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Sony KDL-BX300 series (photos)

Although a few bucks more than off-brand entry-level LCDs, Sony's KDL-BX300 series is still a great value.

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David_Katzmaier.jpg

David Katzmaier

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Overview

If you're considering a smaller TV we believe there's little reason to get one with an LED backlight or 1080p resolution. Sony's KDL-BX300 series is the company's least expensive for 2010, and it offers neither feature. It also lacks the USB port of the Samsung LNC350 we compared it with, but otherwise their feature sets and picture quality are nearly a match--although we give a slight edge to the Sony in the latter category. We can't tell you whether the BX300 is substantially better than even cheaper off-brand sets, but if you're looking for a solid name-brand bedroom TV, the BX300 qualifies.
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Corner detail

The Sony's understated look features hidden speakers.
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Stand detail

The panel sits low atop the non-swivel stand.
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Side view

If you care, the Sony is a bit thicker than the 2.6 inch Samsung, measuring 3.7 inches deep.
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Remote control

The BX300 goes beyond most entry-level models with its solid remote. The medium-size clicker can control other HDMI-CEC compatible gear, but not via infrared. Its ergonomics are excellent, centered around the big thumbpad, and the overall feel was a cut above the Samsung LNC350 series.
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Inputs

A pair of HDMI inputs is standard for this level, and the lack of front or side-panel jacks isn't unusual either. We appreciate the second component-video input, especially since one is shared with composite video. The USB port is for service updates only, not for any digital media.
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Main menu

Sony's menus aren't quite as extensive as Samsung's, but are very good for a basic TV. You have to scroll a lot in the main picture menu, but on the other hand we liked that the full-screen menu makes many functions visible at once. A convenient Tools menu provides some shortcuts, but it's nearly as long as the main menu. We liked the ability to "favorite" certain inputs and, if you have an antenna or direct cable connection, channels.
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Advanced picture settings menu

Between the extensive number of picture modes (nine out of ten of which are adjustable and independent per input, the tenth being Auto) and solid selection of advanced settings, including fine color temperature, tweakers should find everything they need to adjust the Sony's picture.
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Fine color temperature menu

Two-point white balance is common even in entry-level TVs.
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Power-saving options

Sony's Eco menu allows three levels of Energy Saving, each of which limits the backlight's maximum level. The Picture Off mode is a nice touch, as are a pair of autoshutoff doodads, although we'd like to see an ambient light sensor too.
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Picture quality

Overall we found the Sony plenty "good enough" for an entry-level TV, with no game-breaking defects and a couple of surprisingly good qualities, namely bright-area color accuracy and screen uniformity. The latter puts it ahead of the Samsung C350 in our book, although not far enough to break the numeric tie between the two in this subcategory. We can't speculate as to how the BX300 compares with even less expensive no-name models, but on its own merits it's a fine entry-level TV.

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