Sony used to be very much king of the TV castle, but over the last few years it's been struggling and has suffered the ignominy of seeing Samsung steal its crown on its way to becoming the biggest TV manufacturer in the world.
This year, Sony has come back fighting and has already given us one excellent television in the form of the flagship available now for around £650.. So can the 32HX753, which slots in just beneath the HX853 series in Sony's range, keep this strong form going? It's
User interface and EPG
When you switch this set on, the user interface doesn't look much different to the Sony models that appeared towards the tail end of last year. It's still built around the core XrossMediaBar (XMB), which is essentially an update of the system that Sony has been using for some time on its games consoles such as the PSP and PS3.
Thankfully, there's now a large video thumbnail window in the top left-hand corner, so calling up the menu no longer obscures the programme you're watching. The menu bar runs along the bottom of the screen, with the options for the highlighted menus shown in a vertical column on the far right.
If you've used the PSP or PS3 before, you'll probably find it fairly easy to get to grips with. First-timers are likely to struggle with it at the start as it can be overly fussy and the menu icons are poorly designed -- you can't always tell at a glance what functions they relate to.
The XMB used to be particularly annoying when it came to accessing smart TV services. Thankfully, Sony has now split these off and they can be found in their own separate Sony Entertainment Network menu. This can be quickly accessed by hitting the dedicated SEN button on the TV's remote control.
The menu looks fantastic as it uses a tabbed layout that's similar to the Netflix, while the movie and music options show the latest releases from Sony's Music and Video Unlimited online services.that Microsoft has designed around. It's spilt into three sections for apps, movies and music. In the apps section you'll find the likes of BBC iPlayer and
Sony has done a good job on the electronic programme guide (EPG). As with the normal menus, when you call it up it retains a video thumbnail view of the channel you're currently watching, with a text summary of the programme you've selected shown next to it. Beneath this there's a traditional horizontal grid view displaying upcoming programming, which covers eight channels of data at a time.
It's quick to navigate and there are some neat filter options. For example, you can quickly switch to just lists of all the movies or sports broadcasts coming up for the week.
Design and connections
The 32HX753 is not exactly a design revelation in the way that the new frameless televisions from LG and Samsung are. In fact, it's actually got quite a thick bezel -- especially for a TV with such a modest screen size. It's still a pretty set to look at as Sony has added a touch of sophistication with a chrome edging that frames the TV's glossy black bezel.
The whole look is finished off with a sexy easel stand. This holds the TV aloft by a couple of centimetres, which gives the impression that it's floating above the two stems of the stand. The set is free to swivel horizontally, and you can also choose to either mount it on the stand perfectly upright or with a slight backwards tilt of 6 degrees.
The 32HX753 is far from the slimmest 32-inch TV I've seen, coming in at a chunky 59mm deep. At least Sony has used this extra girth to add full-sized Scart and component inputs on the rear. It's worth noting that these point directly out of the back of the chassis, so this may be an issue if you're mounting the TV on the wall.
By contrast, the four HDMI ports are divided evenly between a downward-facing panel on the rear and another panel on the left-hand edge of the set. The TV naturally sports an Ethernet port for its online features and Wi-Fi is built in too, giving you the option of going cable-free. Other connections include a VGA input, composite input and two USB ports.
You get a pair of analogue phono outputs and an optical digital audio out for audio, so you can feed sound from the on-board Freeview HD tuner to an external amp. In short, pretty much all connectivity bases are covered.
Apps and video playback
Sony was one of the first companies to really get to grips with what people wanted from smart TV services -- access to more video content, not a bunch of rubbish novelty applications that you try once and then never return to. Thankfully, the same is true here, with the SEN service giving you access to a broad range of premium video content.
Along with the BBC iPlayer app, you'll find apps for both themovie subscription services, as well as Channel 5's Demand 5 catch-up offering. Naturally, YouTube is included and there's also Sky News, the free Crackle movie and TV service and the Muzu.tv music video streaming site.
The television also has widgets for Facebook and Twitter that allow you to view tweets and updates in a bar on the right-hand side of the screen when you're watching a TV show or movie. All in all, SEN is one of the better smart TV platforms that you'll find on today's Internet-connected sets.