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 2011, 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, 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.
Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 40-inch KDL-40BX420, 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 ()|
|Sony KDL-32BX420||32 inches|
|Sony KDL-40BX420 (reviewed)||40 inches|
|Sony KDL-46BX420||46 inches|
|Panel depth||3.75 inches||Bezel width||2 inches|
|Single-plane face||No||Swivel stand||No|
Sony eschews the transparent edging, color accents and swivel stands of Samsung and LG in favor of unadorned glossy black on a low-profile, swivel-free base. We appreciate the clean look but, as expected at this level, it's nothing special.
|Remote control and menus|
|Remote size (LxW)||8.6x1.7 inches||QWERTY keyboard||No|
|Illuminated keys||No||IR device control||No|
|Menu item explanations||No||Onscreen manual||No|
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. The menus are similarly simple and satisfying, managing to place plenty of choices onscreen without seeming overwhelming.
|Key TV features|
|Display technology||LCD||LED backlight||N/A|
|3D technology||N/A||3D glasses included||N/A|
|Screen finish||Matte||Internet connection||No|
|Refresh rate(s)||60Hz||Dejudder (smooth) processing||No|
The most notable extra is the Sony's ability to play back music, photo, and video files from attached USB drives. Unlike the Samsung LND550 series, the BX450 lacks an Ethernet port, so it can't do the same via DLNA over a home network.
|Adjustable picture modes||9||Fine dejudder control||N/A|
|Color temperature presets||4||Fine color temperature control||2 points|
|Gamma presets||7||Color management system||No|
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. Unlike LG with its, Sony doesn't provide 10-point color controls or a color management system.
|HDMI inputs||2 back||Component video inputs||1 back|
|Composite video input(s)||1 back, 1 side||VGA-style PC input(s)||1 back|
|USB port||1 side||Ethernet (LAN) port||No|
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.
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.