There's a lot to like about the KDL-NX720 series. Sony's least expensive TV with that lovely Monolithic styling, it still costs a mint but will reward investors with some of the best 2D images we've seen on any LCD with an edge-lit LED backlight. And despite lacking an app store and Vudu, Sony's Internet selection is chock-a-block with video from sources both mainstream and otherwise. As long as you don't care about its picture quality in 3D, the Sony KDL-NX720 series competes well against the best edge-lit LED TVs on the market.
Editors' note: The Sony KDL-NX720 series was originally reviewed in September 2011. In October it received the Editors' Choice Award as our most-recommended LCD TV. Click here for more details.
Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 55-inch Sony KDL-55NX720, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.
|Models in series (details)|
|Sony KDL-46NX720||46 inches|
|Sony KDL-55NX720 (reviewed)||55 inches|
|Sony KDL-60NX720||60 inches|
|Panel depth||1.1 inches||Bezel width||1.3 inches|
|Single-plane face||Yes||Swivel stand||Yes|
The KDL-NX720 is simply beautiful. It looks basically the same as the XBR-HX929, about which we crowed: "the best-looking TV this year aside from Samsung's thin-bezel UND6400 and UND8000/7000 models." The NX720, with its thinner panel and bezel, is even nicer-looking than the HX929 in our book.
When seen from the front it earns the company's Monolithic moniker: the panel is a featureless black slab when turned off, thanks to its one-piece face and darkened glass. We also love the low-profile swivel stand with its thin metal base, although it feels a bit wobblier than some TVs during swivels.
|Remote control and menus|
|Remote size (LxW)||8.6x2 inches||QWERTY keyboard||No|
|Illuminated keys||0||IR device control||No|
|Menu item explanations||Yes||Onscreen manual||Yes|
We're big fans of Sony's later TV remotes, although the NX720's clicker is a step down from the flush-button, backlit wand of the HX929. Its concave surface and strategic button placement guided our thumb naturally to the big cursor button, which is ringed by six keys (although four would do--Guide and Synch Menu will be underused on most setups). The biggest change is a prominent red Netflix button, and we love having instant access to Watch Instantly. Other dedicated keys of note include those for Qriocity, Internet Video, 3D, I-Manual (for the excellent built-in manual), and TrackID.
Sony revamped its Home menu this year, ditching the PlayStation 3/PSP-style XMB interface for a new scheme that creates a main horizontal bottom row and a right-hand vertical column flanking a smaller, inset TV image (tweakers fret not; the TV image expands back to full size during picture adjustments). The menu shows all of the horizontal options at once, but there are simply too many of them, 10 total: Settings, Widgets, Applications, Qriocity, Internet Content, TV, Media, Inputs, Favorites/History, and Recommendations (which is removable...a good thing since it's in-menu advertising). None of the main horizontal choices is labeled until you select it, so you must either remember Sony's quirky iconography or scroll a lot to find the right one. Each option has its own column of suboptions, many of which are hidden until you scroll, for a total effect that can easily become overwhelming.
Submenus for Options and Favorites/History, as well as those dedicated buttons, help a little, and we appreciate that the numerous "small fry" niche video services are shunted into a submenu. Overall, however, we feel the company could have done a much better job of organizing the TV's numerous features and options.
|Key TV features|
|Display technology||LCD||LED backlight||Edge-lit with local dimming|
|3D technology||Active||3D glasses included||No|
|Screen finish||Glossy||Internet connection||Built-in Wi-Fi|
|Refresh rate(s)||120Hz||Dejudder (smooth) processing||Yes|
|Other: Optional 3D glasses (TDG-BR250/B, $70 list); optional Skype camera/speakerphone (CMU-BR100, $150); Position Control, Distance Alert, and Presence Sensor; Gorilla Glass face|
Unlike the significantly more expensive HX929 with its full-array LEDs, the NX720 uses an edge-lit LED scheme. Its local dimming does allow it to brighten or dim certain areas of the screen independently, a feature Sony calls Dynamic Edge. Check out our comparison of LED backlights for more, and the Performance section below for specifics of how it looks in action.
