Build Quality and Design
There's no getting round the fact that manufacturers cut costs on components when producing low-cost TVs. Here, Sony has decided to cut back on design features, making the EX402 series a no-frills collection with the network connection port and MotionFlow 100 Hz notable victims of the cull. EX402-series TVs are also made entirely from plastic, and aren't quite as well finished as the EX500. The stand, in particular, is fixed in position so the screen can't be angled to the side.
For the rest, the EX402 seems pretty much identical to the EX500. Both models are thicker than average (approximately 10 cm) due to their CCFL fluorescent tube backlighting. Plus, unlike high-end models, the panel is treated with a matte coating that's not prone to glare or reflections. There's therefore no point going out of your way to position it away from direct light sources.
Spread across the back and the sides, both models have four HDMI ports, a component connection, a VGA connection and two SCART sockets. There's also a digital optical audio output and analogue audio in/out.
A USB port is on hand for hooking up an external storage device for easy access to multimedia content. However, as is all too often the case, the connection is actually fairly useless. Only hard drives and flash drives formatted to FAT32 are recognised, which means that only files under 4 GB in size can be played. Note that we only test DivX files on TVs that don't support NTFS, as there's little interest in testing other formats. In any case, video playback is limited to SD DivX files as there's no support for HD DivX. Disappointing! You're therefore better off leaving playback up to an external media player.
Thankfully the internal menu is practical and pleasantly designed. Everything is controlled from the XrossMediaBar interface, originally developed for the PS3. You'll find all the usual settings found in Sony TVs, with plenty of options to choose from, including precision settings for colour temperature over all luminance levels. We'll see below how that can be useful to correct the few slight colour reproduction defects.
Input lag compared to a CRT TV: 23 ms on average, or around 1.4 frames
Image Quality: Factory Settings
Very few default factory settings don't distort the image somehow, and unlike the EX500, the Standard mode on the EX402 isn't set up correctly. The TV tends to overexpose whites and display blacks too lightly. Colour reproduction is also inaccurate with a strong blue tinge.
Inaccurate colour reproduction with the factory settings: average deltaE = 6.4
There's no Custom mode like on Sony's other TVs. The menu offers a choice between Intense and Standard. However, it's still possible to improve image quality using the Scene button on the remote control.
Colour reproduction in Cinema mode: average deltaE = 2.4
The TV is set to Auto mode by default, but you can easily switch it to Cinema mode. As soon as you do, the colours and grey scale—although still a touch too light—are corrected as if by magic. Our sensor showed an average colour discrepancy of 2.7, which is really quite good, as for a value under 3 colour defects are no longer noticeable.
SD upscaling and the picture quality of HD sources are both comparable to the manufacturers' other models. However, the downfall of the EX402 lies in its image processing. The EX402 tends to show speckles of red and green dots in dark areas of the picture, and lacks definition in dark-to-black areas. This can be somewhat annoying in films with lots of low-lit scenes.
It's also a shame there's no function to improve picture smoothness and help iron out glitches in films recorded in 24fps (known as Motionflow in Sony TVs).
Overall, we prefer the image quality of the EX500. The difference in price between the two models therefore seems justified to us.
In spite of their differing image quality, the EX402 and EX500 have the same quality sound. It therefore lacks detail in the treble as the speakers are angled downwards. The sound quality therefore isn't perfect, but you can still watch a film without wincing too much. However, we recommend you use a home cinema system to get the best possible results.
On standby, the EX402 consumes very little energy. In fact, we recorded a consumption of just 0.1 Watt, which would work out at around 17 p per year. Once switched on, set to Cinema mode and 200 cd/m², we measured a consumption of just 73 W for this 32-inch model, which isn't bad either.
- Excellent contrast and depth of black
- Accurate colours in Cinema mode
- Good-quality sound
- Good value for money
- No Motionflow 100 Hz function: glitches in 24 fps content
- Image processing: speckles of noise in some darker or shaded areas
- Tight viewing angles
- Mediocre mutimedia player
The EX402 is a stripped-down version of the EX500, which got five stars in our product review. On the whole, it isn't quite as good as its higher-end counterpart. The more demanding among you should choose the EX500, but the EX402 is still a good-value budget option.