Sony has tweaked its Monolithic design for the KDL-46HX853 to give it a slightly less masculine, slightly softer appearance, with a narrower bezel width and the addition of a little metallic outer trim along all four of its edges. The result is perhaps not as original as the previous all-black Monolithic look, but actually we prefer the less severe impact of the new design.
What's more, the TV ships this year with an enormously attractive and extremely well built 'bar' table top stand that both allows you to angle the TV back slightly if you like, and also contains speakers, to take the audio burden off the TV's slender chassis. This sort of designer stand was only available as an optional extra with last year's Monolithic Sony sets.
The KDL-46HX853 is pretty much on the flagship money with its connections. There are four HDMIs, all built to the v1.4 specification for full support of the active 3D format. There are both LAN and integrated Wi-Fi options for adding the TV to your home DLNA computer network or for taking the TV online, while two USBs allow you to play back film, photo and music files from USB storage devices - or record from the integrated Freeview HD tuner to USB hard disk drives.
LG this year has made a concerted effort to make its TVs as compatible with Apple Macs as they are with PCs, and Sony has thankfully followed suit with the KDL-46HX853 courtesy of a new Homestream downloadable application, which does a fine job of streamlining the process of getting files off your computer - or any other 'connected' device - and onto the TV.
One extra excellent connectivity point to raise here is that if you've got a Sony tablet computer, you can stream what's showing on the TV to the tablet for watching elsewhere in the house, or else you can easily send stuff from your tablet to the TV screen.
Inside the 46HX853's glamorous body can be found a wealth of picture processing technology. For starters, there's Sony's Motionflow XR800 Hz system, which uses a combination of a blinking backlight, native 200Hz panel and frame interpolation to deliver an 800Hz-like effect.
As well as potentially having a beneficial effect on the KDL-46HX853's motion handling, it's also to be hoped that the XR800 Hz system - especially the native 200Hz panel refresh rate bit of it - might see Sony avoiding the nasty 3D crosstalk ghosting issues that plagued some of its 2011 sets.
Sony has provided a startlingly long list of variations on its motion processing theme, moreover, including a new 'impulse' setting that repeats each image frame four times and then blinks the backlight right at the end of each scanning phase. The idea behind this is to provide a blur-reduction option for video purists who can't be doing with the more typical frame interpolation approach to combatting motion problems.
Also potentially hugely important to the 46HX853's picture fortunes should be the brand's X-Reality Pro technology.
This uses a dedicated new chipset to upscale standard definition and even seriously low-rent online streaming sources to high definition. This rather cleverly improves its efficiency versus rival upscaling systems by being able to automatically recognise different types of source content and then applying a series of largely predetermined processing routines to them.
The new version of X-Reality Pro works so efficiently, in fact, that the 46HX853 even lets you apply its 'upscaling' charms to full HD 3D pictures for the first time.
The edge LED lighting system on the KDL-46HX853, meanwhile, employs a new, more sophisticated local dimming system to deliver a degree of lighting flexibility across different 'zones' of the picture - something that should boost the screen's contrast performance considerably. Experience also suggests, though, that such local dimming on edge LED screens can cause 'light blocking' issues around very bright objects, so we'll have to be on the look out for those.
As noted when discussing the KDL-46HX853's connections, Sony's new set is capable of playing back 3D sources using the full HD active format.
With this in mind it's a pity Sony doesn't include any 3D glasses for free with the TV, as research suggests that if people can't use a feature straight out of the box, they often never get round to using that feature at all. However, there is at least a promotion on at the time of writing whereby you can get two pairs of Sony 3D glasses for the price of one (about £60).
The glasses are worth investing in too, as they're some of the best ones we've tried thanks to the way they try to stop light sneaking in around their edges. This makes them markedly more bulky than most 3D glasses, but surely it's the quality of the 3D performance that really matters?
There's an interesting feature related to the glasses too, for the TV provides the option to adjust the brightness of the 3D picture they produce. This matters because an offshoot of this feature is that it can become a tool for controlling crosstalk noise, with lower brightness leading to less crosstalk.
The final big feature of the KDL-46HX853 concerns its online services. Sony has recently managed to pull the various threads of its streaming world together under the Sony Entertainment Network (SEN) banner, and it's this platform which now takes over from the previous Bravia Internet Video (BIV) one.
As with BIV, the SEN system sensibly continues to focus for the most part on providing streaming video sources rather than deluging you in piles of pointless, second-tier apps like Samsung and LG TVs are wont to do. Here's the full list of online features we found at the time of writing (bearing in mind that services can be added or even taken away at any time):
Sony's Video Unlimited movie streaming subscription service, Sony's Music Unlimited movie streaming subscription service, Twitter, BBC iPlayer, Demand 5, BBC News, Sky News, Sony's Home Theatre Control app, Skype, Facebook, LoveFilm, Netflix, MUBI, Sony Entertainment Television network, Crackle, Eurosport, Muzu.tv, Euronews, YouTube, Sony's 3D channel, Billabong, Wired, epi, Concierge.com, Style.com, DailyMotion, UStudio, golflink.com, livestrong.com, ehow, video detective, singing fool, a podcast player, moshcam, Picasa, a Web browser, a calendar, an RSS reader, a calculator, an alarm, a world clock, Aupeo, AccuWeather, and a handful of games, including backgammon, Bubble, chess, Sudoku, and Pipemania 2.
Sony's emphasis on video for its online services suggests that the brand agrees with us that video content is much more important to a Smart TV than smaller 'utility' or game apps. And this same appreciation for the differences between Smart TVs and other Smart devices also leads to the 46HX853 integrating Twitter in a much more sensibly subtle way than you get with other TVs. Basically, the default Twitter setting finds latest tweets from the people you follow appearing in a smallish area underneath the reduced-size TV picture you get on Sony's new SEN 'home screen'.
This is a much better approach than forcing Twitter users to take over the entire screen of what is, after all, a shared device every time they want to glance at the latest pearls of wisdom the world of tweets has to offer.