Review: Sony KDL- 40EX500

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For every one person looking for a crazy, pimped out big-screen, there are four others looking for a no-frills boob tube. Sony straddled that line with the KDL-40EX500. This 1080p powerhouse has all the motion-smoothing tech of its pricey brethren, but delivers it in a basic, financial-aid friendly package.

The EX500 offers few surprises in the looks department (See: black monolith), but still has quite a few highlights. An impressive four HDMI inputs make cameos on this bargain display, as well as a healthy helping of composite, component, digital and RCA A/V inputs. At 40 inches it’s the perfect size for small to medium-sized rooms, and it’s remarkably lightweight — comparable to an empty keg — which makes it a cinch to move. In fact, its agreeable heft and swiveling stand made it the perfect display for our 1337-sweet LAN parties. We even clocked the process: From start to finish, we had the set broken down and in the backseat of a car in four minutes.

In terms of picture, the EX500 delivers all the goodies. Thanks to Sony’s on-board BRAVIA Engine 2 processor, our Blu-ray collection was surprisingly crisp and vibrantly colored. Even exceptionally dark flicks like The Dark Knight — virtual kryptonite for LCDs — displayed convincingly deep blacks and grays. Fast and furious visuals like gaming and sports were handled with equal aplomb courtesy of 120-Hz video processing and blur reduction. Not only did this make midnight marathon movie sessions a visual treat, but the 10 hours we spent speeding through Split/Second‘s raceways proved remarkably easy on the eyes.

Though we’re huge fans of the EX500’s cross section of price and visuals, we did have a few gripes. For some reason Sony went twinkle toes with the audio. The display’s underpowered duo of 10-watt speakers not only produce brittle sound, but also ruin some of the awesomeness of the visuals. If we’re to believe we’re jumping across platforms trading rockets with other Xbox Live-ers, then it shouldn’t sound like we’re shooting spitwads. Also, the display’s lack of advanced features like web connectivity or even Sony’s trademark XrossMediaBar makes us suspect the EX500 won’t age gracefully.

Still, even with these setbacks we can’t deny the sweetness of the EX500’s value proposition. If you can live with a sharp-looking TV that’s better seen than heard (and possibly shelling out for a surround sound system to makeup the difference), then the EX500 is worth a look.

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