In the very middle of this silver strip lies the Presence Sensor. This is some very clever thinking from Sony: working off the idea that the TV's backlights and LCD panel might as well be shut off if nobody is there to look at them, the Presence Sensor scans the vicinity for movement and optionally switches the TV into this power-saving mode if it thinks you're no longer in the room. The sound, however, carries on. Picture a scenario where you're walking around between rooms but still want to hear what's going on in a news broadcast: the KDL-40WE5 makes this possible and can do so with minimal wasted power.
Continuing the eco-friendliness, there's a real Off/On switch on the side of the unit, so that the TV doesn't continue to suck up Standby power between viewing sessions.
In terms of connectivity, the KDL-40WE5 covers just about all bases with 4 HDMI inputs (2 rear, 2 side), 2 SCART terminals, Component inputs, an RF input for the Digital Terrestrial/Cable tuner, a VGA PC input, and a Composite video input on the side. There's also an Ethernet/LAN port for hooking the TV up to your home network or to the web, and a USB port, which you can use to either update firmware or to view photos and movies on the TV.
Regardless, a great amount of control is given to us in these menus. In the Picture menu, we can choose from either Vivid (ahh, my eyes!), Standard, or Custom picture modes, and alter the Backlight, Contrast, Brightness, and Colour controls. We can define the Colour of Grey with one of four “Colour Temperature” options (“Warm2” is the most accurate), add more or less Sharpness to the edges of the image, enable a 3D Noise Reduction function, and also choose to apply somewhat ineffective but also unobtrusive MPEG Noise Reduction to ugly digital TV broadcasts.
Sony also allow us to use their Motionflow processing, which is the company's motion compensated frame interpolation mode. This attempts to combat the timeless LCD panel response time problem, which has always been an issue with this particular display technology, to varying degrees. I'm of the opinion that the LCD panel's optical blurring effect is easier on the eyes than the digital video processing artefacts and unfilmic motion that result from using interpolation, though, so I appreciate the opportunity to turn this “feature” off.
With that said, Sony's motion vector analysis is impressive for a consumer-level product. Remarkably, it's completely unphased by Chapter 22 of Pixar's Wall-e (this is the part of the film where the robots are whizzing around space, spraying pixel-sized particles in all directions), which I wasn't expecting. It did, however, cause starfields to disappear and warp during a horizontal panning shot earlier in the film, as is to be expected. Overall, it's a technical achievement, but in this film lover's opinion, a fairly useless one due to the changes it makes to the film's movement.
Lastly in this list is “Film Mode”. Normally on TVs, this option only affects cadence detection – that is, the detection of film content inside an interlaced video signal. Other users have told me in the past that Sony's “Film Mode” is more than this, though, and they were entirely correct. The “Auto1” Film Mode setting combines cadence detection and occasional Motionflow-style interpolation. “Auto2” is classic cadence detection without any interpolation, and “Off” forces Video mode deinterlacing at all times. Remember, cadence detection does absolutely nothing on a Progressive signal, only Interlaced. I've actually read reports from some users claiming that it increases the output quality of their 1080p Blu-ray Disc player, which demonstrates the powers of the placebo effect.
Finally, we have a screen of Advanced Settings. Many of these are not useful at all, but the good options are for adjusting Gamma and White Balance. The latter option takes you to a screen which allows adjustment of the RGB Cuts and Gains – in other words, it's a greyscale adjustment menu – excellent!
Calibration: Before and AfterWhen first powered on, the KDL-40WE5 asks where it's installed: in a Home or Store environment. “Home” results in curtailed light output, but the picture is still not entirely accurate. However, we can select a “Cinema” mode, which dramatically improves accuracy, and therefore picture quality. I found that with my BD Player, I could raise Brightness by 2 clicks to reveal more shadow detail without compromising black level. Additionally, I had to reduce contrast, as the default value resulted in visible discolouration in bright areas.
Confusingly, there is also another orange button on the remote which enables “Theatre Mode”. This appears to be a shortcut to selecting the “Cinema” mode, turning off Motionflow, and also selecting Film Mode “Auto 1”. “Auto 1” in fact appears to interpolate and cause the “fast-forwarded motion” effect under very rare conditions, so I'm surprised that “Auto 2” isn't selected instead.
