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The appeal of the numerous niche video services (Sports Illustrated, The Minisode Network, blip.tv, style.com, howcast.com, video podcasts, etc., etc.) is heightened somewhat by the ability to search across all of them. Unfortunately, that search doesn’t include any of the mainstream services like Netflix, Amazon, or YouTube, and is a pain to use with the TV remote.
Sony’s audio, widget ,and photo service selection is top-notch–there’s Slacker, NPR, and an exclusive classical music/video service (Berlin Philharmoniker); numerous Yahoo and Framechannel (the second also a Sony exclusive) widgets; no less than four onboard photo sharing options (if you count the Flickr widget).
And, yes, the EX720 has a Web browser, although it’s even slower and more annoying to use than the one on the PS3. After a few minutes of frustrated waiting for it to load hulu.com, it finally crashed the TV, and we never got it to load a video. It should be avoided unless no other Internet access method is available in your living room.
We’ll take a closer look at Sony’s 2011 connected TV platform, and compare it with the competition, in an upcoming feature.
Sony divides its picture presets into two groups: General (with three choices) and Scene (with eight, including Auto). Two of the Scenes, Cinema and Game, have two separate modes of their own, as well. The total number of adjustable modes hits double-digits, which should be enough for just about everybody.
The company didn’t add the option to adjust dejudder processing beyond the four presents. Other options are fairly standard, and don’t include any of the wacky processing extras found on higher-end Sonys.
Minimal analog inputs is nothing new, and four HDMIs is standard at this level. We appreciate the headphone jack and the fact that you can adjust its volume separately from that of the main speakers.
Among edge-lit LED based LCDs the EX720 performed well–about average from a 2D picture quality standpoint. Overall, it matched the score of the significantly less-expensive, non-LED Samsung LN46C630, for example. Strengths include solid color accuracy in bright areas, very good reflection control in bright rooms, and fine video processing. Its black levels were a bit lighter than the competition, however, and uniformity fell toward the bottom of the pack.
The EX720′s Cinema preset delivered relatively good color, although it was a bit skewed toward red. A few tweaks during calibration to the 2-point white balance controls brought the grayscale to near perfection, aside from the very darkest areas of the picture. We were also able to improve gamma and thus shadow detail at the expense of some black level. For our image quality tests we used “Hereafter” on Blu-ray.
The EX720 delivered one of the lighter (worse) shades of black in our lineup, outdoing only the 2010 EX700 and looking visibly lighter than the UND6400, for example. We saw the difference in the letterbox bars, as well as in dark scenes like the dim apartment in Chapter 2. Shadow detail was good, however, beating out the LNC630 and ST30.
The Sony held its own relatively well in this category, trumping the LNC630 and the ST30 overall. On the downside, it did evince a bluer tinge in very dark and black areas (5 percent black and lower) than any of the others, aside from the EX700. Grayscale tracking and primary/secondary colors in bright scenes were very good, however, as seen in the pre-tsunami, sunlit market from Chapter 1, with its natural-looking leaves, fabrics, and Marie’s skin tone.
No major issues were visible with 1080p sources. The Sony did fail to de-interlace 1080i film-based material properly, which might manifest in some jaggies or other artifacts in films seen on the TV, but we doubt most viewers will notice. As usual, disabling dejudder (smoothing) cut down motion resolution significantly, but again, visible blur was all but non-existent to our eye even with dejudder off.
We prefer to keep dejudder off for films, but people who like the smooth effect can choose from four Motionflow presets. Standard mode preserves some judder, providing a sort of compromise, while Smooth removes as much as it can. Clear splits the difference, whereas “Clear Plus” uses backlight scanning to improve motion resolution at the expense of some light output. We didn’t see too many halos or other artifacts in most material in any of these modes.
Uniformity: The Sony’s image varied across the screen more so than with the C630, the EX700, or the Vizio, although it was comparable to that of the two Samsung LEDs. The bottom edge, especially the corners, appeared brighter than the rest, and the top corners were also slightly brighter. Minor vertical banding could also be seen on some material, mainly flat fields with movement across the screen. From off-angle, the Sony lost black-level and color fidelity at roughly the same rate as the other LCDs.
Bright lighting: Along with the matte-screened LN630, EX700, and Vizio, the matte EX720 did a better job reducing glare from reflections than the glossy-screened Samsungs or the plasmas. It also preserved contrast (black level) better than the plasmas and about the same as the other LCDs.
Tests were fine in HDMI mode. Via VGA we saw some flicker in test patterns and fine areas, but it wasn’t an issue on most PC material.
Power consumption: We did not test the power consumption of this size TV in the Sony KDL-EX720 series, but we did test the 46-inch model. For more information, please refer to the review of the Sony KDL-46EX720.
How we test TVs