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Sony Bravia KDL-40W4000 review: Sony Bravia KDL-40W4000

The Sony Bravia KDL-40W4000 is a 40-inch 1080p LCD stuffed to the brim with picture processing and features designed to make your viewing experience better. A new interface is designed to make setting the TV up and using it much easier, and there's an interesting new style from Sony

Ian Morris

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5 min read

If you want a large-screen 1080p LCD, you've almost certainly considered a Sony Bravia. We think it's pretty fair to say that Sony has a place in our hearts, and generally speaking you know that you're going to be happy with what you buy from the Japanese giant. The Sony Bravia 40W4000 should be no exception.

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8.3

Sony Bravia KDL-40W4000

The Good

Picture and sound quality; ease of use; menu system.

The Bad

Design is rather random; could have more HDMI inputs at the back; backlight is too bright.

The Bottom Line

A great TV from Sony. We wouldn't say it's the best-looking piece of kit we've ever seen, but the picture is brilliant and the sound is impressive too

This 40-inch LCD is stuffed to the brim with picture processing and features designed to make your viewing experience better. A new interface is designed to make setting the TV up and using it much easier, and there's an interesting new style from Sony. The KDL-40W4000 is available now for around £850 online.

Design
At first the W4000 just looks like a normal black TV, until you inspect the case a little more carefully. You'll discover that there are little sparkly flecks dotted about, giving the TV a very strange glint from time to time. There's nothing wrong with it, we just weren't expecting it.

You'll also notice that there's a clear plastic strip at the bottom of the screen. This reminds us of this TV's older brother, the Bravia KDL-40X3500. On this TV it doesn't work as well, and feels out of place among the black plastic. There's also the glowing Sony logo present too, but that's easy to turn off via the menus if you don't like it.

At the bottom of the TV are the speakers, concealed in a diminutive housing that suggests they might not be very powerful -- in fact, they're very good. It's heartening to see speakers on the front of a TV, as too many companies try to conceal them, and that's bad news for sound quality.

If you want to control the Sony without the remote, there are some buttons located on the top of the TV for doing so. We're pleased that the ludicrous days of not putting controls on the TV itself are over.

On the back you'll find the usual array of inputs, such as VGA, component, a pair of Scarts and two HDMI inputs. Don't worry, there's a third HDMI on the side of the TV, along with a USB, composite and S-Video connectors.

The TV is supplied with a swivel stand, but if wall-mounting is your bag, you can opt to buy a kit to chuck it on a suitably strong wall.

Features
No high-end TV would be complete without a certain set of features, and Sony knows that, so the 40W4000 has plenty to shout about.

Firstly, there's the now ubiquitous 1080p/24 support, which is the best possible way to watch Blu-ray movies, because it matches perfectly the video stored on the disc. It also means you'll get smooth motion, which is important for movies.

Sony's x.v.colour support is also present and correct, the aim of which is to produce the widest possible range of on-screen colour. Again, this is great for Blu-ray movies, but DVDs and broadcast TV don't support it, generally speaking.

There's also a new feature being introduced on all new Sony TVs, known as the XrossMediaBar or XMB for short, which is similar to the interface of the same name on the PlayStation 3. Aside from having one of the ugliest and over-the-top names we've ever seen, it's actually a handy little feature designed to make navigating around the TV's inputs and setting menus a little less painful. To activate it, you press the 'home' button on the remote control and a graphical display is laid over what you're watching. From there you select what you want to watch, from a 'stack' of inputs. When you're watching Freeview, it lists all the available channels too, which is really handy. Thankfully the XMB is fast to respond to remote commands, which makes using it a pleasure.

If you have plenty of equipment connected via HDMI, you'll possibly be interested in the Bravialink functionality, which enables you to control AV equipment via your TV remote control. This is especially handy for surround-sound receivers, because the Sony allows you to turn off the internal speakers and use the remote to control the amp. This is great for cutting down on the ludicrous number of remotes in the average house.


Performance
Setup is simple with the 40W4000, and throughout our time with it we were impressed by the quality of the menu system, which is well designed and incredibly responsive.

Despite its ludicrous name, the XMB is actually quite helpful. It's context-sensitive, so it offers you options relevant to the sort of material you're watching. It's also graphically rich, and the sort of thing we've been hoping for on modern TVs for some time now.

In terms of picture quality, we have to say we were impressed. There was something we didn't like about Sony's X3500, but the W4000 seems to be far more competent. Movies such as Rollerball on Blu-ray contained a truly staggering amount of detail, and the colours were bold, without overdoing it.

Upscaled DVDs, including our trusty Jurassic Park test disc, looked very impressive indeed. You certainly wouldn't dread falling back to standard definition even if you're a Blu-ray nut, because the TV does an excellent job with most movies. Of course, films look best when they're encoded at high bit rates, so the source material is critical here.

Freeview too managed to look pretty decent. We watched a worrying amount of Jeremy Kyle, and the over-done lipstick on the hapless losers, sorry, participants looked exactly as it would if you bumped into them in the dole queue. We never felt the TV was giving it anything less than 100 per cent, and that makes all the difference with Freeview.

We want to specifically mention the sound system too. We pushed it to the top end on 4Music, and were impressed to hear no distortion or unpleasant rattling at any time, even when there was bass-heavy dance music playing. Indeed, we were even able to knock the bass up a couple of notches, with no ill effects.

If we had to criticise the 40W4000 for anything it would have to be the backlight. We've said before that Sony seems to have its minimum brightness setting much higher than anyone else's. We'd like to see the minimum setting a little bit darker, because there were times when it was just too high, even though we had it set to zero.

Conclusion
A good all-round set. We aren't crazy about the design, but it's not offensive in any way, and the picture and sound quality both make up for it anyway. Generally, this is a strong performer when it comes to HD material, and using it is pretty pleasant too, with special mention to the XMB menu bar.

For competition, take a look at Toshiba's picture-frame Regza 40ZF355D or the excellent Panasonic Viera TH-46PZ85, both of which offer amazing 1080p performance, with the Panasonic offering superb blacks and the Toshiba specialising in very natural motion.

Edited by Nick Hide