Mid-range marvel

Sony continues its 3D resurrection with its latest 40in TV, says John Archer

Sony’s EX723 series turned out to be some of the worst 3D performers we’ve seen, but subsequent 3D models have upped the brand’s game. On paper at least, this set looks equipped to do the business. It carries MotionFlow XR 400 processing; a system that combines the detail boosting, noise-reducing qualities of Sony’s new X-Reality picture engine with a 400Hz effect to hopefully kick crosstalk into touch.

It looks quite pleasant, but the build quality feels more plasticky and lightweight than it should on a fairly high-end TV. The black bezel protrudes on three sides, offset by a metallic-looking silver bottom edge. The 40HX723’s 3D system is the active, full HD one, with the transmitter built into the set. Sadly, no 3D glasses are included, even for the steep asking price.

Generous connections deliver highlights of four HDMIs, a LAN port, and two USB ports. The latter can be used for recording from the built-in Freeview HD tuner, for playing back a decent selection of photo, music and video multimedia file formats, or for enabling the TV for wi-fi via an optional dongle (which should have been included for free for the price).

Streaming supremo

The LAN port provides a portal to a treasure trove of goodies, streaming in files from a networked DLNA- enabled PC, or getting you online with Sony’s Bravia Internet Video (BIV) service, which remains my favourite because it delivers so much streamed video. Highlights include: the BBC iPlayer; the Demand 5 catch-up service; a Sky News headline feed; YouTube; LOVEFiLM, a Sony classic TV series library and the brand’s latest Qriocity videoand music subscription services. If you’re brave enough to explore the 40HX723’s torturous menus, you’ll find a solid set of picture adjustments. Worth trying are the various settings for the MotionFlow system, multiple gamma presets, and a ‘Smooth Gradation’ mode that claims to deliver 14-bit colour blends.

Donning a pair of Sony’s optional glasses, I braced myself for a crosstalk-fuelled 3D nightmare... but that’s not at all what I got. In fact, tricky bright 3D scenes like the Golden Gate Bridge sequence in Monsters Vs Aliens hardly betray any crosstalk. There’s still a trace of it during dark scenes, but it’s low level for the most part.

Blu-ray pictures look sharp and detailed too, delivering on active 3D’s full HD promise, and while Sony’s active shutter glasses drain the brightness out of 3D images, the 40HX723’s edge LED lighting system compensates well enough to leave them looking decently dynamic.

When it comes to 2D, the 40HX723 is one of Sony’s best LCD TVs yet. Particularly impressive is its portrayal of dark scenes, thanks to a startlingly inky black level response and (provided you tone down the set’s backlight/brightness settings) relatively little trouble from inconsistent backlight levels. Colours are pure, natural and subtle, and 2D pictures look bright and punchy.

As well as helping to reduce 3D crosstalk, meanwhile, the ‘400Hz’ motion engine keeps a lid on general blur and judder. And provided you’re careful with the MotionFlow options, it does so without causing the picture to look over processed.

Hi-def 2D material is superbly crisp and detailed, and even upscaled SD pictures look excellent thanks to Sony’s X-Reality Pro engine. Gamers will be impressed by the contrast and sharpness, but also by the respectable 40ms of input lag using the set’s Game preset. Add some respectable audio to the 40HX723’s potent performance mix, and you’ve got an A-list TV.

HCC VERDICT

Highs: Mostly very good 3D pictures; excellent 2D pictures; Sony’s BIV online system is superb
Lows: Residual 3D crosstalk in dark scenes; more than a little overpriced
Performance: 5/5
Design: 3/5
Features: 5/5
Overall: 4/5

Specifications

3D: YES, Active shutter
Full HD: YES including 1080p24
Tuner: YES Freeview HD
Component video: YES one input (rear)
HDMI/DVI : YES four, v1.4
PC input: YES one D-Sub
Resolution: 1920x1080
Sound: 3x10w
Brightness (claimed): N/A;
Contrast ratio (claimed): ‘Mega’
Dimensions (off stand): 943(w) x 586(h) x 42(d)mm
Weight: 11.6kg
Other features: MotionFlow XR 400 processing; USB media playback; gamma management; noise reduction processing; white balance adjustment; gamma controls; Bravia Internet Video online functionality; DLNA streaming support; Track ID