Sony Bravia KDL-EX523 review: Sony Bravia KDL-EX523

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The Good The Sony KDL-EX523 series is relatively inexpensive for an LED-based LCD TV. It delivered decent black-level depth and very good video processing, including the ability to handle 1080p/24 sources. Its cinema preset provides decently accurate pictures out of the box. Sony's automatic turn-off feature saves power and its matte screen reduces glare in brighter rooms. The TV has solid Internet services, including built-in Wi-Fi, numerous niche videos, and exclusive Qriocity and Gracenote.

The Bad The Sony television exhibits murky shadow detail and blue tinge in dark areas. Uniformity is a problem with large gray splotches across black screens.

The Bottom Line The Sony EX523 series produces a solid though workmanlike picture at a price that competes well against similarly featured LED TVs.

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6.6 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 6

Just as it was at the height of the cathode-ray television's popularity, the sub-$1,000 mark is a sweet spot for flat-panel TV purchasing today. Back then Panasonic and Sony were much more popular than LG or Samsung, but things have changed.

Sony has typically been a peg or two more expensive than its rivals but is now producing some value-conscious, high-enough-quality screens. The Sony EX523 series is an example of a television with a decent feature set and image quality that stands up well against the competition. It's an edge-lit LED TV that performs about as well as the LG LV5500, although each has its strengths and weaknesses. If you're a stickler looking for accurate colors or are bothered by uniformity issues it's not the TV for you, but otherwise the EX523 represents a solid value.

Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the KDL-46EX523, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.


Models in series (details)
Sony Bravia KDL-32EX523 32 inches
Sony Bravia KDL-40EX523 40 inches
Sony Bravia KDL-46EX523 (reviewed) 46 inches
Design highlights
Panel depth 1.1 inches Bezel width 1 inch
Single-plane face No Swivel stand Yes

Just as this year's Apple iPhone looks like the one before it, Sony's designs for 2011 remain largely unchanged from 2010. While it's easy to tell the difference between some competitor's TVs--the distinctive Samsung D8000/D7000 being an extreme example--the only way to distinguish the EX523 from the EX720 or the 2010 EX700 is to take a gander at tiny model number printed on the back panel. The EX523 has a gun-metal lower bezel and black surrounds, which could be kindly described as "understated" or unkindly as "dowdy."

The television is quite slim as a result of the edge-lighting system. It features a swivel base for times when you're not able to watch TV from the couch.

The EX520 shares a similar look to last year's EX with its gun-metal bezel.

Remote control and menus
Remote size (LxW) 8 x 2 inches QWERTY keyboardNo
Illuminated keys No IR device control No
Menu item explanations Yes On-screen manual No

Sony's controllers have rocked the concave look this year with a slight inward curve--perhaps as a remote tie-in with the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc (Remote. Get it?) As with previous remotes we appreciate the dedicated media buttons such as Netflix in addition to its ease of use.

Pressing the Home button brings up Sony's redesigned (for 2011) Xross Media Bar (XMB) with easy access to settings, network media content, and other (non-Netflix) streaming services. The menu is a tweaked version of the existing XMB with a right-handed orientation, allowing you to continue watching your program in a picture-in-picture display. Even if you haven't used a Sony device before, you'll find it quite intuitive.

The Sony's menu allows picture-in-picture.


Key TV features
Display technology LCD LED backlight Edge-lit
3D technology N/A 3D glasses included N/A
Screen finish Matte Internet connection Built-in Wi-Fi
Refresh rate(s) 60Hz Dejudder (smooth) processing No
DLNA compliant Photo/Music/Video USB Photo/Music/Video

We tend to think streaming media is a much more important feature than 3D, so the EX523's mix of "2D-only" plus Sony's robust Internet suite is pretty appealing. While you can buy a device like a Roku or WD TV Live to add streaming to any TV, some people might appreciate having it integrated into the TV. The Sony EX523 with its Netflix button simplifies the task tremendously, and if you want 3D, there's always the EX720.

The EX523 replaces the existing EX520 but trawling through the specs list it's difficult to see what has changed, but the answer is: onboard Wi-Fi. The 520 only features optional Wi-Fi and so incorporating it makes features such as Netflix more compelling.

Streaming and apps
Netflix Yes YouTube Yes
Amazon Instant Yes Hulu Plus Yes
Vudu No Pandora Yes
Web browser Yes Skype Optional
Facebook Y/N Twitter Y/N
Other: Gracenote TrackID; 28+ niche video services; Sony's Qriocity video and music service; Yahoo! Widgets; Picasa, Photobucket and Shutterfly

Joining Netflix in the premium streaming department are Amazon Instant, Hulu Plus, and Pandora. The TV also features access to Sony's own Sony Entertainment Network (nee Qriocity) streaming for both music--subscription or otherwise--and videos. Other hidden gems include full-length concerts on MoshCam shot in venues around Sydney, Australia, and of course YouTube. The only missing link is Vudu.

Check our comparison chart for details on how Sony's Internet offerings stack up to the competition's. We ranked it fifth overall mainly because the company's custom interfaces for services like Amazon and Netflix lag behind the default versions found on other TVs. The NX720 review and our separate write-up of Gracenote have more details if you're curious.

On most devices, Netflix uses its own interface, but here it gets a Sony makeover.

LG prides itself on its tweakability, but Sony is a little more reserved in handing over the reins to users wanting more control over image quality. While Sony offers a plethora of picture presets, including a very good Cinema mode, there isn't much for advanced users to sink their teeth into.

Picture settings
Adjustable picture modes 10 Fine dejudder control No
Color temperature presets 4 Fine color temperature control 2 points
Gamma presets 7 Color management system No

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