155 of 161 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Superb picture quality in a very well equiped classy looking TV, 24 May 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This telly must be good - my other half loves it! Usually new 'gadgets' need some kind of justification and there are always other more important things that need doing before installing and setting up (or playing / fiddling with) new gadgets is acceptable.
Not with this TV though!
Immediately out of the box it looks great. A slightly patterned black bezel - the better to avoid finger prints - with a dark metal edge that's just out of sight around the edge. It looks very classy and understated and most of that frontage is screen as well.
Assembly was simple, just unpack the bits, drop the telly vertically into the stand with the guide bolts aligning everything automatically then attach the three screws and job done. Out of the box the screen has a 6 degree backwards tilt, but there are two other screws on the back of the stand that allow this tilt to be adjusted or removed altogether (with storage holes for the screws as well if they are completely removed). The screen actually looks as though it tilts very slightly forwards when the tilt adjust screws are fully removed so you may want to play with this a little.
The screen also swivels by about 15 degrees on the stand which is handy, and it still feels solid despite very little pressure being needed to turn the screen.
INITIAL SET UP
When first powering up the TV goes through a setup sequence asking you to answer a bunch of easy questions. An extra mark to Sony here for recognising that in he UK most people will no longer want to scan for analogue channels as they've been switched off.
You are also given the opportunity during this setup sequence to connect to your network via a wired connection or the built in WiFi. It took a couple of attempts to connect to my Wifi but when it did all was good (as entering a WiFi password via a TV remote is not the easiest way to type, the chances are I entered the password incorrectly first time).
If you can, you really should get this TV connected to your network as the 'Smart' features included here a really very good... but more of that later.
Your TV will probably advise you that there is a system update available shortly after it gets a network connection. I' recommend doing this for a couple of reasons. First of all it's useful to have current software as it should include bug fixes and new features, but in the case of this new TV the upgrade applied to mine 10 minutes after first powering up seemed to speed up the responsiveness of the interface as well.
The image quality of this TV is superb. There's no other word for it. I don't believe I have seen a sharper, less noisy picture on a consumer screen.
Out of the box it does suffer from showroom / granny defaults - ie the colour is turned up way too high. Thankfully just a couple of tweaks are needed to get more muted, far more realistic colour reproduction.
Those initial couple of tweaks are just the start, though, as this set has a great selection of tweaks including the standard colour, contrast, gamma etc but also the ability to engage various levels of image processing as well. Usually I would leave all of these off all of the time, but Sony have the balance right here with the adjustments being subtle enough to be genuinely useful.
The only setting I didn't get along with was the one that's supposed to improve fast motion clarity - that just seemed to darken the whole picture without improving anything.
Whether you notice any smearing of high motion images is probably a very personal thing. I am very critical of TV pictures as I used to assess them for a living, so the fact that I do notice very slight smearing sometimes on this set can't really be put down as a negative. More likely it's just me or the content - some content actually looks fine fast moving, supporting the latter theory.
Another brownie point for Sony comes from the fact that when tweaking these settings you have the option to apply them just to the current selected input or all common inputs. A nice touch that lets you configure the TV according to what you have connected where if you so wish.
The set will even switch picture profiles based on the type of programme you are watching (movie, sport etc), adjusting the colour, gamma, brightness etc to suit. It gets the programme type from the programme guide info! Clever idea. Of course you can disable this feature if you prefer to be in total control, but so far it looks to work pretty well.
This is a fairly thin and light TV so there is no space for the big heavy set of speakers that would be required to move enough air to produce sound to match the picture quality. Sure enough out of the box the sound is a little disappointing. Again the available tweaks allow you to improve the sound massively.
It's never going to be as rounded as an old big box telly with a big set of speakers built in, but after a bit of playing I'm more than happy enough.
If you want better sound, though, you can always hook up to an external amp - you're well catered for here with one HDMI supporting Audio Return Channel (ARC) and also a separate optical S/PDIF output. These will feed whatever you are watching on the TV to your surround sound amp and will disable the internal speakers when doing so - and it all works pretty well.
