Sony's KDL-55HX823 sits towards the top of the Japanese company's current line-up of Bravia TVs and boasts a super-slim chassis,and a bumper array of online features.
Is this enough to justify its asking price of £2,000, especially as no 3D glasses are included as standard?
Sony has recently made some changes to the user interface used on its TVs. It retains much of the feel of the PS3-style menu system of previous models, but there are some welcome changes. For example, when you now press the home button on the remote you'll find that the menus don't completely take over the whole screen.
Instead, the programme or video you were watching is reduced slightly in size and shifted towards the top left-hand corner of the display to make room for a row of icons across the bottom. As you select each of these, a sub-menu of options is listed vertically in a column on the right-hand edge of the display.
It's faster to navigate around than the older system, but still not as welcoming or as immediate to use as the menus on currentand TVs.
If you only want to tweak the picture or audio settings you don't always have to use the main menu. Instead you can just hit the Options button on the remote, which instantly calls up a smaller sub-menu.
The picture menu here gives you plenty of control over stuff like noise reduction, gamma and the backlight, but it's missing the full colour management system that you'll find on high-end sets from other manufacturers.
Naturally this model has a Freeview HD tuner onboard and Sony's electronic programme guide (EPG) is one of the better ones on today's TVs. Its black and white colour scheme isn't exactly inspiring to look at, but the crisp layout and clean font used for showing programming data, combined with its zippy speed, make it a pleasure to use.
You can also record programmes directly to USB keys or hard drives and scheduling recordings using the EPG is straightforward. However, as the TV only has one tuner, you can't record a show while watching another, as you can on most personal video recorders.
Digital media and Internet features
Sony was one of the first manufacturers to get a real handle onand its Bravia Internet Video platform remains strong when it comes to video content. Alongside the usual BBC iPlayer and YouTube offerings, you find the Demand 5 catch-up service, as well as LoveFilm and Sony's own Video Unlimited movie rentals.
It's not quite as strong on the apps front though. You can use Skype if you buy the optional camera and microphone. And there are widgets for Twitter and Facebook that let you show feeds from these social networking services side-by-side with TV shows that you're watching.
However, it lacks the broader range of apps that you now get on Samsung and LG's sets. Sony has added a full Internet browser, but the lack of Adobe Flash support means you can't view videos on some websites.
One cool addition that we like is the TrackID service. If you hear a piece of music that takes your fancy during a TV show or an advert break, but you don't know its name, you can press the TrackID button on the remote and the TV will record a snippet, upload it to an Internet music matching service and then come back with the artist and song title. It works really well and it's a neat feature to have integrated.
As with the majority of Sony's other TVs, this set's support for digital media formats is mixed. It plays JPEG pictures, MP3 music files and Xvid and DivX videos, but it doesn't work with MKV files. This is annoying as MKV is fast becoming one of the most popular file formats for HD video content on the Internet.
Files can be played either locally via USB, or you can stream them across a network from a PC or NAS drive -- it worked fine with our Iomega Home Network drive.
Design and connections
Sony's Monolith design may have a silly name, but there's no denying that it's why this set looks absolutely stunning. The front of the TV is covered in a single sheet of glass that runs from edge to edge, giving it a smooth, seamless look. The super-slim dimensions don't harm its looks either and neither does the thin and elegant pedestal stand that's finished with an attractive brushed metal effect.