Sony's KDL-40W5500 40 inch LCD TV may be a standard LCD – neither super-thin nor sporting LED backlighting – but it delivers generally fine AV at an appealing price point, and throws in some tasty features, too. It doesn't take a genius to work out it'll probably sell like hot cakes.
Image quality with both hi-and standard-def is impressive. Black levels are sufficiently deep and dark, and contrast levels are extraordinary – we measured CR at 115,456:1.
Of course, should you pull some stupendously thick curtains, turn out all the lights and play a shadow-filled game like Infamous on the PlayStation 3, then you'll notice a bit of the CCFL backlight bleeding through. But it's undeniably good.
In its dynamic mode, the Sony adjusts its backlight settings depending on material. Those who'd rather do things themselves aren't left out, though, as you can also adjust the backlight manually through the menu.
The W5500 doesn't feature the brand's top Motionflow 200Hz wizardry. Instead it offers a standard 100Hz refresh rate, but in my opinion this is perfectly adequate. In fact, I advise against nudging it above the Standard setting, as that leads to distracting artefacts in certain situations, such as when a character walks in front of a chain link fence (from my favourite torture disc Se7en).
Keep it toned down for much smoother pictures, and you'll cure judder and retain definition. Gamers will find little evidence of smearing or ghosting, even with high-paced sports and racing titles.
DETAILS: The Sony's grasp of fine detail in Blu-rays and HD games, like the excellent Infamous on the PS3, is a major benefit
Indeed, the Bravia Engine 3 processing, coupled with other picture enhancements, ensures that the screen delivers fine detail and beautifully clean colours no matter what the subject matter.
Of course, images don't look as eye-poppingly sharp and noise-free coming from the integrated Freeview tuner as they do from a hooked-up Blu-ray player or Sky HD box, but I enjoyed excellent results with standard DVDs, making this a good choice for viewers still watching a lot of SD.
Like many new flatscreens, the W5500 boasts extra curricular features, some of more appeal than others: there's a Picture Frame Mode for displaying high-resolution photos or pre-loaded paintings; Voice Zoom, for bumping up dialogue levels; a range of 'intelligent' Eco settings to reduce power; and AppliCast, Sony's (rather limited) web-service that appears onscreen while you're watching something completely unrelated.
At the moment the latter comprises RSS news feeds, a calculator and a worldwide clock. There's nothing to rival the third-party content (Flickr, YouTube) delivered by other brands – but it should expand in the future.
Design-wise, the W5500 closely follows previous Bravia models. It's an elegant-looking set, and solidly built, too, but doesn't really scream high-end.
Small caveats aside, the KDL- 40W5500 can be considered an above-average LCD that should give buyers pause for thought. If you want great-looking pictures served up with a raft of media functionality and money-saving eco goodness, you'll find it right here. No, concerns then about its AV chops, but if you want a better-performing set look to audition one of the brand's Z range.
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