Sony KDL-52W4100 LCD TV User Interface

User Interface
The 52W4100's remote is fairly simple—not illuminated and not universal in the conventional sense. It does have a set of transport controls, which work with HDMI devices compatible with Bravia Theater Sync. With no device-selection buttons, the layout is uncluttered and straightforward, though I wish it had dedicated input-selection buttons.

The menu system is based on Sony's XrossMediaBar (XMB) design, in which main menu items are arranged horizontally and their submenus branch off vertically from each one. I like the concept, but not this implementation. For one thing, there are only three main menu items—Settings, TV Channels, and External Inputs—and I see absolutely no reason to have channels and inputs in the menu at all, since a list of the inputs can be called up with the Input button on the remote and channels can be entered on the numeric keypad. Instead, I'd much rather see the Settings submenus reorganized into logical groups that could be accessed from the main level.

Unavailable menu items are grayed out, but the cursor stops at each one instead of skipping them as it should. Also, when you reach one end of a list, you can't continue in the same direction and go "around the horn" to the other end. Many times, I found myself wishing I could jump from the beginning to the end of a list without having to scroll all the way through it. Another pisser is the lack of an Exit button, which would jump out of the menu system immediately. As it is, the fastest way out of the menu is to press the Home Menu button twice.

Every time you enter the XMB, the channel list is selected, not the place you were when you last exited the menu. At least it returns to the submenu you left when you scroll back to the Settings menu, which is better than returning to same item every time. However, I would much prefer it if you returned directly to that item when re-entering the menu system.

You can get to the picture controls a bit quicker by pressing the Options button, which brings up a menu of commonly used items, including the picture controls. However, to access the frame-interpolation and film-mode settings, you must go through the entire XMB.

Speaking of the frame-interpolation and film-mode settings, these are set independently for each input. I call this a blessing and a curse—it's great to have that level of control, but it's a drag to try different settings because the menu obscures the entire image, which means you must back all the way out of the XMB to see what a particular setting is doing.