27th Mar 2009 | 00:00
With vast improvements over its predecessor, this is one desirable 40" LCD
Sony's previous TV, the KDL-46W3000, was a serious disappointment, with pictures largely ruined by overt smearing and motion blur. So we can't say we're expecting very much from the new 40in Sony KDL-40W4000.
However, it starts confounding those expectations quickly with a startling new design that combines 'midnight sky' black with polished silver and a clever see-through panel that gives the impression the set is much slimmer than it really is.
It's pretty well connected, too, with three v1.3 HDMIs and a USB input the stars of the show. The latter is particularly intriguing because it's connected to Sony's new Picture Frame system, whereby you can turn the TV into a 40in 'painting' showing a favourite photo or artwork when you're not watching TV. Such digital images are shown in optimised HD form, while using 35 per cent less power than normal.
Another significant 40W4000 feature is its Bravia Engine 2 video processing. This claims considerable improvements over Sony's original processing system with its focus on noise reduction, colour toning, and detailing and will probably provide the direct source of any major picture improvements.
Sony has also tweaked its dynamic contrast system for this set, resulting in a seriously high claimed contrast ratio of 33,000:1.
Other key specifications include a full HD pixel count, both MPEG and standard noise reduction routines, and a special 1080p/24fps mode.
It takes just three nanoseconds watching the 40W4000's pictures to realise that it's not just better than the 46W3000, it's in a whole different league.
For starters, the motion problems of its predecessor are almost entirely dealt with, to the point where movement now looks as good as it possibly ever could on an LCD TV without 100Hz processing.
This new motion sharpness allows us to better appreciate the 40W4000's fine detailing too, as every last pixel in a quality HD transfer is rendered immaculately.
Deep black levels
Also terrific is the 40W4000's black level response. Sony has been making stead improvements in this department with every successive LCD generation, but it's really leapt forward here to the point where dark scenes genuinely look as credible and as rich as they do on many plasma offerings.
Colours, meanwhile, enjoy consistent tones without sacrificing the vibrancy that's long been a Sony LCD trademark. What's more, the new Bravia Engine 2 processing helps colours achieve seemingly immaculate blends, with no striping or patchiness.
There's also practically no video noise aside from a very occasional shimmer over some patches of fine detail, and this applies to standard as well as high definition.
In fact, with the set's sound also outperforming many of Sony's previous flat TV models, it's really hard to find much fault with the 40W4000 at all.