Having to correct this each time you turn on Theatre Mode is quite irritating, so I chose to simply calibrate the “Cinema” mode and leave the TV in this permanently. After all, the entire point of a Calibrated display is to have the screen relay the intentions of the content producers, rather than to indulge in whimsical tinkering.
The Gamma characteristics of the display were a little different, though: overall Gamma was unusually high, coming in as high as 3 at times, which will result in crushed shadow detail. Ideally, it should lie at around 2.2. Sony do provide a Gamma control in the TV's menu, though, so it's highly likely that this can be improved upon.
Next, I measured the TV's colour performance. This, too, was very good. Sony has well and truly grown out of it's “Colour Like No Other” phase: granted, some of the colours are a little undersaturated, but I suspect that this is a physical limitation of the panel itself, so even if we were given access to individual Colour controls, it probably wouldn't be fixable. I would still like to see a Colour Management System from Sony, though: their business partners and rivals at Samsung provide this as a standard feature, and it has worked wonders in correcting off-hue colours on those displays. In any case, this display's colour gamut is very close to the Rec.709 standard with absolutely minimal adjustment, and when combined with the accurate greyscale will result in satisfyingly lifelike, accurate video.
Sony do provide Greyscale controls (they go by camera lingo and call it white balance but it's the same thing), so as per our review procedure, I attempted to improve upon the surprisingly excellent out-of-the-box tracking further. Afterwards, I was left with Greyscale tracking that was overall more consistent: the discolouration at 20 IRE was gone, the tradeoff being slightly reduced accuracy at 40 and 50 IRE. However, the end result was still more accurate than the surprisingly close pre-calibration measurements. Gamma accuracy was improved too, by setting this option to +1.
The only other change I made in the “Cinema” preset was to lower Sharpness. Curiously, it comes set to 3, which adds subtle ringing around sharp edges. While a little of this can be worthwhile with SD sources, this is detrimental to most High Definition sources, so I lowered this to 0.
Video ProcessingWhen we ran the KDL-40WE5 through our usual SD video processing tests, the results were average. Unlike Sony displays of years gone by, the KDL-40WE5 does indeed detect and compensate for common film cadences. This means that when you're watching content originally shot on Film (like high-budget dramas, or, believe it or not, Films), the TV won't try and convert it to the panel's display type using Video methods, so you'll get maximum vertical resolution and won't have to put up with annoying flicker.
Of most consequence to us in Europe is the fact that the PAL 2:2 test passed. For Japanese/American style NTSC video, both 2:2 and 3:2 passed.
More disappointing was the Video deinterlacing performance. For content shot with Video cameras (as opposed to Film cameras), there will always be some compromise, as details which simply don't exist in the original video must be “filled in” by the TV. The Sony KDL-40WE5 does not do this very convincingly, with fairly obvious jaggies apparent. The most practical manifestation of this shortcoming is that news tickers and diagonal edges (like pitch markings in a football game) will have a slightly rough look to them.
Again, remember that the SD performance only matters when you're feeding in SD sources to the TV, or when you're watching SD TV on the internal tuner. When you input upconverted DVD pictures, they have already been processed by the DVD player, so in this case, the TV's SD performance is irrelevant.
The KDL-40WE5 is the same as other recent Sony displays in terms of video processor lag: on the better end of the scale, but not entirely lag free. There's noticeable lag in the normal modes, but this can be curtailed by pressing the SCENE button on the remote and selecting the GAME mode. This mode disables MotionFlow, Film Mode, and Noise Reduction (presumably because all of these rely on temporal analysis and would slow things down). Even in this mode, the TV isn't as fast as a Plasma display, but will still be very acceptable to just about all users. I was happy to play video games on this display, but was a little annoyed at even the smallest amount of lag after having access to screens with none.
Energy ConsumptionMeasurements were taken from the calibrated Movie settings, with the Power Saving feature enabled and also disabled. The Backlight was set to 8, which, in the Energy Saving OFF mode, resulted in comfortable light output in my viewing environment.
