Build Quality and DesignThe first thing that we noticed is the very strong family resemblance with the EX723. Both TVs have a glossy black plastic frame with a matte finish for the screen. The only visible difference is the metal trim at the bottom,, which is slightly shinier here on the EX523.
Apart from missing out on Motionflow filters and support for 3D, the EX523 has everything else it needs to stand up to the big boys. That includes support for DLNA 1.5, online services and video-on-demand. You also get Sony's new X-Reality picture engine, the updated version of the XrossMediaBar interface and support for 720p Skype (if you add an optional Sony webcam).
Around the outside of the frame and are the back are four HDMI ports, component video, VGA and SCART inputs and an Ethernet port. There are also two USB ports, meaning you can connect an external storage device and use it to record TV programmes. You can use the second one to store your own films and videos, but the built-in media player doesn't support many formats. Without support for MKV video, there's not much point in it, which is a shame.
Matte display largely immune to reflections
Inputs and outputs
Ghosting and Input LagThe good news is that Sony has used a relatively responsive PVA panel for this TV, the LTJ 460HQ01, despite the fact that this is an entry-level option in its range. It took an average of 16.5 ms to completely erase the previous frame, which is faster than average. Unsurprisingly, compared to our CRT reference monitor, it introduced input lag that won't please the most avid gamers. It adds a delay of 66 ms, the equivalent of four whole frames, to the video source.
Image QualityWith the default settings, the picture is very saturated. Alexandre Botella, who tests monitors for us, was so surprised by the colour reproduction that he suggested the EX723 looked more like a laptop display than a television.
Accurate colour reproduction in Custom mode: average deltaE: 2.4
Fortunately, it's possible to drastically improve the quality in just a few seconds. Once you switch to Custom mode, colour reproduction is accurate and the deltaE falls to 2.4.
Average contrast ratio in Custom mode: 4017:1
The contrast was excellent: with blacks as dark as 0.05 cd/m² against brightness of 201 cd/m², the ratio climbed to 4017:1. If you consider that the average value for our tests from all of last year was just 2506:1, that's an excellent result.
With an HD film, the results are almost perfect. The only problem is the jerkiness that isn't smoothed out by motion interpolation, something that might irritate viewers who want absolute fluidity. Upscaling of SD content wipes out some of the detail, and an external source like a Blu-ray player or a PS3 will do a better job.
Clouding on our test unit
The panel in the TV we tested suffered from uneven backlighting, a problem also known as clouding or the Mura effect. As you can see in the photo above, light leaks out in areas of the screen that are supposed to be dark.