Unlike in the world of Blu-ray players, where buying a non-3D-capable deck is fast becoming a waste of time, the jury is still out on 3DTVs. Sony’s KDL-40LX903 doesn’t do much to change that. LED backlighting, a Freeview HD tuner, loads of online content from Lovefilm, BBC iPlayer and YouTube make this one high-end TV, but can a price tag that nudges £2000 really be justified - 3D or no 3D - on any 40-inch TV?
With built-in Wi-Fi and wired Ethernet LAN, this 40-incher should have digital media chops aplenty, but unlike Sony’s Blu-ray players, that’s not the case. Stick a USB memory stick into the slot on the TV’s left-hand side (it’s at the top, meaning trailing cables aplenty if you decide to attach an external HDD) and it appears as an icon on the brilliant user interface that is Sony’s Xross Media Bar’s video, music and photos dropdown sections. File support from USB is slighter than expected, with AVI (DivX), MPEG4 and AVCHD files only played, with no support for MKV files - aka DiVX HD - which is a real shame. We did, however, manage to playback a high-def H.264 MOV trailer of 2012 downloaded from Apple’s website. Just MP3 and JPEG are supported in the other categories, which is similarly scant.
Change to home networking, and the same applies; your PC or Mac will appear as an icon on the XMB. However, this is even more disappointing; only AVCHD videos (as found on camcorders), MP3 and JPEG files can be streamed. What a waste of Wi-Fi!
The airwaves are used rather more effectively when it comes to Sony’s Bravia Internet Video platform, which is seemingly constantly being refreshed, updated and improved. Sony’s own home ents hub called Qriocity debuts here, though for now its full name is Video On Demand powered by Qriocity. Catchy, eh?
Although Qriocity is a standalone service developed by Sony, it’s only available on Bravia gear so should be seen in the context of the Bravia Internet Video Platform in which is resides. Qriocity sits alongside some impressive - and completely subscription-free - video streaming widgets such as BBC iPlayer and Lovefilm. The latter is some competitor.
You’ll also find Demand Five, YouTube, a rather threadbare Eurosport vodcast service, Sony Entertainment television (featuring episodes of 10 Items Or Less, I Dream of Jeannie and Different Strokes - we kid you not - alongside Sony adverts and other nonsense), podcasts from National Public Radio (a US-style BBC), and a subs-only streaming of Berliner Philharmoniker classical concerts. There’s also a lot of rubbish such as GolfLink, Dailymotion, Ford Models, SingingFool and Howcast.com, though these are hidden down the roster so don’t clutter proceedings.
Since the search function is so long-winded (enter words using an onscreen keyboard) the system could do with an “add to favourites” function, which is a sign in itself that there’s plenty of content on Qriocity. Plenty, but not nearly as much as on Lovefilm, and there’s a complete lack of anything resembling world cinema; bad news for people not interested in films not set in LA or New York.
Elsewhere on the TV are widgets for Picasa and other (far) less interesting web TV channels (SingingFool, anyone?). There are also some more basic widgets for the likes of Betfair Football, Yahoo! Finance, Flickr, Twitter, Yahoo! News and weather.
Here’s an excellent 2D TV with decent speakers that upscales standard-def Freeview channels reasonably well, while treating Blu-ray discs to a pin-sharp, colourful and contrast-rich rendition that’s hard to criticise beyond a slight motion blur. A shame, then, that 3D goes and ruins it all by being rather, well, prototype-y. It’s not that the 3D effect is terrible - it’s certainly not - but 10 minutes of watching a duller (because of the glasses) picture full of flicker left us with a slight headache despite the depth. It does depend on the content, but the PS3 3D demos we played did suffer from some ghosting around stationary objects, and significant flicker among fast-moving ones.
The main issue, though, is immersion. For 3D displays, bigger is always better; losing yourself in the 3D action gets harder the less believable an image is, and on this 40-inch TV total immersion can be a struggle; it’s just not that impressive, and after 5 minutes on Gran Turismo 5 the novelty has worn off. For 3D, the cheapest screen just won’t do; our advice is to instead bide your time and save up for the biggest you can afford. By that time, 3DTVs might have got a little better.
A fantastic user interface, plenty of high-end features and a great user experience; what’s not to like about Sony’s latest high-end TV? 3D, that’s what. With flicker, some blur and a generally unconvincing look to 3D, it could be worth waiting a while before investing in Sony’s 3D. Far more compelling are widgets for BBC iPlayer and more, though this £2000 TV doesn't play DivX files over a home network; surely some mistake?