Sony EX320 (KDL-22EX320) 22 Inch LED LCD TV Review

Do great things come in small packages? Mark gets close up to the EX320

by hodg100
TV Review

14

Sony EX320 (KDL-22EX320) 22 Inch LED LCD TV Review
SRP: £299.00

Introduction

We don't often receive displays of these rather modest proportions here at AVForums but we're reliably informed they sell in rather less modest numbers. Indeed, most of the major manufacturers produce screens at, or around, 22 inches so there must be a market there even if we, as enthusiasts, would always try and squeeze in something a little larger where possible. We would envisage the natural habitat for a KDL-EX320 to be either a bedroom or kitchen but the KDL-22EX320 has a couple of bigger brothers in the KDL-24EX320 and KDL-26EX320 that could possibly find there way in to the living room.

Just because the EX320 is rather small and cute doesn't mean we'll go easy on it, especially as one can pick up a very serviceable 32 inch TV for the same price; so do good things come in small packages? Read on to find out.

Design and Features

The KDL-EX320 is more or less a shrunken version of the EX723 we recently covered. That is to say it's another understated piece from Sony with it's gloss black bezel - front and sides - complimented by gun metal grey at the bottom. The primary visual difference is in the stand, or rather the chrome feet it sits on and we guess there's no need for a swivel stand for a television so small and light when it can be so easily moved. In short, there's absolutely nothing to fall out with, in terms of design, and we'd imagine it would make a good fit for the majority of environments.

We're pretty much used to seeing 4 HDMI inputs, as standard, these days but that the EX320 has just 2 is no great surprise given its likely intended use. Both HDMI ports are to the rear and are accompanied by component video in with corresponding stereo audio jacks, a RGB Scart terminal, an aerial socket - not capable of receiving HD transmissions, SPDIF optical audio out and a LAN connection. A very nice bonus - and perhaps a bit of a killer feature for the EX320 - is that the TV is wireless ready out of the box so no need for unsightly, and costly, USB wireless donglage. To the side, there's a USB input that can be used for media playback or with a HDD for recording TV. Additionally there's a CAM slot, headphone jack and a D-SUB PC in. The EX320 'only' has a resolution of 1366 x 768 so prospective buyers may need to take that in to consideration if they were thinking of doubling it up as a PC monitor. It's a bit of a shame there's no HDMI input to the side as they can be very convenient for HD video cameras and the like. Still you could just wirelessly stream your content to the TV so its omission is by no means a deal breaker.

You're probably getting the idea by now that the EX320, despite its size, is not lacking in features and there's plenty more with the inclusion of Bravia Internet Video being perhaps the major highlight. The hub provides access to the usual suspects in YouTube, BBC iPlayer, LoveFilm and Demand 5 but there's 20, or so, others to choose from.

Sony's new Web Browser also makes an appearance on the EX320 but of course it's a rather 'lite' browser that, unlike Samsung's, isn't capable of flash video playback. That said, it's definitely a step up from Teletext and is adequate for a quick surf whist taking tea and toast. Again, the biggest hurdle is in using a TV remote to browse but there's an App available for smartphone owners that will help. The EX320 is Windows 7 certified and DLNA compliant and we certainly found it a very good network performer, particularly in tandem with the free, and unofficial, PS3 Media Server.

If owners fancy a bit of video chat through Skype, they have the option of purchasing the CMU-BR100 Web Cam/Microphone that resembles a Wii sensor bar. There's also a presence sensor that will put the TV in to standby if it fails to sense anybody present after a defined period - it's set for 30 minutes by default in the menu but there's a range of options.

The remote control is of the usual Sony standard in terms of design but feels considerably less weighty than some of the others we've had our hands on. Again, nothing to fall out with here.
We think it's fair to say the LED edge-lit EX320 is very generous in the features packed in and we were actually a little surprised just how much was on offer!

Menus and Set Up

Set up of the EX320 was fairly unremarkable, that is to say it was a no fuss operation. Select language, country, enter a PIN, tell it you're at home, whether it's on a stand or wall mounted, tune in your channels and then off you go with the whole thing done in under 3 minutes. It was a little surprising the opportunity to create a network connection wasn't part of the set up routine but we're not complaining about the speed of the process.

