Sony's 32-inch entry-level 2006 BRAVIA LCD, the KDL-32S2000 ($1,899 list), is priced relatively high compared to a lot of other 32-inch sets out there, but with the power of the Sony nameplate, it will likely remain popular nonetheless. This size hits a sweet spot for people looking to replace their aging 27- and 32-inch tube TVs with something that can handle high-def.
Eschewing the silver-on-black look of 2005's , Sony clad its 2006 32-inch LCD in subtler silver and gray. The KDL-32S2000's screen is surrounded by a light-gray border that thickens along the bottom to encompass the speakers. Around the gray is a thin silver frame that contributes to the set's exceedingly clean look. Between the silver-and-gray trim along the very bottom is a thin accent strip of pale, green plastic with a couple of indicator lights for power and standby. With the included swivel stand attached, the set measures 31.3 by 23.4 by 8.6 inches (WHD) and weighs 37.5 pounds.
Sony simplified its remote again this year, and the new clicker is friendlier, with plenty of space between keys as well as a prominent blue menu key to access the pertinent controls. A Tools key calls up oft-used items such as closed captioning and picture and sound modes. The main menu is no longer labeled Wega Gate, but it still focuses on tuner-centric selections such as favorite channels and analog vs. digital tuner inputs--none of which will be of use to people who hook up the KDL-32S2000 to a cable or satellite box. We like that the menu has an input-selection screen to complement the standard TV/Video button, and we really like the ability to skip unused inputs as well as to rename the ones you use with preset titles or even custom labels as long as five characters.
While the Sony KDL-32S2000 lacks picture-in-picture, it has a few other notable features. There's an ATSC tuner to receive over-the-air HDTV broadcasts via an antenna. A Freeze command stops the current image so that you can write down a phone number, for example. People looking to cut their electricity bills will appreciate the two power-saver modes--low and high--that limit the Sony's electricity consumption. Unfortunately, none of the three aspect-ratio modes works with HDTV sources.
Around back, you'll find an average number of inputs compared to today's crop of LCDs. There's a single HDMI input--not a pair as the offers--for digital video sources, two component-video inputs, a VGA input for PCs (the recommended resolution is 1,360x768), an A/V input with S-Video, a standard A/V input, and an RF antenna input. A side-panel A/V input with S-Video is provided for convenient temporary connections, and there's a side-panel headphone jack as well.
Like most LCD HDTVs, the Sony KDL-32S2000 has a native resolution of 1,366x768, which is plenty to handle all of the detail of 720p HDTV sources. All sources, including standard-def TV and DVD, HDTV, and computer inputs, are scaled to fit the native resolution.
The Sony KDL-32S2000 has more picture adjustments and options than do most LCDs on the market. Its backlight control adjusts the intensity of the image; reducing it can improve black-level performance (see below). We really appreciated the independent input memories, which allow each of the three adjustable picture modes--Vivid, Standard, and Custom--to be applied individually for each input as well as globally to all inputs. The set also offers a choice of noise-reduction settings (happily, they did a good job of reducing background video noise and didn't seem to affect resolution), color-temperature presets (Warm2, strangely available only in the Custom mode, was the most accurate), and numerous advanced settings, which were generally effective according to our tests.
Among the advanced settings, we left the Black Corrrector and Contrast Enhancer turned off for critical viewing, since that position seemed to best preserve our calibrated settings. The same went for Clear White, which simply made whites bluer. Live Color, which was said to make colors more vivid, affected the intensity of red and green; we found that the Medium setting was the most accurate. Finally, among the four Gamma settings, Off produced the smoothest, most CRT-like progression from black to lighter shades.
Turning from test patterns to DVD, we watched a few scenes from the director's cut of Alien to get a sense of the Sony's performance with difficult dark material. During the slow opening pan across space, the Sony's depth of black was immediately apparent; the letterbox bars, the void of space, and the shadowed planet all looked darker than on any of the other LCDs we had on hand to compare against, including the Dell W3706MC, the , and the . As the freighter Nostromo passed overhead, we saw some details in the shadowed hull, and the dark interior of the ship also appeared realistic. The only LCD we've reviewed recently that has deeper blacks is the .
The Alien DVD also appeared clean, with little false contouring or video noise. In scenes that looked particularly noisy, we engaged the noise reduction as mentioned above, and it did a good job of cleaning up the image without affecting detail too much. The Sony also produced a nice, sharp picture on the highly detailed Vertical Limit Superbit DVD, reproducing both the crags in the mountaintops and the fuzz in the hikers' fleece jackets well. We did notice that the faces of some of the hikers appeared a bit too ruddy, although the Sony's color decoding was good. Regardless, we still backed down the color control quite a bit to make their skin--and other colors--look more natural.
Switching to high-def again brought out the Sony's solid detail reproduction. We caught a daytime Yankees game on YES-HD via DirecTV, and the grass on the field, the batters' pinstripes, and even the clods of dirt around first base looked crisp and well resolved. In a rare treat for an LCD, the grass also appeared a natural shade of green. Too often, we've seen it look yellowish.
Standard-def video processing left something to be desired. While the Sony evinced 2:3 pull-down detection in the opening sequence from Star Trek: Insurrection, we noticed that the entire image via component video flickered noticeably. Many of the tests from the HQV test disc also caused the Sony to balk; we saw lots of jagged edges in the flag and in moving diagonal lines. In short, this is one set you should definitely mate to a solid progressive-scan or upconverting DVD player.
Overall, the Sony KDL-32S2000 is one of the better-performing LCDs we've reviewed recently. Its range of adjustments will make picture-tweakers happy, and its proficiency with darker material is a welcome change from the run of cheaper LCDs. That said, its steep list price is difficult to justify if all you want is a serviceable 32-inch television. You can find similar performers, such as the aforementioned Sharp LC-32D4U, that cost less and offer better features.
|Before color temp (20/80)||6,767/6,756K||Good|
|After color temp (20/80)||6,617/6,530K||Good|
|Before grayscale variation 20 to 100 IRE||+/- 222K||Good|
|After grayscale variation 20 to 100 IRE||+/-100K||Good|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.649/0.331||Good|
|Color of green||0.275/0.597||Good|
|Color of blue||0.143/0.057||Good|
|DC restoration||All patterns stable||Good|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Yes||Good|