SEN represents a quite substantial step forward from the previous Bravia Internet Video service, at least when it comes to the interface you use to access all of its content. No longer do you have to faff about when trying to go online with the confusing cross-bar menu system still (unfortunately) used for adjusting the TV’s settings. Now all the online content can be accessed via a much more attractive, well-organised, graphics-rich menu that separates all the available apps into simple ‘Apps’, ‘Video’ and ‘Music’ categories.
There’s also a Favourite section into which you can slot the apps you use the most, to save you from having to trawl down the icon lists too much.
One catch with the SEN interface is that the Music and Video sections are actually both built exclusively around Sony’s own Video and Music Unlimited subscription services, rather than including other service provider options. The likes of the BBC iPlayer, Demand 5, BBC News, Netflix, LoveFilm and Sky News are thus found under the generic Apps menu.
Also available are Facebook, Twitter, and Skype social networking apps, with your Twitter feed rather excellently appearing below the small version of the TV picture that continues to play while you browse the SEN menus.
There are a few utility and gaming apps too, but as usual these are generally far less interesting than the AV apps.
One moan we have to raise about the SEN menus is that the main one takes an aggravatingly long time to load. Otherwise, though, in both content and presentation terms, Sony’s latest smart TV system is a compelling proposition.
Across to picture quality and thankfully it takes mere seconds of watching the 40HX853 to realise that it really is every bit as good as we remembered its bigger siblings being.
The single biggest component of its success is its exemplary black level response. Thanks to its use of easily the most sophisticated local dimming system we’ve seen on an edge LED TV, the picture somehow manages to combine inkily deep black colours with startlingly punchy whites and colours to an extent only previously seen on the best plasma and direct (as opposed to edge) LED sets.
There are, to be fair, other edge LED TVs with local dimming that have had a good stab at producing deep black levels without taking too much brightness out of the image. But these have all suffered to some extent with a different problem: light blocking. This finds quite obvious rectangles and squares of light appearing around bright objects when they appear against dark backgrounds. But while you can just occasionally spot such artefacts on the 40HX853, their occurrence is rare, and even when they happen they tend to be very subtle.