Sony's KDL-46Z5500 Bravia LCD TV is exceptional. And brave. For starters, it doesn't have an LED backlight, which, for a two-grand telly, strikes me as rather courageous.
Instead, Sony has put its faith in CCFL. And while that is to the slight detriment of black levels (which are extremely good regardless, helped by a real world contrast ratio of over 60,000:1), it is a move that has seemingly allowed the boffins to concentrate on detail reproduction and colour saturation.
Both of these picture elements are extraordinary. The colourfield is natural and, just, right. There's also a solidity in static image representation that even Samsung's LED panels can't match. But it is with fine detail that the Z5500 really sings.
Blu-ray should be a natural bedfellow to a Sony TV, and in this instance, it is. The US Director's Cut edition of Watchmen is a dark experience (physically and tonally), but the screen picks out every minute speck of information from the shadows. If it didn't look too weird to do so, I could've applauded its video prowess openly in the office.
That's not to say there aren't caveats. I'm not overly enamoured by the design of the bezel. There's a silver strip that ranges along the bottom of the glass, which reflects ambient light – it's distracting.
Also, off-axis viewing relegates image-quality rapidly the further around, above or below you get. If your child is watching Thomas the Tank Engine while sat on the floor gazing up, he'd be hard-pushed to recognise the individual trains from the greyness of their livery.
There's also a minor issue with reds, which can look a little orangey. But I am being rather picky. None of these gripes are pronounced enough to spoil proceedings.
The 46Z5500 is a multi-talented performer with both hi-def and standard-def content and that's all that matters. I'd actually go as far to say that it offers one of the best digital TV (Freeview) experiences I've actually seen on a TV above 37in this year. And, while not especially loud, the audio it creates is meaty enough.
When it comes down to it, for generic television viewing it's almost flawless. And, while I'm not really a fan of the weird artefacts that frame rate doubling (quadrupling, here) can often introduce to a movie, Sony's own proprietary, motion-smoothing 200Hz processor gives as natural an experience as can be.
Clearly, I'm a fan of this TV. It does the basics right. As with most screens these days, there are bells and whistles – such as AppliCast, Sony's web access features, and DLNA certification – but they're largely irrelevant. Instead, it's good, old-fashioned performance that's won me round. And it's certainly worthy of the Sony legend.
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