It’s worth adding here, too, that using the Blu-ray deck is impressively easy. It gets its own icon in the double-axis onscreen menu system, so there’s no need to get involved with complicated button routines or delving into too many submenus. The only pity is that there doesn’t seem to be any playback resume system, so if you, say, flick briefly to watch TV and then flick back to the Blu-ray you were watching, you’re right back at the start.
The 40EX43BU isn’t quite as accomplished with standard definition as some of Sony’s higher spec TVs, leaving pictures looking a touch soft. But aside from some over-stressed edges at times, standard def pictures do look pretty clean. And we’d rather have the slight softness than nasty, distracting levels of noise.
The 40EX43BU’s weakest picture link is its black level response. There’s a little more greyness over dark scenes than you get with the very best LCD screens - especially those that use LED technology - and a little crushing in the very blackest areas that squeezes out some shadow detail. This grows, as usual, if you have to watch the TV from an angle.
However, it must be stressed again that we’re talking not only about a combi product here, but a startlingly affordable combi product. And in this context the 40EX43BU’s black level response is really rather good - especially if you apply the brakes to the brightness and, especially, backlight settings. It’s a relief to see, too, that there’s only the most minor evidence of the backlight consistency problems we’ve found with far too many TVs in recent months.
Perhaps inevitably, the 40EX43BU’s audio is markedly less impressive than its pictures. So far as we can tell the speaker system it employs is no different to that found in Sony’s other mainstream TVs, and as such it’s not capable of delivering any real sense of the audio prowess Blu-ray is capable of. Blu-ray films don’t sound better than a quality drama on the BBC. In fact, they arguably sound slightly worse, as the speakers struggle to handle Blu-ray’s extra dynamics. Plus, as devout movie audiophiles with a huge pile of hungry speakers to feed, we definitely missed not being able to get any HD audio from our favourite Blu-ray films.
Again, though, to heavily criticise the 40EX43BU along these audio lines is to deny what it is and who it’s aimed at. Put in its proper context, the 40EX43BU’s sound is certainly adequate if not exactly mindblowing.
Our first proper TV review of 2011 has got the year off to a surprisingly good start. For while the 40EX43BU won’t suit everyone and doesn’t by any means set new standards for picture or sound, it does do a great job for its target audience of combining two of the AV world’s hottest properties. So much so that even if you had to stick with Sony’s £750 recommended price it would look good value; at the comfortably under £600 price level we’ve found it going for, it’s nothing short of a steal.