That means that this TV produces a very appealing picture, especially in darker viewing conditions. That's not even the best news though—what's really great is that you can expect very commendable performance directly out of the box, similar to Sony's flagship model for this year.
Lately, the theme in the TV business has been go big or go home: bigger price tags, bigger screens, bigger resolutions.
If you're trying to escape the big-TV bandwagon, take a look at the Sony KDL-40W600B (MSRP $499), the company's least-expensive 2014 offering.
This isn't the TV to please 2014's bargain fanatics, though. With great design inside and out, the W600B is for the quality driven consumer.
Smart commodities like Netflix and Hulu increase this TV's value, but don't expect a full-fledged smart platform experience. The remote control is too bare bones to make typing anything but frustrating, and there isn't a full-fledged web browser either. The W600B ships in 40- and 48-inch sizes.
To test TVs, we tend to put them in Cinema mode before collecting data. The cinema/movie mode is typically the best for optimizing performance in ideal settings (in other words, dark, theater-like rooms). While calibrators are limited to 2-point grayscale controls on Sony's W600B series, things look pretty great right out of the box—so we won't complain.
To minimize errors, I altered various RGB gain and bias points under the white balance setting and increased the backlight, but everything else remained just as it was. Below, you can see those exact changes.
An entry level TV with a mid-tier outfit
Sony knows how to dress a TV. This little display isn't as novel as the company's 2014 flagship entry, but the W600B definitely dresses beyond its lowly class.
While the screen's dark borders are very thin and minimal, the stand is something of a statement piece. Similar to last year's Sony TVs, a slim, silver stand courses down and around the front. The metallic flourish gives this display a high-quality look.
To hook up and get going, just peek around the back left side: Shared composite/component ports, a headphone jack, two USB ports, four HDMI inputs, an ethernet in, a digital audio out (optical), and a coaxial jack are all included. Buyers will also find a standard remote. The navigation wheel is such that you're always clicking Home by accident, instead of clicking down. Typing isn't much fun with this thing either, so downloading a smartphone remote or buying a Sony touch controller is advisable.
Great streaming apps and a remote from yesteryear
Sony's W600B series offers a handful of great streaming apps, just like last year: Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, Crackle, and so on. Just click the + button to add a favorite to your home page. HBO Go is the only major omission.
Users can browse for basic flash games, music apps (Pandora), news apps, and more—just hit the SEN button (Sony Entertainment Network) and flip through the main tabs to explore the possiblities: Movies, Album, Music, and Apps.
Additionally, if you have movies and shows that you already own, Sony will integrate those into SEN, so that you can browse all content in the same, streamlined place—just connect your content via USB or DLNA. You can do the same sort of thing with personal videos and photos under the Album tab, but you'll have to create a Sony cloud account and a SEN account first.
We should mention the remote one more time: Unless you purchase a sold-separate touch controller, or download a Sony smartphone remote, you'll lose your marbles trying to type "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" into Netflix with the included remote.
Smart features aside, the W600B also sports an excellent menu set. There are heaps of picture settings to tinker with: two-point white balance, a gamma slider, color temperature, brightness, contrast, etc. You can also find a batch of motion enhancement features, a full audio EQ, and surround sound modes. Good luck in the rabbit hole.
The KDL-40W600B didn't look like much next to our reference display, but it still tested above-average for an edge-lit LED LCD display. It has particularly good black levels, for instance. I collected readings using an ANSI checkerboard pattern and discovered a minimum luminance of 0.04 cd/m2 and a peak white level of 106 cd/m2 in Cinema mode. Post calibration, however, I collected the same black level, but with a new white reading of 122 cd/m2 .
The contrast ratio of 2650:1 is anything but award-winning, but it gets the job done well enough for most. Best of all, there weren't cases of light bleed to distract you during black-bar content.
Sony's W600B nailed this test, thanks to very accurate color reproduction. We measure against and international standard, Rec. 709, and from red, to blue, to green, to cyan, to magenta, to yellow, to white—the only errors in hue and saturation that this TV makes are imperceptible.
