Sony was the first of the HDTVs to really put style at the forefront. Since then, Samsung and others have caught up, but Sony continues to produce some very attractive televisions. Even at 55 inches, the panel is remarkably thin thanks to the slender LED edge-lighting.
The stand is fairly small, considering the size of the panel, but it feels solid and the hardware is quite durable.
The controls are located on the lower-right side, wrapping around from side to back. They're discreet yet easy to locate in the dark.
The remote control that comes with the is rather good. Some of the buttons, like the volume, channel up/down, and Home menu buttons, could have been better sized or shaped for differentiation, but it feels right when it's in your hands.
The ships with the stand, neck piece, & screws, remote control & batteries, and assorted documentation. It does not ship with an instruction manual.
The produced a deep black level, measuring 0.07 cd/m2, according to our testing. That's quite good, on par with the best LCDs we've reviewed, and even some plasmas. More on how we test black level.
With a peak white of 313.35 cd/m2, the is plenty bright enough. It should hold up well against ambient light that can wash out a dimmer TV. More on how we test peak brightness.
The 's contrast ratio measured a healthy 4476:1. That's not quite as wide as the Sony EX720 series we reviewed, which is the next step up from the EX620 series, but the difference is fairly minor. You probably wouldn't notice the difference unless you had the TVs side-by-side. More on how we test contrast.
The had no problems maintaining a consistent black level, regardless of how much or how little black area was on the screen at any give time. More on how we test tunnel contrast.
The maintains a perfectly consistent peak brightness, regardless of screen content. More on how we test white falloff.
On a mostly-dark or all-black screen, we noticed some cloudiness, a common problem with LED-edgelit TVs. The backlight just isn't distributed evenly enough. It's not as bad as we've seen on some TVs. More on how we test white falloff.
The greyscale gamma test measures how well a TV transitions from black to white within the greyscale. The . What we're looking for in the chart below is a smooth curve with an upward slope between 2.1 and 2.2. As you can see in the chart below, it's definitely a smooth curve. There are a few kinks in the lower-left portion of the line, indicating that you might see some banding in the shadows. The slope of the curve is also a little steep, so the is probably missing some of the finer gradations in the greyscale. All told, though, it's a good performance. More on how we test greyscale gamma.
The maintained a very consistent color temperature throughout the signal range. As you can see in the chart below, as the signal dims, the whites have a slight tendency to cool. It's so subtle you'll probably never notice. More on how we test color temperature.
The produced almost perfectly smooth color curves. There's a little wobbliness in the red and blue channels' response curve, which indicates that you might see small instances of color banding. It should be minimal, though. What's impressive here is that all three channels move in near-perfect unison. There's also no peaking, so you get detail in even the brightest stretches of the signal range. More on how we test RGB curves.
The strips below are digital recreations of the RGB color tests, compared alongside three similar TVs and an ideal response curve.
The Sony EX620 series, along with many other Sonys, has a feature called MotionFlow that helps smooth out some of the problems traditionally seen in LCD TVs. When an object is moving across the screen, you typically see some blurriness that's caused, in part, by the screen refreshing itself at only 60 frames per second. Features like Sony's MotionFlow (Samsung, LG, and others have their own brand names for it) try to remove that judder by guessing what the pictures in between those 60 frames per second might look like, then digital creating them and inserting them between the original frames. Technologically, it's an amazing process, but practically speaking, the results are mixed.
When we ran our motion tests, which specifically push the blurriness issue, everything was improved by MotionFlow. Flicker, fine detail loss, trailing – all of it disappeared. However, we wouldn't recommend using MotionFlow most of the time. The problem is that your eye is used to a certain level of blurriness. That's how the image was recorded. The attempt to remove that blur creates an uncomfortably sharp image, especially anything shot on film. For sports and live action programming, you won't notice as much.
Overall, the gets points for detail retention, but with the proviso that you should learn how to turn this feature off. More on how we test motion performance.
The , surprisingly, had a few problems with the 24fps test. We play a Blu-Ray movie with certain test patterns to see how well the TV can use 3:2 pulldown to create a smooth motion. It showed real issues with high contrast / high frequency patterns. There's even a feature in the Sony's menu called CineMotion that's supposed to address these problems, but it didn't seem to help. More on how we test 3:2 pulldown and 24fps.
The has a native 1080p (1920 x 1080) resolution, but most of the footage you send it will be of a lower resolution, unless you do nothing but watch Blu-Ray movies. Fortunately, the TV is pretty good at taking these non-native resolutions and scaling them up to fit the screen. More on how we test resolution scaling.