Mode / Full screen of 0 IRE (black) / 50 IRE (grey) / 100 IRE (white)
Power Saving OFF: 102 / 102 / 102 (watts)
Power Saving LOW: 90 / 90 / 90 (watts)
Power Saving HIGH: 68 / 68 / 68 (watts)
Remember that the higher power saving modes limit the peak backlight intensity, which impacts contrast performance.
Additional FeaturesThe LAN port on the KDL-40WE5 allows you to access Photos, Music and Movies (each accessed through their own menu column) from your computer's hard drive. As it happened, I'd already installed the TwonkyMedia software when I was reviewing another DNLA-equipped TV last week, and this setup worked just fine with the Sony, too. You can also access such files on a USB device connected to the TV's USB port.
If you don't want to get connected, then you can still use the Picture Frame mode, which allows you to look at several pre-installed pictures on the LCD screen, rather than hanging a real picture frame on your wall. Hmm – very eco friendly.
On top of this, the 40WE5 features Sony's Applicast. This lets you use web-based "widgets" on one side of the panel, whilst still watching TV on the other. These widgets include an RSS news reader, an analogue clock, a calendar, and a calculator, and frankly I wasn't excited about any of them.
With standard definition, the results of our Video Processing tests made themselves apparent: interlacing jaggies were not suppressed nearly as well as on the current Samsung LCD TVs (a comparison that's even easier to make considering that both TVs are using panels of the same SPVA type, and indeed are from the same supplier).
The response of the scaling algorithm also didn't help ugly DTV broadcasts. Other processes seem to do a better job of helping suppress mosquito noise naturally, without the help of any additional processing. On the plus side, the Sony's cadence detection features made sure that films (or TV shows shot on film) didn't pick up any additional jaggies.
Unlike the recently reviewed Sony KDL-32W5500, the KDL-40WE5 doesn't suffer from the “dragging blacks” problem (where black objects left unusually long motion trails on screen). The motion resolution is obviously way below that of even a cheap Plasma display, but it's good by LCD's lowered standards. Viewing angle is also better than most LCDs, but still a little problematic: images are still at their best when viewed face-on. Contrast falls off and images take on a slightly blueish tint from the sides.
Finally, for an LCD display, black level performance was very good. Super PVA (the panel technology developed by Samsung and used in most of Sony and Samsung's LCD lineup) has always had the upper hand here, at least in the LCD world. Again, black level performance is not at the level of the better Plasma displays, but is great by LCD standards. Screen uniformity, too, was good, with slight patchiness all but imperceptible in the lower corner of the screen in a darkened room.
Update, July 13: in the interests of completeness, I should mention that there is a very minor issue in which very hard to detect green pixels can be seen around dark boundaries in the image. Most users will never notice these (it's difficult to spot even right beside the display), however.
- Very accurate out of the box Greyscale performance when using Cinema/Warm2 preset helps realism greatly
- Excellent colour accuracy
- Black level and contrast performance are amongst the best in the LCD world (not including LED-backlit screens)
- User-accessible White Balance control for Greyscale calibration
- Presence Sensor is an innovative, eco-friendly feature
- High price point pits the display against better-performing Plasma displays
- Video processing is average: deinterlacing and scaling are poorer than on otherwise very similar Samsung LCDs
- Update, July 13: single-pixel green noise is sometimes visible on the image at close-range
Sony WE5 (KDL-40WE5) LCD TV Review
Unless you're in love with the unique design of the KDL-40WE5, there's not really a lot else to justify the price tag, which is just short of 4 figures at the time of writing. However, when judging the display on its own merits, there is still a lot to like. SPVA is still the panel type to beat when it comes to LCD contrast performance and black level, and the out-of-the-box and calibrated accuracy whilst using the Theatre Mode is absolutely excellent - undoubtedly this TV's biggest strength.
The fact that the contrast performance of even the better LCDs is still lacking compared to the best Plasmas, coupled with the high price, mean that while I can't truly rave about the Sony KDL-40WE5, I can award this eco-friendly display with a Recommendation thanks to the realism of its accurate video. Viewers who can tolerate the limitations of an LCD display should take a look at this screen.
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