Of the four Sony LCD TVs we've reviewed this year so far, the KDL-EX500 is both the least expensive and the most impressive for the money. It lacks the thin chassis of its LED-based brothers, along with the eye-catching Monolithic design of the company's flagship models. It even lacks an Ethernet port for Internet extras, along with many of the more-advanced picture controls found on competing models in this price range. What it doesn't lack, however, is solid picture quality for an LCD, comparing well with both competing CCFL-backlit models and the edge-lit LEDs that cost much more. Among mainstream LCD TVs, the Sony KDL-EX500 is a very good value.
Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 46-inch Sony KDL-46EX500, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.
|Models in series (details)|
|Sony KDL-32EX500||32 inches|
|Sony KDL-40EX500||40 inches|
|Sony KDL-46EX700 (reviewed)||46 inches|
|Sony KDL-55EX500||55 inches|
|Sony KDL-60EX500||60 inches|
|Panel depth||4 inches||Bezel width||2.2 inches|
|Single-plane face||No||Swivel stand||Yes|
Appearing basically identical to the LED-based Sony KDL-EX700 from the front, the EX500 deploys glossy black on three sides of its frame and brushed dark gray along the bottom. Seen in profile, it's about 2 inches thicker than the EX700, for what that's worth. Though we like the EX500's subtle two-tone look and the way it eschews the all-black look seen on some competitors, to our eye it lacks that extra dash of panache found on, say, the Samsung LNC630 series.
|Remote control and menus|
|Remote size (LxW)||8.6 x 2 inches||Remote screen||N/A|
|Total keys||41||Backlit keys||0|
|Other IR devices controlled||No||RF control of TV||No|
|Shortcut menu||Yes||Onscreen explanations||Yes|
We also liked the EX500's remote control, albeit not quite as much as the slicker clicker that ships with step-ups like the KDL-NX800. The step-down remote loses those nice, flush plastic keys in favor of the standard raised rubber variety, backlighting goes missing, and you can't command other gear via infrared.
Sony's EX500 menu system is also markedly less slick than the XMB-inspired affair on step-up models, but it gets the job done well enough and conveniently makes lots of options visible at once to minimize scrolling. One omission is the ability to access the "Scene" picture presets via the menu; you'll need to use a dedicated remote key.
|Key TV features|
|Display technology||LCD||LED backlight||N/A|
|3D compatible||No||3D glasses included||N/A|
|Screen finish||Matte||Refresh rate(s)||120Hz|
|Dejudder (smooth) processing||Yes||1080p/24 compatible||No|
|Internet connection||No||Wireless HDMI/AV connection||No|
|Other: Streams videos, music and photos via USB|
The main highlight here compared with less-expensive Sony LCDs is 120Hz processing--although the EX500 did fail our test for 1080p/24 (see Performance for details). More-expensive models like the EX700 offer Sony's streaming-video suite and LED backlighting, among other perks.
The EX500 does have the ability to stream videos via a USB connection, although, sans an Ethernet port, it can't stream from a home network via DLNA like the Samsung LNB630 series can. Sony's matte screen is also a plus in bright rooms, cutting down on reflections better than glossy versions.
|Adjustable picture modes||8||Independent memories per input||Yes|
|Dejudder presets||2||Fine dejudder control||No|
|Aspect ratio modes -- HD||3||Aspect ratio modes -- SD||4|
|Color temperature presets||4||Fine color temperature control||2 points|
|Gamma presets||7||Color management system||No|
Sony divides its picture presets into seven "scenes," like Cinema, Graphics, and Sports, each of which, aside from "Auto," is adjustable. If you select the default General scene, you can choose from three more presets, called Vivid, Standard, and Custom, that are independent per input. The result should be plenty of memory slots for even inveterate tweakers. Said tweakers are sure to miss, however, the range of advanced controls found on the competing LCDs of Samsung and LG.
|Power saver mode||Yes||Ambient light sensor||Yes|
|Picture-in-picture||No||Onscreen user manual||No|
Sony's Eco menu offers the usual power-saving options, which limit maximum light output and allow the picture to be turned off completely, bringing power use down to just 23 watts. It's missing the presence sensor found on the EX700, however, and onscreen product support is limited to a page with contact and version info.
|HDMI inputs||2 back, 2 side||Component video inputs||2 back|
|Composite video input(s)||1 side||S-Video input(s)||0|
|VGA-style PC input(s)||1||RF input(s)||1|
|AV output(s)||stereo audio||Digital audio output||optical|
|USB port||1 side||Ethernet (LAN) port||No|
Nothing major is missing here. Sony evenly divides the HDMI ports between back and side, and provides that one USB port for video, photos, and music.