Sony kdl-40ex724

These days you should feel short-changed if your new telly offers fewer than four HDMI inputs and a couple of USBs. Thankfully this Sony isn't miserly. The KDL-40EX724 has just that number of hi-def audio-visual inputs, with the fourth facing sideways and positioned alongside a pair of USBs, a PC mini D-sub connector and a CI slot for Top Up TV services. On the right hand side of the screen are standard volume and channel buttons.

Joining the three HDMIs on the back panel is a Scart connector, component video and stereo audio, a digital audio output and an Ethernet port to get you online, if you choose not to use the integrated Wi-Fi option.

One new feature this year is Skype. Sony is one of several TV vendors to offer Skype video calling and for many users this will be a big reason to upgrade. Sony sells the matching USB CMU-BR100 camera and microphone module to get you connected. It sells for around £90.

Naturally, this full HD TV incorporates a Freeview HD tuner, enabling you to watch subscription-free hi-def TV channels from the BBC, ITV and Channel 4. Freeview HD has up to five times the detail of regular Freeview and is well worth upgrading to.

One big attraction of Sony's net connected TVs is the brand's Bravia Internet Video portal. This sprawling IPTV collection offers endless diversions, from catch-up TV services like BBC iPlayer and Demand 5, to the increasingly compelling YouTube and DailyMotion.

The portal also houses the Sony Entertainment TV channel (which doesn't appear to have changed its content for months on end), Sky News highlights and LoveFilm (subcribers can manage their rental list online as well as stream movies directly).

There's more of course: 28 channels at the last count, including Eurosport, Blip.tv, Howcast, Ustudio, Golflinks, LoveFilm Trailers and Singing Fool.

Sony recently supplemented its Bravia Internet Video offering with its own subscription music and VOD service called Qriocity. With these you can subscribe to streaming music or rent new and classic films. The film choice on Qriocity is good, with titles available in both SD and hi-def.

One additional benefit of placing the KDL-40EX724 on your home network is that you can stream video and music from a PC or a networked storage device. This enables your TV to become the hub of home entertainment.

However, as we've seen on previous Sony TVs, file and format support can be a little uneven. While AVIs and AVCHD files played across the network and from USB flash drives, the screen did not acknowledge the existence of MKV wrapped content. It's a consistent omission that Sony would do well to fix.

One final feature onboard the KDL-40EX724 worth mentioning is the ability to record to a USB hard-disk drive. Simply plug in an external drive (ideally, something above 160GB that you have sitting around unused) and let the TV format it (obviously, this process wipes everything, so make sure you don't have anything valuable stored before you proceed).

You can now record direct from the set's TV Guide. Clearly, this inexpensive recording option has limitations. As the set has only one tuner you won't be able to record one channel while watching another. But as a simple timeshifter for when you're out, or a backup when your Sky or cable box is busy, it's a great bonus.