Compared with the majority of LCD (as opposed to standard LED) TVs, the 40ZX1 nearly delivers a Recommended standard of performance. But unfortunately it has a pretty troublesome Achilles' heel: motion blur.
Even with the MotionFlow system active on its Standard setting there's clear evidence of smearing and resolution loss over fast moving objects in the picture, especially - though certainly not exclusively - when watching standard definition. As well as being distracting in itself, this dents the image's otherwise excellent HD clarity. Turning MotionFlow to High considerably reduces the motion blurring effect, but also generates the occasional processing twitch, especially during fast camera pans.
Other issues with the TV include a tendency for standard def skin tones to look slightly waxy and standard def pictures generally to look slightly soft - though thankfully also very noiseless. There are also minor traces of light bleed around the screen's extreme edges during very dark scenes and a pretty limited viewing angle before the picture starts to lose contrast badly.
I'm obliged to add here that our test sample also developed a problem whereby a central portion of the screen looked slightly brighter than the rest of the picture during dark scenes. But this wasn't there when we first received the set, so I presume it's just a technical issue with our specific sample.
The 40ZX1's sound, as I mentioned right at the start, comes courtesy of an optional tabletop stand (SS-TBL700). In fact, the speaker is built around the circular base of the stand, a very tidy solution that helps create an impressively wide soundstage. What's more, the fact that the speakers are angled upwards ensures that the audio sounds fixed on the screen rather than dislocated from it. Also, volume levels can go high without distortion and bass levels are pretty punchy, leaving as the only negative a tendency for trebles to become overpowered during action scenes. A slim speaker bar (SS-WAL700) for wall hanging is also available as an option.
The 40ZX1 is yet another genuine ‘statement' product from Sony, confidently delivering not one but two seriously eye-catching world firsts while still producing a mostly credible level of performance. That said, its motion handling flaws are disappointing, and since its pictures aren't as good as those of Sony's X4500 range, I also can't help but think that its price looks high for a 40in TV. Unless, of course, you happen to be one of those tech-poseur types who values show-off features and design ahead of raw picture quality!