Sony FWD-40LX LCD Monitor Review
George Graves, April 18, 2006
Sony hardly needs an introduction to anyone. Their solidly built innovative products have made them a household word the world over. Almost every advancement in home electronics, from consumer video tape recorders to the DVD, has been spearheaded by this huge, inventive company.
The Sony FWD-40LX "WEGA" LCD display is not a television. It is a 40 inch monitor, pure and simple, intended for broadcasting, boardrooms and other professional installations. This means that it has no TV tuner and therefore it cannot produce a picture without being connected to an outside signal source. The FWD-40LX also has no speakers but has two 7-watts/channel amplifiers. The unit case color is available in either black (FWD-40LX1B) or silver(FWD-40LX1S).
If you own your own audio system and are using satellite or cable television, buying a monitor instead of a television can save you money as you are not paying for things you already have.
The FWD-40LX can be mounted on the wall with an optional wall-mount kit or it can be mounted on a very handsome clear Plexiglass base stand. Sony has thoughtfully included a pair of handles on the top of the monitor to facilitate lifting the 60 pound unit, a feature that greatly eases the handling of these large flat panel displays.
Sony sells this monitor in a number of different configurations for different applications. For instance, as delivered to HDTV Solutions, the FWD-40LX is configured with composite video (via BNC connector), S-VHS, VGA, and HDCP-DVI inputs only. There is a panel cover over a blank area which, in keeping with its pro status, can be configured with a number of interconnect options including Component/RGB video or so-called "active-through" VGA connectors to allow daisy-chaining together of more than one FWD-40LX. Neither of these optional interconnect plug-ins were provided with this review unit.
Set-up of the FWD-40LX is very straightforward. The supplied HDCP-DVI cable was plugged into both my high-definition satellite receiver and the monitor. I connected my DVD player via the supplied VGA cable. Setup and all tests were performed with this configuration.
Sony supplies a remote control wand called the "Remote Commander" RM-980, which can control all aspects of the monitor's operation including setup. Like most flat-screen monitors, the FWD-40LX also has a set of local controls mounted on the LCD's frame. These consist of an input selector which toggles through the available inputs, a menu button which toggles the on-screen menus on and off, a combination cursor/volume control and an enter button.
The menu mode walks the user through a number of options, some of which are quite advanced. For instance, there is a multi-display option that allows you to setup the FWD-40LX to work as a "video wall" where multiple units are juxtaposed side by side to provide a contiguous picture. The options are 2 x 2, 3 x 3, or 4 x 4 arrangement. The monitor also has an "auto-wide" feature which automatically sets the aspect ratio according to the incoming picture dimensions. You can also move the picture around on the screen both horizontally and vertically to accommodate the Picture-and-Picture feature which allows two different pictures to occupy the same screen at the same time.
The initial setup allows you to select automatic mode or to manually select between normal NTSC, NTSC4.43, PAL, SECAM, PAL-M, PAL-N, PAL60 modes.
Setting the color mode to NTSC, this reviewer found the FWD-40LX to be spot-on as far as black-level, white-level, color saturation and tint are concerned. While facilities to adjust these to one's own taste are provided, the default settings can always be re-attained.
The picture quality of the Sony FWD-40LX is simply outstanding. While Sony does not specify the contrast ratio of this WEGA display, I would say that it's very high for an LCD, certainly over 1000:1 (based on the Viewsonic LCD reviewed earlier this month). Color rendition is accurate, with good green saturation and reds display no oversaturation. Skin tones are good. I was especially impressed by how well darker skin tones are rendered. Often, RGB television displays tend add to a green component to the rich, brown hues associated with darker skin. The FWD-40LX renders these hues about as accurately as I've seen.
Display resolution is WXGA or 1366 x 768, which is the most popular resolution for today's flat panels. Images are sharp and clear with no LCD artifacts such as ghost trails. Overall, the picture is excellent for its type and while it doesn't pop off the screen like a plasma display does, it has a life-like character (as opposed to being overly "Technicolor" in appearance) that will appeal to many.
The Sony FWD-40LX is an excellent monitor with natural, faithful colors, a sharp picture and lots of features which will suit it well to the studio as a monitor, or to the boardroom for presentations. It will work equally well in situations requiring modest "video walls" or in other commercial applications. As a home video unit for a high-quality home theater, I'm less inclined to recommend it.
First, there's the price of $5,549. This is no doubt driven by its modularity for commercial applications, but as a home theater display it is pricey compared to a 60" plasma display. It might be more reliable than a consumer unit, and it does come from the factory fully calibrated, but in my experience very little program material actually complies with NTSC standards so the user is going to have to adjust it program by program anyway. In short, it's a fine performer, better suited to the studio than the home.