Sony has really been making its mark with its latest LCD screens. This 37-inch model is the first from the entry-level S5500 series and it's left us feeling decidedly nonplussed.

It gets off on the wrong foot by looking plain by Sony standards and is a little run-of-the-mill connections-wise too, with a predictable three HDMIs and a USB input, which is increasingly becoming standard on new TVs.

Things look up with the discovery of Sony's Bravia Engine processing, which has proved generally very reliable in helping Sony's TVs improve their picture quality in previous Bravia sets. The only slight disappointment is that the 37S5500 uses last year's Bravia Engine rather than the latest version sported by Sony's most recent higher-end models.

The Bravia Engine system isn't aided by Sony's 100Hz MotionFlow system, either, though you do get Sony's 24p True Cinema mode for enhanced Blu-ray playback.

To some extent the 37S5500 makes its best impression where it counts: with its picture performance. It comes on strong with HD, thanks to some vibrant, richly saturated colours, which are given added three-dimensional solidity by some unusually fine and stripe-free blends.

Performance

It helps the picture's immediate sense of dynamism, too, that the rich colours sit right alongside some reasonably deep black levels. To be honest, these black levels aren't nearly as natural and convincing as those of Sony's higher-end LCD TVs, but they're still very good compared to similar LCD contenders, and are only seriously caught out by the darkest of film scenes.

HD pictures, meanwhile, look satisfyingly sharp, possessing a clarity that's hardly reduced by motion blur, despite the TV not having any 100Hz processing.

We weren't particularly blown away by the set's standard-definition performance, though. Images seem slightly softened up by their conversion to the screen's Full HD pixel count, and some standard-def colour tones slide a bit 'off message' from time to time.

Other issues we had with the pictures were that the dynamic contrast system caused some over-obvious brightness shifting, and contrast can reduce severely if you watch the image from an angle.

Accompanying the 37S5500's largely likeable pictures is some pretty average audio. Day to day TV programming sounds okay, but as we commonly find with flat TVs, when the set has to cope with anything at all dense, the soundstage becomes compressed and muddy, so much so that the speakers rattle from time to time.

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