Sony KDL-40NX713 £1000
3rd Feb 2011 | 09:02
Sony's 40" network TV range aims to be all things to all viewers
Sony KDL-40NX713 review: Overview
Step up from Sony's mainstream EX TV range and you'll find the first of its 3D designer models. The NX Network sets combine advanced multimedia capability with premium picture performance and Sony's trademark Monolithic Design.
NX models come in a variety of sizes, from 32- to 55-inch; confusingly, there are no fewer than four 40-inch models (the NX803, 703, 503 and the 713 reviewed here) on offer. All you need to know is that this is the one to aim for, because it alone has Dynamic Edge LED backlighting (as opposed to regular edge LED) and MotionFlow 100 Pro processing.
Anyone who's been shortlisting a new flatscreen recently will know that there's no shortage of LED TVs available, but not all are created equal. The LED iteration here is prefixed Dynamic because it offers a semblance of local dimming. Sony, rather inventively, says that it offers "GigaContrast" for the whitest whites and blackest blacks as a result.
Sony KDL-40NX713 review: Features
The 40NX713 is 3D-capable via an optional upgrade, which means that you'll also need to invest in the brand's TDG-BR100B Active Shutter glasses (a not inconsiderable £99 each) and the TMR-BR100 3D transmitter (around £50). The latter plugs into the rear of the TV.
As befits the screen's networking nomenclature, Wi-Fi is built in. This is undoubtedly helpful if you don't have a wired connection to your viewing room. Connectivity is standard for a telly of this size. There's a Scart input (via adaptor) for your older kit (good news for those still using a VCR), plus four HDMIs (one of which is side mounted).
It's worth noting that the rear inputs are side mounted into a slim recess, which rules out the most heavily insulated HDMI cables.
There are also component and composite video jacks, stereo audio phonos and a D-Sub 15-pin PC input. Providing an outward-bound audio feed is a digital audio optical port. Other sundries include a USB port for local media playback, an Ethernet connector a headphone jack and an interface for a Conditional Access Module (CAM) for pay TV.
Despite representing Sony's Networking range, the TVs media streaming feature rather flounders. It seems to recognise and stream only AVCHD files, although it will play MP3s across a network. Even better, it reads and displays cover art as well.
Media file support from USB is better: the 40NX713 plays AVIs (with subtitle support) and MPEG4 files, but not, apparently, MKVs.
Other niceties on the NX713 include a Picture Frame mode that can even read GPS location data. An insert graphic from Google maps pops up to reveal where snaps were taken.
IPTV content is rapidly becoming a must-have feature on any respectable TV. The good news is that Sony offers a wide range of extra content via its Bravia Internet Video portal, as well as apps.
From the set's XMB you can browse the BBC iPlayer and Demand 5, catch up on Sky News, or watch skateboarding kittens on YouTube and Daily Motion. There's also streaming video via LoveFilm and pay-per-view (PPV) movies from Sony's new Qriocity video streaming service.
Need more? The BIV portal has a growing range of more esoteric, dedicated services including Blip TV, Ford Models, the Howcast network, Ustudio, Livestrong, Golf Link and Singing Fool.
The NX713 also offers widgets (of a sort), a consequence of Sony's short-lived dalliance with Yahoo. Sony has now moved from this relationship, leaving this particular widget Gallery high and dry. Just as well, since they're slow to load and you can only run a handful before running out of memory.
Compared to the extensive apps program run by Samsung, these are a non-responsive waste of time.
Sony KDL-40NX713 review: Ease of use
Once the stand is assembled – a pleasingly swift job that involves a single screw into a cylindrical base bracket, upon which the TV sits snugly, with a second screw to anchor – navigating to the auto-tune setup menu is a doddle.
It's at this point that you'll probably notice the set's only real oddity. The remote control has a single, solitary Power On/Off button on its rear. Quite why any remote zapper needs a secondary power button on its reverse side is a mystery.
The XMB interface will be familiar to anyone who has purchased a Sony-branded vision product over the past few years. First seen on the PS3, it's now spread virus-like across the brand's products. This is all well and good, as it's easy to master.
However it does become a tad confusing when you hook the TV up to a Sony Blu-ray player, AV receiver or PS3. It's often difficult to tell exactly what product's UI you're looking at. Beneath the hood, the screen is both simple and sophisticated.
There are only three picture presets (Standard, Custom and Vivid). Yet dig into the setup menus and you'll find far more than the basics.
There's a backlight Control slider, two flavours of adjustable noise reduction and variable MotionFlow options (Off, Smooth, Standard, Clear and Clear Plus), designed to prevent motion blur. It's worth noting that Sony rates power consumption as 142w when the screen is in Vivid mode, but only 97w when in the Standard setting.
The set's programme listing is easy to navigate and features a live video window.
Sony KDL-40NX713 review: Performance
The NX713 proves to be a demon on the test bench, acing trial after trial. Motion picture resolution is outstanding, and depending on the severity of MotionFlow picture processing selected, it's possible to preserve clarity right up to 1,080 lines.
To hit these giddy heights, select either the Clear or Clear Plus modes (the latter robs the screen of some brightness). Despite this amazing detail retention, there are only slight predictive motion artefacts around moving objects, which in most cases will go unnoticed.
Thankfully, it's not necessary to delve into the XMB to adjust the MotionFlow frame-rate settings, you can use the Option button on the remote; however, if you're using the screen with a Sony Blu-ray player you'll need to disable the CEC HDMI control, else the Option panel for the BD player will appear, rather than the one for the TV.
One challenging test, featuring scrolling English and Japanese text, was brushed aside by the panel. At 100, 50 and 30 per cent luminance the moving characters remain perfectly legible with no smudging.
