Bottom line: The Sony Bravia KDL-42EX440 is actually a 42-inch edge-lit LED HDTV offering good color quality and wide viewing angles. It does not become very bright or very dark, and lacks some of the features which come standard on many HDTVs, however its low price is appealing.
Pros: Affordable. Accurate colors. Wide viewing angles.
Cons: Low contrast ratio. Mediocre black levels. Limited feature set.
Purchasing a budget HDTV no longer means the need to settle for skewed colors and subpar image quality, but you will still have to have sacrifices. Using the Sony Bravia KDL-42EX440 ($549.99 direct) you get solid color quality and a sharp 1080p picture that looks good from all of the angles, but that’s about it. This no-frills HDTV doesn’t offer Internet connectivity or any Web apps, nor is there 3D capabilities. Its contrast ratio is less than optimal at the same time. Having said that, its very reasonable selling price will appeal to budget-conscious consumers.
You’ll find nothing notable about the look of the 42EX440; it utilizes a matte black cabinet using a glossy black bezel and a rigid glossy black rectangular base. The base does a good job of supporting the 29-pound cabinet but doesn’t allow for swivel adjustments. A silver Sony logo sits around the lower bezel along with seven touch-sensitive buttons, including Power, Channel, Volume, Source, and Home (menu) buttons. The controls are erratic; sometimes they respond with one touch as well as other times they should be pressed several times. You’re better off utilizing the included remote.
I/O ports are limited. The 42EX440 only has two HDMI inputs (most HDTVs include four). One is mounted on the left side in the cabinet above a USB port and also the other is on the back from the cabinet along with digital and analog audio outputs, a VGA (PC) video input, a TV Coaxial jack, and component A/V inputs. For those who have a lot more than two devices (three in case you are fine with using component video), you will need to find other ways for connecting them. And there is no Ethernet or Wi-Fi, so you can’t connect this set to the net.
The 2 8-watt speakers are in fact quite loud considering they may be rear-facing. They don’t put out a lot of bass, but you can coax a little bit of low end by enabling the bass boost option.
The remote is a little over 8 inches long and contains 36 buttons along with a four-way directional navigation button. None of the buttons are illuminated. It has a dedicated Scene button that allows you to choose one of seven picture presets (Auto, General, Photo, Music, Cinema, Game, Graphics, and Sports), combined with typical player controls (Play, Forward, Rewind, Pause, Stop), a Source option, a number pad, along with a Home button that takes you into the settings screens.
You receive the typical selection of picture, audio, and channel settings. Picture settings include Backlight, Picture (contrast), Brightness, Color, Hue, Sharpness, and Color Temperature. Additionally there is a CineMotion setting that helps reduce blurring when watching film-based content, and 5 noise reduction configurations. Advanced settings will include a black corrector and a contrast enhance-both of which might help strengthen contrast, but introduce artifacts when enabled-as along with a gamma adjustment and white balance controls. Additionally, there exists a menu selection for Sony’s Photo Frame application which will play USB-stored photos and music in a slideshow while displaying a calendar.