Fitted with 20W speakers, this 32-incher is never going to reproduce the grumble of a home cinema, but it does a good job with what its got. The Eighties hits in Donnie Darko are reasonably well reproduced, though the darker, more morose orchestral pieces later in the film aren't as spooky as they could be.
Overall, there's a lack of any sparkle, but high volumes don't distort. Adequate, then, for general living room duties, though steer clear of the treble-heavy Clear Voice mode.
On build quality and looks the KDL-32CX523 just about gets by. We're still convinced that 2010's 'monolithic' look was down to a designers' sabbatical rather than the creation of a revolutionary new look, and the 2011 team has been similarly sluggish. The KDL-32CX523 is reasonably streamlined, but its back-to-basics look leaves it far behind Samsung TVs, for starters.
Its 70mm depth seems reasonable at this price, though the width of the actual screen surround – at around 45mm – is a tad too much.
An otherwise sleek-looking set that hides some TV controls behind its left-hand side, the truth about its construction is revealed upon close inspection; that brushed metallic 'look' is just that.
In terms of what you get for your money, the KDL-32CX523 should be considered as a replacement for Sony's outgoing KDL-32EX403, though this updated set adds some unique smartphone, record-to-USB and (soon) Skype features which, for the money, adds up to quite a haul.
Ease of use
The newly designed menus are reasonably easy to skip through, if a little long-winded, but there's no doubting that the KDL-32CX523 – and by extension, all Sony TVs – are among the easiest to use.
Aside from some onscreen menus occasionally being a little sluggish, our major problem with the KDL-32CX523's remote was its insistence on controlling external AV kit. It just wouldn't stay away from a Samsung Blu-ray player we had connected-up, so much so that it proved impossible to get back to Freeview channels while a Blu-ray disc played without recourse to the iPhone app.