Sony KDL-32EX524 review: Sony KDL-32EX524

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Typical Price: £500.00
3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Warm colours; Good upscaling of standard-definition channels; Stylish design; Good connectivity.

The Bad Motion blur; Contrast performance could be better.

The Bottom Line There's plenty to like about the 32-inch Sony KDL-32EX524, including its warm pictures, good selection of Internet video services and stylish design. However, it's let down slightly by below-par contrast performance and some issues with motion blur.

7.5 Overall

Sony's 32-inch KDL-32EX524 is aimed at budget-conscious family buyers who don't want a humungous TV taking over their lounge and aren't fussed about 3D, but are instead looking for good online features.

This model faces stiff competition from similarly priced sets around the £500 mark from the likes of LG and Samsung. So just how well does it stack up against them?

Menu system

Sony recently gave its Xross Media Bar (XMB) menu system an overhaul and this set uses the updated version. One of the key differences is that when you now call up the menus, they don't completely obscure the programme you're watching. Instead, the video feed is reduced in size and shifted towards the top-left of the screen. This leaves room for a rotating menu bar at the bottom and a vertical sub-menu bar on the right-hand side.

Sony KDL-32EX524 side
This is probably not the optimum viewing angle.

The new system looks quite sleek and the animations and graphical effects are smooth. However, although it's quicker to use than the old XMB menus, we still don't think it's the easiest system for novices to get to grips with. Nor is it the fastest to use when you're looking to tweak an individual feature or setting.

Sometimes you find yourself shuffling around the menus, wasting time, just trying to find the place where the settings you want to change or services you need to access are located. Some of the blame for this can be laid at the icons that Sony has used to distinguish between the different menus. You just can't tell at a glance what many of them are meant to represent as they're too similar in appearance.

Sony KDL-32EX524 menu
What on Earth are those icons meant to represent? Confusing.

The electronic programme guide (EPG) for the onboard Freeview HD tuner is, however, one of the better ones to be found on current TVs. When you call up a channel, it's shuffled to a video thumbnail in the top left-hand corner of the screen. Next to this is a summary of the programme that you've got highlighted in the EPG. Below this is a large grid showing eight channels' worth of data.

The EPG is responsive when you're moving around it and if you hit the Option button on the remote, you can quickly set favourite channels or switch to browsing by genre, such as movies or sports.

Sony KDL-32EX524 EPG
Jeremy Kyle, Home and Away or The Fall Guy... there's only one winner.

Digital media and Internet features

Despite coming in towards the budget end of Sony's line-up of LED TVs, this model does have two USB ports, as well as both Ethernet and Wi-Fi support. However, its media playback capabilities are mixed, like a lot of the latest Sony TVs we've had in for review.

Although it will play Xvid and DviX files, both locally via USB or remotely across a network from a PC or NAS drive, it refused to play our selection of HD MKV files. That's disappointing as most Samsung and LG models now support the MKV format, which is becoming an increasingly popular one for high-definition videos on the Internet. Nevertheless, it did play a range of MP3 music tracks, as well as JPEG pictures, without any problems.

For quite some time, Sony's online features were the envy of its rivals. However, the Bravia Internet TV platform is starting to lose ground to Samsung and LG when it comes to the breadth of content available and, more specifically, the range of Internet apps on offer.

The video side of things remains reasonably well stocked. In the Internet video menu you'll find the BBC's iPlayer as well as Five's Demand 5 catch-up service. Other welcome services include Lovefilm, YouTube, Dailymotion, Sony's own Qriocity Video Unlimited movie rental offering and some content from Sony Entertainment Television.

Sony KDL-32EX524 Internet features
There's a strong line-up of Internet video services.

Where Sony's Internet platform really falls behind its competitors though is in its support for apps. There's just so few of them on offer here. You only get Twitter and Facebook, widget support for Picasa and Skype (although you need an optional camera and mic to even launch this), and an RSS news reader.

There's an Internet browser, but unfortunately this doesn't support Adobe Flash, so you can't view video on some websites. The lack of decent support for apps on Sony's Internet platform may be one of the reasons why it was toying with Google's TV operating system on some of the devices it was showing at the recent CES show in Las Vegas.

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