Sony's 2005 lineup of LCD flat-panel HDTVs, now called Bravia for some unknown reason, includes the KLV-S32A10 as its entry-level model. You can find this 32-inch HDTV-compatible television for as little as $1,500 online, making it the least expensive such set Sony has ever offered. Along with other entry-level name-brand models such as the Samsung LN-R328W and the Sharp LC-32GA5U, the Sony KLV-S32A10 is still priced a good deal more than the slew of bargain-brand LCDs on the market. The real question is whether the Sony performs better than its less expensive competitors.
The appearance of the KLV-S32A10 is fairly basic. The panel is finished in silver with a very small black border about 1 inch wide surrounding the screen; the speakers are mounted below. It sits on a swivel stand that can rotate about 30 degrees or so left or right. Sony's optional wall-mount kit, model SU-WL31, sells for $350.
Sony's remote has undergone a slight redesign that adds the Wega Gate button for accessing the menu system. While the remote can command other kinds of gear, it's unfortunately not backlit or illuminated at all. The internal menu system is fairly straightforward--with a couple of exceptions. To find basic and advanced picture settings, you need to select the last item, which looks like a briefcase and is labeled Settings. Logically, we would have preferred it to come first on the list rather than last, behind the Favorite Channel lists and other less useful features.
The feature package on this Sony is nothing to write home about. Its resolution of 1,280x768 is standard for its class; naturally, the panel can accept just about any signal, including PC. To watch HDTV, you'll need to add an external tuner box.
We noted the usual adjustable Picture modes (Vivid, Standard, Pro, and so on), and the KLV-S32A10 remembers which mode you last used with each input. Since all three modes are adjustable, you basically get three independent memory slots for each input, so you can adjust each input for different lighting environments, for example. This LCD also has the same Cool, Neutral, and Warm selectable color-temperature settings Sony has offered since time immemorial. The Light Sensor feature raises and lowers contrast and brightness depending on the amount of ambient light in the room; we recommend turning it off for serious viewing. Unfortunately, the set lacks PIP (picture-in-picture).
The connectivity options on the Sony KLV-S32A10 are relatively weak. A single HDMI input heads the list. Others include one component-video input (many sets at this level have two), one VGA analog RGB input for computer hookup, two A/V inputs that can connect to either S-Video or composite-video sources, and one RF-antenna input.
We found the Sony KLV-S32A10's overall image quality somewhat disappointing. In its favor, black-level performance was impressive, thanks to the adjustable backlight, which allows you to turn down the lamp's output and achieve a decent deep black. Unfortunately, the panel doesn't pass blacker-than-black picture information, so the contrast ratio is somewhat compromised. We also noticed false-contouring artifacts rearing their ugly heads in dark scenes, such as the opening few minutes from our black-level torture-test DVD, Alien: The Director's Cut.
The Sony's NTSC color decoding pushes red severely, so we had to reduce the color level quite a bit--and impair overall saturation and punch--to make skin tones in particular look natural. We had to back it down 10 clicks on our review sample for the DVD component input and about 5 clicks for the HDMI input we were using for high-def. It looks like Sony has chosen to be more accurate with its HD decoding than it is with NTSC decoding, which is a mistake. The right way to do it is to have the panel switch the color matrix from NTSC to HD automatically; Panasonic does this on some, if not all, of its plasma and LCD flat-panels. We harp on this because we'll likely be watching good old NTSC sources for a long time to come, especially on smaller TVs such as the KLV-S32A10.
We also noticed that the Cinemotion feature, which Sony claims has 2:3 pull-down detection, did not pass our standard 2:3 test (see the Geek box for more). You may notice more jagged or moving-line artifacts when watching film-based sources, primarily prime-time TV.
Bright material looked pretty good, as long as we were directly in front of the screen. Off-axis viewing is a real issue with all flat-panel LCDs, and on the Sony, the reduction in brightness is dramatic, especially if you sit too high or low in relation to the screen. For the best experience, you should position the panel so that your head is in the middle of the screen. From the ideal seating position, scenes from the Vertical Limit Superbit version DVD looked very crisp with good detail.
HD from our DirecTV HD satellite feed looked sharp as well. Unfortunately, we discovered that the panel rolls off about 20 percent of the horizontal resolution from 720p HD sources, as evidenced by a multiburst test pattern at 720p from our Sencore VP403 HDTV signal generator. This is a shame, but it's unfortunately the norm rather than the exception with fixed-pixel HDTV displays.
Bottom line, the Sony is not a great choice for people looking for the best performance from a flat-panel HDTV. Then again, we can't recommend any LCD flat panel in that regard. The Sony and others are better suited for less critical viewing environments and can do a good job in very brightly lit rooms. Unfortunately for the KLV-S32A10, that can be said of lots of budget televisions, such as the and the , which cost a good deal less than the Sony.
|Before color temp (20/80)||9,050/8,150K||Poor|
|After color temp (20/80)||N/A|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 1,611K||Poor|
|After grayscale variation||N/A|
|Color decoder error: red||+20%||Poor|
|Color decoder error: green||+0%||Good|
|DC restoration||All patterns stable||Good|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Y||Poor|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Y||Good|