Sony Bravia KDL42W705 review: Great picture quality makes this mid-range TV stand out from the crowd

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4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Thanks to its deep black levels and accurate colours, the Sony KDL-42W705 produces startlingly good picture quality for the price. It also has strong sound, a relatively easy to use menu system and a good lineup of ports.

The Bad This TV can sometimes be quite slow to start up and its smart TV system isn't as good as Samsung's. Also, Sony's better specified KDL-42W829 doesn't cost much more.

The Bottom Line Despite its very reasonable price, the KDL-42W705 produces extremely good pictures thanks to its accurate colours, deep black levels and strong handling of shadow detail. It lacks the 42W829's superior motion processing and 3D support, but if your budget doesn't stretch that far you won't be disappointed with the 42W705.

8.1 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 6.9
  • Performance 8.1
  • Value 8.6

Sony's new strategy for TVs may be to concentrate on the higher end of the market, but that doesn't mean that its latest sets are unaffordable for those who don't have MD or CEO in their job title. That's certainly true of the 42W705 that I'm looking at here, which you can buy online for around £550.

TV guide

For this year's TVs, Sony has created a new menu system that streamlines navigation by separating different categories of content into a series of pages that you scroll back and forth through. In this regard it's similar to Samsung's smart TV system, although Samsung's interface is slicker and nicer to look at due to its more appealing use of colour. The pages presented here cover everything from recommendations for TV shows to watch through to Sony's Video Unlimited movie streaming service and the TV's settings menu.

Tweaking picture or audio settings on this model is relatively straightforward. It doesn't offer a colour management system, so instead you're left to play with the usual colour, contrast and brightness controls. It does, however, offer fine levels of control over the processing options.

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Unlike the guides on Samsung and Panasonic's TVs, Sony's guide doesn't have a video thumbnail window. Niall Magennis/CNET

This model actually has two TV guides onboard. Alongside the standard Freeview guide there's an Internet-enabled guide that's able to pull up more information on shows and movies, including data on directors and actors. Even if you've got fast broadband, however, this guide is slow to populate and as a result a tad tiresome to use.

Luckily the standard Freeview guide is much faster. It opens in the blink of an eye and makes it speedy to move between channels and upcoming shows. It lacks a video window though, which is a downer, but at least audio keeps running in the background when you've got the guide open, so you don't totally lose track of the show you were watching.

What's not impressive though, is the fact that the TV takes a long time to start responding to the remote control when you turn it on after a long period in standby. Often this phase can last for over 30 seconds, which can feel like an eternity if you get home and want to quickly flick to a specific HDMI input to watch the footy on Sky.

Design and connections

From the front, the W705 looks pretty traditional. The black bezel around the screen is supremely slim, measuring just over 1cm thick at the top and sides, even though it does thicken out at the bottom where you'll also find the Sony logo along with the white LED power light. Thankfully you can control the latter via the settings menu to turn it off or set it up so it only flashes when it receives a signal from the remote.

Around the back the design breaks from the norm. Although the top half of the chassis is quite slim, the bottom part that houses most of the electronics and the speakers sticks out by a full 6cm. Also, the power supply isn't integrated into the TV. Instead it's a large external unit so it may cause some issues if you're planning on wall mounting the TV.

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The set has four HDMI ports -- three on the rear and one on the side. Niall Magennis/CNET

Connectivity is still good though, as Sony has packed in four HDMI ports. Three of these are mounted on the rear, while you'll find another one on a panel on the left hand side. The set also has two USB ports, a full-sized Scart socket and a set of component inputs. The Wi-Fi chip supports Miracast too, allowing you to mirror compatible Android handsets or tablets to the TV.

As with most of the other TVs in Sony's current lineup, this model has a satellite tuner sitting alongside the Freeview HD tuner. The satellite tuner isn't Freesat compatible though, so it isn't much use in the UK unless you want to view foreign channels. This is because it tunes UK channels in a jumbled order and the EPG only shows now and next information.

Smart TV

Another year, another new design for Sony's smart TV system. This time around it's aping Samsung's approach, with content laid out across different pages that you swipe through. Using these pages you can access everything from on-demand movies via Sony's Video Unlimited service, to photos shared to the TV via a PC, as well as the settings menu and all of the TV's smart apps.

It's easier and faster to use than last year's system and there are some extra elements such as a new Football mode that selects the best audio and video settings for watching football, as well as giving you on-demand access to FIFA's library of vintage games. Also new is the Discovery feature, which like the Football mode, is accessed via a dedicated button on the remote. It overlays a bar at the bottom of the screen that suggests content you might want to watch across a range of platforms including YouTube, iPlayer and Sony's Video Unlimited service.

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