Sony might still be considered one of the world's most trusted brands, but that doesn't alter the fact that the previous Sony TV we tested, the KDL-46W3000, was a bit of a pup. So here's hoping the new KDL-40W4000 - from the range which directly replaces the W3000 - brings some serious improvements to the table.
Aesthetically, at least, it's definitely better. The black - sorry, ‘Midnight Sky' - bezel is pleasingly compact and combines exceptional solidity with a polished finished to deeply attractive effect. The tastefully illuminated Sony logo doesn't do any harm on the prettiness front, either.
But, where the set really stands out, is in the see-through panel that sits between the screen bezel and a burnished metal strip running the full length of the 40W4000's bottom edge. It's difficult to put my finger on exactly why this quite quirky design flourish helps make the set look more attractive, but it certainly does.
Reluctantly dragging our eyes away from the 40W4000's cute front-end to its rear, I found myself just a tad disappointed to find ‘only' three HDMIs. Obviously this will probably be enough to satisfy most users, but it's hard to forget that Samsung's latest A656 models carry four.
At least all three HDMIs are built to the latest v1.3 specification, with Deep Color compatibility and CEC capabilities so that you can operate CEC-compatible sources via the 40W4000's remote control.
Other jacks of interest include a D-SUB (VGA) PC port, a digital audio output, and a USB input. This USB takes on particular significance with the 40W4000 because of its new Picture Frame Mode. This effectively turns your TV into a digital picture frame, where you can leave the set running permanently or for a time period of your choosing with one of your own digital photos on display, or one of six images pre-installed on the TV. These pre-installed images include a Van Gogh painting, a pretty photo of what looks like a Highlands landscape, and a couple of modern art efforts.
Of course, if you think about it, there's no reason why you couldn't also show pictures in this way on other TVs with USB inputs or SD card slots. But to be fair to the 40W4000, it does also feature a PhotoTV HD mode especially designed to optimize digital photos and show them in full HD quality. Plus, rather crucially in these ‘green' times, the Picture Frame mode has been designed to use 35% less power than the TV uses during normal viewing.