As with a lot of today's high-end sets, this one records shows directly from its Freeview HD tuner to USB drives. It's worth noting, the drive has to be at least 32GB in size. And as there's just one tuner, you can only record a single channel at a time.
Where the set really impresses is its range of online video services. Open the SEN menu and you'll find apps for a whole host of premium services including iPlayer, Netflix, Lovefilm, Demand 5, YouTube, Crackle, Muzu.tv and Sky News. Naturally, Facebook and Twitter are also supported as well as information services such as AccuWeather. It's up there with the best online offerings you'll find on today's top smart TVs.
The clever thing about the 40HX853's stand is it includes an extra sound system. This connects back to the TV via a short cable. The stand includes two front-facing speakers that produce cleaner and crisper audio than the down-firing ones that are built into most of today's flat-panel TVs. The difference really is very noticeable and the stand's sound system even manages to do a pretty good job when tasked with delivering bass frequencies, adding extra punch to movie soundtracks and music videos.
One caveat -- if you choose to mount the TV on the wall instead of using the stand, it switches back to the speakers built into the TV chassis, which don't sound anywhere near as good.
2D picture quality
Rather than using direct LED backlighting, Sony has opted for an edge-mounted LED system that can be locally dimmed to produce deeper black levels. Edge dimming isn't always that effective in my experience, but the system that Sony has developed is first class. It generates astoundingly deep blacks without leaving you with lots of areas of clouding or blocking on the display.
You can see a tiny amount of blocking creep in now and again, but that's only really when you have a very bright area of the picture next to a dark area. In fact, the backlighting is remarkably consistent across the display -- something most other LED models struggle with.
Contrast performance is first class too, helping to give movies that cinematic sense of depth and finesse. It handles subtle shadow detail with aplomb. Colours are richly nuanced and the set's high brightness levels add punch to pictures. It upscales standard-definition channels or DVDs sympathetically, and HD feeds are just about as sharp as you're likely to see on a 40-inch TV. All LED screen have inherent motion blur when motion processing is turned off, but with its Clear or Clear Plus settings, this model handles motion superbly well.
There are a couple of negative points. As with pretty much all of Sony's recent TVs, viewing angles aren't as wide as competing models from the likes of LG and Panasonic. Venture too far off axis from the centre and you'll notice colours and contrast shift quite a bit. Also, the Gorilla Glass used on the front of the panel is more reflective than some rival LED models, although no more so than today's high-end plasmas.
3D picture quality
In the past, some of Sony's TVs have struggled with cross-talk -- or ghost images -- when showing 3D pictures. Cross-talk is often a by-product of slow LED panels, but as the 40HX853 uses a 200Hz panel with added backlight blinking to up the rate to 800Hz, I was hoping cross-talk wouldn't be an issue.
Thankfully, it's not, as the set is virtually cross-talk free. In fact, 3D images look solid and create an impressive sense of depth. Sony's X-Reality Pro 3D processing seems to help, sharpening up both foreground and background objects to improve 3D clarity.
Unfortunately, Sony doesn't include glasses with the set, so you'll have to buy them separately. They'll set you back around £30 each if you purchase them online. The specs are quite big and chunky, so they're not hugely comfortable to wear. They uses IR rather than Bluetooth to sync with the TV, so if you tilt your head they lose sync. You can't really lie on a sofa while watching a 3D movie.
The 40HX853 is every bit as good as its larger sibling. It has the same stunning picture quality across both 2D and 3D, superb sound from the audio system built into its stand and great support for online TV services.
Not everyone will be sold on the design and its support for digital media playback needs improvement, but as an overall package, this is another stunning TV from Sony. Before you get your plastic out, also check out these excellent, similarly sized screens -- Panasonic's TX-P42ST50B, TX-P42GT50B and .