The Sony Bravia KDL-32E5500 32-inch LCD TV's main trick is nothing new. You can use most LCD TVs as a photo frame when you're not watching them, but no set takes this idea quite as seriously as this one.
With its gorgeous glossy, white main screen surround, thin black outer trim, neckless attachment to its desktop stand and slightly backtilted stance, it looks for all the world like a big, old picture frame, albeit a futuristic one.
Sony has at least tried to give it a wider appeal by making that black outer bezel available in wood or aluminium variants.
Also supporting the set as a multipurpose, multimedia TV are a USB port able to play photo, film or music files into the TV directly, and an Ethernet jack that enables you to access AV files stored on a networked DLNA PC.
What's more, the 32E5500 ships with a small selection of 'screensaver' paintings and photos stored in an internal memory and enabling you to access a few more via Sony's AppliCast online service, available through the Ethernet.
And to top it all off, there's a photo mode among the TV's image presets that drastically reduces the image's brightness so that you don't use too much power.
The TV is also equipped with some potentially telling video features. For instance, it features Sony's latest Bravia Engine 3 processing system, with its elements aimed at improving colours, motion, detailing, noise levels and contrast.
Then there's the set's MotionFlow 100Hz system, which doubles the PAL refresh rate by interpolating wholly new frames of image data in a bid to reduce blur and judder. Other impressive specs include a good claimed contrast ratio of 80,000:1 and a full HD (1,920 x 1,080-pixel) resolution.
The only arguably bum notes in the 32E5500's spec are the facts that the TV can't connect to the internet wirelessly and doesn't have as much content on its AppliCast online system as do rival services.
A final point is that, apart from the fancy design, the 32E5500's specification and features are pretty much identical to those of Sony's 32W5500 model – a fact that will become rather significant once we start considering value for money.
Ease of use
Although it initially takes some getting used to, the 32E5500's 'double axis' onscreen menu system turns out to be reasonably intuitive and well presented, although a little long-winded at times. The remote control, meanwhile, is also elegant and well thought out.
The 32E5500's pictures are excellent in many ways. Dark scenes, for instance, look more natural, three-dimensional and engaging than on the vast majority of other 32in TVs, thanks to a nearly impeccable black level performance for LCD.
Colours are strikingly vibrant, too, combining rich saturations with natural tones, and joining forces with that excellent black level response in helping pictures look exceptionally dynamic for this relatively small screen size.
Sony has traditionally delivered very sharp HD pictures with its LCD TVs and this happy trend continues with the 32E5500. Every last detail of our favourite Blu-ray discs are presented with pin-point accuracy and without the grittiness or noise that can affect very sharp pictures.
The MotionFlow processing, meanwhile, does a startlingly good job of reducing judder in the picture and doesn't throw up many unwanted side effects either as long as you avoid its 'high' setting option.
Standard-definition pictures look very decent in most ways, too, thanks no doubt to the efforts of the Bravia Engine 3 processing. Two issues take some of the sheen off the 32E5500's picture gloss, though.
The worst of these concerns motion blur, because oddly, despite the MotionFlow processing, moving objects look less crisp than on other, larger Sony models we've seen recently.
The other problem is the rather odd way that some bright elements in an otherwise very dark picture seem to glow with a bluish hue. Thankfully, this only happens very rarely, but it seems to stand out like a sore thumb when it does.
As with most smallish flat TVs, the 32E5500's audio could have done with serving up a bit more bass. But it has enough mid-range 'space' to leave voices sounding realistic, and treble details are well presented, without harshness.
Earlier on we remarked that the 32E5500 is essentially just a fancier looking version of the 32W5500. This becomes very significant when you consider that we've seen 32W5500's on sale for less than £600, while the cheapest price we've found on the 32E5500 is £945. So, you're paying the best part of £400 for a fancy design.
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