In design terms the 32EX723 is good without setting the world on fire. Its combination of a black, glossy bezel for the top and sides offset by a grey finish to the bottom edge is very en vogue, and looks perfectly pleasant. Plus the set is attractively slim thanks to its edge LED lighting. Its build quality feels a little flimsy in places, however.
Connectivity is very good, though. There are four HDMIs, for starters, offering v1.4 compatibility so they can take in full HD 3D signals. Two USBs, meanwhile, let you play back video, photo or music files from USB drives, or record to USB HDD from the integrated Freeview HD tuner. Actually, it might have been handy if Sony had given us three USBs, as the set can also be made Wi-Fi capable via an optional USB dongle.
The real star of the connection show, though, is the set’s LAN socket. For if you use this to jack the TV into your router, then the 32EX723 can deliver you into Sony’s latest Bravia Internet Video (BIV) system.
Funnily enough, like the sub-standard 3D performance, Sony hasn’t really changed BIV all that much. However, unlike the 3D situation, Sony could argue with BIV that if it ain’t broke, there’s no need to fix it. For while 2011’s BIV engine might (currently, at least) lack the amount and variety of apps of the recent Viera Connect and Smart TV systems from Panasonic, Samsung and LG, it retains the key ace that made us such fans of BIV last year: a single-minded focus on video.
This matters because the more we use online TVs, the more convinced we feel that the online stuff we most want on a TV is video playback. Especially catch up TV services, of which the 32EX723 has two: the BBC iPlayer, and Demand 5.
Other key services at the time of writing were Sony’s interesting Qriocity music and video subscription platforms; Sky News; LoveFilm; Sony Entertainment Television’s classic series archive; YouTube; EuroSport; the Billabong extreme sports’ channel; DailyMotion, howcast.com; blip.tv; the uStudio HD clip server; golflink.com; livestrong.com; videocast.com; LoveFilm’s trailer channel; the Picasa photo site; footage from the Berliner Philharmoniker; and the Moshcam music concert channel. This latter channel’s surprisingly free offerings included free concerts from Blondie and, remarkably, Swervedriver, at the time of writing.
BIV’s main change has come with its interface, which is much improved over last year’s tedious ‘list’ approach. Now you get a collection of multiple iconic channel ‘headers’ at once, making it easier to see at a glance all the functions available, and quicker to get to the options you want.
The new menu system lacks the sophistication and ability to handle simultaneously huge numbers of options like recent new Smart TV menus we’ve seen from LG and Samsung can. But it’s arguably better suited to mass market sensibilities out for an easy, video-centric life.
In fact, as if to underline this ‘simplicity is best’ point, the one big new online feature of the 32EX723, its Internet browser, is deeply flawed. For even if you set the browser’s text to large, it’s still almost impossible to read.