The 480p video we tested showed absolutely no problems.
The 720p video showed some noticeable Moireing in high contrast / high frequency patterns, though it was not widespread. There was no problem reading fine details like small text.
The has a native 1080p resolution, but can adequately handle all standard NTSC resolutions.
Like most LCD TVs, the has a narrow viewing angle. We measured it at a total of 47 degrees, or 24 degrees from center on either side. Any LCD will have a roughly similar score. For those wide, shallow rooms you may want to consider a plasma.
Reflectance was about average for this TV. It did not seem to be a problem in our testing.
There an an awful lot of video processing features on the , but most of either does little to help or actively harms picture quality. If you put the TV in Cinema mode, like we recommend in our Calibration section, most of these features are disabled.
Once we put the in Cinema mode, almost all the work was done for us. We simply needed to raise the backlight and turn off a couple of video processing features. First you have to find the Cinema mode, though. The menus are a labyrinthine mess, with settings buried across multiple submenus. How anyone but a professional television reviewer finds their way around this is a mystery to us.
Here's a hint: find the Preferences submenu and select Scene Modes > Cinema. Then wend your way back to the Picture Settings menu and you'll find all the settings located in the table below.
All of our calibration is done in conjunction with the DisplayMate software.
The has a number of Picture mode and Scene modes. They're essentially the same thing, so why Sony buried them in two completely different branches of the menu is beyond us.
The has four HDMIs and two USB ports, as well as ethernet and optional WiFi (additional purchase required). That's a great line-up for a modern home theater system. If you have a lot of older devices, you might be out of luck. There is just one component and one composite AV input.
Most of the ports are located on the back, but on the side you'll find one HDMI, the VGA, and both USB ports that allow you to quickly swap out connections.
Suffice it to say, we don't like them, and Sony has a heavily tarnished reputation to recover in 2012.
Most of the 2011 Sony TVs, including the , don't have a standard instruction manual – not in print and not in PDF form. Instead, they have a godawful browser-like manual built into the TV (fat lot of good that does you if the TV's not working properly, as you won't be able to see it). You can find an online version of it here.
Our problem with this sort of layout is that the information is much harder to search and scan. Why is there no keyword search box? Surely their top scientists have cracked that technology by now. If Sony insists on selling you a TV with such a flummoxing menu system, the least they can do is provide a simple road map rather than confounding the problem.
We've written extensively about the Sony streaming content options for 2011. In summary, they're quite good. Sony offers more out-of-the-box video content than any other TV maker, by a long shot. As you can see in the screenshot below, there are 46 "channels" of internet video. Granted, a lot of it is less than stellar content, but it's nice to have options.
More description here.
The has a full internet browser built in, but it doesn't seem to work very well. The pre-loaded home page points to a Sony.com page, but apparently it's too content-rich to properly load. Maybe someone should have beta-tested this thing first...?
The two USB ports can play back photos, videos, and audio files from USB mass storage devices. The interface is, again, a little complicated, but only because there are so many options. Look at the screenshot below to see what we're talking about. These are nine submenus just to create a slideshow. True, it may end up as the greatest slideshow ever, but you'll have to be patient making all your tweaks.
The music and video playback and much the same, though with different options for creating playlists.
The , large as it is, requires just 154 watts of power with the backlight set to maximum, and only 99 watts when set to the minimum recommended backlight.
As you can see in the chart below, that should cost you about $19.27 per year in electricity. It compares rather well when compared to similar TVs.
The Sony EX720 series is the next step up from the EX620 series. The 55-inch KDL-EX620 used to retail for $2099, but that price has dropped to $1619. Stepping up to the 55-inch KDL-55EX720 used to cost $300 more, but through the miracle of supply and demand economics, the 55EX720 now sells for $1599, or $17 less than the EX620. Commerce is a funny thing.
The biggest difference is that the EX720 allows for 3D display, though you'll have to pay extra for the active shutter glasses. We could care less about 3D, so we're not really surprised to see that people are apparently not willing to pay a premium for it. Beyond that, the TVs are nearly indistinguishable. The EX720 has MotionFlow XR 240, which looks better on paper than the EX620 and its MotionFlow 120, but both are actually 120Hz screens and we saw now performance differences.
The Sony EX720 produced a slightly deeper black level than the EX620, according to our tests, which gave it a marginal advantage in contrast ratio. They're really very similar, though.