Sony uses the term "MotionFlow XR 240" to describe this TV, but the panel has a 120Hz refresh rate. The "240" derives from a scanning backlight.
Sony doesn't include 3D glasses with the NX720, but at least it doesn't require purchase of a separate emitter to handle 3D. We do wish Sony's newer, lighter 2011 glasses used Bluetooth and not IR transmission technology for syncing. They are rechargeable, however, and charge up very quickly.
This model offers built-in Wi-Fi, saving you the cost of a USB dongle or other wireless alternative.
Less important but still mildly noteworthy are a few extras designed around a sensor that can respond to viewers in the room. The Presence Sensor automatically turns the TV off if it fails to detect a viewer in the room (see the EX720 review for details); the Position Control is said to automatically optimize picture and sound by detecting viewer position; and the Distance Alert disables the picture and emits a warning sound if a child approaches the screen. Aside from noting that the latter somehow differentiated children from adult viewers, we didn't test any of these features.
|Streaming and apps|
|Amazon Instant||Yes||Hulu Plus||Yes|
|Other: Gracenote TrackID; CinemaNow; numerous niche video services; Sony Entertainment Network (formerly Qriocity) VOD and music; Yahoo Widgets; Picasa, Photobucket, Shutterfly; 3D Experience|
There are plenty of online choices for just about everyone, and Sony is among the leaders in our comparison. Unfortunately, as we noted of the company's Blu-ray players, Sony's standardized interface for most of the major video services, like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant, is worse in general than those services' default interfaces, in part due to relatively small thumbnail images. On the other hand, having the same basic interface for each makes them relatively easy to learn.
The main service that's missing is Vudu, and while many other services (namely Amazon VOD and Qriocity) can duplicate Vudu's VOD offerings, none currently offers Vudu's 3D on-demand video or the superior image quality of Vudu HDX. We'd also like to see support for a major subscription music service, like Rhapsody or Napster, but doubt it's coming, since Sony is pushing Qriocity. The latter recently expanded from its VOD offerings to include a subscription music service, which is available on this TV. Note that while Sony recently renamed the service "Sony Entertainment Network," the quirky "Qriocity" remains on the menus for now.
We did a full writeup of the new Gracenote music identification service already, so we'll just include the conclusion here: "Despite its hiccups and occasional failures, we really liked the ability to identify music quickly and conveniently with the push of a button." There are also separate Video and Music searches powered by Gracenote that allow you to look up information on each, but don't yet lead to additional content.
The appeal of the numerous niche video services (Sports Illustrated, The Minisode Network, Blip.tv, Style.com, Howcast.com, video podcasts, and so on) is heightened somewhat by the ability to search across all of them. Unfortunately, that search doesn't include any of the mainstream services like Netflix, Amazon Instant, or YouTube, and is a pain to use with the TV remote.
Sony has also recently added a 3D video-streaming service to its online portfolio, although at the moment it's mainly short clips and the occasional old World Cup 2010 soccer match.
Sony's audio, widget, and photo service selection is top-notch--you get Slacker, NPR, and an exclusive classical music/video service (Berliner Philharmoniker); numerous Yahoo and FrameChannel (the second also being a Sony exclusive) widgets; and no fewer than four onboard photo-sharing options, if you count the Flickr widget.
Unlike LG, Samsung, and Panasonic, Sony doesn't have an "app store" for its TVs. The Yahoo widget service is where you'll find Twitter and Facebook, along with numerous even less useful things to have occupy your TV screen.
And, yes, the NX720 has a Web browser, although it's even slower and more annoying to use than the ones on Samsung and LG TVs. After a few minutes of frustrated waiting for it to load the Sony Style home page, we feel comfortable saying that it should be avoided entirely.