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We've seen a bunch of new TVs recently that all purport to be "photo frames", but the EX1 was one of the first. And OK, we'll admit it. This thing is dang purrrdy!
Just as Melbourne didn't invent bars (as in "Melbourne-style bars") nor lane ways, neither did Apple invent the colour "white". But, hell, the iPod sure did help popularise it. The EX1 is very white, and looking at it we wonder why televisions haven't come in this shade previously — it's certainly preferable to silver.
The matching media box is also white, and has a pleasant white glow when the two devices are paired. Not surprisingly, the remote is also kinda snowy and apart from the colour is similar to many of the remotes we've seen from the company until now. However, it's not the best remote in terms of ergonomics — while the channel digits are abnormally large, it's at the expense of the other buttons like the AV input buttons which are squished up at the top. The remote is also wireless, naturally, and so doesn't need line-of-sight to work.
Apart from being really slim, the EX1's other claim to fame is its wireless capability. The Sony uses a version of SiBeam's wireless technology which it has dubbed "Bravia 1080". But unfortunately, it's an early version of the technology and is missing two important features — namely the ability to transmit either 1080p or 24p. While the Sony is of a 1920x1080 resolution and will accept a 1080p signal, if you plug it into the media box it will downscale to 1080i. On the other hand, the lack of 24p is more of a problem if you watch a lot of Blu-rays. 24p (or 24 frames per second) is the de-facto standard for getting the best image quality out of film-based material, and its lack will disappoint some videophiles.
Sony has had Motionflow technology for a few years now, and it's a little disappointing to see a premium set such as the EX1 appear with only the vanilla "100Hz" version. There's no Auto Mode for NR, and these are the only four options: High, Med, Low and Off. Other video features built into the screen include a dynamic contrast of 50,000:1 and an actual contrast of 4000:1.
Connectivity options on the media box are quite varied with provision for three HDMI inputs (plus one on the screen itself), a composite input, USB port, VGA port for a PC, and a composite input.
Setting the Sony up we were reminded that this is how wireless connections should be: easy. As soon as we turned on the media box and the TV the two instantly paired, and with an antenna connected we were watching TV in minutes. Given that the TV features a wireless connection we really had to push it before the image started to degrade — even with a 10m distance and two walls between the two components there were only slight "halo" artefacts around images. We wouldn't recommend using the box in another room, but there's a lot of flexibility in this set-up. In fact, it's a strange feeling you get when you realise everything is tucked away and not actually physically tethered to the screen. While it shouldn't make a difference, because presumably the TV will stay where you plonk it and won't be moved again, it's still somewhat liberating.
Since we had the aerial plugged in that's where we started our testing, and that's where we noticed the most problems. While images were mostly good and provided plenty of detail, we noticed aliasing on moving edges on the ONE HD sports channel, and also some motion blur. Activating MotionFlow did sort some of this smearing out, and the image became more solid, but it wasn't particularly convincing.
DVD was altogether more realistic, and when playing our King Kong test disc we found the picture to be incredibly noise-free, and yet still managed to retain essential details. Colours were natural, and blacks had only the slightest green tendencies. The penultimate scene is as good a test for colour as it is for tracking movement, and the initial "fly-by" showed some of the smearing problems we'd seen previously.
We then ran the EX1 through a suite of Blu-ray synthetic tests, and found that the noise reduction engine was just as capable with HD as it was with SD material. It also passed the jaggies test. However, as it won't support 24p — you'll get an "Unsupported signal — check your device output" message instead — the TV failed the film resolution test. We were also disheartened to see it also fail the video test, though.
But these tests are at best academic, and with a Blu-ray like the ol' faithful MI3 in the tray we were treated to a detailed image, with good contrast and natural skin-tones. Only on really dark scenes were we able to detect backlight bleeding problems — blacks weren't consistent across the screen as a result and appeared "blotchy". Sound wasn't too shabby, though — despite the somewhat humble 8W speakers on board.
Despite being really cool, we're not really convinced of wireless benefits yet — especially when the screen needs to downscale to transmit material across the airwaves. Newer versions of the technology, such as in the upcoming Panasonic Z1, will hopefully improve on some of the issues we've seen with this, essentially, first screen on the market that features the technology. If you're looking at buying a Sony wireless screen — particularly if you want to wall-mount the TV — then the EX1 seems to have a slight edge for picture quality on its ZX1 stablemate in a brief side-by-side comparison. But even so, we'd suggest waiting till the wireless technology matures a little more before taking the plunge. We look forward to testing Panasonic's screen when it debuts in the second half of the year.