Among all of the technologies that enable LCD to attempt to rival the picture quality of the best plasmas, LED backlighting is the most effective we've seen. LED-equipped models we've reviewed in the last couple of years have demonstrated superb black-level performance, mostly thanks to their local dimming circuits, which let the TVs dim or turn off the backlight in specific areas of the screen when it's not needed. But now a new twist has arrived in the form of "edge-lit" LED backlights, and the first such model we received to review is Sony's KLV-40ZX1M.
Edge-lit LED-powered displays such as this Sony and upcoming Samsung models announced at CES do not employ local dimming, so, as you might expect, their black-level performance can't match that of displays that do. On the other hand, edge-lit LED backlights allow the panels to be thinner than ever--the KLV-40ZX1M's panel, for example, measures just 1.1 inches thick. As a result, this TV looks stunningly thin and high-tech, especially when seen from the side, and its LED technology allows for improved energy-efficiency. Naturally, you'll pay a good deal more for the privilege of owning a first-generation technology.
Unfortunately, the included stand spoils some of the panel's sleekness with its circular shape and relatively chunky base. A small arm supports the panel above the stand, which does not offer any swivel capability. It took us a minute to figure out that Sony had stashed the speakers inside the base of the stand.
Sony's remote control is a poor effort in design, with way too many like-size and like-shaped buttons that make finding and engaging any one function a real headache. Numerous extra keys, apparently for use with devices other than the KLV-40ZX1M, are also included, such as four labeled "system control" and a PIP button that implies the display supports picture-in-picture (it does not). The lack of a dedicated key to switch aspect ratio modes is unforgiveable. The clicker can command a whopping seven other pieces of gear, but that's about the only compliment we can give it.
The Sony KLV-40ZX1M offers a 120Hz refresh rate along with Sony's MotionFlow dejudder processing. We're not fans of such processing, but to our eyes Sony's MotionFlow in the Standard position has usually done the best job of any such mode at providing that extra smoothness without looking too unnatural or making film look too much like video. Standard on the KLV-40ZX1M, however, appeared less-natural than we've seen on other Sony models
We couldn't help but be disappointed by the Sony KLV-40ZX1M's overall picture quality, especially given the excellent performance we've seen on nonedge-lit LED displays. Black levels were quite light, and we noticed more uniformity issues, notably brighter edges relative to the middle of the screen and poor off-angle viewing, than we're willing to forgive for a display at this price.