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Sony KDL-32BX330 review: Sony KDL-32BX330

If you're looking for a Sony for minimal cost, then the KDL-32BX330 is where it's at. But even at this budget price, there are better options.

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Ty Pendlebury
Ty_Pendlebury.jpg

Ty Pendlebury

Editor

Ty Pendlebury is a journalism graduate of RMIT Melbourne, and has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.

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3 min read

To some people, a 32-inch TV is a commodity like a toaster oven or a vacuum cleaner. You just wander into your electronics retailer and buy whatever's on sale. But not all budget TVs are created equal, and while the Sony KDL-32BX330 isn't the best TV at at this price, it's still worth your attention.

Sony KDL-32BX330
5.8

Sony KDL-32BX330

The Good

The <b>Sony KDL-32BX330</b> is a decent telly for the money with plenty of shadow detail and good off-axis response. Sony has a reputation for being expensive, but the BX300 is sensibly priced. Though styling is usually a problem for cheap TVs, the Sony looks quite attractive.

The Bad

Color is a little off, with reds and greens a little unnatural. Blacks are fairly light and tend to be discolored. The feature count is minimal with only a 720p resolution, but its competitors at this price share a similar issue.

The Bottom Line

If you're looking for a Sony for minimal cost, then the KDL-32BX330 is where it's at. But even at this budget price, there are better options.

Designwise, it's not an attention grabber, but it won't look out of place in any living space. It doesn't have any extra features to speak of, but if you're looking to use this as an accompaniment to a gaming console, you'll get all the features you need.

Picture quality was OK for the money, with only the Samsung EH4000 giving a standout performance at this price. Shadow detail and off-axis viewing are the set's best qualities, with color and black levels a little bit "off." I wouldn't feel disappointed if I dropped money on this TV, not like I would if I had chosen the LG 32CS460, but the Samsung is definitely the better TV.

Design
The Sony BX330 isn't particularly special in the design department, but it's serviceable. The TV features a thick, piano-black bezel and a bolt-on stand, and since it's edge-lit, the back is a little slimmer than most. One interesting aside is that it's the lightest TV I tested in our roundup, so if you're looking for a TV you can easily move from room to room, this would be it.

The TV comes with a remote that's pretty basic, but if all you want to do is change channels, it does that as well as any other.

The remote handset is basic but functional. Sarah Tew/CNET

The Sony misses out on the Xross Media Bar menu design of the company's other TVs, but what it does include is easy enough to navigate.

The BX330 misses out on the Xross Media Bar (XMB) of most Sony TVs. Sarah Tew/CNET

Sony KDL-32BX330 (pictures)

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"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Key TV features "="">Other: 1,366x768-pixel (720p) resolution; compatible with 1080i and 1080p sources
Display technology LCD LED backlight N/A
Screen finish Matte Remote Standard
Smart TV No Internet connection No
3D technology No 3D glasses included No
Refresh rate(s) 60Hz Dejudder (smooth) processing No
DLNA-compliant No USB Photo/Music/Video

Features
If you hearken back to the wisdoms of CRT -- from the days when the only "feature" a TV had was a remote control -- then the lack of bullet points on the Sony spec sheet should please you. It uses a traditional fluorescent backlight, not a newfangled LED system. Yes, it has a digital tuner and a USB port for playing back digital media, but so does every other TV these days. As a budget model, the Sony is limited in resolution to 720 lines (1,366x768 pixels), but it will play back 1080p content. At this screen size, you won't notice the lower resolution unless you're sitting right in front of the TV.

The only other two features the Sony site lists are a Digital Noise Reduction circuit and four "HD" inputs as I'll outline below.

