Sony's Wi-Fi-ready, 46-inch, 1080p Bravia KDL-46EX703 LCD TV with LED edge lights costs around £1,200 online, and can receive high-definition broadcasts over the air via a built-in Freeview HD tuner. It also features Sony's Web functionality, allowing owners to access online video services like LoveFilm, Demand Five and, eventually, BBC iPlayer. But it looks pricey, so is it worth it?
Slim but not beautiful
A TV should really be judged on its performance, rather than how pretty it looks in the corner of your room. But we still can't help feeling a little disappointed by the KDL-46EX703's appearance. Don't get us wrong -- it's far from ugly, and the black plastic bezel is pleasant enough to look at. But the slightly odd grey plastic strip below the screen detracts from the TV's overall appearance.
We like the oversized remote control though. It has a pleasant curve that makes it feel rather space-age. It also has a button on its rear that allows you to put the TV into standby mode. We aren't sure why it's there, but we like it all the same.
On the back of the TV there are two HDMI inputs, with another pair of the digital sockets on the side of the set. These socket clusters actually sit fairly close together, and accessing them shouldn't present much of a problem. We assume the slightly irregular layout is a result of the TV's slim build.
We like how thin this TV is. It's not as visually impressive as some sets we've seen recently, but it still looks cool. It would look especially good mounted on a wall.
Hurrah for XrossMediaBar
Like most modern Sony products, the KDL-46EX703's interface features the company's beloved but ridiculously spelt XrossMediaBar. The purpose of the bar is to make navigating through the TV's menus much simpler. We have to give Sony credit, because using this TV is a super experience, and the bar makes configuring it and accessing its extra features much easier.
We like the way digital TV programmes are listed in a long vertical strip, enabling you to see which shows are on which channels without leaving the menu system. We also like how you can browse the TV's multimedia features from the bar, letting you access videos, photos and music.
Setting up the TV is easy too. It will automatically tune both analogue and Freeview HD channels. It doesn't take especially long to get up and running, and the out-of-the-box settings are pretty decent. We changed a few of the picture settings, but they didn't require as much of an overhaul as those of some TVs we've seen.
With polar bears looking ever more distraught on their tiny blocks of ice, reducing power consumption must be a priority for all of us. Even if you hate polar bears and want them all dead, you'll appreciate the savings to your power bill.
Sony's eco mode works really well, and we're very impressed by it. The TV's 'presence sensor' will know if you leave the room for any length of time, and the set will then turn off the picture, leaving the sound on, which is handy if you're still listening to a programme from another room. After longer periods of absence, the set will switch itself off completely. That's good news if you're one of those people who leaves the room to get a drink and then gets distracted by something in the kitchen.
The TV's sensor works by looking out for movement in the room. That means it should switch the TV off if you fall asleep on your couch. In our tests, the TV never turned off because it thought we'd left when we hadn't, so Sony has clearly tweaked its detector to near perfection.
Like Sony's Blu-ray players, the KDL-46EX703 can read photos, music and videos from USB storage devices. It doesn't, however, offer support for as varied a range of codecs as the company's Blu-ray players. It will play AVI files, but not MPEG-4 content in MKV wrappers. We can't help but feel disappointed by this, although it's far from the end of the world.
This TV's sound quality is excellent. It's not often that we commend TVs for their audio quality, but we found speech incredibly easy to understand with this set. We still wouldn't watch an action movie using the built-in speakers, but we'd be more than happy to watch standard TV shows without going to the effort of connecting the telly to our home-cinema system. The TV can really ramp up the volume too.
Respectable HD chops
We weren't bowled over by the KDL-46EX703's standard-definition picture quality. We're used to seeing some MPEG artefacts on Freeview, but we felt the TV didn't work as hard as it could have to remove them. We also noticed that the screen was artificially sharpening video, which is undesirable because it makes a mess of the picture. We turned the sharpness setting down, and were pleased to see that the picture looked much more natural.
Hi-def channels looked respectable via the built-in Freeview HD tuner. We weren't blown away, but it seems the broadcasters on Freeview HD are mucking around with the quality at the moment, so it might not be totally fair to blame the slightly unimpressive softness on the TV.
Blu-ray playback, however, proved superior, with the picture looking sharp and detailed. The LED edge lights seem to do a pretty respectable job of illuminating the screen too. Sony certainly seems to have improved on some of its first LED models, which leaked light all over the panel. For the best black levels, we'd still recommend a plasma telly, but the KDL-46EX703 puts in a good performance nevertheless.
Our minds weren't melted by the Sony Bravia KDL-46EX703, but that's more a sign of the times than anything else. We've seen tonnes of TVs over the years and most sets on the market now are very capable indeed. This has led us to be much more critical of TVs that don't quite hit the mark for us. The reality is, though, that the KDL-46EX703 is a good TV that will serve you well for quite some time.
There aren't enough extra features to help justify its fairly high price tag, however, and we can't help but feel you'll still be paying a Sony tax for owning a product with that illustrious name on it. If you compare this TV to the incredible, and significantly cheaper, LG 50PK590, which is now available for as little as £700 online, we think you'll be hard-pressed to justify the extra expense.
Is the KDL-46EX703 bad? No. Is it overpriced? Quite possibly. As always, the final decision is yours.
Edited by Charles Kloet