Local dimming isn’t the only significant step-down in spec, though. For the Sony KDL-32HX753 also only gets Sony’s X-Reality processing rather than the souped-up Pro version that was such a hit on the HX853s. This should find the 32HX753 less clever when it comes to upscaling low-quality source content – especially stuff streamed from t’internet – and also means it won’t deliver the startling 3D sharpness boost available on the HX853s.
And still there’s more. For while the HX853s get Sony’s MotionFlow XR 800 (800Hz-alike) system, the 32HX753 gets MotionFlow XR 400. You still get a wide variety of motion settings, though, including the new but ultimately flawed Impulse mode, which reduces blur but also introduces a distracting flickering effect. The Clear motion option was the only one we got much joy out of, really.
Happily, the 32HX753 also retains a reasonable set of picture set up aids, including a degree of colour/white balance management and some gamma controls. It also lets you tweak the strength of almost all aspects of its video processing, which is, of course, likely to prove invaluable to serious users.
The problem with making a flagship TV range as hugely impressive as the HX853s is that you potentially set yourself up for a fall with your more affordable models. And at first glance the 32HX753 seems very much a victim of this situation, with its pictures looking startlingly short of punch and contrast versus its higher-end sibling. Thankfully the 32HX753 does gradually reveal a few charms – though even by the end of our testing we still couldn’t help feeling just a bit underwhelmed.
Black level problems
The main problem is that the 32HX753 struggles to produce a truly convincing black colour. Out of the box, dark scenes thus look a little greyed over and, as a result, rather short of shadow detail at times. Colours during dark scenes can look slightly unnatural, too.
The good news is that you can actually get the 32HX753 to produce a really pretty good black level performance if you’re very careful with how you set it up. This means at the very least using the Cinema 2 preset, nudging the backlight output down an extra step or two, and then dimming the light levels in your room as much as possible to compensate for the brightness you’ve had to remove from the images.
The settings that give you a good picture on the 32HX753 really don’t work well in a bright room at all. Yet as soon as you attempt to make pictures brighter, the set’s black level response goes downhill alarmingly fast.
Were the 32HX753 a large TV likely to find a place in the living room of a serious AV enthusiast, we could perhaps – though only perhaps – see past the TV’s limited set of ‘ideal settings’. But as a 32in set it’s as likely to end up as a second TV in a kitchen or conservatory, where its problems delivering a very satisfying picture in bright conditions will become pretty acute.
It’s actually not just the 32HX753’s black levels that struggle if you try to make its pictures look more dynamic. In fact, the set doesn’t really do dynamic, no matter what you try; the screen just doesn’t have in its arsenal the sort of bold brightness levels and vivid colour saturations you usually expect with edge LED TVs.
Catering for the enthusiast?
Again this is not necessarily a problem to relatively serious viewers. The way the set’s pictures suddenly make sense when calibrated for dark room viewing suggests that Sony has deliberately tuned the 32HX753 to deliver ‘accurate’ pictures in line with industry standards rather than going for showboating visceral thrills.
However, we’d argue that there are other sets out there with panels flexible enough to deliver vibrancy, punch and rich black levels when required as well as more gentle, subtle images for low-light viewing. It’s the 32HX753’s single mindedness that ultimately grates, especially given the aforementioned burden on 32in TVs to be potentially more flexible than larger screens.