The 42W653A's interface is a curious mix of the innovative and the rather basic. On the innovation side, there's a great new listings surfing system that lets you whizz through channels at lightning speed without interrupting your viewing on the main TV screen. Sony's supporting iOS and Android app also features a great level of presentation and some nifty features, including an off-TV listings tool.
However, the way all of Sony's online content is presented on the TV screen is pretty basic, with no real attempt being made to organise it, and only fairly rudimentary content-searching aids at your disposal.
It's also a pity Sony's smart apps don't allow you to stream video from your TV to your smart device (something many rivals offer this year).
In terms of Sony's set-up menus, they're generally quite straightforward once you've got your head around Sony's rather 'individual' phrasing for some features. The only area of concern is how difficult Sony has made it to find its extensive 'Scene' list of different picture presets. Some of these can have a quite profound impact on picture quality. Gamers in particular should definitely track the Scene list down (it's actually accessed by pressing the Option button on the remote). Selecting the Game setting can deliver a significant boost to the set's game performance, reducing its input lag to under 10ms. This is the lowest such figure we've ever recorded on a TV, in fact.
While the Smart TV interface lacks sophistication compared with some rivals this year, we can readily imagine casual, technophobic users actually liking it for its relative simplicity – even as they're forced to scroll through rows and rows of app icons to find the one they want!
Sony has been on serious audio form this year, thanks to the long-duct speaker technology used on its W905A series and the astounding magnetic fluid speaker array built into its X9005A 4K TVs. All of which unfortunately leads up to the discovery that the 42W653A isn't a particularly inspired audio performer.
In the plus column, its speakers are sensitive enough to tease out quite a lot of detail from the audio track, and can deliver these – despite their usually quite trebly nature – without making them sound harsh. However, the mid-range is rather cramped, and bass is in seriously short supply, leaving action scenes sounding thin and unconvincing.
The 42W653A proves definitively that Sony is not just a premium brand these days. It delivers more of Sony's 2013 picture quality prowess than we'd have expected to find on a £550 42-inch TV, along with a mostly superior online system. Really, the only big thing you have to sacrifice to get all this for so little money is a bit of design prowess and 3D!