There are a lot of high spec, 1080p 'full HD' TVs still out there that only have a standard DVB-T tuner which means that without an external HD source you are not going to be able to take advantage of that great screen - you'll spend your time watching upscaled SD.
With this set, however, HD is built right in (proper DVB-T2 as broadcast in the UK, not the halfway se found in some cheaper kit that gets sold as HD compatible). Granted, FreeviewHD only carries a couple of HD channels right now (FreeSat HD carries a good few more but you'd need an external box and a dish for that as it's not built in here), but more are likely to come onto the platform once digital switchover is complete.
BBC One HD and BBC HD look pretty good - a definite quality hike over the SD BBC channels, but not quite as sharp as the same on FreeSat - again if that's a concern you could look to an external receiver for FreeSat as this TV has 4 HDMI connections awaiting your external sources.
I've mentioned most of the important connections, but to summarise you get:
4 x HDMI (one with ARC)
1 x SCART (composite and component)
1 x optical S/PDIF (TosLink)
2 x USB (one for external HDD, see later)
1 x RJ45 for wired network connection
1 x VGA
1 x headphone out 3.5mm jack
2 x analogue audio in 3.5mm jack
1 x PCMCIA
The inputs can be renamed to friendly names such as 'BluRay' and 'Satellite' (or 'Bob' and 'Sue' if you wish) to make finding the right source nice and easy as well.
SMARTS and NETWORKING
This is a lot more than just a FreeViewHD TV though as the built in WiFi and wired Internet connectivity give you access to a whole bunch of online content - a lot of it free (BBC iPlayer, Demand 5. YouTube, DailyMotion, Crackle etc) and some paid-for (LoveFilm and NetFlix are both built in as well as Sony's own paid for offerings).
You also have a web-browser built in. This isn't as capable as a fully fledged browser on a PC or whatever, but it's good enough for a quick lookup on text and image based pages.
A feature that I really like is the integration of GraceNote - it even has its own button on the remote. Hit that 'Track id' button and the telly will work out what the music is that's playing! It doesn't work every time - in non-scientific tests I have found Shazam to be more successful, but this is still a great feature that's been well integrated.
Another great section is the movie trailers portal. The quality of the streamed trailers is superb.
While the programme guide (EPG) is not really a Smart feature, this seems as good a place as any to mention that on the whole the guide is very well implemented - there is room for improvement, but generally the layout is good, it's responsive and clear and a mini picture of the current selected channel is displayed almost always.
There are loads of Smart TV features packed in here, too many to list in a review. But there is one that is advertised that I should mention as it leads us nicely into a couple of negatives.
Skype... Love it or hate it, it's the VOIP client of default for many home users as they simply don't know about the alternatives. It's built in here and I personally think that is a great feature to have. Family video conferencing from the sofa could be a great thing.
Could be... But not for an extra 60 to 120 quid!
This TV does not have a built in webcam and mic (which again I consider a good thing as it can be disconnected when not in use this way - privacy paranoia and all that, if I'm watching Sunday morning TV in my dressing gown that's for me and the peeping Tom down the road to worry about, not someone who inadvertently video Skype's me!
But I digress... You actually NEED a webcam connected to access Skype on this TV, so if you don't have one you cannot even use the Skype text chat functionality.
So Skype may be installed in the suite of apps on board, but it ain't useable... Unless you buy a webcam, and here's the rub... It HAS to be Sony's own CMU-BR100 webcam which currently retails anywhere between 60 quid and 120 quid!!!
Now I understand the reasons about driver support etc and sticking to particular webcam models / chipsets, but this is a blatant rip-off.
[Update - August 2012 : With Logitech just announcing an HDMI all-in-one Skype webcam solution for any TV with an HDMI input for around 200USD (UK price and availability tba), and the TelyHD Webcam for all TV models.
already available, the cost of this Sony specific webcam looks even more ridculous. (Though a dedicated, always-on Skype camera could worry some in privacy terms) ]
There is no built in storage but by attaching an external USB hard drive you can record programmes directly with this TV. As it only has a single tuner you cannot change channel while recording - you either watch what you're recording, switch to another input or switch off.
