Sony's LCD TVs haven't shone as radiantly as we might have expected of late. But that's about to change, because the Sony KDL-32W4000 is as bright a star as the company has yet produced.

It sports an unusually swanky design that combines a black bezel with a transparent panel along its bottom edge, while a long narrow speaker bar holds on to the translucent section for dear life.

Picture Frame mode

Connections include three v1.3 HDMIs and a USB port you can use to get digital photographs onto the TV's screen.

A Picture Frame mode allows the TV to effectively become a painting when you're not watching it from a selection of artworks that are preloaded into its built-in memory. You can even download your favourite images to the TV's memory if you don't want to leave a storage device permanently attached to the USB port.

While this TV-as-artwork idea makes sense for people wall-mounting their sets, leaving a set on permanently, albeit at much reduced power, as happens in Picture Frame Mode, won't endear the TV to environmentalists.

Of the 32W4000's other features, the most important is Sony's new Bravia Engine 2 image processing, with its elements aimed at boosting contrast, colours and sharpness. But this is aided and abetted by a 24fps True Cinema mode that's designed to optimise the TV's performance when watching Blu-ray movies.

Dazzling pictures

Feed it some decent high-definition video and it's immediately apparent that the 32W4000 is easily Sony's best 32in set to date.

Colours are dazzlingly vibrant and totally natural in tone and blends are produced without the slightest trace of striping. They're also counterpointed by some superb black levels that are both deep and packed with shadow detail.

The single most striking attribute of the picture, though, is its clarity. The sharpness and detail of its HD pictures is mesmerising, proving that having a full HD resolution in a 32in LCD TV can make a genuinely noticeable difference.

Powerful audio

The only aspect that really could be improved with the HD picture quality is its motion handling, as a lack of 100Hz means there's a touch of blur from time to time.

There's room for improvement, too, with the Sony KDL-32W4000's standard-def performance, which suffers with slightly more video noise than we're entirely comfortable with.

Happily, we can end on another high, though, with the Sony's sound, which possesses levels of power, range and clarity that beggars belief given how innocuous the set's speaker 'bar' looks.