Sony TVs are a bit like Star Trek movies. They alternate between good and woeful for no apparent reason. But while the decent Trek flicks are relatively easy to predict - stick with the even-numbered outings and you won’t go far wrong - avoiding the duds in the Sony catalogue is more of a challenge.
You certainly can’t tell by design. The HX model reviewed here shares the same subdued graphite finish, with oh-so subtle difference between the top and bottom of the bezel, as the rest of the range.
You can’t tell by feature spec either: they’re pretty much all plumbed into the same Sony Entertainment Network and offer active shutter 3D. It’s only after vigorous dissection that their true nature becomes apparent. The good news is that the 40-inch HX723 reviewed here easily out-points the under-achieving 40-inch EX724 (aka The Search for Spock) and the flawed 55-inch HX923 (The Final Frontier) models which sandwich it. In short, this is The Wrath of Khan.
Thanks to an edge-lit LED panel, the screen is slim at just 4.2cm and sits on a stand which can be angled backwards by six degrees, useful if you happen to use low TV furniture from Ikea.
Connections comprise a SCART, four HDMIs, phono AV inputs, Ethernet, digital optical audio out, two USBs, a PC connection and CI slot. The TV doesn’t have integrated Wi-Fi, but it will accept a Sony dongle.
2D image quality
Feed the KDL-40HX723 high def from Freeview HD, set-top box or Blu-ray and it rewards with clean, sharp, vibrant images.
There are plenty of toys in its picture menu - variable gamma, advanced contrast, black corrector, edge enhancer - but there’s no need to fiddle too much. This screen gives a well-balanced image straight from the box.
Black levels are deep and smooth; more Bournville than After Eight, with added cocoa. Colour fidelity is also high, delivering rich reds where lesser sets struggle to offer more than just blood orange.
The picture engine employs the high-spec XR400 version of Sony’s fast framerate Motionflow technology. Combining backlight blinking with frame interpolation, this guarantees blur-free video. Good news for sports fans and gamers.
Motionflow comes in four flavours - standard, smooth, clear and clear plus - all of which have a slightly different effect on the image. Clear plus delivers a full 1080 lines of moving detail, but impacts screen brightness quite severely. Of the other settings, standard is probably the best bet, as this introduces the lowest level of artifacting yet still offers a significant clarity boost.
3D picture performance
When it comes to the third dimension, this HX723 turns in a perky performance. Not only is there clarity and depth to its 3D pictures, images are bright enough not to make you feel like you’re developing cataracts every time you pop the funny glasses on.
Crosstalk remains an issue, particularly on first generation 3D Blu-ray discs like Monster vs. Aliens, but you can counter this by turning the brightness of the glasses down.
Incidentally, there are no 3D goggles included with this set, they’re a relatively expensive extra.
Net connected entertainment
When it comes to streaming IPTV, Sony currently takes pole position. Its online portal overflows with both free and pay-per-view content. If you want to ‘rent’ a movie, Sony’s own Movies Unlimited service is a viable alternative to LoveFilm. This VOD channel offers new release titles in both SD and HD. General streaming services include catch-up with BBC iPlayer and Demand 5, plus YouTube, Daily Motion, Sony Entertainment Television, as well as dozens of others.
Local media streaming is good, but not quite great. AVI, MOV, WMV, MPEG4 and AVCHD files can be streamed across a LAN and from USB, but the set doesn’t recognise MKV-wrapped HD.
The 40HX723’s audio performance is generally commendable. Sony’s S-Force digital amplification has the requisite amount of firepower and there are a handful of post processing modes to make the most of the set’s ‘invisible’ speakers.
While we wish Sony would support MKV media playback, we can’t complain about the audiovisual quality of this screen. Offering an admirable HD performance, active shutter 3D that doesn’t fatigue and a galaxy of IPTV, it’s the star turn in Sony’s current TV fleet. Beam us up one, Scotty.