Currently you cannot pause live TV like you can on most PVRs, but that may come in a future software version with a bit of luck.
[Update: It seems you can actually pause live TV, but Sony have chosen to make this a bit odd to use. Whereas with most PVRs you simply use the usual pause, play, forward and rewind buttons, on this set there is a separate button on the remote to active this button 'Pause TV'. I suppose with a label like that it is obvious, but not as obvious as using the other pause button that sits alongside the other 'transport control' type buttons. This also means you cannot rewind a programme you are watching like most PVRs allow (by starting to record a rolling 30 minutes as soon as you change channel) - on this TV you have to activate TV Pause first every time. A bit of an odd way to do things, and I'm still experimenting to work out exactly what they've implemented and how.]
You must register the HDD with the TV as well. This formats the disk and removes any partition type info that a PC would use. The upshot of his is that you can't unplug the disk and watch your recordings on a PC (or another Bravia TV, presumably). This registering process wipes everything off the disk.
As the raw digital stream is recorded the quality on playback is identical to watching live.
For reference, a 1 hour BBC One HD programme currently takes up just under 2.5GB of disk space.
Having recording ability is nice, but I have one final gripe - though again it's fixable in software so fingers crossed.
That gripe is how you set up a recording. The most common, and in my opinion most intuitive, way of setting a programme to record is to find it in the guide and press record - not so here. If you do that you start recording the channel that you are currently tuned to (as displayed in that top left mini screen). To set a recording you press 'enter' on the item you want to record, then select the on screen record button (or record series button if appropriate). This is at best convoluted - the remote control record button only works for starting a recording of what is currently being watched.
A FEW OTHER AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Apart from the awkward programme recording, there are a couple of other software oddities.
If you have an HDD connected for recording, then the power on to ready to use time increases. That is, operation of the TV is sluggish at best until after the message has been displayed on screen that a registered HDD has been detected. OK, don't allow the HDD to be used until it's ready, but that shouldn't be allowed to affect normal function of the TV.
Switching between TV and radio and back does not return you to your previous TV channel, instead it lands you on a 'bumper' channel between safe TV and the adult channels that carries a warning that you are about to enter the rudie zone.
[Update July 2012 - it looks like the above adult channel 'bug' has been resolved in the latest software version for which you should automatically get an on-screen upgrade prompt. The TV/Radio button now cycles between TV, Radio and Text type services correctly.]
Pressing the info button to call up channel info shows info about the current programme, pressing again shows info about the next programme. It seems you have to go through both as there is no way to exit from the current programme info. A more usual approach to 'now next' and info is to call up and expand the now/next/info box with the info button and to use the direction keys right and left to switch between now and next with up and down showing info for other channels in order. Finally the exit, back or return button closes this box. Again Sony seem to have gone a bit non-standard an unintuitive here, but worse than that there is no way to do a now/next browse of other channels (the info is available to the software as it's in the full guide. I know that comes from less reliable/non-real-time DVB tables than true now/next info, but for channels other than the currently selected it would be nice).
When you switch to a channel / programme on an SD channel that is also available in HD a box pops up on screen offering you the chance to switch to the HD version - nice. This box doesn't timeout, however, and remains on screen until you accept or cancel - not so nice!
I was tempted to only give this TV four stars because of the little annoyances described above, but that feels really unfair when the picture quality, build quality, style, feature set and core usability really are superb.
At the price this is pretty much mid range for a forty incher these days, but it's got top end picture quality. With good source material it is incredibly sharp even at close quarters and a good set of tweakable parameters means you can get the picture looking how you want.
You could get cheaper, and you could even get 3D capability for less cash from Sony themselves, but what would you be sacrificing? I certainly wouldn't want to sacrifice anything I'm getting here.
I was sad to drive away from my trusty old Tosh CRT which has served me perfect pictures for a decade and a half, but although I don't expect this set to last anywhere near as long I'm pretty happy with Tosh's replacement. Tosh now lives with a bunch of other big box tellies down the local tip - he'll be happy there among friends, I hope.