It may not set a new picture benchmark for 32-inch LED TVs, but the KDL-32EX524's performance is still impressive for a £550 set. There are some obvious flaws, but on the whole your hi- and standard-def sources are in good hands.
Images from the built-in Freeview HD tuner look crisp and precise, showing precious few signs of stepping along edges, pixellation or block noise. Detail shines through from every inch of the screen, whether you're ogling the textured green grass of Wimbledon's Centre Court or the suburban London surroundings of Lead Balloon. It's a great advert for hi-def, even on a screen of this size, and shows that the new X-Reality chip is no slouch when it comes to sharpening up detail and removing noise.
Switching over to a Blu-ray disc – in this case Children of Men – the KDL-32EX524 continues its good work with more scintillating detail and deep, natural colours. However, the movie's gloomy settings and subject matter means dark scenes are frequent, and here we find the KDL-32EX524 slightly struggling – instead of deep, inky blacks you get a sort of misty grey/blue and the backlight seems uneven, with pooling down the left and right sides.
We also ran Samsung's HD Reference Software evaluation disc through the KDL-32EX524 and with the black level test patterns found it hard to define the outlines of black objects set against black backgrounds, and although contrast is good, it lacks the punch and breadth of a good plasma, or the best full LED sets. You can get some joy playing around with the Black Corrector and Advanced Contrast Enhancer, but it's never fully rectified and doesn't really improve the detail within blacks. Brighter Blu-rays like Wall-E or Legends of the Guardians look much better though.
The other major flaw with the TV's picture is motion blur. It's highlighted most clearly on our evaluation disc's Motion test patterns, showing fast camera pans over the front of a building and a map. The image is beset by smearing, which makes text on the map difficult to read, plus the image judders uncomfortably.
During movies this blur interferes with the clarity of fast-moving scenes. With no frame insertion technology to iron this sort of stuff out it's fairly inevitable, but might encourage some to fork out more for a 100Hz sets from the Sony 724 series.
Back to the positives, and Sony makes good its promise of improving web video. We watched zombie film Day of the Dead (1985) on BBC iPlayer and were enormously impressed by the lack of artefacts and buffering delays with this 26-year-old movie. Horrible Histories also looked superb: it was just like watching an SD BBC One broadcast on Freeview.