The Sony KDL-40W905A's SEN interface floats nicely over a live TV picture, and doesn't seem either as intrusive or as dominant as Sony's rivals' smart TV efforts, though that's partly its problem.
Devoid of many of the apps most smart TV buyers will expect, the understated SEN seems separate from the TV's main functions. However, we do admire Sony's obvious priority on producing a clean-looking user interface, with its well-judged fonts and other design niceties.
A floating 'Featured' tab contains material culled from Sony's Music and Video Unlimited services, which in our case was a still from Django Unchained, as well as adverts for Lovefilm and Sony's own Play Memories service. It all has a bit of an in-house feel to it, but it can be disabled in the settings menus.
We had zero issues with Screen Mirroring on the Sony KDL-40W905A. A simple tap of a Sony Xperia Z handset to the television's NFC remote brought up whatever was displayed on the phone and showed it on the TV screen.
Best smart TV platforms
Photos work particularly well, with pinch-to-zoom working in real-time, though video is a second or two behind. That's not a problem at all, though it does rule out porting games (unless you want to hook up the Xperia Z via a cable, which you can, since one of the TV's HDMI inputs is MHL-ready).
Digital media works well, too. In our tests of the Sony KDL-40W905A's USB slots we managed to get the whole shabbang to play, including the likes of MKV (though not via DLNA streaming), AVI, MPEG, MP4, MOV and WMV, though after that test we had to go five steps back to the 'Connect to devices' command and begin the whole process again to access music, then again for photos.
That done, WMA, WAV, MP3 and M4A tracks played, which is precious little use to anyone using lossless FLAC or OGG files, but is reasonably impressive nonetheless.
While navigating these files we accidentally pressed the channel up button instead of volume up, which instantly retuned the Sony KDL-40W905A to live TV, a feature known as Fast Zapping. With such a long-winded process for accessing digital files, we did get rather frustrated with this pitfall, though Fast Zapping mode can be deactivated.
Active vs passive 3D
Not so the 'return' button on the remote, which consistently took us not back one step, but several, usually to live TV.
Sony's new GUI is good looking, but it's not as feature-packed as it could be, and it sometimes feels like a game of snakes and ladders.
The Sony KDL-40W905A is fitted with a long-duct speaker, and it does a terrific job. Wide stereo sound boasts exceptional clarity - for a TV speaker - and there's plenty in the mid-range for a reasonable attempt at movie soundtracks, too.
Best smart TV platforms
It's nice to have a choice of remote controls, but we'd expect one to have a touch-sensitive dimension. It's also rather unusual at this price not to have a built-in camera on the front of the TV, or a microphone for that matter. Also note that while the larger 46-inch and 55-inch TVs in the W9 Series ship with four pairs of 3D specs, the Sony KDL-40W905A comes with only two pairs for free.
Finally, we're not convinced that SEN is quite smart enough, at least when compared to rivals' smart TV hubs. Looking the best isn't really enough at this price.
Besides, whether any 40-inch TV can cost close to £1,400 (around US$2,150/AU$2,320) and be considered good value is a moot point, especially with fine 50-inch plasmas now selling for less.