After a couple of years of Sony losing its creative flair for making top-notch TVs, the company recently got back on track with the excellent 32HX753 -- it wasn't quite in the same league.. While its follow-up was good -- I reviewed the smaller
Can the larger 40-inch version I'm reviewing here put in a better showing? Certainly, the price is attractive -- it retails for around £800 but you can buy the Sony 40HX753 online from £670.
User interface and EPG
If you've used Sony's PlayStation 3 games console, the menu system on the 40HX753 will be familiar as it uses a tweaked version of the PS3's XrossMediaBar. It's been updated and improved from the system used on last year's models. When you call it up, it no longer takes over the whole screen. There's a video thumbnail window so you don't lose track of what you're watching. Also, the menu bar now runs across the bottom of the screen, with sub-menu options displayed in a vertical column to the right.
It's not quite as intuitive to use as it could be, especially as some of the graphics on the icons don't convey their function particularly well, and the navigation can be fussy, but you do get used to it over time. At least Sony has redesigned the menu for the smart TV services and the result is a big improvement.
You can jump to the smart functions just by hitting the SEN button on the remote and you'll find all the apps laid out in a fresh, title-type interface. This is split into three sections, with entries for apps, movies and music. The latter two options take you to the latest releases from Sony's Music and Video Unlimited online services, while the apps menu is where you'll find the icons to launch the likes of BBC iPlayer, Demand 5 and Netflix.
The TV's electronic programme guide (EPG) is excellent. There's a video thumbnail windows in the top left-hand corner, with a text summary of the current show displayed next to it. The main guide is laid below this as a traditional horizontal grid and there are plenty of filter options, so you can quickly switch the view to only show sports programmes or upcoming movies.
Design and connections
The 40HX753 is far from the slimmest set on the market and with a chassis that's 59mm deep, it's actually quite chunky compared to LED models from Samsung and LG. While those other manufacturers have lately produced sets with an almost disappeared bezel, it's still quite prominent here, with a fairly thick 26mm frame around the screen.
Despite this, the 40HX753 is pleasing to look at. This is partly due to the simplicity of the design, which resembles a big tablet computer due to the way the black bezel is edged by a chrome strip. It's also because the easel stand looks contemporary. It holds the TV above the surface it's sitting on by a few centimetres making it appear light and airy.
The set's thicker chassis means there's room for full-sized Scart and component inputs behind. As these point out from the rear, they may pose a problem if you're trying to mount the TV on a wall. The two rear-mounted HDMI ports are downward-facing though, and there are another two HDMI ports positioned on a panel on the right of the set. Along with the RF input for the TV's Freeview HD tuner, there are two HDMI ports and S-Video and Ethernet sockets.
As Wi-Fi is built in, you can go wire-free if your router is positioned far from your TV. There's not much more you could ask for on the connections front.
Unfortunately, as with all Sony sets, this one's fussy with digital file playback. The problem is it doesn't natively play Xvid or MKV files -- two formats other manufacturers are supporting on their TVs. You can get around the problem by using Sony's own Homestream server software on your PC, which reformats videos so the TV can play them. That's not much use if you keep your files on a non-PC device, such as a networked hard drive.
On the plus side, the set does have USB recording features, so if you attach a drive to one of the two USB ports, you can record shows directly to disc from its Freeview HD tuner. There are a couple of caveats with this though. You can only record one channel at a time and you can't switch channels once a recording is in progress. Also, you need to use a drive that's at least 32GB in size.
Thankfully, the 40HX753's smart TV features are much more impressive. Hit the SEN button on the remote and you'll find there's a broad range of high-quality services on offer. These include BBC iPlayer, Demand 5 and Sky News. There's Lovefilm and Netflix support too, and you can pay to stream new movie release from Sony's Movies Unlimited service. It all adds up to a pretty satisfying online experience.