Sony KDL-37EX401 review

Decent on paper it may be, but this Sony LCD just can't cut the mustard, and there's far better out there Tested at £440.00

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Decent on paper and impressive at first glance, this cheap Sony is quickly let down by clumsy and unnatural pictures


  • +

    Cheap for a Sony

  • +

    looks decent

  • +

    sharp, punchy pictures

  • +

    XMB is quick to operate


  • -

    Limited features

  • -

    weak motion

  • -

    overemphasis of edges

  • -

    unsubtle contrast

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Though it's not perfect, Sony does have a reputation for building some of the best tellies around.

So much so, in fact, that it could be tempting, when perusing the shelves of your local Tesco superstore or browsing through Amazon on your PC, to spot the KDL-37EX401 and think ‘blimey, that's a bit cheap, but it's a Sony so it's got to be good.'

That, though, would be a mistake: the EX401 isn't horrible – but it's not that great.

No internet options
First impressions aren't bad, mind. From a distance the 'EX401 looks almost identical to its more expensive siblings.

A closer inspection reveals the materials to be a bit cheaper and more basic, but this is a perfectly stylish unit. The remote is similar, too, but without the ‘Internet Video' or ‘Exit' buttons.

The first of those buttons is telling: the EX401 has to do without Sony's suite of internet goodies; and firmware updates need to be downloaded manually from Sony, and put on a USB stick that you then plug into the telly.

This set also does without Freeview HD, and, while Sony's XMB is present (and it's especially quick and fluid on this set), individual menus are fairly basic and they refuse to get out of the way as you adjust options, making picture calibration far fussier than it should be.

Initially impressive
Once you've made the effort, though, the Sony rewards you with a picture that, at least initially, is rather impressive.

Play Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on Blu-ray and there's the kind of punch and boldness to the image that sees it really pop from the screen. That sounds like a great thing, doesn't it?

There is a sense, though, that the EX401 is overdoing it slightly, that it's overemphasising edges and over-exposing colours, so although the Blu-ray performance initially impresses, it begins to look a bit unrealistic over time.

And that's without discussing the motion handling, which is weak even by the standards of 50Hz TVs.

Switch to a DVD or the standard-definition Freeview tuner, and those niggles become bigger problems.

Again, images initially look sharp, but that's because every edge is overemphasised, as though the initial pencil line has been traced over with a big, thick felt-tip.

Decent sound, but clumsy images
It's clumsy with contrast, too, offering deep blacks and bright whites, but very little in between, and that results in an inability to realistically portray gradients in shade or skin tones.

What is true, though, is that this 'EX401 does sound pretty decent by flatscreen standards. It doesn't dig up the finest details, nor has it great weight, but it is fairly clear, direct and punchy.

Unfortunately that's not nearly enough to make up for the clumsy, unnatural, in-your-face picture or the number of features it lacks next to its cheaper competitors.

This is one Sony that should definitely be left on the shelf.

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What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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