LG prides itself on its tweakability, but Sony is a little more reserved in handing over the reins to users wanting more control over image quality. While Sony offers a plethora of picture presets, including a very good Cinema mode, there isn't much for advanced users to sink their teeth into.
|HDMI inputs||3 back, 1 side||Component video inputs||1 back|
|Composite video input(s)||1 back||VGA-style PC input(s)||1|
|USB port||2 side||Ethernet (LAN) port||Yes|
|Other:Side headphone jack with separate volume control|
Connectivity is fairly standard for a 2011 TV with the highlight being the four HDMI ports. By incorporating the Wi-Fi adapter inside the unit, the EX523 has freed up a USB slot, leaving you with two.
Just as there are limits to features, the type of performance you can expect from an LCD at this level is also reduced. The Sony's real shortcomings are in shadow detail, color accuracy and uniformity, including off-axis performance. It scored the same 6 rating as the similarly priced LG LV5500, and we'd call them about even, although each has different strengths and weaknesses. Overall the EX523 performs well for the price, especially in a bright room.
During our calibration process we found that fine-tuning the Sony is quite difficult. The problem is that the advanced settings are very coarse, and the delicate, rainforest-like ecology of the TV's picture can be thrown right out with only the tiniest change. As a result, we were able to improve the default picture but not by a lot. Of course you can always use the settings linked here, but know that you'll also get an image that's quite close to the TV's best simply by choosing the Cinema 1 mode under the Cinema "scene" option.
|Comparison models (details)|
|Panasonic TC-P50ST30||50-inch plasma|
|LG Infinia 47LW5500||47-inch edge-lit LED|
|Sony KDL-46EX720||46-inch edge-lit LED|
|Samsung UN46D6400||46-inch edge-lit LED|
|Samsung LN46D630||46 inch, info|
|Sony KDL-40BX420||46 inch, info|
|Pioneer PRO-111FD (reference)||50-inch plasma|
Black level: All told, the EX523 fell into the middle of our pack at conjuring a deep black. It got slightly deeper black than the other two Sonys did in our comparison, including the more expensive EX720, and outdid the LG in this area by a somewhat larger margin. The Samsung LND630 was better, however, and when comparing the EX523 to the Samsung 6400 and the Panasonic plasma, there is no contest.
Watching the slow fly-by of the Romulan ship from "Star Trek" demonstrated that the Sony can lose its hold on shadow detail with the ship becoming a World of Goo-type blob instead of the deadly ninja pine-cone you can clearly see on the Samsung or the Panasonic ST30. Both are a little more expensive, but if you watch in the dark, you'd be better served investing a little more than in the EX523.
Color accuracy: If you're not paying much money you can't expect reference-level accuracy, and while the Sony is lively and relatively faithful in bright scenes, dark ones do suffer. Sony TVs we've tested have exhibited some "blue push," and on the EX523 we found this predilection quite difficult to correct. Due to a lack of picture controls, it's impossible to do much with the blue blacks. Higher up the spectrum color appeared a little more natural, but we did see the TV had a strange tendency to kick out blues in some brighter areas too (80 IRE if you're counting).
Video processing: Sony prides itself on video processing, and the EX523 certainly lives up to the company's hallmarks. Despite being "only" a 60Hz TV, it was able to pass our 24p processing tests with flying colors, ensuring smooth pans during Blu-ray movies without artifacts or jerkiness. The TV was also able to resolve 1080i content without distracting jaggies. In this regard it performed a margin better than the Sony EX720, which is more expensive.
The lack of a 120Hz mode means that motion resolution is low, however, and it barely managed to scrape past 320 lines out of a possible 1080 on moving content. While the times when this would be visible are few, in some circumstances (such as tickers at the bottoms of some channels) it means blurred leading or trailing edges.
Uniformity: Apart from a lack of detail in shadows, the thing that really messes things up for the Sony is its backlighting problems: watch a dark movie and you'll see large gray splodges on the screen. This year's EX720 had the same issue, but side-by-side the EX523 is far worse.
Bright lighting: Though ostensibly a matte screen, the EX523 is a little more glossy than most and off-axis you can see a little more reflectivity than other matte screens. Off-axis is also a problem with the lights off, and if you turn the backlight down, you can lessen the effect but you also lose too much brightness.
Power consumption: Though the company has experimented with different forms of backlighting, particularly with the hot cathode technology that debuted and ended with the VE5, the EX523 is straight-old LED. But unlike some of the more experimental lighting methods, the long-term power usage benefits of LED is well known. It was able to score a very good 63.98W with a calibrated picture, which is one of the best results we've seen in a while.
|Black luminance (0%)||0.0085||Good|
|Dark gray x/y (20%)||0.3141/0.3297||Good|
|Bright gray x/y (70%)||0.3125/0.3283||Good|
|Before avg. color temp.||6529.6735||Good|
|After avg. color temp.||6559.3161||Good|
|Red lum. error (de94_L)||2.9337||Average|
|Green lum. error (de94_L)||1.3041||Good|
|Blue lum. error (de94_L)||0.142||Good|
|Cyan hue x/y||0.2286/0.322||Good|
|Magenta hue x/y||0.322/0.1532||Good|
|Yellow hue x/y||0.4206/0.5055||Good|
|1080p/24 Cadence (IAL)||Pass||Good|
|1080i De-interlacing (film)||Pass||Good|
|Motion resolution (max)||400||Poor|
|Motion resolution (dejudder off)||400||Poor|
|PC input resolution (VGA)||1,920x1,080||Good|
|Sony KDL-46EX523||Picture settings|
|Picture on (watts)||67.839||63.898||N/A|
|Picture on (watts/sq. inch)||0.08||0.07||N/A|
|Cost per year||$14.91||$14.04||N/A|
|Score (considering size)||Good|
At the moment, the sub-$1,000 television market is dominated by one TV: the Panasonic ST30. While there are a few nuggets here and there--the LG LV5500 and the Samsung 6400--they still have their problems. The Sony isn't quite able to compete with any of these three, but is definitely a better value than the Sony EX720, which is about $300 more expensive. The addition of onboard wireless makes the EX523 easier than ever to connect to online content, and picture quality is fine for the money.
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