Sony Bravia KDL-EX700 review:

Sony Bravia KDL-EX700

More advanced picture settings are in full attendance on the EX700, and Sony thoughtfully provides separate "Reset" options for the standard and advanced picture settings menus. They include four color temperature presets, full white balance controls for further tweaking, two kinds of noise reduction with three strengths apiece, a CineMotion option that affects the TV's 2:3 pull-down, a seven-step gamma control, and a passel of additional options--most of which should be left off for optimum picture quality.

Sony KDL-EX700 series
The advanced picture menu gets its own Reset button.

Sony includes four aspect ratio modes for HD sources, and a "Full Pixel" option that displays 1080-resolution content without any scaling or overscan. We recommend using this setting unless you notice interference along the extreme edges of the screen, which is the fault of the channel or service, not the TV. You can also apply your aspect ratio settings to all inputs or just the current one.

Other features: Another big difference between the EX700 and the NX800 is the former's inclusion of the same kind of "presence sensor" included on the company's KDL-VE5 series, which can be set to turn off the picture temporarily if you leave the room, saving significant amounts of power. If the sensor fails to detect movement after a specified period of time--you get a choice of every five-minute interval from 5 minutes to 60 minutes, plus a 5 second "demo' mode--the picture goes dark while sound remains turned-on, and the TV's power consumption drops to about 26 watts (less than a third of the default picture-on power consumption). If the sensor detects movement again within 30 minutes, the TV turns back on. If not, it shuts itself off completely, cutting its power use down to nearly zero watts.

Sony KDL-EX700 series
The EX700 includes a unique presence sensor that turns off the picture when it fails to detect movement within a certain time frame.

In our tests, the system worked as advertised. We liked that a "TV is about to turn off" warning message appeared prior to automatic shutoff, and that simply moving an arm or head usually served to reset the timer, remove the warning and keep the picture on as we watched ("gesture control" indeed). Not once in a week or so of intermittent testing did the EX700 turn off while we sat in front watching it, even in the most-sensitive 5 minutes setting.

Other power-saving features are more typical. A two-step power saving option in the Eco menu that limited peak brightness and really cut down on energy consumption. Sony also includes a manual mode to turn off the screen but leave the sound on, and another mode that automatically turns off the TV after you fail to press any buttons or otherwise interact with the TV. New for 2010, you can elect to switch the TV off completely using a power switch on the side, which eliminates standby power draw (which is negligible anyway, so the switch is pointless), and also choose whether the TV remains "awake" to download automatic updates. All told, the EX700 has more energy-conscious features than any TV we've tested.

Sony KDL-EX700 series
The onscreen manual is unusually well-done, and even includes relevant graphics.

We'd also like to mention that the 2010 Sony offers an excellent onscreen user manual that makes exploring the TV's features a breeze. Chapters and sections are easily accessible, and illustrations are provided when necessary. There's also a prominent product support section with Web site and phone number information along with the set's serial number and software version to aid communication with customer service representatives. Speaking of software, we appreciate the option to enable automatic updates when the TV is turned off.

Sony KDL-EX700 series
The back panel has two HDMI inputs, a PC input, and a smattering of other jacks.

Sony KDL-EX700 series
The side panel offers a second pair of HDMI and an AV input.

The EX700's connectivity is complete enough, but the company arranged the ports in an unusual way. It split the four HDMI inputs evenly, mounting two on the back panel and two on the side, an arrangement we feel provides a good balance of more and less temporary connection options. The side panel also gets a USB port for music, photos, and video as well as an AV input with composite video. Meanwhile, the rear panel gets the VGA-style analog input for PCs, a pair of component video inputs (one can also handle composite video), an RF input for antenna or cable connections, the Ethernet port, and some analog audio connections.

The two 2010 Sony edge-lit LED-based LCDs we've tested, the EX700 and the NX800, deliver very similar picture quality. Both are characterized by average-for-an-LCD black level performance and solid color accuracy, with the exception of dark areas being tinged bluish--more so on the EX700 than on the HX800. The differences, namely the EX700's superior uniformity and bright room performance, and the NX800's better shadow detail and motion resolution result, aren't enough to cause any difference in the rating for this category; both scored a 6.

TV settings: Sony KDL-46EX700 series
As with the NX800, the EX700's most accurate picture setting prior to calibration was Cinema, although again it was a bit too bright for our dark room (67 footlamberts) with a gamma that was too high (2.97). Afterward, using the Custom mode and the available user menu controls, we tamed both to match our standard calibration (40 and 2.2, respectively), although we couldn't do anything to improve the blue cast in very dark areas of the grayscale.

The comparison for this review involved lining up the EX700 next to the NX800, the Samsung UN46B7000, the LG 42SL90 (all edge-lit LED-based models), as well as the Samsung UN55B8500 and the LG 47LH90 (both local dimming LED-based models). We also included Sony's standard-backlit KDL-52XBR9, along with our reference plasma, the Pioneer PRO-111FD. We chose to watch Ninja Assassin on Blu-ray for our image quality tests.

