In recent times we've seen television manufacturers wage war on cable clutter, attempting to cut out one of the main obstacles to wall-mounting a TV. Sony has smartly sidestepped this issue by equipping its KDL-52EX1 with a separate 'Media Receiver'.
This box houses most of the guts (the connections and tuners, for example) and communicates with the screen itself via a high speed wireless connection. That means you only need to connect one power lead to the screen.
The TV's design also boosts its wall-hanging credentials. It's very thin (just 57mm) given its diameter, and with its wide white frame looks a little like an oil painting. This makes sense when you consider that the TV features Picture Frame Mode, which enables you to use it as a giant digital photo frame when you are not watching anything.
It can then play very high quality slideshows, either of your own snapshots or of six pre-loaded classic paintings. A USB port on the front of the media box is used to display user photos, with JPEG files fully supported.
NO STRINGS: With many of the cumbersome electronics housed in an external media receiver, the 52EX1 has a super slim profile
The media receiver itself is a fairly small box that can be arranged either flat or, using the supplied stand, sat vertically. It links up instantly with the monitor via its wireless connection, and we experienced no connection problems during our week with the 52EX1.
Sony supplies a few IR blasters/extenders, enabling the user to hide the box (and other external AV kit) in a cupboard and still use the remote control.
We should mention now that the wireless link between the box and the screen, while fast and reliable, doesn't have the bandwidth to carry full 1080p video. It will carry video resolution up to 1080i, so anything above will be downgraded.
This includes Blu-ray movies at 1080p/24fps where the frame rate will be changed to 60fps, so if you want to watch your HD discs at the original speed you'll need to hook your player up directly to the screen, bypassing the Media Receiver altogether. There's an HDMI on the screen for this use.
THE LAZY STICK: Sony's remote for the 52EX1 is a standard affair with nice chunky buttons
We were impressed by the user friendliness of the 52EX1. Not only is the wireless link painless to set up, but the menu system is simple and the remote control is responsive with nice chunky buttons. You can also use the XrossMediaBar (which will be familiar to PS3 and PSP users), a two-axis menu that offers very speedy access to options.
We were generally very impressed by the screen's picture quality. Black levels and contrast aren't as strong as on some of its Sony stablemates, and having just spent a few days with the KDL- 40W5500 prior to this one (which boasts Bravia Engine 3 rather than the 52EX1's Bravia Engine 2, plus double the quoted contrast ratio), we noticed quite a difference in the colour quality, too, which lacked a touch of vibrancy in comparison to the newer, smaller TV.
Detail is reasonably sharp, but we've seen Blu-ray movies and Sky HD content deliver more obvious impact on similar-sized screens, which suggests that some detail is lost in the wireless transfer.
But elsewhere there's little to fault the 52EX1. Its black levels are sufficiently deep and the Advanced Contrast Enhancer is efficient enough for you to sit in a very dark room and notice almost no backlight bleed from the screen, unless you shift your sitting position too far away from the centre of the panel. You can also adjust the brightness of the backlight manually if you'd rather not leave it up to the screen.
The Motionflow 100Hz technology does a fine job of eliminating judder, particularly from film content, and provided you keep its Standard setting, doesn't broadcast itself too much by adding artefacts or other oddities to the picture.
Despite the television's speakers being completely invisible from the front, they serve up an impressive amount of sound. Bass is fairly limited, but there's no distortion even when things get to their lowest and loudest, while dialogue shines through clearly.
If you're shelling out this much on a television this big you're probably planning on bolstering its built-in speakers with something a touch more capable, however, and it's definitely well worth it if movies and games are high priorities.
Overall, we found the KDL-52EX1 to be a cracking large screen that's tailored nicely for maximum convenience. Pixel-peeping performance hounds may well prefer to choose one of Sony's other models, however, because the wireless link does cause one or two minor issues.
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