The KDL-32EX403 is not going to thrill audiophiles. The noises produced by its S-Force digital amp module are a little honky when driven at volume, but the output is perfectly serviceable for low level listening.
While the two 10w speakers can't compete with a dedicated 2.1 or 5.1 sound system, they're fine for TV viewing. There are three audio blends (Dynamic, Standard and Clear Voice) to play with, as well as an S-Force Front Surround mode. The Standard audio setting is the best balanced of the options.
The surround mode widens the stereo soundstage: you may like it, you may not.
The KDL-32EX403 can be considered fair value. Although design fetishists will be horrified by its silhouette, the screen acquits itself reasonably well.
Limitations in picture processing mean you'll shave off a fair amount of fine detail during sports and action movies, but given the size of the picture this may not be a deal breaker. Many causal viewers may not even notice. Certainly the inherent speed and quickness of the panel make it eminently watchable.
It's unfortunate that its DLNA credentials are so lightweight. The TV's network file compatibility is actually rather woeful. Given that some of Sony's rivals (Panasonic, LG) are becoming increasingly cooperative in this area, this is an ongoing weakness on which the brand would do well to improve.
Conversely, the wealth of IPTV content that becomes viewable once the screen is coaxed online is a real treat.
Ease of use
This is a very easy TV to live with. Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the set is building its gloss black pedestal stand. You'll need to spend a few minutes with a Philips screwdriver to bolt it together.
A neat plastic 'skirt' is provided to cover the metalwork. Unlike its bigger EX brothers, the KDL-32EX403 doesn't recline so you can't alter the viewing angle.
Although not super-slim, the set can be wall-mounted, should you feel the need. Sony supplies its own custom-fit wall bracket (SU-WL500) for the job, but there's no shortage of third party suppliers.
Build quality is reasonable for a mass-market TV of this size. With a depth of nearly 10cm it'll certainly not take home any awards from Weight Watchers and it lacks designer flash – the bezel is unfashionably wide – but the impression is one of smartness when viewed square-on.
A wide selection of connections are provided to hook your kit up. On the rear are two Scarts, two HDMIs and component video, plus audio, an optical digital audio output, an Ethernet LAN port and a PC 15-pin D-sub.
On the left-hand side of the screen are auxiliary phono AV, two more HDMI inputs, USB and a common interface for a pay TV module. Over on the right, there's a manual power (sorry, 'Energy Saving') switch, channel rocker and TV guide button.
The USB can be used for either a Sony Wi-Fi dongle (UWA-BR100), or for media playback. Our advice for those without a network point in their TV room would be to invest in a PowerLine system which utilises your ring main to distribute network data. From a Powerline plug you could run Ethernet cable into a network switching hub, thereby giving you up to eight wired connections (ideal if you also have a games console, Blu-ray player and other streaming products) in the same room.
Navigating your connected devices and sifting content is achieved via the standard Sony XrossMediaBar interface. However while simple enough to use, one can't help feeling it's starting to look a little dated compared to the hi-res graphical style embraced by some of its rivals.
If you ever get stumped, help is just a key press away with an onscreen i-manual. Unlike the new onscreen guides from Samsung, it's not interactive, but it saves having to try to locate the paper version when you forget how to operate something.
The TV listing EPG is fast and well designed. A Live TV window top left enables you to monitor channels as you choose what to watch. There are no adverts intruding into the space (Panasonic, take note).