televisions

Sony KDL-32R420B LED TV Review

This little Sony gets stomped by stiff competition.

$329.99 MSRP
Buy now at Amazon
32 in.
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Because the entry-level television market is a crowded one, design and performance are key decision-making factors for every shopper.

One such entry-level option is the Sony KDL-32R420B (MSRP $329.99). Before you spring for this affordable TV, though, a word of caution: The R420B comes up short in just about every department—from style to substance, it just doesn't stand out from the crowd.

Unless you're looking for a TV to stick in a room and forget about, you may want to refine your search. The plain truth is, the R420B's positive attributes (decent motion performance and color reproduction) just don't make up for its shortcomings. There are better options out there.

Looks & Experience

Entry-level design, entry-level customization

The KDL-32R420B’s looks are best described as “functional.” It’s built from the same cookie-cutter plastic that nearly every TV uses these days. The stand is a simple triangular piece that serves without fanfare, and the remote would be right at home in your grandmother's living room circa 1997.

On the back you’ll find 2 HDMI ports, component and composite inputs, a headphone jack, a coaxial connector for an antenna, and a USB port—the usual suspects for a TV of this class. There's also a Mobile High Definition Link, so users can potentially connect their smart phones to the R420B.

Sony equipped the R420B with simple-looking software that most users will pick up quickly, but customization options range from disappointingly sparse to refreshingly in-depth. For example, the TV lacks detailed color management options but includes an extensive audio equalizer. Although the equalizer is appreciated, it's strange to find it in the absence of even the most basic picture customization options.

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The Picture

A terrible black level makes for a deteriorated picture.

The biggest problem with the R420B's picture is unquestionably its black level, which is far too bright for its own good. Without deep, rich shadows, loss of detail becomes noticeable right away. Details like texture in a dark cave, for example, look flat and shallow if a TV's black levels are too luminous.

That detail loss is compounded by the R420B's max resolution of 720p—so don't expect a full HD experience here. Of course, many entry-level TVs sport 720p resolution these days, but this truncated resolution makes the black level issue that much harder to see past. In short, this TV isn't a great choice for cinema viewing.

A full color management system is nowhere to be found.

Although a full color management system was nowhere to be found, this Sony TV demonstrated significant improvements after a rudimentary calibration with the tools provided. In terms of color performance, the display gets the job done, but not without some notable flaws.

Blues are oversaturated, which is easy to ignore for certain content types, but stands out much more during something like a nature documentary. Cyans look especially oversaturated. During the BBC's Planet Earth series, bodies of water popped onscreen in an almost cartoonish manner.

Everything else more or less looks ship shape, but at the end of the day, this TV just doesn't have enough power under-the-hood to generate an impressive picture.

Comparable Products

Before you buy the Sony Bravia KDL32R420B, take a look at these other televisions.

The Verdict

Spend your money elsewhere.

The KDL-32R420B might make a decent, affordable addition to a college dorm room or a guest room, but it's hard to recommend due to its competition. Vizio's excellent E series, for example, features a 32-inch model that retails for $259.99.

Or, for a little over $100 more than the R420B, the Samsung UN40H5500 boasts a bigger screen, full HD, much better performance, and smart TV capabilities. There are certainly worse entry-level TVs out there, but in terms of sheer value, there aren't many reasons to recommend the R420B.

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