Sony KDL-32EX723 TV review
Typical price: £750 (£614.90 from Amazon)
Date of review: May 8th 2011
Key features: Built-in active 3D; 100Hz processing; Bravia Engine and new X-Reality processing; MotionFlow 200 (100Hz plus scanning backlight); Sony’s latest Bravia Internet Video system including Qriocity, Sky News, BBC iPlayer, Youtube and Demand 5; TrackID function; edge LED lighting; Internet browser
Screen size: 32in
Connections: Four v1.4 HDMIs, two USBs, component video, D-Sub PC input, composite video input, RF input, one Scart (RGB), PCMCIA slot, LAN port, optional wi-fi, analogue audio input, PCM and optical digital audio out, headphone out
Native resolution: 1920×1080
Screen technology: LCD with edge LED lighting
Claimed contrast ratio/max brightness: Mega(!)/not quoted
Dimensions: 755(w) x 42(d) x 480(h)mm
More information: www.sony.co.uk
Reasons to care
This is the first TV from Sony’s brand new 2011 range, and comes from slap bang in the middle of that range – so hopefully it’s ideally positioned to give us some real pointers towards what we can expect from the brand this year.
Its mid-range status means it’s the cheapest set in Sony’s new range to offer built-in active 3D decoding, with the necessary IR transmitter built in. It’s also got a promising amount of picture processing, including Sony’s Bravia Engine system, 200Hz comprising 100Hz plus a scanning backlight, and a basic version of Sony’s new X-Reality system, designed to boost detail reproduction.
Also important is the 32EX723’s revamp of Sony’s Bravia Internet Video system, complete with a new Internet browser and interface.
Form - The 32EX723 doesn’t enjoy one of Sony’s striking ‘Monolithic’ designs, with their one-layer fascias and powerful black finish. Instead it’s got a standard bezel around a slightly set-back screen, with black around three sides and a grey, metallic-effect finish to the bottom edge. The sculpting is just a straightforward rectangle aside from the fact that it’s pleasingly slender around the back, contributing to a design that’s chic without exactly making you go weak at the knees.
Build quality – The screen and bezel both feel a little plasticky for a 32in TV costing north of £700.
Ease of use
Operating manual - Aside from a slender paper manual dedicated just to basic set up, the 32EX723’s instructions consist of an electronic manual built into the TV. Unfortunately, though, unlike similar systems on Loewe and Samsung TVs, Sony’s is not ‘interactive’ to the extent that you can see or call up information on a specific feature or option when you’ve got that option highlighted. Instead the manual is a mere digital version of what the printed one would have looked like. As such it’s actually rather cumbersome to explore and can make it quite tricky to track down the exact feature you want.
Remote control - Although it feels a little plasticky, the 32EX723’s remote is actually quite comfortable to hold and use, and its buttons are responsive enough. Sony has tried hard, too, to make as many key features as possible accessible via dedicated buttons rather than forcing you to trawl menus for everything.
The downside is that the layout doesn’t feel very intuitive; a result, of Sony trying to apply new features to a pre-existing (for a couple of generations now) remote layout rather than redesigning a new remote from scratch.
Onscreen menus - The 32EX723’s menus are presented in a double-axis format, as with last year’s Sony efforts, but this time their focal point is set to the bottom right of the screen, so you can explore them while still watching a reduced but otherwise clean version of the picture in the top-left corner of the screen. Excellent.
Sony has also improved the presentation of its Bravia Internet Video services, handling the large quantities of services it offers much more succinctly, with far less endless scrolling than we got with 2010’s models.
On the downside, the menus are sluggish to respond on occasion, some of the menu header icons are obscure, and the Internet browser is a joke, thanks to its text being too small to read from any sort of distance on the 32EX723’s 32in screen.
Headliners - The 3D playback is a promising find on a mid-range set – though you don’t get any active shutter glasses included for free, and we have to question the point of 3D on a screen as small as 32in unless, perhaps, it’s for 3D gaming.
The combination of 200Hz and Sony’s Bravia Engine processing bodes well for motion and picture quality generally, while it will be interesting to see if the X-Reality system really does make pictures look sharper.
Finally, there’s the new Bravia Internet Video service and Internet browser.
Connections - The 32EX723 covers all the video and multimedia bases we might reasonably expect of a mid-range TV. Which is to say it has four HDMIs (v1.4 affairs for 3D compatibility), two USBs for playback of a wide array of video, photo and music file types, a D-Sub PC port, and a LAN port for accessing Sony’s online services or stuff on a networked DLNA PC.
You can make the TV wi-fi, too, via an option USB dongle.
Key setup tools - Although they’re not presented in a very ‘typical’ fashion, the 32EX723 has a decent amount of tools for calibrating its pictures. The most useful things include a degree of colour management via Sony’s Live Colour Creation system, and the ability to adjust the power of the motion processing. Personally we preferred to leave this set to off or on its ‘Clear’ setting.
Online features - The 32EX723’s online service is a classic case of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. For it differs content wise very little from last year’s service, comprising a very video-centric service that seems perfectly in tune with what you actually use your TV for – namely, watching video!
The full content list goes like this: the BBC iPlayer; Demand 5; Sony’s interesting Qriocity music and video subscription platforms (though these are, of course, offline at the time of writing due to Sony’s recent network security breach); Sky News; LoveFilm; Sony Entertainment Television’s classic series archive; YouTube; EuroSport; the Billabong extreme sports’ channel; DailyMotion, howcast.com; blip.tv; the uStudio HD clip server; golflink.com; livestrong.com; videocast.com; LoveFilm’s trailer channel; the Picasa photo site; footage from the Berliner Philharmoniker; and the Moshcam music concert channel.
This all adds up to probably the most consistently watchable online system in town, even if it’s not currently as ‘app-heavy’ as some rival systems.
There’s a cool new online party trick to mention too: TrackID. Press the TrackID button on the remote while any bit of music is playing on a TV show or film you’re watching, and the TV will tell you what the piece of music is. It’s amazing how accurate this system is, even when it only gets a very short burst of music to work with.
The bad news about Sony’s online service is restricted to the Internet browser, which as noted earlier is pretty much unusable thanks to its text being too small.
Key Omissions - not including any 3D glasses for free with an active 3D TV is a bit stingy considering there’s now passive 3D technology to compete with. It might be worth Sony going a little more standard with its picture set up tools, too, and trying to get endorsement from the Imaging Science Foundation like some rival brands do.
Finally, while we appreciate Bravia Internet Video’s focus on video, a few more ‘apps’ wouldn’t go amiss as well. Maybe these will appear in the coming months.