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Sony Bravia KDL40NX700 review: Sony Bravia KDL40NX700

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We began our testing with a battery of synthetic tests via our HQV Blu-ray disc and it passed everything bar our Film Mode (24p) benchmark. This should mean motion isn't quite as smooth when playing movie content from Blu-ray.

To test this we stuck the old chestnut Mission Impossible III into a Toshiba BDX2000 Blu-ray player and watched from the beginning of Chapter 11 — the "bridge scene". This lack of fluidity was evident as the camera tracks the convoy across the bridge at the beginning of the scene — a bit more judder here than we're used to. However, other video flaws such as noise, moire and blurring were not to be seen. In fact, colour, detail and black levels were some of the best we've seen from an LCD in a long time. This is a real return to form for Sony, which launched its first Bravia line with the claim it was "the best TV in the world". We won't make that same statement here, but the NX700 is indeed very good.

However, while most 1080p televisions are great with native content such as Blu-ray they can struggle with lower resolution stuff. No such problems with the Sony. The TV's high contrast levels helped give DVDs an almost 3D-like depth — without the glasses. It's able to reproduce colours faithfully with a minimum of noise and no judder whatsoever. In fact, its abilities with DVD almost surpass those of Blu-ray.

Sound quality is another positive aspect of this television's performance. Dialogue in particular is natural and a lack of extraneous mid-range noise renders voices with an intimacy that Sony's rivals cannot muster. It perhaps didn't have the low-end bluster of other sets with dedicated speakers, but if you're looking for detail we'd suggest getting the optional stand — it channels the downward-firing speakers into your ears for better sound.

The menu uses Sony's well-worn Xross Media Bar (XMB) to good effect, with a number of different functions tied together conveniently into a "one-stop shop". For example, we appreciated the ability to access internet functions from the XMB. It's as easy to browse YouTube as it is to view One HD. On a related note, we were impressed by the TV's ability to perform sophisticated overlay effects when engaging certain functions: both the XMB and the Favourites shortcut presented full-colour information on-screen without interrupting program material.

Last month, Sony announced a partnership with Yahoo7 which means access to "on-demand" content from Channel 7, but at the time of writing this it wasn't up and running. Instead we watched some of the selection of content on offer from YouTube and partners such as Wired and Ford Models. There aren't any "linear channels" as such yet, only short videos, but the quality was acceptable. It took a while for the TV to download the available channels — over five minutes — but after that the process was smooth.

If you're not ready for internet channels and you want to "kick it old school" then you'll be gratified to know the television has a high quality tuner on-board. Pictures showed good detail, and the unit has the best EPG we've seen. It features a clean layout with live Picture-in-Picture (PIP). The aforementioned Favourites button is awesome with cute icons, and it lets you store not only your favourite channels but inputs and IPTV channels as well.

We found our experience with the Sony to be a highly positive one, but there were a couple of things that prevented it from getting a higher score. Firstly, the screen uses a high-contrast filter which helps to boost black levels, but as a result it is also quite reflective. On dark scenes you may want to bring the house lights down or risk watching yourself floating over the proceedings like a sedentary ghost. There was also some small "backlight clouding" issues in one corner of the television which was only noticeable on a dark screen. To this end, the off-axis will never be as good as a plasma, with some loss of contrast off-axis though which is not too bad.

Widgets were also a disappointment — they were slow, slow, slow, and this extended to every part of the experience, including the on-screen keyboard. We did try tweeting from the TV but found it was a horrifying experience. Give us large-screen video experiences such as YouTube and catch-up TV and leave tweeting and Facebook to portable devices we say.

Conclusion

With looks and performance to die for we think that Sony has shown it's capable of stepping back a bit and coming up with a killer television without too much extraneous gumpf. By choosing to add features such as IPTV, DLNA streaming and widgets the company has hack-sawed a hole in our lounge room wall that will eventually let in the future.

The Bravia NX700 is available in two panel sizes: the 46-inch model is AU$3699 RRP and the 40-inch model is priced at AU$2999. The stand shown here in the image gallery will cost a further AU$250-350, depending on the size required.

Its companion Bravia NX800, is essentially the same unit, with the exception that it has 200Hz MotionFlow technology on-board, whereas the NX700 has 100Hz MotionFlow. The NX800 is offered in two larger screen sizes — 52 inches (AU$4999) and 60 inches (AU$6999).

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