Would you pay ten grand for a telly? Of course you wouldn't, but ask someone at Bang & Olufsen what brands they're up against and they're more likely to utter Jaguar, Swaroski and Rolex than Samsung, LG or Sony.
The Danish brand operates in a very limited market where its latest TVs compete only against the likes of Loewe and, to a minor extent, Bose - though Bang & Olufsen's pretty extensive network of high street stores make it perhaps the most visible.
A completely new version for 2012, the BeoVision 7-40 is a 40-inch Edge LED-backlit LCD TV system on a motorised stand that’s as luscious-looking as it is big-sounding. On the brand's bigger TVs, such as the enormous 85-inch 4-85, Bang & Olufsen has plumped for plasma as its most trusted display tech, and that's got a lot to do with 3D.
However, a giant plasma TV is likely to be the centrepiece of a home cinema, whereas this 40-incher is aimed at an (admittedly rather upscale) living room or bedroom. Consequently, plasma has been dumped in favour of a slimmer Edge LED panel, though the headline act on this, and the other model in this series, the BeoVision 7-55 is a built-in 3D Blu-ray player. And that helps makes this a two-of-a-kind TV.
Despite the use of Edge LED, which was dreamt-up in the labs because of its slimness, the BeoVision 7-40 is a chunky 174 mm in depth. Explanation: it has a surround-sound decoder to save on extra equipment.
The bezel, too, goes against the grain by being massively wide. Why? It increases the immersion during 3D, as well as a perception of deeper contrast on the screen – and that's not marketing bluster: all TVs have this to some extent, and many monitors, including iMacs .
Bang & Olufsen has also used active shutter 3D tech, rather than passive 3D. Despite adding things like motorised stands, LED-lit Blu-ray disc trays and "digital curtains" that slowly part when you switch-on the TV, we get the distinct impression that Bang & Olufsen is mostly concerned with quality and, not just the because-we-can design that it’s most famous for.
With separate 3D Blu-ray players costing mere hundreds, it's left to the modular – and pricey – sound system options to really impress, though it all starts from one truly advanced TV chassis. When trying to reason with the price (don't bother), don't underestimate the value of the BeoVision 7-40's built-in surround sound decoder. It actively replaces an AV receiver by taking all surround sound and audio codecs – including anything you'll find on a Blu-ray disc, such as Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master Audio – and sending them to any attached speakers. It's a cable-light system, that's the point of it, but it also reduces remote controls.
The speaker add-ons are myriad, with the all-in-one stereo (or mono) speaker bar known as the BeoLab 7.2 the most popular, though it can be fitted with a mono centre speaker – the BeoLab 7.4 – if you want to slip the BeoVision 7-40 into an existing speaker array.
Although the BeoVision 7-40 does have a DVB-T2 tuner for hi-def TV channels, you won’t find a branded Freeview HD experience. That's hardly surprisingly on a European-made TV, but it does mean missing out on Freeview's official interactive red button services. For those only after hi-def broadcasts from the likes of BBC HD and ITV 1 HD, it won't matter much – and even less so to those with a Sky or Virgin box to hand.
Sadly, there's no chance to pause live TV by employing a HDD or USB thumbdrive. Most upscale, and even mid-range, TVs have this on board as standard, but it's almost presumed that prospective owners of a BeoVision 7-40 will have a separate set-top box.
2D & 3D Picture quality
Picture, wise, the BeoVision 7-40 is lightly laden with processing tech. That will please those aiming for an immaculate out-of-the-box performance, as well as those who've made a complete mess of the picture while exploring the usually awful picture tech on some flat TVs. Tweakers are poorly served here though.
With little in the way of video processing and no chance for a custom calibration, it’s more important that the picture quality is spot-on to begin with – and that a top-draw panel is used. Thankfully that’s largely the case, with the “automatic picture control” feature measuring ambient light and effectively adjusting the onscreen panel's luminosity, though flesh tones can appear a touch too ripe.
It sports an even brightness throughout and there’s no sign of light leakage from the sides of the panel and the built-in brightness sensor appears to work without making sudden, distracting changes.
Overall, its performance makes a convincing case for using LCD over plasma, the latter of which would have been an option at roughly this size.
Thankfully, the use of active shutter glasses doesn't dim the picture enough to negatively affect it and 3D effects are relatively clean and precise, though the problem of light and reflections getting into the back of the lenses remains.
Detailed and with excellent contrast and black levels, the BeoVision 7-40 excels with HD and upscales DVD and standard Freeview channels cleanly; it’s a good overall performance, though it can’t produce a 3D image that’s big enough to be immersive.
It does take a bit of getting to know and we're not convinced about its ergonomic prowess, but the Beo6 touchscreen remote control – complete with tiny screen bearing icons for specific TV channels and other AV gear – is worth persevering with.
There are several ways to accomplish each task on the relatively dull user interface, it's simple and quick to respond. Still, Beo6 will be of most use with the brand's bigger TVs, or to anyone with a Bang & Olufsen BeoSound 5 music system, to which it attaches via Wi-Fi to act as a tune-fetcher.
Weighing about 45 kg, installation of the BeoVision 7-40 is best left to a professional – and that's exactly what will happen if you purchase one of these beauties.
Able to handle any surround sound format you can throw at it, as well as switch to stereo, the BeoVision 7-40 does away with the need for an AV receiver. As well as a cable-light set-up, the resulting sound provides the highlight; the mono speaker mounted on the TV’s central column together with four satellite speakers produced a balanced, nuanced and muscular surround sound.
A TV costing this much can't survive on a built-in 3D Blu-ray alone, but the good news is that it doesn't have to. Carefully designed to maximise picture and sound quality without veering towards any kind of complexity or compromise, the BeoVision 7-40 is for those after convenience and top-draw performance without the hassle – and at any cost.
Thankfully a decent Edge LED panel has been used that manages to get the best from HD as from lower quality sources and 3D, but it's the sound options that impress most.