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Sony KDL-L5000 review: Sony KDL-L5000

Sony KDL-L5000

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David Katzmaier
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David Katzmaier

Editorial Director -- TVs and streaming

David has reviewed TVs, streaming services, streaming devices and home entertainment gear at CNET since 2002. He is an ISF certified, NIST trained calibrator and developed CNET's TV test procedure himself. Previously David wrote reviews and features for Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as "The Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics."

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8 min read

sony-kdl-37l5000-37-bravia-lcd-tv-720p-black.jpg
5.9

Sony KDL-L5000

The Good

Produces relatively deep black levels for an entry-level LCD; nice selection of picture controls and energy-saving options; plenty of connectivity with three HDMI and two component-video inputs; sleek design.

The Bad

A bit more expensive than some entry-level LCDs; slight greenish tinge to some colors; less-even screen uniformity.

The Bottom Line

Although it costs a tad more than bargain-basement models, the Sony KDL-L5000 series makes up for it with above-basement design and picture quality.

Editors' note (March 4, 2010): The rating on this product has been lowered because of changes in the competitive marketplace, including the release of 2010 models. The review has not otherwise been modified. Click here for more information.

When you compare various entry-level LCDs in the price range of the Sony KDL-L5000 series, you'll notice a few that cost a bit less. But for a Sony TV, this set is remarkably affordable, and its design, anchored by a sleek exterior and Sony's typical remote and menu prowess, stands at least a cut or two a cut above that of most HDTVs in its class. Its picture quality also hits most of the right notes, despite a uniformity hiccup and imperfect color accuracy. Finally the feature set has a few extras not often found in this price range, including a smattering of power saving modes and that third HDMI input. If you don't mind spending a couple bucks more than you absolutely need, the Sony KDL-L5000 series deserves consideration.

Series note: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 32-inch Sony KDL-32L5000, but this review also applies to the 26-inch KDL-26L5000 and the 37-inch KDL-37L5000. All three sides share identical specs and should exhibit very similar picture quality. The 22-inch member of the series, model KDL-22L5000, has a lower contrast ratio so this review does not apply to it.

Design
We liked the external appearance this little LCD quite a bit. Its glossy black frame is the same relatively compact thickness around all four sides of the screen, and has a beveled shape that's reminiscent of an actual picture frame. The matching stand doesn't swivel, but it seems a bit nicer than the norm as well.

Sony KDL-L5000 series
The sleek-looking KDL-L5000 series has a bezel reminiscent of a picture frame.

Sony's design chops also extend to the remote and menu system. The compact clicker is the same as the one included on the step-up V5100 series, for example, and it's the best of the entry-level breed. The central cursor is plenty prominent and surrounded by four buttons that are difficult to confuse--one of which is the important "wide" key for aspect ratio control. A cluster of keys at the top of the remote can command other gear that's compatible with the HDMI-CEC control-over-HDMI scheme, but the remote can't control other devices via infrared.

Sony KDL-L5000 series
Sony's menu system is laid-out simply and logically, and a couple of shortcut menus complement the main one.

The straightforward menus list plenty of selections on each screen and are oriented around a column of icons on the left side. Accessing the TV's relatively few functions is intuitive enough, although we would have liked to see text explanations for various menu items. A separate, but welcome, Tools menu offers up a few of the more oft-used functions, such as speaker and sound modes as well as the sleep timer, and yet another shortcut menu, titled Favorites, collects the last-used inputs and channels into a bar along the bottom of the screen.

Features
Like most entry-level LCD TVs, the Sony has a 1,366x768-pixel native resolution, or 720p, as opposed to the 1080p resolution found on step-up models. Of course, at this screen size the benefits of 1080p are negligible, except with computer sources, so we don't consider this feature omission a big deal.

A good number of picture adjustments are on-hand. There are three adjustable picture modes and each is independent per input. Hitting the Theater key on the remote activates the Cinema preset. We especially liked the capability to tweak color temperature beyond the standard three presets, and unlike many entry-level sets, the Sony's white balance controls include all six main adjustments.

Other adjustments include a CineMotion control to handle 2:3 pull-down, three strengths of noise reduction, and a black corrector that modified the picture on the fly. We left the last two turned off for critical viewing.

Sony KDL-L5000 series
An Eco menu holds a few convenient settings for saving power.

Uncommon among entry-level sets, the KDL-L5000 provides a few easy ways to save power. There's a pair of power saving modes that limit peak light output, along with a convenient "picture off" setting that keeps the sound turned-on--great for when you have to leave the room but want to keep listening to the TV's sound. The set can also power down automatically if left "idle," with no input commands, after one, two or three hours.

Sony KDL-L5000 series
Aspect ratio controls on the Sony are relatively extensive.

Sony throws in an average number of aspect ratio settings: three for HD sources and four for standard-definition sources. However, aspect-related options are plentiful, including a mode designed to automatically set the correct ratio based on picture content, a Display Area setting to increase overscan slightly, and the capability to specify how the TV handles 4:3 (standard screen) video sources.

Sony KDL-L5000 series
The back panel has plenty of connections for an entry-level TV, including two HDMI, two component video and one PC input.

