Our 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
Reviewed on

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 optionsFirst 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.

More after the break

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 impressiveOnce 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 imagesIt'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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