This TV is also exceptionally smooth when it comes to pans. There's precious little cinematic judder, even with all the picture processing gubbins turned off; an artful sequence from Disney's Sleeping Beauty (Blu-ray) wherein Prince Charming canters behind a rocky outcrop, passes smoothly without incident or artefact.
Engage MotionFlow and scrolling sequences are as smooth as can be, without so much of a smudge of halo artefacts.
Another big surprise is just how good this set is when viewed off axis. Even at an extreme angle, there's no massive fall-off in colour or contrast. Indeed, the NX713 behaves much like an IPS (In Plane Switching) LCD screen.
Naturally, the set has a Freeview HD tuner. This means subscription free high definition from BBC One HD, BBC HD, ITV 1 HD and C4HD is only ever a click away.
While Freeview HD channels don't tend to stand comparison with Blu-ray, they are nonetheless free from the kind of macro-blocking and fuzz that makes standard Freeview look so rank. An HD transmission of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones is wonderfully detailed.
On the debit side, the edge LED backlight is not particularly even, although there are plenty of worse examples on the market. Under most circumstances this flaw isn't particularly noticeable, but play a movie in letterbox format or catch a slow fade to black and you'll notice light pooling from the corners.
The image presented here reveals just how uneven the backlight is, although taken with a slow shutter it does tend to emphasise the problem.
Black levels and contrast, meanwhile, can be considered above average. So what's the 40NX713 like in 3D? The screen offers a couple of 3D adjustment controls. You can alter the brightness of the Active Shutter glasses, from Auto to High or Medium. There's also a depth adjustment tool, which has two plus or minus increments, either side of the default.
Rather unhelpfully, when you elect to adjust this setting 50 per cent of the screen remains obscured by the menu, so you can't really see what you're doing.
Unfortunately, none of the controls will help you dial crosstalk out of a 3D image. In the TV's default 3D setting, the church steeple at the beginning of Monsters vs Aliens has clear secondary spires.
This image overlap can be fixed by adjusting for negative parallax using the Depth Adjustment tool, but then everything in zero or parallel parallax is thrown out of whack. Crosstalk remains an issue, regardless of how you tinker.
On the sublime Blu-ray promotional edition of Avatar, double imaging effects are far less prevalent. They're there if you look for them, just not so intrusive. Of course, with precious little 3D content available, you might well be tempted to play with the set's real-time 2D to 3D converter.
This takes any flat source, from over the air TV to discs and games, and dimensionalises it. The TV offers variable levels of simulated 3D depth, but even on the High setting you're unlikely to be impressed.
Sony's 3D Active Shutter glasses are nicely designed and relatively comfortable (in an uncomfortable kind of way).Spectacle wearers will find them a tight fit, though.
Sony KDL-40NX713 review: Sound and value
The 40NX713's audio performance is serviceable but thin, and stereo imaging is cramped, if not entirely monophonic. This is not surprising for such a slim TV design.
Providing modest welly is a diminutive S-Force digital amplifier with a claimed 26w total output (this is derived from a 2 x 8w stereo output, plus a 10w subwoofer). Given that there's no real bass coming from the set, the term 'subwoofer' is a bit of a misnomer: it's more of a mid-bass plumper.
For those that want to experiment, there is a selection of DSP modes: Cinema, Music, Live, Sports and Game.
Ultimately, it's well worth augmenting the set with a separate sound solution when circumstances allow.
When all's said and done, the 40NX713 is an outstanding flatscreen TV. Given that it's widely available for less than a grand, it can be considered rather good value for buyers seeking an above average 2D Full HD performer.
In many ways, the 3D element appears to be an afterthought. Having to add an external sync transmitter seems awkward at best. With the best 3D content available, the set offers tangible depth, but the bugbear of crosstalk is always there if you look for it. You should regard the 3D component as a bit of fun, no more or less.
The only significant negative in terms of picture performance is the uneven backlight, but then this has to be traded against the ultra-thin cosmetics. If it bothers you, perhaps you shouldn't be looking at edge-lit LED as a screen technology.
Ultimately, we would rate the KDL-40NX713 as a great Full HD picture performer.
Sony KDL-40NX713 review: Verdict
Sony has an exhaustive range of flatscreen TVs, but you need to look up the range to find the best performers. It's here you'll find the KDL-NX713.
What is really impressive about this screen is the clarity and the outstanding motion resolution of its images. This 40-incher offers first division picture processing. Pictures from Blu-ray are sensational and the HD channels offered by the Freeview HD are sharp and shiny.
Across the board there's massive detail and precious few blurring artefacts. This makes the screen great for sport, video games and action movies.
Sony is setting the standard in the IPTV content market. Its Bravia Internet Video portal has all the key attractions you'll want for bonus telly, while Qriocity and Lovefilm offer a wide range of premium PPV streaming movies.
Oddly, where the set stumbles is with network support (ostensibly the raison d'etre for the range). Video file support across a LAN is poor, and is far from comprehensive even when you pull content from USB media.
The clarity of the 40NX713's HD images, and its superb moving picture resolution, blew us away. We were pleased with the extensive content offered through its proprietary Bravia Internet Video portal, as well as the integrated Wi-Fi and the stylish overall design
The clumsy nature of the optional bolt-on 3D sync transmitter is bit of a shame, as are the crosstalk effects prevalent on 3D content. Inadequate file support across a network and the lack of MKV support from USB also let us down.
This designer set is a top-flight picture performer and looks fabulous with Blu-ray. As a 3D proposition it has flaws, principally because you'll need to invest more cash to obtain the required accoutrements. But overall, the TV gets two thumbs up.