As we saw in the EX723, Sony have given a little tweak to the GUI to make the XMB (Cross Media Bar) less of an imposing presence. The XMB now scrolls across the bottom of the screen, with the currently highlighted feature down the right side. There's a sizeable window showing the viewed input occupying the left side. As we've found in the past, use of the XMB can almost completely be negated by use of the OPTIONS button on the remote save for the internet functions.

As ever, our primary interest lies in the contents of the Picture Menu and we were pleased to see that Sony hadn't stripped any calibration options out when compared to the EX320's larger stablemates. As well as all the usual Brightness, Contrast, Backlight and Sharpness sliders, in the Advanced Settings area there's are global setting for gamma and a two point white balance control. We'll just mention here that all other options in 'Advanced' should all be turned off for optimum picture quality.

Test Results

It's second nature for us to automatically select the Cinema picture preset from the SCENE button on the remote and it once again provided the most visibly accurate image. Usually a colour temperature of Warm2 lends itself best to greyscale calibration with the Sony's but we could have chosen Warm1 just as easily on this occasion as it was equally out just swapping the blue error for the red. The following measurements were taken with Warm2:

As we can see from the RGB Balance Graph, red is tracking about 10% too high with blue approximately 10% low, across the greyscale. Images were visibly too warm although the fairly dim output of Cinema mode did mute the effect somewhat. At least errors are more or less linear, hopefully meaning we wouldn't have to rely on the low-end Bias controls too heavily - they've proved clunky on the Sony's in the past.

Gamma performance was a little all over the place and we'd more or less have to rely on the global gamma slider to try to flatten it out but we have found, in the past, that contrast needs to be set with real care on the Sony LED LCD's.

Performance here could probably be best described as reasonable. Quite how important the need to hit the Rec.709 standard is open to question on a display of this size and provided we could make a good fist of the greyscale and minimise luminance errors, on-screen images should be more than passable.

Calibrated Results

As we've experienced before with Sony's, the low end white balance controls proved very coarse and in the end we managed to tweak the following using the gains only:

Despite the course bias controls, greyscale tracking is now excellent with nothing in the way of visible errors. With the aid of the contrast control - which had to be set prescisely - we managed to flatten out the gamma response reasonably well. We choose a 2.2 target as a good catch-all value and in its calibrated state, viewing was suitable for a fairly dimly lit room. Light output is not high in Cinema mode and even cranking up the backlight to maximum didn't really yield results we'd deem suitable for a bright environment, which is slightly surprising, given the technology, and a bit of a blow for those that value accuracy but need a bright image. None of the other picture modes come close to standards so that may jeopardise the EX320s potential as a kitchen/dining room/conservatory television.

We've no CMS to play with in any Sony set so we're relying on greyscale improvements and the Colour control, only, to get closer to Rec.709.

Getting the white balance in order brought benefits to the hue results of the secondary colours and we'd got the all important luminance results much closer to target. Overall, it's a decent result if colour saturation was a little disappointing but, frankly, if you require reference colour accuracy on a display sub 26", we'd consider you in a tiny majority and/or it's your job where you need a broadcast monitor.

Picture Processing

The short version here is, thumbs up! To go in to slightly more detail, the KDL-EX320 scales extremely well, making the exclusion of a HD tuner much less of an issue than it might have been. Video deinterlacing was similarly excellent, even with challenging material, fine details - especially in HD content - maintained integrity under motion. The most common PAL(2:2) and NTSC(2:3) film cadences were detected when sent interlaced and 24p shot material was represented without undue judder. Note: Film Mode needs to be set to Auto in the Picture menu for the cadence detection to work successfully. All in all, the EX320 is one nifty little mover when it comes to video processing which is in common with all the Sony's we've seen for some time.

