Just as it was at the height of the cathode-ray television's popularity, the sub-$1,000 mark is a sweet spot for flat-panel TV purchasing today. Back then Panasonic and Sony were much more popular than LG or Samsung, but things have changed.
Sony has typically been a peg or two more expensive than its rivals but is now producing some value-conscious, high-enough-quality screens. The Sony EX523 series is an example of a television with a decent feature set and image quality that stands up well against the competition. It's an edge-lit LED TV that performs about as well as the LG LV5500, although each has its strengths and weaknesses. If you're a stickler looking for accurate colors or are bothered by uniformity issues it's not the TV for you, but otherwise the EX523 represents a solid value.
Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the KDL-46EX523, 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 Bravia KDL-32EX523||32 inches|
|Sony Bravia KDL-40EX523||40 inches|
|Sony Bravia KDL-46EX523 (reviewed)||46 inches|
|Panel depth||1.1 inches||Bezel width||1 inch|
|Single-plane face||No||Swivel stand||Yes|
Just as this year's Apple iPhone looks like the one before it, Sony's designs for 2011 remain largely unchanged from 2010. While it's easy to tell the difference between some competitor's TVs--the distinctive Samsung D8000/D7000 being an extreme example--the only way to distinguish the EX523 from the EX720 or the 2010 EX700 is to take a gander at tiny model number printed on the back panel. The EX523 has a gun-metal lower bezel and black surrounds, which could be kindly described as "understated" or unkindly as "dowdy."
The television is quite slim as a result of the edge-lighting system. It features a swivel base for times when you're not able to watch TV from the couch.
|Remote control and menus|
|Remote size (LxW)||8 x 2 inches||QWERTY keyboard||No|
|Illuminated keys||No||IR device control||No|
|Menu item explanations||Yes||On-screen manual||No|
Sony's controllers have rocked the concave look this year with a slight inward curve--perhaps as a remote tie-in with the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc (Remote. Get it?) As with previous remotes we appreciate the dedicated media buttons such as Netflix in addition to its ease of use.
Pressing the Home button brings up Sony's redesigned (for 2011) Xross Media Bar (XMB) with easy access to settings, network media content, and other (non-Netflix) streaming services. The menu is a tweaked version of the existing XMB with a right-handed orientation, allowing you to continue watching your program in a picture-in-picture display. Even if you haven't used a Sony device before, you'll find it quite intuitive.
|Key TV features|
|Display technology||LCD||LED backlight||Edge-lit|
|3D technology||N/A||3D glasses included||N/A|
|Screen finish||Matte||Internet connection||Built-in Wi-Fi|
|Refresh rate(s)||60Hz||Dejudder (smooth) processing||No|
We tend to think streaming media is a much more important feature than 3D, so the EX523's mix of "2D-only" plus Sony's robust Internet suite is pretty appealing. While you can buy a device like a Roku or WD TV Live to add streaming to any TV, some people might appreciate having it integrated into the TV. The Sony EX523 with its Netflix button simplifies the task tremendously, and if you want 3D, there's always the EX720.
The EX523 replaces the existing EX520 but trawling through the specs list it's difficult to see what has changed, but the answer is: onboard Wi-Fi. The 520 only features optional Wi-Fi and so incorporating it makes features such as Netflix more compelling.
|Streaming and apps|
|Amazon Instant||Yes||Hulu Plus||Yes|
|Other: Gracenote TrackID; 28+ niche video services; Sony's Qriocity video and music service; Yahoo! Widgets; Picasa, Photobucket and Shutterfly|
Joining Netflix in the premium streaming department are Amazon Instant, Hulu Plus, and Pandora. The TV also features access to Sony's own Sony Entertainment Network (nee Qriocity) streaming for both music--subscription or otherwise--and videos. Other hidden gems include full-length concerts on MoshCam shot in venues around Sydney, Australia, and of course YouTube. The only missing link is Vudu.
Check our comparison chart for details on how Sony's Internet offerings stack up to the competition's. We ranked it fifth overall mainly because the company's custom interfaces for services like Amazon and Netflix lag behind the default versions found on other TVs. The NX720 review and our separate write-up of Gracenote have more details if you're curious.
|Adjustable picture modes||10||Fine dejudder control||No|
|Color temperature presets||4||Fine color temperature control||2 points|
|Gamma presets||7||Color management system||No|
- Release date09/1/11
- TV type LED-LCD
- Screen size 46 in
- Backlight type (LED) Edge-lit
- Display format 1080p
- Energy Star Qualified EPA Energy Star