Sony Bravia KDL-EX500 review:

Sony Bravia KDL-EX500

The image quality of the KDL-EX500 series was impressive overall for an LCD, with superior uniformity and similar black level and color performance compared with edge-lit LED-based varieties. The accuracy of its color, particularly grayscale, was a strength, whereas video processing and slightly lighter blacks were a slight weakness compared with some competing non-LED models. We also appreciated the matte screen in brighter environments.

TV settings: Sony KDL-46EX500

As we expected, Sony's most accurate preset was the Cinema scene setting. It produced a relatively linear grayscale that was somewhat blue, particularly in darker areas; reasonable light output (50 ftl); and a 2.3 average gamma, which is very good compared with our 2.2 target. For our calibration we opted to use Custom instead Cinema, mainly because only Custom allowed access to the Advanced picture menu. The white-balance controls therein helped us tame the blueness and improve gamma somewhat, and delivered an even more linear grayscale throughout the brightness range to our 40 ftl max, with the exception of very dark areas.

We conducted most of the image quality tests that follow with the help of "The Blind Side" on Blu-ray.

Comparison models (details)
Samsung LN46C630 46-inch LCD
Vizio E470VL 47-inch LCD
Panasonic TC-P46S2 46-inch plasma
Samsung UN46C6500 46-inch edge-lit LED
Sony KDL-46EX700 46-inch edge-lit LED
Pioneer PRO-111FD (reference) 50-inch plasma

Black level: The depth of black the EX500 displayed was good for an LCD TV, and though not quite as deep a what we saw on the LNC630, it definitely surpassed the depth seen on the EX700 and the Vizio, and more or less equaled the UNC6500. When the family picks up Michael after the basketball game, for example, the night sky over the house, the silhouette of the SUV, and other deep shadows seemed relatively dark and realistic. They also appeared deeper than those of the Panasonic S2 plasma in these scenes, although in other areas, like the black background behind the credits, the plasma had the advantage.

We also appreciated that details in shadows, such as the face of Michael in the back seat, the jacket of Sean in the front, and the shrubs outside the house at night as the car pulls up, all appeared relatively natural, neither too bright (as we saw on the S2) nor too dark and obscured (the LNC630). That said the EX700 and the Vizio looked a bit more detailed, although compared with those sets, the EX500's deeper blacks helped it look more realistic in shadows overall.

Color accuracy: Much like the C630 the EX500 came admirably close to our reference in this category, besting the others overall aside from the two Samsungs, which performed at about the same level in this category. When Leigh Anne meets to school rep in Chapter 9, for example, the two women's faces looked accurate and free of the slight bluish cast seen on some other sets, as well as the more golden tone of the S2.

Color saturation on the EX500, however, fell short of most of the others, and those faces seemed a bit pale, whereas other colors lacked a bit of punch and life. We doubt the difference would be obvious outside of a side-by-side comparison, however.

Primary colors were relatively accurate, if not quite at the level of the LNC630, and red in particular veered somewhat toward blue. Like other LCDs in our lineup, the EX500 also displayed that characteristic blue cast in black and near-black areas. It was more tolerable than the green of the S2 and the significantly more extreme blue of the Vizio and the Sony EX700.

Video processing: The Sony KDL-EX500 doesn't allow much tweaking of dejudder processing, supplying only Off, Standard, and High options for its MotionFlow control. As expected we preferred the look of Off best with film-based sources like most Blu-ray movies, which looked too smooth and videolike in the other two settings. We did prefer Sony's lowest-dejudder mode, Standard, to the equivalent modes from Samsung, Vizio, and LG, however, because it didn't introduce as much smoothing and thus delivered a less videolike look. Of course, with Samsung's adjustments you can dial in as much or as little dejudder as you like.

With MotionFlow turned off, the EX500 failed to correctly process 1080p/24 sources according to our standard test using the helicopter flyover from Chapter 7 of "I Am Legend." The cadence of film was evident, but so was some smoothing despite the indication of "Off." Compared with sets that handled this scene better, like the Samsung LNC630 and the Vizio, the pan over the aircraft carrier's deck looked a bit too buttery and not quite choppy enough.

With MotionFlow controls engaged, the EX500 turned in a score of between 500 and 600 lines in our motion resolution tests--respectable for a 120Hz set but not as good as the Samsungs. As usual turning it off reduced the score to between 300 and 400, and again, as usual, detecting the difference in blurring between the two settings was nearly impossible with normal program material, as opposed to test patterns.

Uniformity: Although uniformity was not quite as good as on the Samsung LNC630, the CCFL backlight of the EX500 beat the edge-lit LED backlights of in our comparison at maintaining an even image across the screen. It wasn't hampered in dark areas by amorphous brighter areas of the UNC6500, nor by the brighter edges of that TV as well as the EX700. We did see some minor horizontal banding in dark to midbright fields (0-30 IRE) but they were less obvious than the vertical bands of the Vizio or the UNC6500. Obvious bright corners were also not a problem on this TV.

From off-angle the EX500 was pretty good for an LCD, matching the LNC630, maintaining black-level fidelity better than the Vizio and not becoming as discolored toward blue as the LED-based models. By way of comparison, the Panasonic S2 plasma was essentially perfect in both off-angle performance and screen uniformity.

Bright lighting: Sony's EX500 has a matte screen, which serves it well in bright rooms where lights, windows, and bright objects cause reflections. Such objects appeared dimmer and much less distinct, and thus less distracting, than they did on the glossy UNC6500, for example. The EX500 also trounced the lowly Panasonic S2 at maintaining black-level fidelity under the lights. Overall it turned in the same very good performance as the similarly matte EX700, Samsung LNC650, and Vizio in this category.

Standard-definition: The EX500 turned in an average SD performance. It delivered every line of the DVD format, although details were softer than on comparison models. It reduced jaggies from diagonal lines relatively well, albeit not quite as well as the Samsung LNC630. Its noise reduction worked well to remove noise and other artifacts from low-quality material, and the Sony did engage 2:3 pull-down correctly.

PC: Though the Sony's PC image via HDMI was fine, with the expected full 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution and sharp text, we did experience a minor flaw via VGA, namely edge enhancement we couldn't completely remove with the available controls.

Before color temp (20/80) 6864/6817 Average
After color temp 6528/6527 Good
Before grayscale variation 364 Average
After grayscale variation 102 Average
Color of red (x/y) 0.6268/0.322 Average
Color of green 0.2784/0.5944 Good
Color of blue 0.1487/0.0549 Good
Overscan 0.0% Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Y Good
480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps Pass Good
1080i video resolution Pass Good
1080i film resolution Pass Good

Power consumption: We did not test the power consumption of this size in the Sony KDL-EX500 series, but we did test the 46-inch model. For more information, refer to the review of the KDL-46EX500.

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