Sony is not a company that's enjoying the success it used to. Its computer-games division is getting a pounding from Microsoft and Nintendo. It's also lost the music-player market to Apple, and there are dozens of companies selling TVs that are just as good as Sony sets.
What can Sony do to revive its fortunes, then? Well, products like the 40-inch, 1080p Bravia KDL-40ZX1 should generate a fair amount of public interest. It's an ultra-thin LCD TV with LED edge lights, designed for people with plenty of spare cash and a desire to make their friends green with envy.
The KDL-40ZX1 currently has a street price of around £2,200, but that's excluding any sort of stand or wall-mounting apparatus. Our review sample doesn't include speakers or a stand, so we won't be commenting on the set's sound quality or ability not to fall over.
This TV is certainly thin. It's currently one of the thinnest televisions on the market, although, undoubtedly, there will be even further depth reductions in future years. The depth of a TV isn't especially relevant to most people, though. After all, if you put your TV on a stand, it's unlikely to matter how deep the TV is, because it will be much thinner than the stand.
If you want to mount your set on a wall, however, the depth of your TV may be crucial. A thin and light TV is ideal for this purpose. In terms of this consideration, LCD technology has plasma licked at the moment. There are currently no plasma TVs on the market that are as thin as the KDL-40ZX1, although the likes of Panasonic have told us to expect some remarkable plasma-based advances in the future.
Many people who've seen the KDL-40ZX1 around our offices have commented on how svelte it is. It's been the recipient of more admiring glances than almost any other piece of equipment we've seen in recent months. Some people have even asked if it's an OLED TV, such is its slenderness. In fact, the KDL-40ZX1 is simply a standard LCD screen with LED edge lights. All around the sides of the LCD panel are collections of LEDs. These shine onto a special diffusing layer, which creates the light behind the image.
The wireless capability of this TV is nowhere near as impressive as that of the Panasonic Viera TX-P46Z1 that we reviewed recently. The most annoying problem is that the KDL-40ZX1 can receive only a 1080i signal wirelessly. The panel itself has a 1080p resolution, so connecting an HDMI cable to its single input will result in a 'Full HD' image. But why on earth would you spend more than £2,000 on a wireless TV only to plug in a £3 HDMI cable?
A 1080i resolution isn't always a problem, though. We've seen it implemented so well that you'd struggle to tell the difference between 1080i and 1080p pictures. Certainly our reference TV, the Pioneer Kuro PDP-LX5090, manages to take an interlaced picture and turn it into a very compelling progressive image. Watching Sony's own Casino Royale, the KDL-40ZX1's 1080i transmission wasn't much of a problem. That said, film material is more easily compressed using interlacing than video-based footage acquired on tape.
We also noticed that, in our reasonably open office, the wireless signal would occasionally suffer a glitch that would result in a sudden white line of interference on the screen. We never saw a similar problem with the Panasonic set in the same environment, and it was managing 1080p signals too. Also, if you try moving the TV too far away from the wireless base station, it all goes very wrong -- and we aren't talking an especially massive distance.