Sony Bravia KDL-46NX703 review

4.5 out of 5
£1699

For

Good connectivity, excellent HD picture quality, slim “Monolithic” design

Against

Seems expensive, audio quality, no 3D and already supplanted by 713 update model

The Sony Bravia KDL 46NX703 sits within Sony’s Network range of new Bravia HD TVs and is suitably equipped with a wide range of connection options including integrated Wi-Fi support, a big improvement over the optional (at extra cost) Wi-Fi dongle of yore. Other connections include four HDMI ports, two on the rear and two on the side. There’s a D-Sub PC jack, Ethernet port, USB socket an RGB Scart connection and both Composite video and RF inputs.

This TV is of Sony’s so called “Monolithic” design where the single, integrated bezel and panel appear to be made from one piece of glass. Its large, black, slim and the slab-like design is rather reminiscent of the mysterious alien monolith in Stanley Kubrick’s classic movie, 2001 A Space Odyssey, (on its side, obviously) so we say it certainly ticks that box; we think it looks simply stunning. In fact watching that movie on this TV is rather eerie…

Anyway, the slim-line design is helped by this set being the first of Sony’s edge LED lighting design, more on this later, but that and the slab-like Monolithic styling make for a striking combo indeed.

And if you buy the rather arresting accessory desktop stand/speaker bar, the TV slots in and can lean back slightly allowing you to create an even more striking look. The TV comes with a more traditional black or white bezel that encircles the slim line screen, black being the usual colour for the Monolithic Sony sets and the version we had to play with here.

The impressive network connectivity is at the heart of the set’s design though and backs up the built-in Freeview HD digital tuner offering your free HD broadcast content, allowing you to get access to media files from DLNA certified PC’s (those able to act as a media server) or able to stream video from Sony’s now rather notable schedule of Bravia Internet Video content.

The 46NX703 comes packed with picture processing power courtesy of Sony’s Motionflow 100Hz technology that really helps keep fast paced imagery smoothly rendered. This is backed up by the company’s Live Colour system and Bravia Engine 3 system to help make the most of the source content.

Disappointingly, despite this technology being usually rather dependable, this TV has no specific colour management system, a disappointment given the near £1700 asking price. However, there are still some powerful advanced settings to help allay that bugbear such as black booster control and adjustments to the Motionflow and Film Mode settings via the Advanced Settings submenu.

While mentioning menus, these are clear and easy to use with the Xross Media Bar of PlayStation 3 fame. If unfamiliar with that style of dual axis menu layout, it can take a little time to get used to them but once set-up, you don’t need to go into menus too often, so perhaps that’s not a major issue.

Using the remote control offers one rather odd foible however, in that two circles of oft-used controls and buttons - which seems a nice idea at first - are laid in a way which makes it easy to hit the wrong button. The control circle is designed to make use easier, but if like us you have larger fingers, it is not always the case. This is a shame on an otherwise nicely curved, well designed and laid out remote control.

Sony’s first attempt at a consumer edge LED-lit HD TV screen is pretty successful: colours are bright and, well, colourful but retain a natural look so colour is not too overblown. That means you can have vivid, richly saturated pictures if you want but crucially, extreme bright scenes and shadow areas retain details as you’d expect.

Standard and high definition picture quality is good, in fact black levels are some of the best we've seen for an edge-lit LCD TV, with the Motionflow technology removing the worst of judder and motion blur. The Bravia Engine 3 works wonders upscaling standard definition pictures too, and there’s excellent noise suppression in place as well.

A couple of niggles are evident however, the first being backlight inconsistencies which become visible when watching darker, moody imagery (the street scene in Batman - The Dark Knight (on Blu-ray), where the large articulated lorry is dramatically flipped over, is a good example) but it’s subtle and is unlikely to spoil your usual viewing experience.

Another is a surprisingly limited viewing angle (we have a Panasonic Vieira Plasma with a 46-inch screen sat alongside this Bravia, and it’s noticeably more restricting) though we doubt many users will be watching such large flat panel TVs from the side.

Also we noticed the Sony gives a noticeably less crisp HD picture than we’ve become accustomed too, but this has a less “gritty” look than is often provided by sharper screens so you may even prefer the look it provides. Either way, and suffice to say, the imagery still looks decidedly high definition, so it does not detract from your viewing pleasure at usual viewing distances.

In terms of the built-in audio/speaker performance, this is where the Sony Bravia KDL-46NX703 falls down most seriously for us. True we’re spoilt by the use of a Bose surround sound system most of the time, here the treble and voice clarity is good but bass response is frail and quickly distorts, being nowhere near strong enough for louder explosion sounds for example. We recommend you buy that Sony sound bar stand or a similar surround sound system to truly enhance the otherwise excellent viewing experience offered by the Sony Bravia KDL-46NX703.

Some of the services the new Bravia can get access to, over and above a superb Sony served media, any media server you use or USB stick carried content, includes LoveFilm and Demand Five’s streamable content with BBC’s iPlayer in the mix later too.

LoveFilm content is accessible for anyone signed up to the company’s “unlimited” packages (though not all the media available as discs is available to stream) and set up is a case of visiting LoveFilm site, entering a four-digit pin to register your device (the tele) then you select and watch the content you want.

Demand Five is much easier to set up and works well and with Sony promising even more content in coming months, it makes for a very flexible viewing platform indeed.

Verdict

Beautiful to look at and with excellent picture quality - making it beautiful to watch as well - the Sony Bravia KDL 46NX703 is an absolute gem of a HD TV. The network capabilities make it very flexible in terms of content delivery too, and while the audio may not be as good as we’d have liked, this is a TV sure to be as monolithic in its popularity as it is in the design stakes.