In addition to the three color temperature presets, full white balance controls are available to help customize the grayscale. More advanced settings include gamma and a Game Mode to disable video processing, along with dubious extras like Live Color, Clear White and Advanced Contrast Enhancer that we left turned off for our evaluation.
The KDL-VE5 offers four aspect ratio selections, including one called Full Pixel that correctly scales 1080i and 1080p sources to fit the screen. It lacks extras like picture-in-picture, but we did like the handy product support screen, which includes phone numbers for Sony customer service.
Connectivity on the KDL-VE5 series is solid, if a bit unusual. Sony chose to mount three of the four HDMI inputs--a healthy number--on the side panel rather than the back. That makes temporary hookups more convenient, but on the flipside some users may be less comfortable with wires protruding from the side. Sony did inset that side bay enough to accommodate all but the fattest cables, however.
Non-HDMI jacks in the back include two component-video and one RF for antenna or cable, as well as analog and digital audio outputs. That well-rounded side panel boasts a PC input (1,920x1,080 resolution), a USB port for photos and music and an AV input with S- and composite-video.
The picture quality of Sony's KDL-46VE5 is solid for a standard LCD, with relatively deep black levels, accurate color, and good video processing. On the other hand we'd like to see better saturation, more neutral colors in dark areas, and an improvement in uniformity.
As usual for a Sony review our standard calibration began in Cinema mode, which came fairly close to the color temperature standard, although it fell slightly short of our nominal 40ftl light output. We tweaked the grayscale slightly to very good results, aside from the very darkest areas, and ended up with gamma at a respectable 2.13 versus our target of 2.2. It's worth noting that, as usual, we disabled all of the controls we could that changed the backlight, including the "Auto" backlight setting in the Eco menu.
The side-by-side comparison included a couple LCDs in the VE5's price range, the LG 47LH50 and the Philips 42PFL6704D, as well as a couple of more-expensive LCDs, Samsung's LN52B750 and Sony's own KDL-52XBR9. We also included a par of plasmas, the Panasonic TC-P50V10 and our reference Pioneer PRO-111FD. Our film of choice for most of our image quality tests was "Gran Torino" on Blu-ray.
Black level: The KDL-VE5 delivered a deep shade of black for a standard LCD, equaling that of the XBR9 and surpassing the other LCDs, with the exception of the Samsung B750. The difference was most visible in dark scenes, such as when Eastwood's character awakens in the middle of the night and grabs his gun to investigate a noise. The depths of the shadows in his house and garage, as well as the black of the letterbox bars, all appeared relatively deep on the VE5, albeit not to the same extent as the B750 or the plasmas. Details in the shadows, such as the tools along the walls of the garage or Eastwood's face as the overhead light swings back and forth, also looked quite realistic. We also appreciated that the backlight didn't noticeably change in intensity during transitions between dark and lighter scenes.
Color accuracy: The set's accurate grayscale was were visible in delicate skin tones, such as the pale face of Sue in the truck with Eastwood in Chapter 10, which had the right balance without the greener tinge we saw on the XBR9. The green plants in the background, as well as the red and blue of the Lor family shaman's outfit in Chapter 12, for example, showed the Sony's primary and secondary color accuracy.
On the other hand we did have to reduce the color control, sacrificing some saturation, to avoid a subtle orange-ish look to skin tones. As a result, colors appeared less lush and vibrant than on the LG and the Samsung, not to mention the plasmas. As usual with Sony and many other makers' LCDs, the VE5 also reproduced very dark areas with a decided bluish cast that we couldn't adjust away.
Video processing: You'll need to engage the VE5's MotionFlow dejudder mode to get the antiblurring benefits of its 120Hz refresh rate (which are dubious; see below), but doing so has the usual effect on film-based sources like "Gran Torino." It makes them look more like video.
We compared Sony's Standard mode, the less objectionable of the two MotionFlow settings to our eye, against Standard on the Samsung and Low on the LG, and as in the past we liked the Sony's Standard better. The other two seemed smoother and definitely showed more artifacts than the Sony. For example, in Chapter 9 when Eastwood faces down the punks on the street, the fence behind Trey as he stumbles away dissolved into a blurry halo on the Samsung and LG, while on the Sony it stayed stable. The Sony also preserved some judder in Standard--for example when the camera pulls away from Trey and Sue as they round the corner, the trees in the background stuttered a bit, while on the Samsung and LG they moved smoothly. As always, the "beauty" of dejudder is definitely in the eye of the beholder, and we really prefer Samsung's system since it allows significantly more customization than Sony's simple two settings.
Our preference was to leave dejudder Off for films, and we appreciated that when we did so the VE5 handled 1080p/24 sources well. Our preferred test for this capability, the shot moving over the deck of the Intrepid from "I Am Legend," revealed that the Sony properly preserved the cadence of film.
Like the KDL-5100 series, the VE5 was unable to resolve every detail of 1080i and 1080p still resolution sources. It deinterlaced 1080i video-based sources correctly but failed with film-based sources regardless of the CineMotion setting we chose. Motion resolution with was normal for a 120Hz LCD: 500-600 lines with dejudder engaged (MotionFlow set to Standard or High), which dropped it to 300-400 lines with it turned off. As usual, we found it exceedingly difficult to spot the effects of these resolution characteristics when watching normal program material.
Uniformity: The VE5 exhibited worse overall uniformity any of the other LCDs. The sides appeared brighter than the rest of the screen, but the worst offender was brighter area in the upper-left corner, which became clearly visible dark scenes and the letterbox bars. When seen from off-angle the screen washed out at about an average rate compared to the other LCDs.
Bright lighting: Matte-screened LCDs like the Sony performed the best in our comparison under bright lighting. It handled reflections from windows and lights facing the screen quite well--better than the other displays in our comparison, which all have glossy (the Samsungs) or glass (plasma) screens. It also preserved black levels in dark areas better than either of the two plasmas, and about as well as the Samsung LCD.
Standard-definition: The VE5 turned in an average standard-def performance. It resolved every detail of a DVD source, and fine details in the grass and stone bridge looked as sharp as we expected. With video-based sources we saw more jaggies on moving diagonal lines than on other displays, albeit not as many as on the XBR9--although the waving American flag appeared about the same on the two Sony displays. The VE5's noise reduction performed very well, cleaning up the snowy, noisy shots of skies and sunsets with aplomb, although the MPEG noise reduction option didn't seem to do much in those areas. CineMotion set to Auto1 engaged 2:3 pulldown to remove moire from the grandstands.
PC: Like the V5100, the VE5 couldn't resolve every detail of 1,920x1,080 sources via both HDMI and VGA, failing to deliver the full vertical resolution according to DisplayMate. PC sources still looked relatively crisp nonetheless, but not as good as on the XBR9, for example.
|Before color temp (20/80)||6415/6588||Good|
|After color temp||6454/6514||Good|
|Before grayscale variation||127||Good|
|After grayscale variation||104||Average|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.627/0.324||Average|
|Color of green||0.282/0.588||Average|
|Color of blue||0.149/0.05||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Y||Good|
|480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps||Pass||Good|
|1080i video resolution||Pass||Good|
|1080i film resolution||Fail||Poor|