If you're a global megacorp like Sony and you're struggling to make your customary critical and commercial impact in a particular area of technology, you can do one of two things. You can bail out and plough a fortune into coming up with a new rival technology. Or you can knuckle down and stick at it in a bid to finally do it better than anyone else.
Sony has gone for option two with its LCD TVs, throwing all manner of technological innovation into the second generation of its Bravia range. But has the flurry of R&D paid off, or will the HD Ready KDL-40V2000 fall short of the sort of quality we expect from one of the world's most trusted tech brands?
Although the Sony Bravia KDL-40V2000 perhaps doesn't look as high-tech as it might, considering how much innovation is going on inside, it's still attractive, in a slightly butch kind of way. Particularly striking is the way the set avoids the high-gloss finish favoured by so many LCDs now, and in doing so focuses your attention more on its impressive build quality.
The 40V2000's connections throw up an immediate disappointment: just one HDMI jack. Oh well -- we suppose having to add an HDMI switching box if you do end up with two or more HDMI-based sources (such as Sky HD and the Xbox 360) isn't the end of the world.
There's also a pair of RGB-capable Scarts, component video inputs and, significantly, a 15-pin PC socket. Why is this PC socket significant? Because Sony has been curiously reluctant to include them on many of its previous LCD sets, so it's nice to find the new Bravias apparently embracing the convergence age.
One final socket, a PCMCIA slot, reveals the presence in the 40V2000 of a built-in digital tuner. You use the PCMCIA slot for adding subscription TV services like Top Up TV to your basic Freeview channel selection.
The remote control supplied with the 40V2000 is a beauty, in terms of both design and usability, and it harmonises superbly with an onscreen menu structure that's the most friendly Sony has delivered in ages.
We've already mentioned that the Bravia KDL-40V2000 has a digital tuner, but we should add that it also offers full support for the Freeview seven-day electronic programme guide, including letting you set timer events simply by selecting programmes from the listings, and letting you filter the listings by programme type.
As you'd expect, the 40V2000 also hits the specification targets required by the industry's HD Ready standard, adding to its HDMI and component connections an HD-friendly native resolution of 1,366x768 pixels and compatibility with the 1080i and 720p formats. It can't take the more advanced 1080p resolution -- but then neither can the vast majority of its rivals right now.
Final little bits and bobs before we get into Sony's key new technologies include backlight adjustment, a contrast booster, MPEG noise reduction for reducing the blocky look of some digital broadcasts, gamma adjustments and a system for souping up pure whites.
And so to the first of Sony's innovations, starting with the rather grandly named Bravia Engine. This replaces the WEGA Engine picture-processing system used in some previous Sony LCDs, and differs from its predecessor in that it's designed 100 per cent for LCD TVs, ditching the compromises that allowed WEGA Engine to function with CRT and plasma TVs as well as LCD.
Among the reams of stuff Bravia Engine brings to the party are increased sharpness and detailing, richer but more natural colours and multi-faceted video noise-reduction routines.