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With eco-friendliness all the rage at present, now seems the perfect time for Sony to launch its first determinedly 'green' TV, the 40-inch Bravia KDL-40WE5. Unlike numerous supposedly eco-friendly rivals, the £1,000 40WE5 does much more than merely pay lip service to the idea that you can save the planet -- and reduce your bills -- while you're watching telly.
The 40WE5 really goes the extra mile in its efforts to reduce power consumption. Particularly innovative is its use of a new backlight system, which replaces the usual cold cathode fluorescent lamp with a hot one. It's chiefly thanks to this, we suspect, that we found the 40WE5 regularly running at under 100W -- less than half the energy consumed by an average 40-inch TV.
Also breaking new green ground is the 40WE5's 'presence sensor'. This looks for motion and body heat in your room, and, if it doesn't detect any, turns off the screen to save energy, keeping just the audio running. The system works better than you might expect.
The 40WE5 also sports other eco-friendly features of the sort now common on most flat TVs, such as an 'eco' preset that optimises the picture settings for power efficiency, and a light sensor system that adjusts the image's brightness depending on ambient light levels. But it's the hot-cathode-fluorescent-lamp backlight and presence sensor that really help the 40WE5 stand out from the tree-hugging pack.
The 40WE5 houses its planet-saving talents inside a very attractive chassis that's a distinctive and suitably pure-looking gloss white, rather than the gloomy black still rife in the TV world.
It's a formidably connected beast as well, with four HDMI ports, a USB port for playback of various multimedia file formats (including video), and a DLNA-certified Ethernet jack. The latter can be used to stream files stored on a connected PC, but it also does duty as an online portal, allowing you to access Sony's AppliCast online services.
As exciting as this sounds though, the reality of AppliCast is rather disappointing. There's much less content available than you get with the online TV systems now offered by Philips, Panasonic and Samsung.
When it comes to picture quality, the 40WE5 is pitched at the same high level as Sony's Bravia KDL-40W5500, meaning that it boasts, among other things, a 1080p resolution, a claimed contrast ratio of 100,000:1, Sony's latest multi-faceted Bravia Engine 3 video-processing system, and Motionflow 100Hz for improving motion clarity.
As you'd expect, this fine collection of specifications translates into really lovely images. Particularly striking, considering the TV's low running power, is how dynamic images look, with some of the LCD world's deepest black levels sitting right alongside bright, dynamic colours as if this were the easiest thing in the world to achieve.
The 40WE5 also excels at reproducing the detail and sharpness that makes high-definition material so lovable, and it does so without exaggerating or inserting such noise as grain and dot crawl.
Thanks to the Bravia Engine 3, the 40WE5 also proves itself unusually handy at upscaling standard-definition pictures to fill the screen's 1080p resolution, adding sharpness and keeping source noise reasonably well suppressed.
The Motionflow 100Hz system ensures that the sharpness remains intact even when the picture is full of movement. It achieves this motion clarity without generating many distracting side effects. Overall, the 40WE5's pictures are among the very best we've seen from LCD technology.
That's not to say they're perfect, though. Most unfortunately, colour saturation and contrast reduce if you have to watch the screen from much of an angle. Also a pity, given the set's green credentials, is the fact that the eco preset leaves images looking slightly too dull.
Despite the troublesome eco preset, the Sony Bravia KDL-40WE5's other impressive energy-related innovations keep the green flag flying high. What's more, these innovations have been implemented while maintaining generally outstanding AV performance. All of this might make the 40WE5's slightly inflated price tag easier to swallow for folk who want to have a clearer conscience while they watch EastEnders -- especially if the low energy consumption also happens to knock chunks off their electricity bills over the years ahead.
Edited by Charles Kloet