How does Sony do it? This flagship TV in the brand’s EX Series is one of the most impressive we’re ever seen. The way the 55EX723 upscales all sources to fit its massive 55-inch panel is clever stuff; it cleans and polishes all kinds of web-based video to remove noise, but somehow look cinematic, too – it’s a real treat.
Which is why we’re just a little annoyed that 3D images on the 55EX723 are nothing short of downright dirty. The 3D aspect is actually an add-on; although thankfully there’s a built-in 3D transmitter, 3D specs must be bought on top from a suitably huge range that start at £59.
More extras than a film set
It’s not the only optional extra. Ethernet LAN is the default way of attaching this Edge LED-lit LCD telly to a broadband router, with a Wi-Fi adaptor costing around £50 extra. For any so-called ‘smart’ TV to miss built-in Wi-Fi from the spec is unforgivable in our eyes, but when a TV costing far in excess of a grand does it, it’s plain rude. After all, if TVs costing £500 from the likes of Toshiba can offer Wi-Fi, why can't the 55EX723?
That said, the Freeview HD software is beautifully designed and works speedily, giving information for eight channels over two hours. It’s basic, but colourful and quick – and as enjoyable an experience as a dedicated set-top box from the likes of Humax, Sky or Virgin Media. There’s even some basic recording functionality if you attach a HDD via USB, though there’s only one tuner so it can only record what you're watching. More useful is the pause live TV feature it creates.
Despite its built-in hi-def TV channels, the 55EX723’s biggest attraction – and one that lives up to the hype - is its Bravia Internet video service. The simple grid-style design is stuffed with things to watch, which is more than we can say for other manufacturer’s efforts. Services are being added all the time and if there’s a new app available, the 55EX723 flashes-up a message, downloads it, then re-starts the TV. During our test we linked the 55EX723 to a live Lovefilm account and streamed I’m Still Here, which was easy enough to do after registering online and entering a code to pair the TV with our subscription. Other apps include BBC iPlayer, Sky News, MUBI, Muzu, uStudio, blip.tv, Billabong and 3D World, among other less attractive propositions.
For those without a 3D Blu-ray player, the 3D World app could provide a first glimpse of the third dimension at home. The collection of sports, movie trailers, music videos and games trailers are all in 3D, and made by Sony, so there is an element of advertising going on here.
However, with a good spread of content available, it's to 3D World we headed to first to test the 55EX723’s 3D performance. A few trailers revealed a relatively clean, comfortable experience, but not much in the way of depth. In fact, the most impressive aspect of donning the 3D specs for 3D movies is that the brightness of the screen is immediately dulled, increasing the perception of contrast.
It’s a different story with some sequences from last summer’s tennis at Wimbledon. Forget the need for slightly awkward camera shots primarily from the back of the court; in the immediate foreground Jo-Wilfried Tsonga appears divorced from the background, but the 55EX723 does display some tremendous depth effects. However, Novak Djokovic at the other end of the court is blighted by a double image, and the Wimbeldon crowd in the stands are in a right old mess. It’s really quite nasty – and moving to 3D Blu-ray doesn't help.
It’s a shame because the 55EX723 otherwise produces a spotless performance with virtually every other video source, from dodgy quality feeds on YouTube to sparkling, detail laden and contrasty Freeview HD channels. Blur-free, with no judder from Blu-ray and colour palette that’s always natural looking, the 55EX723 is a bit of a legend with 2D sources.
Audio, though, is another letdown that never achieves more than clear, audible dialogue – there’s nothing in the way of bass and the surround modes add little to a thin soundstage.
It may be 3D-ready, but this 55-inch LED telly struggles with the third way. Otherwise one of the finest 2D sets around, with a peerless online dimension, we’re nevertheless not sure that a TV that lacks both built-in WiFi and 3D glasses should command such a high price tag. Another great effort from Sony for 2D, but there are better value choices around – and better 3D performers.