Albeit expensive and plagued by issues in 3D, the beautifully styled Sony KDL-NX720 outpaces the picture quality of most other edge-lit LED-based LCD TVs.
There's a lot to like about the KDL-NX720 series. Sony's least expensive TV with that lovely Monolithic styling, it still costs a mint but will reward investors with some of the best 2D images we've seen on any LCD with an edge-lit LED backlight. And despite lacking an app store and Vudu, Sony's Internet selection is chock-a-block with video from sources both mainstream and otherwise. As long as you don't care about its picture quality in 3D, the Sony KDL-NX720 series competes well against the best edge-lit LED TVs on the market.
The KDL-NX720 is simply beautiful. It looks basically the same as the XBR-HX929, about which we crowed: "the best-looking TV this year aside from Samsung's thin-bezel UND6400 and UND8000/7000 models." The NX720, with its thinner panel and bezel, is even nicer-looking than the 929 in our book.
When seen from the front, it earns the company's Monolithic moniker: the panel is a featureless black slab when turned off, thanks to its one-piece face and darkened glass.
We're big fans of Sony's later TV remotes, although the NX720's clicker is a step down from the flush-button, backlit wand of the 929. Its concave surface and strategic button placement guided our thumb naturally to the big cursor button, which is ringed by six keys (although four would do--Guide and Synch Menu will be underused on most setups).
Sony revamped its Home menu this year, ditching the PlayStation 3/PSP-style XMB interface for a new scheme that creates a main horizontal bottom row and a right-hand vertical column flanking a smaller, inset TV image (tweakers fret not; the TV image expands back to full size during picture adjustments). The menu shows all of the horizontal options at once, but there are simply too many of them--10 total: Settings, Widgets, Applications, Qriocity, Internet Content, TV, Media, Inputs, Favorites/History, and Recommendations (which is removable...a good thing since it appears to be in-menu advertising). None of the main horizontal choices is labeled until you select it, so you must either remember Sony's quirky iconography or scroll a lot to find the right one. Each option has its own column of suboptions, for a total effect that can easily become overwhelming.
Mildly noteworthy are a few extras designed around a sensor that can respond to viewers in the room. The Presence Sensor automatically turns the TV off if it fails to detect a viewer in the room (see the EX720 review for details), and the Position Control is said to automatically optimize picture and sound by detecting viewer position.
Unfortunately, as we noted of the company's Blu-ray players, Sony's standardized interface for most of the major video services, like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant, is worse in general than those services' default interfaces, in part because of relatively small thumbnail images. On the other hand, having the same basic interface for each makes them relatively easy to learn.
Sony recently expanded Qriocity from its VOD offerings to include a subscription music service, which is available on this TV. Note that while Sony recently renamed the service "Sony Entertainment Network," the quirky "Qriocity" remains on this TV for now.
The appeal of the numerous niche video services (Sports Illustrated, The Minisode Network, Blip.tv, Style.com, Howcast.com, video podcasts, and so on) is heightened somewhat by the ability to search across all of them. Unfortunately, that search doesn't include any of the mainstream services like Netflix, Amazon, or YouTube, and is a pain to use with the TV remote.
And, yes, the NX720 has a Web browser, although it's even slower and more annoying to use than the one on Samsung and LG TVs. After a few minutes of frustrated waiting for it to load the Sony Style home page, we feel comfortable saying that it should be avoided entirely
Unlike LG, Samsung, and Panasonic, Sony doesn't have an "app store" for its TVs. The Yahoo widget service is where you'll find Twitter and Facebook, along with numerous even less useful things to occupy your TV screen.
Deep black levels are the Sony KDL-NX720's main strength, and although it scored the same "7" in this category as its competitors the LG LW5600 and the Samsung UND6400 series, if we had to choose one of the three based purely on performance, it would be the Sony. Color and video processing are both very good, as is screen uniformity. On the other hand we wish we could enjoy those black levels from wider viewing angles, and anyone who cares about 3D will want to look elsewhere.