Sony Bravia KDL-40HX703
The Sony Bravia KDL-40HX703 falls into Sony's "Cinematic" range. They represent a step-up over the excellent EX or "Essentials" range that have gone down a storm.
The KDL-40HX703 is a 40-inch version of a TV that also comes in 46-inches, offering features that will appeal to movie fans, but not going the whole-hog and giving you the 3D option, which is reserved for models higher-up Sony's range.
It sports Sony's monolithic design, which has been a focal point for their TVs in 2010. Essentially, the HX703 has a flat front panel and doesn't have a bezel in the traditional sense framing the screen. Instead the screen is framed behind this front panel, resulting in a seamless look.
It's seamless until you place it next to a bright window, and in sunlight you'll find that the frame behind the glass looks brown against the deep black of the display itself, but we're nitpicking. A glowing Sony logo sits front and centre, but can be switched off and the front offers no controls, but you'll find them hiding around the right-hand side should you need to change a channel or switch off the TV when walking past.
Less nitpicking, perhaps is the way that the HX703 is presented in photos. It may look skinny, thanks to an angular metal frame around the display, but it is still about 10cm deep overall, so it isn't going hug the wall if you are thinking of mounting it.
The provided stand is easy enough to fix and provides a sturdy base with a degree of swivel to get the positioning you like. The stand also offers a degree of tilt, with Sony realising that a trend in modern homes is standing the TV on a low unit. The viewing angle is slightly limiting and we found that what must be an anti-reflective coating on the screen gave some odd colours at tighter angles, especially in bright conditions.
Of course it is a Full HD panel, but at this point in Sony's range of TVs it is a regular LCD panel, rather than the newer LED technology. This means it is less adept at reproducing pin-point accurate blacks than some of the newer technologies, but that said, we were impressed with the handling of dark scenes in The Dark Knight.
The screen does boast Sony's MotionFlow 200Hz technology which aims to reduce the judder that often plagues cinematic content, especially those glorious pans on your favourite Blu-ray disc. Blu-ray content looks excellent on the HX703 as it should, but it also sports a Freeview HD tuner so you'll be able to get your eyes on some free broadcast HD content too, which is also welcomed and noticeably sharper than the regular Freeview channels. Standard definition is handled impressively too, benefitting from the great vibrant images that the set produces.
You are well catered for when it comes to connections too, with four HDMI on offer, two on the back and two on the side, which might irk those with a range of HDMI equipped devices. Two Scart connections still get a billing, along with Component and VGA for other video devices, along with optical audio.
That side panel also offers Composite connections and a USB slot, conveniently placed for ad-hoc connections, such as your camera or camcorder. Around the back of the TV is the Ethernet connection and although there is Wi-Fi support, you'd have to fork out for the compatible dongle (UWA-BR100, £79.99) to get it to work. Fortunately there is an Ethernet connection on a back, and we'd opt for a HomePlug solution instead.
Stepping away from what is already a great performing television, if a little on the pricy side, is everything else the current line-up of Bravias have on offer, which make them really compelling. First-up the menu system is based on Sony's XMB (Xross Media Bar) which is as intuitive as it is simple to use. This makes it easy to get to all the networking features as well as carry out things like basic set-up.
You get Sony's Bravia Internet Video offering which is an impressive addition, offering up a range of streaming channels to watch. Sadly BBC iPlayer hasn't yet made it into the TV (like it has into their Blu-ray players) as this really is the star of the system. You'll have to placate yourself with the likes of Five On Demand and Lovefilm, although for the latter you'll need a separate subscription.
You can also pan across the XMB to the familiar music, video and photo options, and we found that the TV found our media server, ready to consume the delights we have stored there., with DNLA support in the mix too. Media is handled nicely, as it is from a connected USB stick on the side and format support is reasonable if not comprehensive.
Sony have given the EPG the HD treatment so it looks stunning. Text is clear and you get a preview playing in the left-hand corner so you don't just get plunged into a gloomy list. It is sharp and beautiful to behold, but obvious takes a little oomph to get going as there is a delay on opening it, which is a little irritating. There is also a neat little favourites option which at the press of a button brings up your recently viewed channels and inputs, so you can quickly switch to common places without digging around.
The remote has had a little design attention too and we can't say we are totally happy with the results. Although easy enough to use, the square profile base doesn't fit nicely into the hand for those long channel-flicking sessions. However, the additional standby button on the rear makes it easy to grab and turn off the TV.
The sound quality is average rather than exceptional and whilst we didn't detect any major problems, if you want this screen to live up to its cinematic aims, you'll benefit hugely from hooking it up to an AV receiver.
Sony's 2010 Bravia line-up have impressed us, serving up not only stunning pictures, but a comprehensive palette of extras. In truth, the HX703 is a fantastic TV to live with, but given that much of that nicety comes from features you'll find on the cheaper EX range, you have to be prepared to swallow the extra cost in return for that 200Hz feature and a slightly more premium design.