If you don't expect the world from the entry-level Sony KDL-BX420 LCD, its picture quality may be a pleasant surprise.
By this time next year companies like Sony might not even sell TVs like the KDL-BX420 series. The CCFL (cold-cathode fluorescent) backlight that illuminates this TV's LCD panel is slowly going extinct, replaced especially in larger screen sizes by LEDs packed into razor-thin cabinets that can generate more light from less power. They can also generate higher profits. The BX420 is Sony's least-expensive 1080p TV for 2010, and it's a very good value. The picture quality isn't up to the best non-LED models we've seen, like Samsung's more expensive LND630, but we noticed no major problems and a couple of surprising strengths. We wouldn't recommend it for budget videophiles, but casual viewers who don't want to pay more for LED will find plenty to like about the Sony KDL-BX420.
Compared with the Samsung, Vizio, and LGs at its level, which offer at least three HDMI ports, the BX420's two-port offering is one of its biggest weaknesses. Two HDMI might be enough for the most basic systems, but to add something beyond a cable box and a game console--say, perhaps, a Roku or even a temporary camcorder or laptop PC connection--you'll need to get an external HDMI switch.
The basic Sony remote is an ergonomic winner despite its petite size. A sensible number of buttons are arranged into logical areas differentiated by size, color and shape, centered on a big Home key below the cursor control.
In addition to the three adjustable picture modes available under the General setting, there are (confusingly) six more under Scene. A seventh, called Auto, can't be adjusted. That's plenty of presets but only Custom and Standard allows access to advanced settings like detailed color temperature controls and gamma.
While the Sony BX420 doesn't do anything particularly well from a picture quality standpoint, it also, surprisingly for an entry-level LCD, doesn't do much badly. Its worst offense is color inaccuracy in dark areas and imperfect screen uniformity, but its black levels were decent and it actually handled 1080p/24 cadence--something we didn't expect from a 60Hz TV. Overall its picture deserves the same score of 6 we gave to Sony's EX720 LED-based model, which costs hundreds more. We'd give the BX420, with its more accurate color and better processing, a slight edge over the Samsung LND550 with its better black levels and uniformity, but the two are neck-and-neck overall.