An expensive choice if ever there was one, Sony's KDL-20S2020 needs to go some if it wants to win us over. Things don't start well - its design is disappointing, and its monotone, plasticky, grey finish and uninspired lines really fail to excite.

Its rear panel looks more promising, though, housing as it does both HDMI and component video connections capable of receiving high-def sources. Combined with the 20S2020's widescreen shape and native 1,366x768 resolution, these jacks make the TV HD ready.

Also bringing a smile is a D-Sub PC jack, two Scarts rather than one and a CI slot for adding subscription TV channels, which justifies the presence of a built-in digital tuner. It fully realises its digital potential by including seven-day electronic programme guide support and a timer event memory.

Other noteworthy features include a backlight adjustment, optional noise reduction, Virtual Dolby surround, and the latest 'Viva Digital HD3D' audio processing system from BBE Sound.

A couple of the screen's claimed specifications warrant a mention too, namely hugely impressive figures of 8ms for the LCD response time (which should help reduce LCD's motion smearing), and a contrast ratio of 1,200:1. That's vast by the standards of the small LCD TV world. Our only complaint about the 20S2020's hugely impressive features count would be that its onscreen access menus are uncomfortably small to read from any distance.

Performance

This relatively minor complaint is quickly forgiven, though, when you clock the set's impressive pictures. For starters, images are unusually crisp and detailed. This helps the set make digital tuner sources look much sharper than normal for such a small screen, and also delivers as many of the benefits of HD as any screen this small realistically can.

The 20S2020's well ahead of most rivals with its black levels too, as even the darkness of space at the start of Alien looks genuinely black and vast instead of grey and flat as it usually does on small LCDs. Colours, meanwhile, are outstandingly rich and bright when needed. But it's their naturalism and precision during subtler moments that really stands out, particularly on skin tones and colour blends.

With edges looking sharp and ghost-free (providing you avoid the 'Vivid' factory preset), motion looking clean, and noise of all sorts being suppressed well, there's really nothing bad to say about the 20S2020's pictures.

It's no slouch sonically, either. There's a fine amount of audio detail in the soundstage and, with VIVA BBE activated, a pleasing level of treble and bass range - all distortion-free at even high volumes. All in all, the 20S2020 is highly specified and performs superbly.