Sony BRAVIA EX400 - The Mighty Excalibur

Launch SRP: S$1299

Cosmetics & Features

Design

For starters, basic assembly is needed should you wish to mount the BRAVIA EX400 on its table-top stand. However, you shouldn't take more than ten minutes to piece the parts together if you are handling the job alone. The plastic base feels cheap, then again, we shouldn't expect too much from a HDTV just past the one grand mark, should we? Unfortunately, the joints do not too, so you'll have to align the entire display to a preferred angle if need be. At 100mm thick , this bulky set is a far cry from premium offerings in the market who boast of slim and svelte figures. Then again, we are willing to be kind to its ungainly girth since the panel is powered by CCFL backlights after all. Generally, the BRAVIA's overall looks is nondescript, fashioned with a plain and glossy black bezel joined by a lower strip of grey. On the other hand, the panel does exude a handsome charm of its own with its clean looks and smart corners. Moving on, a bunch of LED indicators and sensors are located at the far left, whilst a quick peek to its right revealed a set of hardware controls. The buttons are rather chunky, in our opinion, but the reality is hardly anyone touches them as long as the remote control is alive and well. 

Get your cross-tip screwdriver ready if you wish to attach the panel to its base. Some assembly is required which involves a table-top stand and steel spinal plate. To wall mount the BRAVIA, seek out the optional SU-WL500 or SU-WL50B brackets from Sony.

With a girth of 100mm, it is apparent a slim form factor isn't part of Sony's grand design here. The EX400 depends on CCFL backlights which also explains why it is less sexy than its NX700 comrades blessed with Edge LED backlighting.

Framed with a simple black bezel and a lower strip of grey, Sony's 40-inch offering should blend in well with most modern decor. As usual, a commanding BRAVIA tag can be found at the top left corner. The panel wears a matte coat which makes it less reflective than glossy alternatives.

Don't expect to find touch-sensitive controls with the EX400, although these hardware buttons should come in handy should your wife (or other half) confiscate your most beloved stick. By that, we meant remote stick.

Speaking of which, we noticed the remote is slightly different from standard fare. The wand is sculpted in a slightly concave body such that it feels a little more ergonomic in our hands compared to flat or unwieldy sticks. It is also lighter than most remotes we've handled. If you need to access the TV's menu, hit the "Home" button to call up Sony's familiar XMB interface. Let's go back to the BRAVIA. Ports wise, there was plenty to go around. The EX400 has two HDMI jacks, plus two component and a single composite connector at its back, whilst another composite port and additional two HDMI connectors can be found at the side panel. How about that? You'll also find a USB port which reads video formats such as MPEG4, AVCHD and DivX. Take note though. Although the BRAVIA managed to read most of the clips we've tested, it was a definite no-go with MOV, WMV and high-definition DivX files. To tap the TV's audio, simply connect an optical cable from the TV's digital output (located behind) to your AV receiver. Let's dig into its features to see what else the EX400 has to offer. Before we do so, however, here are more pictures for you to savor.

Sony's remote is one of the less cluttered ones we've seen. It might not offer a whole lot of buttons at your disposal, but it has just enough controls for fuss-free navigation. A dedicated "Home" button is highlighted in blue below its directional pad, whilst controls for other AV peripherals (linked by BRAVIA Sync) are positioned on top.

It might be a budget display, but this HDTV has almost all the necessary connectors to please the AV junkie. Apart from a VGA input, you'll also discover two HDMI and two component ports behind.

We seldom come across a side panel with two HDMI ports, but this BRAVIA begs to differ. There's also a composite port available for Wii fans, and a USB slot for your external drives. It's intelligent enough to read basic JPEG files as well as video formats such as AVCHD and DivX. You can forget about WMV and MOV containers though.

 

Features

As mentioned, clicking on that "Home" button would fire up the XMB (Xross Media Bar) menu; an interface you should be familiar with if you're into Sony PlayStation consoles. Since this TV comes with both analogue and digtal (DVB-T) tuners, it's nice to know that Sony has created a special tab for digital tunings as well. Still on its menu, a quick glance revealed some other core features such as "Eco" mode, which reduces or increases the backlights' intensity depending on the ambient lighting, and a "Live Color" option which supposedly optimizes the display's colors. The EX400 might not offer too many advanced settings, but it has just enough to set your TV right, such as a Black Corrector and White Balance adjustments. More importantly, this TV is smart enough to detect active inputs for your AV consoles. In simple terms, you don't have to trawl through every single AV connector to find that active connection. One aspect struck us a little odd though. Sony has decided to place the 8 picture presets under the Settings tab rather than its Display header. To turn your TV into a huge photo frame, simply engage the BRAVIA's Picture Frame mode to view high resolution images in all their glory. Now you can tell your guests that you own the largest photo frame, ever.       

You don't have to toggle through every external AV input to find that active connection. The BRAVIA is intelligent enough to tell you which AV connection is used. To navigate the XMB interface, scroll left or right for Photo or Video options. Basic selections such as System Settings can be found at the extreme left. 

Picture presets normally fall under the Picture or Display settings for most HDTVs, but not with this BRAVIA though. Hit the System Settings option to locate the various presets available. You'll find them under the "Scene Select" sub-tab.

Green is the word. If you don't mind dimmer attributes on your display, turn on the EX400's Power Saving mode to save you some pennies. Basically, what it does is to reduce the backlight illumination levels depending on your room's lighting conditions.

No, we aren't showing off another one of our inspirational holiday shots. You can transform the EX400 into a 40-inch photo frame with Sony's Picture Frame Mode to woo the party guests.

9.0
Design
8.5
HD Performance
9
SD Performance
9
Features
8.5
Value
9
The Good
Built-in digital tuner
Solid HD & SD Performance
Deep Blacks
The Bad
Limited video format support (USB)