The connectivity of the KDL-L5000 series beats nearly all of its low-buck competitors with the exception of the Panasonic TC-32LX1. The Sony's back panel offers two HDMI, two component-video (one is compatible with standard composite video signals too), one VGA-style (1,360x768-pixel resolution) PC and one RF inputs, as well as an optical digital audio and an analog audio output. The side panel adds an AV input with S-Video and a third HDMI jack.

Sony KDL-L5000 series
A third HDMI port, in addition to an AV input with S-Video, can be found around the side.

Performance
The Sony's picture quality can't quite match the best we've tested in this class, but it does come close. Its strengths include relatively deep blacks with good shadow detail; however, its issues with color reproduction and uniformity show it could definitely stand for improvement.

TV settings: Sony KDL-32L5000

Our calibration of the Sony was preceded by engaging the Cinema preset and Warm color temperature mode. Color temperature was a bit blue by default, especially in darker areas, but we were able to improve it significantly using the built-in controls. The results were among the best we've seen for an entry-level HDTV, with a relatively linear grayscale. Its gamma was off, mainly in brighter areas (2.44 overall versus the 2.2 standard), but otherwise we can't complain.

We compared the Sony to a few other entry-level LCDs we had on-hand, including the LG 32LH20, Panasonic TC-32LX1, the Samsung LN32B360, the Sharp LC-32D47U, the Toshiba 32AV502U, the Vizio VO302E, and the Westinghouse SK-32H640G. We also employed our trusty Pioneer PRO-111FD as a reference--obviously, it shouldn't be compared with any of these LCDs. Our Blu-ray of choice for most of the image quality tests in this comparison was the superb-looking "Baraka" played at 1080i (to ensure full compatibility) from our Sony PlayStation3.

Black level: The Sony was among the better sets in our lineup when it came to producing a deep shade of black. It tied with the Sharp set and fell short of the Toshiba and Samsung sets, but it surpassed the Vizio by a bit and the LG, Panasonic and Westinghouse by wider margins. The difference was most visible, as usual, in darker scenes, such as the beginning of Chapter 19 when the camera pushes toward the Varanasi sunrise--the shadowed pillars and arches in the foreground appeared relatively inky and realistic on the Sony.

Details in shadows were also relatively good, and areas like the forges and shadowed ovens in Chapter 17 appeared quite realistic compared to most of the other displays.

Color accuracy: The KDL-L5000 was a mixed bag in this area. We appreciated its relatively even grayscale, which led to relatively consistent color in all brightness areas, but nonetheless in program material many midbright areas still betrayed a hint of greenish tinge. The effect was visible in areas like the faces of the subway riders in Chapter 11 and the gray walls of the concentration camp buildings in Chapter 17. Definition in brighter areas also appeared slightly flatter than some of the other sets.

Primary and secondary colors were very good, however, as seen in the green foliage in Chapter 4 and vibrant dresses in Chapter 7, which also showed off the KDL-L5000's solid saturation. Another point in the Sony's favor: dark areas stayed away from the bluish tinge that plagues so many LCDs. Its color stayed true even in difficult black and near-black scenes, beating all of the others in our comparison.

Video processing: The Sony doesn't perform much overt processing, such as the dejudder seen on higher-end LCDs, and since it has 720p resolution our motion resolution test isn't valid. We expect the KDL-L5000 would perform about the same in that test as other 60Hz displays, and as usual, we didn't notice any motion blur in our viewing.

We appreciate the set's lack of the kinds of moire artifacts we saw in 1080i mode on the Toshiba, the Westinghouse, and the Sharp. Like the other models in our comparison, the Sony set properly deinterlaced both film- and video-based sources, according to our test.

Uniformity: Unlike most of the other small LCDs in our comparison, the KDL-L5000 portrayed a brighter spot in the upper right corner, which was visible in black areas like the letterbox bars and the eclipse in Chapter 20, for example. Off-angle, the Sony's picture was about the same as the Samsung and Toshiba, and kept its color and black level fidelity better than the other sets.

Bright lighting: Like most matte-screened LCDs, the Sony performed well under bright lights, attenuating ambient light admirably. It was no better or worse than any of the other sets in our lineup, which all have similar screens.

Standard definition: With standard-definition sources, the Sony was an average performer. It delivered every line of the DVD format, but some details in the grass and stone bridge on our test disk looked a bit softer than on the other displays. It eliminated jaggies from moving diagonal lines and a waving American flag better than many, including the Sharp, Westinghouse, and Toshiba. Its noise reduction also performed well, removing motes and video "snow" from lower quality sources. The Sony TV engaged 2:3 pull-down detection quickly and effectively.

PC: The Sony made an excellent PC monitor, albeit a relatively low-resolution one. It fully resolved 1,360x768-pixel sources via both HDMI and VGA, showing crisp text with no edge enhancement in both cases.

TEST RESULT SCORE
Before color temp (20/80) 7319/6836 Average
After color temp 6343/6403 Average
Before grayscale variation 511 Average
After grayscale variation 98 Good
Color of red (x/y) 0.633/0.331 Good
Color of green 0.281/0.604 Good
Color of blue 0.148/0.052 Good
Overscan 3.0% Average
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-L5000 series, but we did test the 32-inch model. For more information, refer to the review of the Sony KDL-32L5000.

How we test TVs.

sony-kdl-37l5000-37-bravia-lcd-tv-720p-black.jpg
5.9

Sony KDL-L5000

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 6Performance 5
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