Picture settings: While some fancy-pants TVs include 20-point grayscale adjustments and Color Management Systems offering accurate calibration, the Sony offers none of these. It doesn't even have the Scene mode we like so much from other Sony TVs, as it offers almost pitch-perfect color. No, this TV just includes the basic Brightness and Color settings

The compact inputs section also includes a PC connection. Sarah Tew/CNET

Connectivity: The four HD inputs Sony cites are two HDMI, a component port, and a PC input. If you're looking for a large TV that doubles as a monitor then the Sony could be your best bet; be aware that the resolution tops out at the native resolution of 1,366x768 pixels.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Comparison models (details)
TCL L40FHDF12TA 40-inch LCD
Samsung LN46D630 46-inch LCD
Samsung UN32EH4000 32-inch LCD
LG 32CS460 32-inch LCD
Panasonic TC-P65VT50 (reference) 65-inch plasma

Picture quality
For a long time, the TCL L40FHDF12TA was the most popular TV on Amazon, and while it wasn't much in the picture department, it was cheap. You want to know what? The Sony is both cheaper and it performs better. It's also smaller, and feel free to disagree with me but personally I'd rather watch a small TV with a good picture than a large TV with a bad one.

The Sony boasts acceptable black levels and passable, if not entirely accurate color. But its shadow detail and off-axis viewing are where the Sony shows its stripes.

Click the image at the right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV's picture controls worked during calibration.

Black level:

Of the three TVs I tested together -- the Samsung, Sony, and LG -- the Sony BX330 performed most like the Samsung EH4000, simply because the LG was the most "oddball." The Sony had OK black levels given the price, but the blacks weren't quite "true" and could look either blueish or greenish depending on the shade. Generally, its black levels were on a par with TVs like the LG G2, which cost a grand more. The Samsung was the standout here, as a result.

But the thing for me that differentiates a good TV from a great one is shadow detail: any TV manufacturer can artificially dim the backlight to make it darker, but shadow detail is harder to get right. The Sony may not have had the blackest blacks, but shadow detail was reasonable, and certainly head and shoulders above the LG 32CS460.

Color accuracy: Color was reasonable, but a lack of sophisticated color controls meant that primaries -- blue, red, and particularly green -- were off from the start and no amount of tweaking "Color" was going to fix that. While overall the color balance was quite pleasing with good saturation, it was skin tones that were most noticeably out. The Samsung EH4000 had much better color reproduction with rosier, more-natural faces.

Video processing: As a bare-bones set, the Sony lacks any of the videophile modes the more expensive TVs have. Of the three sets on test, the Sony was the worst but only by a small shade, with a little bit of moire in the stands section of our film resolution test. Even so, the Sony still passed. But the missing 24p mode was telling during the flyby of the USS Intrepid at the 24:58 mark of "I Am Legend." The TV lacked the silkiness of more expensive sets and showed a tendency for jerkiness. However, unless you watch a movie consisting of 100 percent pans, this is unlikely to affect your viewing that much. Some people are more irritated by judder than others, though.

Uniformity: During my test, none of the 32-inchers exhibited any problems with uniformity -- which can exhibit itself as backlight clouding (where large gray clouds appear in dark areas) or flashlighting (spots of light at the corners).

In terms of off-angle viewing, the Sony was the best of the three, with a little discoloration but nowhere near as pronounced as the other two and only minimal loss in contrast. If you're buying a set that could often be viewed from the side, this would be the one to get.

Bright lighting:
The Sony performed well in a lit room and under lights with decent contrast and only a small sacrifice to shadow detail. The TV lacks a glossy coating and so doesn't suffer from distracting reflections.

GEEK BOX: Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.0326 Poor
Avg. gamma 2.22794 Good
Near-black x/y (5%) 0.2713/0.2455 Poor
Dark gray x/y (20%) 0.3242/0.3259 Poor
Bright gray x/y (70%) 0.3191/0.3245 Poor
Before avg. color temp. 6186.2069 Poor
After avg. color temp. 6163.5835 Poor
Red lum. error (de94_L) 4.9945 Poor
Green lum. error (de94_L) 8.6216 Poor
Blue lum. error (de94_L) 4.1564 Poor
Cyan hue x/y 0.2046/0.325 Poor
Magenta hue x/y 0.3521/0.1678 Poor
Yellow hue x/y 0.4158/0.4757 Poor
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Fail Good
1080i De-interlacing (film) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 330 Poor
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 330 Poor

Sony KDL-32BX330

Sony KDL-32BX330
5.8

Sony KDL-32BX330

Score Breakdown

Design 5Features 5Performance 5Value 7
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