Gaming Performance

We guess the EX320 might find its way in to the odd kids bedroom and the more affluent of students' bedroom so gaming performance could be a consideration. The EX320 is one of the most consistent performers we've seen in terms of input lag testing, measuring 50 milliseconds in 9 out of 10 measurements - the other was 53 milliseconds, in case you were wondering. For the competitive gamer that's not a great result meaning up to 4 frames lost, at 60 frames per second, and it was a consistent measurement across the picture modes, including Game. We doubt that anyone has this on their radar as a gaming monitor for online competition but it would certainly be OK for some single player where adjustment is more successfully made.

Energy Consumption

We were perhaps anticipating a record breaker here and in terms of consumption, per diagonal inch, it even beat the 15" LG OLED Phil looked at last year, taking only 22w, when calibrated. In standby, we couldn't get a reading.

Picture Quality

Once we'd tweaked the greyscale, flattened the gamma and dealt with our colour luminance problem, we were pretty happy with our picture. Black levels were very good indeed but shadow detailing was somewhat murkier with the higher than ideal gamma, at low levels, washing out more than it revealed. Thanks to the top drawer processing, SD images were nicely realised. Even some of the lower quality dross pumped out over Freeview didn't look half bad, although that's no doubt thanks, in part, to the rather diminutive screen proportions masking the nasties.

High Definition images, despite the size, still exhibited a noticeable improvement over their SD counterparts - with broadcast HD that's as much as bitrate as it is pixel count but Blu-rays looked very good; from two feet away. Obviously the KDL-26EX320 would be a more sensible proposition for Blu-ray.

The problem with the EX320 is it lacks pop, in almost any lighting conditions. We alluded to the low light output previously but it is very low, measuring around 15ftL at peak output, when calibrated, with the backlight maxed out. The general under saturation of both primary and secondary colours didn't help the muted image either. We realise, at this size, there wont be many LEDs to play with to generate the necessary light output but Sony need to have a look at ways of letting more travel from the sides.

Verdict

6
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

The Good

  • Wireless built in
  • EPG
  • Bravia Internet Video
  • Networking capabilities
  • Black level
  • Calibrated greyscale
  • USB PVR recording

The Bad

  • Picture is far too dim for most environments
  • Clunky low end greyscale controls
  • Input lag for online gamers

Sony EX320 (KDL-22EX320) 22 Inch LED LCD TV Review

Despite the relative proliferation of TVs of this size, we'd still consider the EX320 to be a bit of a niche product especially as its inability to produce a bright, yet accurate, image will prejudice where it can be situated. In low lighting, the EX320 did a very creditable job but surely it won't be serving the cinema room in its day to day existence.

We really enjoyed the calibrated picture and the feature set is nothing short of excellent - being able to stream the likes of iPlayer wirelessly is a real plus, as is the home networking. Don't get us wrong, just because it's not a badge winner doesn't mean the EX320 isn't worthy of consideration, far from it, but it will need to be in the right place!

We can't ever recall using the verb cute in a review before but the EX320 is just that, mixed with a touch of elegance. Sony can make things look good and they've done it again. In terms of the appearance of menus and EPG, the reduction of screen estate taken up by the XMB is a welcome one. The general GUI response is still a touch sluggish but the EPG remains a standard for other TV manufacturers to emulate.

Out of the box performance in the Cinema mode was reasonably pleasing but much improved with calibration whilst the video processing of the X-Reality engine was as top notch, as ever, with both HD and SD signals. The EX320 managed an excellent black response with very good - for edge-lit LCD - screen uniformity.

We don't wish to appear as the proverbial scratched record but the EX320 really doesn't go bright enough and the relatively clipped peak light output certainly hampers contrast and dynamic range. With about twice the oomph, the 320 would have been a little cracker. As it is - it's nice but dim

Scores

Sound Quality

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.
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5

Smart Features

.
.
.
7

Ease Of Use

.
.
.
.
6

Build Quality

.
.
.
.
6

Value for Money

.
.
.
.
.
5

Verdict

.
.
.
.
6

Picture Quality

.
.
.
.
6

Video Processing

.
.
8

Greyscale Accuracy

.
.
.
7

Colour Accuracy

.
.
.
.
6

Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level

.
.
.
.
6

Screen Uniformity

.
.
.
.
6
6
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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