In their rush to dazzle us with their biggest, flashest tellies, most AV brands tend to forget that lots of people are still very interested in small screens, for second or even third room use. So it feels like quite a treat today to be able to take a break from the back-breaking, eye-stretching dimensions of our usual TV fare with the much more demure Sony KDL-26EX553.
As you might guess from its name, the 26EX553 is a 26in TV. Though it’s not a particularly small one, in that its bezel is quite chunky by today’s svelte standards, clocking in at comfortably over an inch around all four sides. The bezel on our test sample looks rather mundane with its glossy but also plasticky black finish, too.
However, the set does claw a few style points back for the way it sits right down low on a pair of little silver legs, and a few more for the way the stand enables the screen to tilt back slightly, giving the little screen an attractive ‘photo-frame’ appearance. Plus you can get the set in a white finish, which actually looks like the prettier option - especially for a kitchen or conservatory environment.
Our liking for the Sony KDL-26EX553 grows more as we explore its connections. While its two HDMIs don’t set the pulse racing, we were certainly impressed by its multimedia support. For as well as a D-Sub PC connection, you get a USB port (through which you can record to HDD drives or play video, music and photo files from USB storage devices) as well as both LAN and integrated Wi-Fi network options. These permit not only streaming from DLNA PCs but also access to Sony’s latest online services.
Sensibly now part of the Sony Entertainment Network rather than the previous Bravia Internet Video system, the KDL-26EX553’s online services are for the most part very impressive - chiefly because of their focus on providing video content. Highlights include LoveFilm, Netflix, Sony’s Video Unlimited service, the BBC iPlayer, Demand 5, BBC News, Sky News, a Sony Entertainment Television library, Eurosport, Euronews, Crackle, youTube, AOL HD, Daily Motion, Billabong, Blinkx, and the eHow ‘channel’.
Obviously some of this video content is subscription or rental only, but a good quantity of it is free - much more of it, in fact, than you get with any other rival online TV service. In an ideal world Sony would also add the 4OD and ITV Player apps found on its own PS3, as well as the Acetrax movie cloud service. But even as it stands the latest SEN system is impressive, especially when you consider that you’re getting it here on a pretty affordable 26in TV rather than some uber-expensive home cinema monster.