for the darkest areas. Grayscale tracking indicates the display's ability to produce a neutral shade of white from the brightest whites to very dim grays; this is the most important aspect of a display's color performance as without a neutral grayscale, colors will appear unnatural with shifts in brightness.
The EX720 matte screen is another positive assist that is disappearing fast on most LCD HDTVs but that definitely helps reduce glare under bright room environments.
The Sony LED TVs handles 1080p/24 content correctly though they fail to properly de-interlace 1080i film-based material. This is typical of Sony HDTVs, including their latest flagship. It is not much of an issue though this can lead to some minor artifacts with 1080i material.
Main picture quality issues are lighter black levels compared to the competition from other major brands—including LG, uneven brightness uniformity across the screen, and a noticeable bluish tint in the darker areas. With 3D viewing, there are definitely crosstalk issues as well; in particular, these Sony LED TVs are less tolerant to head tilt with 3D viewing, with a 3D image that deteriorates faster in comparison to other TV brands. But then with the Sony EX720 HDTVs, you get active 3D for less.
Overall: This is the series that in our opinion represents the best overall value for your money among the full Sony LED TV lineup for 2011. It literally leaves nothing to be desired—unless you are ready to pay extra for the superior picture quality of premium HDTVs and the refined styling of Sony's Monolithic design.
A most exhaustive feature-list complemented by 3D, Internet streaming, excellent connectivity, good picture quality, superb energy efficiency, and a stylish minimalistic design, help render the EX720 Sony LED TV series among the Sony HDTVs most in demand for 2011.
Best-selling models are the Sony KDL-40EX720 and the Sony KDL-46EX720; these are selling online at approximately $850 and $1,050 respectively. The 55-inch EX720 is also among the most popular Sony LED TVs, yet at the larger screen sizes, consumer interest starts shifting towards the more expensive premium series, mainly because of their more refined Monolithic styling and superior LED backlight technology.
Next... Part 3: Premium Sony LED HDTVs
Are you looking for a Sony LED TV?
Amazon.com offers an extensive range of Sony HDTVs, often at significantly reduced prices.