Sony’s first 3D TV is finally here, in the 40in shape of the KDL-40HX803. And to be honest, we’re not expecting very much. For whenever we’ve seen Sony 3D TVs in action at big shows, they just haven’t looked as good as those of some rivals. So let’s hope the Japanese brand has managed to cram in plenty of last minute improvements!
Rather surprisingly, the 40HX803 doesn’t wear Sony’s new and rather stylish Monolith design. Instead you get a straightforward but sleek black bezel for the top, right and left sides, with a slightly proud metallic strip along the bottom edge. The set still looks nice, though, for all its non-Monolithic approach.
It doesn’t do the 40HX803‘s aesthetic impact any harm, either, that it employs edge LED lighting to deliver a reasonably slender profile. Though it’s nothing like as slim as Samsung’s edge LED icons. What’s more, its edge LED system is a dynamic one, meaning that sections of the edge lighting can be independently controlled for a hopefully more impressive contrast performance than you usually get with a standard edge LED-lit LCD TV.
Slightly surprisingly for such a slim screen, Sony has left most of its connections facing straight out of the TV’s rear, rather than using the side access approach that would suit wall hanging. But at least the number and variety of these connections is pretty prodigious.
For instance, it has four HDMIs, all built to the v1.4 specification, so that they’re compatible with 3D sources. Also of note are a USB input, an Ethernet port, and a 3D Sync terminal, which we’ll look at in turn.
The USB can play music, video and photo files directly into the TV, but also allows you to add Wi-Fi to the 40HX803 via an optional USB dongle. It’s a touch disappointing that the 40HX803 doesn’t carry built-in Wi-Fi for its money, but it’s hardly alone in preferring the optional upgrade route.
The Ethernet socket, meanwhile, has three uses. First, it supports the set’s built-in Freeview HD tuner, to deliver potential future interactive services like the BBC iPlayer. Second, it provides a wired means of importing files stored on a DLNA PC. Finally, it allows you to take the TV online to experience Sony’s Bravia Internet Video platform, which we’ll return to in a minute.
But first we’ve got to discuss the 3D Sync terminal. This is there because the 40HX803 doesn’t have a built-in 3D transmitter, unlike the Samsung and Panasonic 3D TVs we’ve tested. In fact, the 40HX803 doesn’t have 3D facilities at all in its standard form. You have to add an optional extra transmitter and optional pairs of active shutter glasses, with the transmitter costing £50 and the glasses setting you back £99 per pair. This effectively makes the 40HX803 £1,887 if you want 3D with two pairs of glasses.
We do understand Sony’s idea with this, to be fair. For it helps keep the 40HX803’s up-front price down, allowing people to add 3D later as their finances allow. But there’s no getting round the fact that once you’ve 3Ded it up, the 40HX803 hits a similar price level to Samsung’s 40C8000 integrated 3D TV. In other words, 3D continues to be very much a premium technology.