More problematic is the set's limited connectivity. All told, the KLV-40ZX1M has just one HDMI input and no other connections. That's fine if you only want to connect a high-definition cable or satellite box, or maybe a PC with a digital output and nothing else, but if you'd like to expand your source options you'll need to buy an additional HDMI switcher or an AV receiver with HDMI switching and analog upconversion (if you want to connect devices that lack HDMI outputs). Sure we'd like to see more than one HDMI input, or maybe an analog video input of any sort, but naturally any extra inputs would probably spoil the slick, hidden-cord design.
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 LED-based LCDs with local dimming. 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.
The Cinema preset came closest to what we'd consider ideal dark-room picture settings, with solid precalibration color temperature in the Warm 2 setting, although Cinema was still relatively dim at just 30 footlamberts. Our standard calibration improved the color a bit, although we couldn't rid the set of its bluish tinge in dark areas. For our full picture settings, check out the bottom of this blog post.
For our comparison we didn't have any other edge-lit LCDs on hand, but we did incorporate a few highly-rated models to compete against this expensive Sony, including the company's own "local dimming" LED-powered KDL-55XBR8, the less-expensive Samsung LN52A650 from the standard LCD camp and the like-priced Pioneer PRO-111FD from plasma land. Our main batch of image quality tests was performed partly with the new release of "Ronin," one of our all-time favorites on Blu-ray played by the PlaySation 3.
Black level: Sonys edge-lit LED could not produce as deep a shade of black as any of the other displays in our comparison. In the dark dockside shots from Chapter 6, for example, the letterbox bars, night sky, shadows, and black asphalt all appeared slightly lighter than the lightest of the bunch, the Samsung A650, and not nearly as inky as either of the other two. Details in shadows, such as the dark jackets of Sam and Vincent, also seemed a bit more-obscured on the Sony KLV-40ZX1M, although the difference wasn't as stark.
We also noticed that when scenes faded to black, the set's screen would dim noticeably. In normal program material, while watching "Ronin" go from light to dark scenes and back, the fluctuation wasn't hugely distracting, but we wish it wasn't obvious at all. We saw it again, and in a more distracting way, in the transition from Chapter 3 to 4 in "I Am Legend," where Will Smith locks up his house for the night. The entire screen dimmed and then turned up again as the screen faded to black and back.
Color accuracy: Overall, colors looked relatively accurate on the Sony, thanks to its solid primary and secondary colors and linear grayscale in most brightness conditions. In Chapter 11, for example, as Sam and Deirdre stroll through the park on the way to the hotel, the green of the grass and trees, along with the red of the carousel in the background and blur of the water on his map all compared well with our reference Pioneer. On the other hand, Deirdre's skin appeared a bit duller and less lustrous than we saw on the other displays, and despite increasing the color control significantly, saturation in general was quite a bit less punchy and lively. We chalk it up to the KLV-40ZX1M's weak black-level performance, which also negatively influences apparent saturation.
As we mentioned, very dark areas, like the shadows in the scenes in Chapter 6 and the letterbox bars, for example, took on a blue tinge, an issue common to many LCDs that we couldn't fix with any amount of adjustment without spoiling lighter areas' accuracy.
Video processing: We're not fans of dejudder 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 Standard on the XBR8 (or Low on the A650), smoothing out the jerky motion of the first epic car chase (Chapter 14)--in particular the realistically unsteady camera that follows Sam as he launches an RPG from the open sunroof--entirely too much.
Of course, engaging High in the same scene made things look even less realistic and imparted an almost cartoonish smoothness to the breakneck pacing. It also introduced the usual dejudder artifacts, like breakup in the mountain walls and the overhead shot of the brown Mercedes after Sam's successful shot. We wonder what director John Frankenheimer, who takes his car chases seriously, would have to say about the effect of dejudder on these scenes.
In terms of resolution, the KLV-40ZX1M performed as expected. It delivered every line of still 1080i and 1080p test patterns, properly deinterlaced both film- and video-based 1080i sources, and resolved between 300 to 400 lines of motion resolution with dejudder turned off and 600 to 700 when it was turned on. The set's motion resolution results are typical of standard 120Hz LCDs.
When we set our PS3 to output 1080p/24 video and turned off the KLV-40ZX1M's dejudder processing, the Sony performed as well as expected, preserving the cadence of film nicely. Our favorite pan over the deck of the "Intrepid" from "Legend" provided the best example, where the motion was every bit as smooth--but not too smooth--as on the other 120Hz LCDs and the 72Hz Pioneer.
Uniformity: We expected a display lit from the edge to be at a uniformity disadvantage compared with one lit evenly from behind, and indeed the KLV-40ZX1M showed below-average uniformity. The problems were most visible in the letterbox bars above and below the image, which showed brighter areas in all four corners and the sides, while the middle of the bars looked darker. In very dark scenes, we noticed that the left side of the screen was brighter than the right. That said, in bright scenes the Sony didn't exhibit any overt uniformity problems.
Like other LED based displays we've reviewed, the edge-lit KLV-40ZX1M also performed quite poorly when seen from off-angle. In dark scenes when we moved a seat or two away from center on the couch, that brightness from the edges would creep even further into dark areas and wash out contrast and colors worse than we saw on the other displays.
Bright lighting: As usual for a matte-screened LCD, the KLV-40ZX1M did a solid job of reducing glare from ambient light in the room, outclassing the Samsung and the Pioneer plasma in this regard, and performing about as well as the Sony XBR8.
Standard-definition: Since the Sony KLV-40ZX1M does not have any standard-definition inputs, we didn't test its SD performance.
PC: With PC sources delivered via HDMI, the monitor automatically went into PC mode, which disables many of the picture adjustments. PC performance was excellent, as expected, with the panel resolving every detail of a 1,920x1,080-pixel source and delivering crisp, clear text with only a slight hint of edge enhancement.
|Before color temp (20/80)||6496/6554||Good|
|After color temp||6479/6525||Good|
|Before grayscale variation||241||Good|
|After grayscale variation||183||Average|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.652/0.333||Average|
|Color of green||0.303/0.599||Good|
|Color of blue||0.158/0.066||Average|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Y||Good|
|480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps||N/A|
|1080i video resolution||Pass||Good|
|1080i film resolution||Pass||Good|
|Sony KLV-40ZX1M||Picture settings|
|Picture on (watts)||160.65||79.46||46.88|
|Picture on (watts/sq. inch)||0.23||0.12||0.07|
|Cost per year||$49.72||$24.59||$14.51|
|Score (considering size)||Good|