The 52EX1 scores respectable results with some of its other key specifications, such as the (increasingly inevitable) Full HD resolution of 1,920 x 1,080; support for x.v. colour; Sony’s MotionFlow 100Hz processing; carriage of Sony’s always likeable Live Colour Creation colour booster; and a more than solid contrast ratio claim of 50,000:1.
However, there is one unwelcome surprise to report, namely that the 52EX1’s core video processing is only Bravia Engine 2 (BE2), rather than the Bravia Engine 3 (BE3) system sported by most of Sony’s 2009 range. This could prove to be a significant shortcoming given that I’ve generally found Bravia Engine 3 TVs to offer marked improvements over Sony’s BE2 models, especially in the colour and contrast departments.
Settling down to watch the 52EX1 proves my BE2 fears to have some foundation. But that’s certainly not to say that it’s a bad performer overall.
Where the 52EX1 falls slightly short of the best of Sony’s current models is with its black levels and colours. Regarding black levels, dark scenes in games and films just don’t look quite as dynamic as they do with, say, Sony’s W5500 models – partly because there’s a fraction more grey over areas that should be black, and partly because it seems as if the image is having to reduce its brightness further than the BE3 models in order to get black levels looking their best.
As for colours, while there’s impressive subtlety when it comes to presenting blends and tonal shifts, there’s not quite as much outright vibrancy as you get with the best BE3 models. I should add, though, that using the set’s Wide colour space setting rather than its standard one does improve colour vibrancy without having the sort of disastrous effect on colour tones we often see with similar modes on other TVs.
A less anticipated shortcoming of the 52EX1 versus the best of the BE3 crowd is the way it doesn’t present HD or standard definition footage with quite as much sharpness.
At this point, though, it’s important that I stress that while the 52EX1’s performance isn’t quite up there with Sony’s own W5500 or even V5500 models, it’s still very impressive versus many other rivals, with black levels, colours and even sharpness all actually holding up well against most of the LCD competition.
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