Black level: The shade of black produced by the EX700 was relatively light in our lineup, falling short, to a greater or lesser extent, of the other displays aside from the outlier LG SL90, which fared poorly. At times, the EX700 delivered a slightly deeper black than the NX800, especially in the lower letterbox bar, but in most other areas the two delivered similar levels of black. Compared with the XBR9 and the B7000, the EX700 appeared a bit lighter, while its separation from the other displays was proportionately larger.

The differences were most visible in darker scenes, such as the rain-spattered night in Chapter 12, where the EX700's rendering of the black umbrellas and the black clothing of the ninjas and Lord Ozunu, as well as the letterbox bars, was mediocre and typical of standard LCDs. Shadow detail was slightly worse than on the NX800 and the other displays aside from the XBR9, however, with areas like the edge of the umbrella and the folds in the master's coat appeared a bit more obscured on the EX700.

Color accuracy: The issue of dark areas taking on a bluish tinge was quite a bit worse than we saw on the NX800 or on the rest of the displays in our lineup. The black bars and rain gear dipped into blue quite noticeably; however, in its favor, the EX700 reproduced lighter areas, rare as they are in this film, with much more accuracy than it produced blacks.

In Chapter 2, for example, the skin tones of Ben and Naomie appeared natural next to our reference, and the EX700 outdid the B7000 and the XBR9 in this department. Primary and secondary color accuracy was quite good, although red measured a bit worse than we'd like to see, which along with the lighter black levels contributed to the somewhat less-saturated look of some areas, such as Naomie's lipstick.

Video processing: The Sony KDL-EX700 doesn't allow much tweaking of dejudder processing, supplying only Off, Standard, and High options for its MotionFlow control. As we expected, we preferred the look of Off best with film-based sources like most Blu-ray movies, which looked too smooth and video-like in the other two settings. However, we did prefer Sony's lowest-dejudder mode, Standard, to the equivalent modes from Samsung and LG because it didn't introduce as much smoothing and delivered a less video-like look.

One good example of why came during Chapter 5, as the camera tracks follows Raizo during a training session; the LG and Samsung sets looked too smooth, with less of the visceral feel of the jerky camera, while the Sony preserved some of that feel. Of course, the Samsung sets let you tweak that smoothness as much as you'd like, which in our book is the best way to handle such video processing.

As usual, we saw artifacts in the High dejudder mode. As the camera follows a circling Ozunu in the courtyard in Chapter 4, for example, we saw a halo effect--where his profile disturbed some of the background as he passed. Artifacts were much less common and objectionable in Standard.

motion resolution tests on the EX700 revealed results on par with other 120Hz sets. With MotionFlow processing engaged in either mode, the EX700 registered between 500 lines and 600 lines, and when we turned it off that number fell to between 300 lines and 400 lines. 1080i d-interlacing was also par for the course; the EX700 handled both film and video-based sources properly, although passing the film test required engaging the CineMotion Auto 1 setting. As usual, seeing any of these effects in program material, as opposed to test patterns, was exceedingly difficult.

Uniformity: While the differences in brightness across the screen of the EX700 weren't as bad as we saw on the NX800, or as prone to bright corners as the XBR9, it still left something to be desired. The edges appeared a bit brighter than the middle, and the top edge was somewhat brighter still, although again the difference slight, and wasn't noticeable in areas like the film's letterbox bars. The EX700 also lacked the brighter areas in the middle of the screen that we saw on the NX800. When seen from off-angle, both Sony TV's images became brighter and more washed-out, to about the same extent as the other LCDs, and reddish/bluish discoloration also set in.

Bright lighting: The matte screen of the EX700 served well in this test, putting the set among the best in our lineup at maintaining picture integrity under brighter lighting conditions. Compared with the glossy-screened LCDs, such as both Samsungs and the NX800, the EX700 reduced reflections--like the light from this reviewer's face, a table, and the glare from a couch--to the point where they weren't as sharp, bright, or distracting. The EX700 also maintained black levels better than did the Pioneer plasma and generally as well as did the other LCDs.

Standard-definition: With standard-definition sources, the EX700 turned in a mediocre performance. It delivered every line of the DVD format, although details were a bit softer than we saw on the Samsung UNB7000. It didn't reduce jaggies from diagonal lines as well as either the Samsung or LG SL90 did. 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, albeit a bit more slowly than the other sets.

PC: Via analog RGB the Sony looked excellent, with only some very slight flicker in the highest frequency test patterns to differentiate it from HDMI, which as perfect as we'd expect from any 1080p LCD displaying a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution signal.

Before color temp (20/80) 6468/6556 Good
After color temp 6593/6559 Good
Before grayscale variation 73 Good
After grayscale variation 68 Good
Color of red (x/y) 0.624/0.337 Average
Color of green 0.306/0.5977 Good
Color of blue 0.159/0.061 Good
Overscan 0.0% Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Y Good
480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps Pass Good
1080i video resolution Pass G

What you'll pay

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