Although the 42W653A undoubtedly made a bold statement right off the bat with its aggressive price, big questions still hung over it as we started our tests based on our unhappy experience with Sony's step-up 47W805A.

Fortunately it answers most of these questions in very positive fashion, though, replacing the limited contrast performance of the 47W805A with a much more credible black level response that immediately makes pictures of all sorts – especially films – look vastly more immersive and realistic.

Its pictures are also sharper and cleaner than you might expect for the set's money, and it backs its picture prowess up with a reasonably strong online system. Just bear in mind before splurging your cash that the set doesn't support 3D.

We liked

Picture quality is very good for such an affordable set, some aspects of the TV's design are strong, and there's an admirable focus on video streaming in the set's online functionality.

We disliked

There's no 3D (if that bothers you), the video streaming services on offer don't include the ITV Player or 4OD at the time of writing, the smart TV interface lacks a little sophistication, and its audio doesn't live up to its picture quality.

Final verdict

Ducking out of 3D with the 42W653A has proved a masterstroke by Sony. Deciding to ditch a feature most people are no longer bothered about has enabled the brand to retain more of its latest picture processing power for the 42W653A. It has also allowed Sony to use a more contrast-rich source panel than they did with the W805 series.

The 42W653A's picture quality really is excellent for its money, while a ground-breakingly low input lag performance also makes it a stellar option for serious gamers.

Also consider

There aren't too many direct rivals around in the 42W653A's price range. But one recently tested example would be the Toshiba 40L6353, which joins the Sony in ditching 3D and offering Smart TV and multimedia playback features. We've also seen Toshiba's set now selling for as little as £450 – that's £100 cheaper than the Sony.

However, Toshiba's smart system is much slower and less content heavy than Sony's, and the 40L6353's picture quality falls some way short of the 42W653A's.

A much more serious rival for the 42W653A if you value picture quality is the Samsung UE40F6400. This offers similarly impressive HD images and a superbly flexible and wide-ranging Smart TV platform, but its standard definition images aren't quite as good.