Images onscreen will therefore appear natural and lifelike, not garish or off-color.
Big performance from a low-end contender
Great news: Despite its entry level status in the 2014 Sony lineup, this TV performs admirably. From its color performance, to its black levels, and beyond, the lab results are largely positive. Expect great quality from this low-end W600B.
For an edge-lit LED display, this television's default black level is quite impressive—though this does limit the TV's peak light output to a degree. In short, this panel really delves into shadow tones, which lends the picture a sense of depth and detail; but it's also bright enough to hold up in a sunlit room, thanks to those dazzling LEDs.
The TV nailed our color tests, too. It produces lush, accurate colors without any calibration at all. That's right, it razzle dazzles you right out of the box. Highlights looked great as well, so that pure-white areas of a picture carry no unwanted blue or reddish hues.
You may have noticed the W600B's 60Hz refresh rate, but don't let that scare you off completely. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by this television's motion performance: Scenes looked mostly smooth and detailed, with only mild blurring and juddering during intense horizontal panning. There are numerous motion settings to play with, but truthfully, none of them made a particularly visible difference. All in all, this motion performance is much better than other 60Hz TVs I've seen in the past. All the same, if you're looking for something to game on, you're better off with Vizio's full-array 120Hz E Series.
If you're looking for a cherry on top, the viewing angle certainly isn't it. The W600B, like so many LED LCD TVs before it, does not look great from every angle. You need to sit head-on to avoid a drop in contrast and ugly areas of blotchy light spots from the LEDs along the TV's perimeter.
For more details about this television's test results and calibration, head to the science page.
If you care about quality design, this may be the panel you're looking for.
For all its great qualities, Sony's KDL-40W600B still faces a tough bottom line. As Sony's least-expensive offering, this series is head-to-head with 2014's barking, biting, unavoidable underdog: Vizio.
Vizio offers a higher scoring full-array LED E Series in 40- and 48-inch sizes—and the prices are lower than Sony's. If you're a bargain shopper, Vizio is here to make you an offer you can't refuse. The E series even boasts a 120Hz refresh rate, whereas the W600B's is just 60Hz.
So the bottom line is this: The Vizio E Series offers slightly better performance and a smaller price tag, but it looks and feels very cheap, unlike this Sony. That means that for many shoppers, the comparison is really one of price versus quality design.
In the Advanced Menu, you'll find a gamma slider. I did test things out on various settings, but the out-of-the-box Cinema gamma preset is as good as it gets.
If you aren't familiar with gamma, it's what handles the luminance throughout intervals of the grayscale, from dark to light. When we test gamma, we're asking: Does the TV ramp up out of black shadow areas too quickly, leaving important gray details in the dust?
In this case, no. We found a gamma sum of 2.33, which is fairly close to the 2.4 ideal.
Though I found errors in this Sony's grayscale production and RGB balance, the issues were quite mild. Grayscale simply applies to a display's black, gray, and white production; this is linked to RGB balance because the red, green, and blue sub-pixels make the grayscale.
Therefore, equipped with Sony's 2-point grayscale controls, I minimized error in the RGB balance in order to perfect the grayscale. The pre-calibration DeltaE reading of 3.71 benefited from the changes, lowering to 2.21.
In typical LED LCD form, the W600B allots too much emphasis to the blue sub-pixel. It took changes to bias and gain of both the red and blue sub-pixels to improve the imbalance.
This TV's viewing angle is one of its weakest performance points, and that's no surprise for an LED LCD TV. Be sure to watch from front and center, or else picture degradation and color shifting will hamper your view. I measured a total viewing angle of 32° (±16° from the center to either side).
Meet the tester
Former Managing Editor@
Virginia is a former Managing Editor at Reviewed.com. She has a background in English and journalism. Away from the office, Virginia passes time with dusty books & house cats.
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