Sony KDE-P37XS1 review

Can performance make up for a lack of connectivity?

Our Verdict

Gorgeous and very capable, but the lack of digital inputs mean it's not future-proof

If you're looking for a stylish, big-screen plasma TV with a Freeview tuner, look no further. This stunning screen from Sony manages to make even low-resolution TV broadcasts look great - unlike a lot of competitors - and will also suit the casual DVD watcher well.

Connections conundrum

We say casual, because those with greater ambitions will be disappointed with the KDE-P37XS1's limited connectivity. Want to connect your laptop and work on the big screen? Forget it - there isn't even an analogue PC input, something that's standard fare on a lot of much cheaper screens. Ditto for DVI and HDMI connections, which means those with all-digital DVD (and high-definition Sky broadcast) dreams will find this screen unsuitable. For everyone else, though, the inclusion of three Scarts (two RGB-capable) and one component video input for top-notch pictures is a decent enough haul, for now at least.

Considerably more pleasing are the looks and build of this Sony. It feels as solid as oak, and will win over anyone looking to have a plasma TV as the design centrepiece of a living room. The small transparent panel, a glowing Sony logo and disembodied indicator lights round off what is a seriously stunning piece of furniture.

What's more, any initial annoyance at the limited connectivity is likely to disappear once the screen is switched on. The high-definition ALiS panel makes an ideal canvas for tones of detail, the contrast range is strong and the built-in 'film mode' ensures that the fast-packed action scenes from The Day After Tomorrow never cause the appearance of sparkling artefacts.

The only criticism we could muster is that, when Manhattan is quickly overcome by a tidal wave, the mix of light and dark blues in the stormy ocean do show up the occasional colour processing deficiencies that plague plasma panels. There's also a bit of colour banding on show here, but it's handled far better here than on some screens.

Virtual reality

The KDE-P37XS1 also gives a near-virtuoso performance when it comes to sound. While you won't find anything as impressive as Dolby Digital 5.1, there's a pretty effective Dolby Virtual Surround mode on offer, as well as Sony's own BBE system, which provides a couple of interesting sonic effects to enhance the basic stereo output. And if you own a set of surround speakers, the ones attached to the screen don't immediately become redundant. Cleverly, you can use then as the centre-channel of a multi-channel system. And if you want to give the two-channel output a bassy shot in the arm, there's also an output for an active subwoofer.

The Freeview tuner included here is excellent. The picture looks superb - something that's no mean feat on a large display like this - you can move up and down the channel list quickly and the menu system and info bars are simply gorgeous. Sony has also integrated a seven-day electronic programme guide, which works in tandem with a connected VCR.

It can be set to record programmes, and sorts them by type. However, we found that there were often large holes in the schedule. For example, when we did a search for films, only three entries appeared - not particularly impressive for a week's worth of digital TV. Still, this is bound to improve over the coming months, and the software on board is fully upgradeable via free overthe- air updates.

With its stunning looks and good-allround performance, many of you won't be able to resist this Sony. But don't buy if you plan to upgrade your DVD player, because of the lack of digital connections.