- Built-in wi-fi
- Excellent online services
- Good multimedia support
- Faffy operating system
- Strangely muted pictures
- Predictably average sound
- Review Price: £239.00
- 22in edge LED TV
- Bravia Internet Video
- Built-in Wi-fi
- X-Reality processing
- Built-in Web browser
Certainly the small TV market appears to be enjoying an unprecedented amount of action from all the main TV brands, resulting in the appearance of some startlingly well-specified small models.
A classic case in point is the new Sony 22EX320. This widescreen set’s screen is only 22in across and its rear sticks out a mere 42mm, yet within its diminutive frame it carries a veritable ‘what’s what’ of useful TV tricks.
Particularly excellent is its inclusion of a built-in Wi-Fi system. Sony clearly appreciates that for many people, hardwiring a second-room TV into a network will be extremely difficult, even though day to day experience suggests that a second-room set is arguably even more likely to benefit from multimedia streaming than a main room set.
There wouldn’t be much point having this Wi-Fi connection, of course, if it didn’t provide a gateway to a decent set of features. And in the 22EX320’s case the wi-fi related features are actually much more than decent.
Particularly gratifying is the set’s support of Sony’s Bravia Internet Video (BIV) system. We’ve reported in numerous reviews of Sony 2011 TVs now how this system is for us the finest online TV service currently available, purely because it focusses so heavily on providing lots of video content.
The longer we’ve spent with ‘smart’ TVs, the more apparent it’s become to us that one good source of video streaming is worth more than a dozen of the sort of basic game or infotainment apps sported in such extreme – and often pointless – numbers by some rival online TV platforms. So it’s great to find such extensive video services on BIV as LoveFilm, the BBC iPlayer, Sky News, Daily Motion, the Demand 5 Channel Five catchup service, plus Sony’s own World of Television and Qriocity film and TV libraries. And that’s just part of the full video iceberg.
What’s more, unlike the online video services of the recently reviewed LG 50PZ950, all of the 22EX320‘s services streamed almost immaculately – and with good picture quality – during tests with our typical 6MB broadband connection.
Sony also provides Twitter and Facebook apps, and even Skype support if you take the trouble to add an optional webcam. This is all seriously cool stuff to find on such a small TV.
Another fun little online ‘trick’ is Track ID. Press the dedicated button for this feature on the remote control whenever a piece of music is playing on a programme you’re watching, and rather brilliantly – and with uncanny accuracy – the TV will identify the tune for you. Nerds that we are, we never tired of using this tool to ‘impress’ the unsurprisingly dwindling number of family and friends who still call round from time to time…
The 22EX320‘s online services also include a Web browser. But this is rather less cool than BIV’s other features, for the simple reason that it’s pretty much unusable unless you happen to be sat no more than a foot or two from the screen, on account of the tiny size of the browser’s text – even at its maximum ‘zoom’ level.
Actually, it’s fair to say that the TV’s operational menus would also benefit from using larger text, though we realise that there are always going to be issues along these lines when you’re trying to handle as many features as the 22EX320 has on such a small screen.
Matters aren’t helped either, though, by the TV’s rather tortuous onscreen menu structure, which depends on far too many long lists of small text and options that don’t always feel very logically organised. We’ve seen a glimpse of a new ‘Smart Hub’-style operating system Sony is working on for future TVs, and frankly it can’t come soon enough.
The 22EX320’s wi-fi and LAN connections aren’t just for BIV functionality. They can also support playback of files from DLNA-enabled PCs. The only thing they don’t do, in fact, is provide back up to a Freeview HD tuner. For the good reason that the 22EX320 doesn’t have a Freeview HD tuner; just a standard definition Freeview one.
Other connections of note on the 22EX320 include a couple of HDMIs – arguably adequate for a small TV – and a USB port that not only plays back a solid variety of photo, music and video file types, but also, rather remarkably for a such a small and affordable TV, records programs from the Freeview tuner to USB hard drives.
Yet another feature sported by the 22EX320 that we wouldn’t by any means have expected to find on such a small TV is Sony’s new X-Reality processing. This was specifically designed to improve the appearance of compressed video streamed from the Internet, and we have to say it works remarkably well, reducing noise and adding sharpness in a way you just don’t get with most upscaling engines – especially where Internet video is concerned.
As if all this wasn’t enough, the 22EX320 even sports Sony’s Presence Sensor technology, whereby the TV can be set to turn off its screen if a little sensor on its front doesn’t detect the presence of anyone in the room. This is actually a very useful feature on a second-room TV based on our experience of such sets routinely getting left on by various household members. Especially the youngest ones…
After frankly struggling to believe how many features the 22EX320 is giving us for £239, we have to say that its picture quality comes as a bit of a disappointment, for a couple of different reasons.
First and foremost, considering the 22EX320 uses edge LED lighting (the reason it’s so gorgeously slim) its pictures really aren’t very bright. With any picture preset bar the Vivid one pictures look surprisingly muted, even when watching in a more or less dark room. And even with the Vivid setting engaged pictures hardly explode off the screen at you as we might have expected/hoped.
The other issue is some rather average motion handling, as moving objects very obviously lose resolution. This doesn’t routinely stop HD pictures from looking sharp, though. We could certainly see the difference between standard and HD images on the 1,366×768 (as opposed to full HD) screen, despite the set’s standard definition playback being unusually crisp thanks to the X-Reality engine.
This is just the start of quite a bit of good news, too. For a start, despite the slight lack of brightness, colours look unusually natural and subtly blended for such a small and affordable TV. Certainly there’s no trace of the PC-favouring colour temperatures often seen with small screens.
The 22EX320 also outguns the vast majority of its small-screen peers with its contrast performance, as the screen manages to produce some credible, engaging black levels that don’t have you squinting through grey ‘mist’ nearly as much as is common on small-screen TVs.
It’s also a relief to note during dark scenes that the 22EX320’s edge LED engine suffers with no severe backlight consistency issues, even at the screen’s corners. The 22EX320 surprisingly manages to retain a likable amount of shadow detail during dark scenes too, which is a real rarity where small flat TVs are concerned.
A final strength of the 22EX320 is its respectably low amount of image lag. We measure a touch under 40ms for the screen, which shouldn’t be enough to damage anyone’s gaming experience if they’re thinking of hooking up a console to it.
What these strengths add up to is a picture that’s actually very good by small-screen standards – but only if you watch it in the right circumstances. As in, an environment that’s not especially bright.
The 22EX320’s audio lacks bass and so is prone to sounding a touch harsh. There’s also a tendency for voices to ‘buzz’ if you push the volume level at all high. But such issues are par for the course where small flat TVs are concerned, and the 22EX320 certainly isn’t any worse than most. Indeed, it may be a touch better overall – at least while watching normal TV as opposed to action films.
Although the 22EX320‘s lack of brightness counts against it as a particularly great option for a bright space like a conservatory or kitchen, its subtle strengths mean we could certainly imagine it becoming a quality second-room TV in a bedroom or study.
Score in detail
Image Quality 8
Sound Quality 6
|Full HD 1080p||No|
|Refresh Rate (Hertz)||50Hz|
|Digital Audio Out||1 (optical)|
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