The color performance is virtually identical. Both were great and both showed the same response curves and errors, however marginal the errors were.
The motion performance was also virtually identical between the EX620 and EX720 series.
As with many of our tests, we found very little difference in the viewing angle between the EX620 and EX720. They're both pretty bad in this regard.
The connectivity options are identical.
The Samsung UN46D6500, the 46-inch model we reviewed, retails for $1799 MSRP. There's a 55-inch version that retails for $2599. That's $500 more than the old price of the , those prices for everything have dropped the older these get in their respective life cycles.
The upgrades are considerable. The Samsung D6500 is a 3D-capable TV. It offers all the same great streaming content as the Sony, but wrapped in a far friendlier interface, as well as built-in WiFi. Samsung definitely pulled ahead of the pack when it came to "smart TVs" this year. The contrast ratio is better and there are more ports. However, it's quite a bit more expensive. Also, the color performance wasn't quite up to the Sony EX620's standards. The Samsung is surely a better TV, but it's not the better bargain here.
The Samsung D6500 was the one to beat when it came to black levels, at least amongst LCD televisions. At 0.04 cd/m2, that's better than a lot of plasmas we've reviewed.
The Sony EX620 held its own and more against the Samsung D6500, besting it in color temperature and RGB response curve tests. The Samsung won with more accurate colors (measured against the rec. 709 color standards).
The motion performances were both very good, when their respective motion smoothing features are engaged. Don't expect to see much difference.
The Samsung LCD TVs we've reviewed tend to have a terrible viewing angle. Not that most LCDs are champs. The was only slightly wider.
The Samsung D6500 trumps the Sony EX620 with built-in WiFi and one additional USB port. That's about it, though.
We reviewed the LG 47LW5600, retailing for $1699 MSRP, but there's also a 55-inch version retailing for $2399 MSRP. Going by the original MSRPs, that puts the 55-inch LG at $399 more expensive than the . What do you get for your money?
The LG LW5600 series is 3D-capable, but unlike most manufacturers, they use the less expensive passive technology. We found it to be less immersive but more comfortable for long-term viewing. However, we've already established that 3D is, by and large, a waste of time, so that's only a small advantage over the Sony EX620. What we really like about LG TVs is the quality of the user experience. The menus are well-designed, and not nearly as cluttered as Sony's. The remote has all the buttons in just the right place. The streaming content applications are robust, yet simple. On the downside, the contrast ratio is a fraction of what the Sony EX620 can do. The motion performance performance also suffered. On the whole, the Sony EX620 offers the better raw performance, but the LG is so much more enjoyable to use. Your choice.
The LG LW5600 really crapped out the black level, as all the LG LCDs have done in 2011. It's just not their strength.
In a typical showdown like this, the LG LCD television nearly always wins for color performance. The Sony EX620 is capable of giving it a run for its money this time, though. The LG had a more stable color temperature and closer adherence to the rec. 709 color standard, but the Sony had a smoother color response. Bottom line: both are great TVs for color performance.
The LG LW5600 had some problems with our motion tests, while the Sony passed with flying colors, provided the MotionFlow feature was enabled at the right moments.
The viewing angles on both these TVs was poor.
The LG LW5600 might have an appeal for AV enthusiasts, with RS-232C and wired remote ports. Otherwise, the two TVs are closely matched.
The (previously $2099, now $1619 MSRP) has a lot in its favor: strong contrast ratio, a fantastic color performance, energy-efficient LED edge-lighting, and a vast collection of streaming content options. Given the price reduction, it should be a strong contender for your big-screen TV.
That said, the interface it maddeningly complicated. Sony has proven, over a few generations of products now, that they have no idea how to build a simple device. "If consumers like one feature, they'll love one hundred features" – this appears to be their approach to product design.
Granted, many people plug in a TV and never bother with the menu. If that's the case, they'll be spared the pages and pages of submenus. But to do so would deny you what makes the so compelling in the first place. It has a boatload of features that allow you to watch great content, then tweak the picture and audio quality of that content so it looks as good as possible.
There are simpler TVs that have as good or nearly-as-good quality, such as the Samsung D6500 LED series and LG LW5600 LED series. Be sure to do some research before you buy. It just might save you some grey hairs.
The Sony EX620 series has three models, 40, 46, and 55 inches. All have the same feature sets. The prices for all three have also dropped as the year 2011 draws to a close.
Meet the tester
Robin Liss founded what is now Reviewed.com in 1996. In January 2011 she led the acquisition of the company by USA Today / Gannett.
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