on 24 May 2012
Well, from the title, you might be able to guess that i"m impressed. I'll try to keep it brief otherwise I'll end up in some Clarksonesque list of behemoth comparatives, so I will limit myself to touch on picture, build and functionality, and look at what could be better. here goes:
This is a very special looking TV. it doesn't quite have the glitz of Samsung TVs, or the OTT design of B&O or Loewe, nor is it as themed as apple devices. Instead, what it oozes is quality. The materials are solid, the canted lean against the soundbar base is elegant, the minimal edge and slim design (largely due t the clever inclusion of speakers in the discrete base) make this vast TV seem smaller than it should - at least until being watched: it really does blend into furniture rather better than most other televisions. As proof of this, when i told my OH that i had a 46" TV on the way, for my 4m x 4m room, she was aghast. In the end, she almost walked past it claiming it didn't look THAT big (she is normally not that hard to impress... or perhaps that's just politeness). The backward lean does mean that if the stand is used and your furniture and higher than a modern media cabinet, then it will likely be leaning slightly away from you. Also, putting the speakers in the base works very well in terms of sounding rich and deep (much, much, better than my old Samsung, but nowhere near as good as decent external speakers-amp) but does rattle the furniture and anything left on the furniture a little. The lean has some advances, however. for example, window reflections are less of an issue, and provided you can rely on ambient, rather than ceiling, lighting, then the same will apply to natural light. The remote is a little plasticky, and has no backlight. Samsung certainly do a better job with the aesthetics and ergonomics. I'm an evangelical Logitech user (Harmony one, brings joy to all who touch it!), so this is no big deal.
Navigation is a bit clunky at first, and slightly slow. The internet browser a little pointless, and the widgets, as much as they might be useful if you really wanted your favourite film interrupted by tweets, newsflashes, weather forecasts etc, are of little use to the average person. But there are so many things to commend about the way this TV interfaces with other devices. For example, with serviio installed on your computer, the TV will happily stream media from any wireless device in your network. The TV rapidly engages with USB peripherals, and simply connects to external HDDs via USB, to either play media (not if your HDD is Mac OSX Extended formatted, unfortunately) or use an HDD as a PVR. Slick. The jewel in the crown, however, is the ease with which this TV engages with internet streams. There is a fully working BBC iPlayer (truly, fully functioning, although finding live TV is missing) BBC news, and forthcoming live BBC sports (not in time for this sunday's Monaco GP, alas!) for the Olympics. My favourite (since I subscribe anyway) is the Lovefilm functionality. And no, this isn't just another Amazon plug, the function is truly awesome, with dozens of movies, episodes of TV series, etc, instantly viewable, in higher quality than Lovefilm instant over the internet, and with no charge for any rental. On top of this, Sony offers a fully HD PPV movie service analagous to MacTV.
Enough said? well, probably not, but this is truly stunning. the lighting is so even, that the darkest scenes are just flat and beautiful. The contrast seems huge and yet doesn't cause eye strain. The dynamic range is massive, particularly with dark tones, where the darkest shadows reveal inky depths and outlines, and deep rich colours, not just some binary black-grey blockiness. colours are perfectly neutral and lifelike. This is the only TV i have watched where, straight from the box, the colours look just right (it reminds me of the screens on big screen macs, which hardly ever seem to need calibrating, and just produce the most perfect prints with little or no profiling being needed). Skin tones in particular seem just-right. The whites seem a bit less perfect, and there is some blocking and colour instability in some scens. I don't really know if this is a source issue (watching a frozen planet blu-ray) or something about the panel. Either way, it is a miniscule concern, and in no way detracts.
Motion is exceptionally smooth (as Sony tout) I'll give this a mixed blessing, on one hand it mean there is no smearing, artefact or jagginess. On the other hand there is somethign a bit weird about some panning shots, where the fluidity is slightly eerie. Motion in 3D is exemplary, however, and there is no headacheyness, fuzzyness, eye strain or other discomfort as a result. Indeed, the whole 3D experience is impressive, neutral, understated, yet involving. Whether i'd rather watch Harry Potter in 3D blu ray, or Grand Turino in streaming realtime is another matter, but if you want a proper 3D experience, I don't think you can go wrong here.
The final thing to talk about is the scale and resolution of the panel. In probably not very many years, people will regard this sort of thing as old hat, but for now i have never seen a better picture, in a prettier box, with better functions.