When it comes to AV, bigger numbers are usually better.

But can the Sony KDL-46Z4500, the world's first TV with 200Hz processing, really be twice as good as a 100Hz TV?

The headline 200Hz system simply adds three extra frames of newly generated image data for every frame in the original source.

This doesn't just mean repeating the same image four times. Instead, the KDL-46Z4500 calculates completely new intermediate images, taking into account the vectors of any movement in the picture. Clever.

Stunning Sony spec

The processing power required to conjure up so many images is considerable, however, so we'll have to be on the look out for any nasty side effects as the 200Hz engine goes about its business. Especially as the 200Hz processing is certainly not the only video processing system in play.

There's also a new trick called Image Blur Reduction, which enhances the sharpness of individual source frames before the 200Hz engine gets stuck into them. Plus, the set enjoys Sony's new Bravia Engine 2 video processing engine, with its customary focus on improving colours, contrast, detailing, noise levels and motion.

The TV's connections initially disappoint by only providing three HDMIs when we like our premium sets to have four. But major redemption comes from a USB port and a DLNA-certified ethernet port that allows you to access multimedia files on your PC.

The Midnight Sky bezel, meanwhile, complete with a fine sheen of sparkling dust and trademark see-through panel along the bottom edge, makes the TV distinctively – and alluringly – Sony.
However, we were disappointed by the picture adjustment flexibility on offer from what is, after all, one of Sony's top-line TVs.

Frustrating remote control

We love the Sony KDL-46Z4500's excellent dual-axis onscreen menus, with their clean presentation and sensible organisation, but we dislike its remote control just as much.

It stupidly puts the menu navigation tabs inside another circle containing more important buttons – meaning that we accidentally and repeatedly kept choosing the wrong one.

The 200Hz effect

While pictures are truly excellent by the standards of the normal LCD TV, the extent of the 200Hz difference isn't quite as profound as we'd hoped it would be.

Although there does seem to be a little more clarity and fluidity in the KDL-46Z4500's pictures than you find in 100Hz sets (including Sony's own W4500 models) the difference is only marginal. For our money, Philips' HD Natural Motion technology actually delivers more dramatic increases in clarity and fluidity than Sony's 200Hz.

However, 200Hz does have one key advantage over the Philips engine. It goes about its business while throwing up hardly any nasty side effects – at least provided you don't set it any higher than its Standard level, that is. This means there's no need to be forever revisiting the onscreen menus like you do to get the best from Philips' Perfect Pixel Engine TVs.

Sharper standard-def

What's more, the improvements to motion delivered by 200Hz are joined by plenty of other picture strengths. Colours are aggressively painted, but not at the expensive of subtlety and naturalism, for instance.

Standard-def signals are sharpened up nicely to the KDL-46Z4500's Full HD resolution. Black levels are generally among the deepest we've seen on any LCD TV that doesn't use LED technology. And overall the picture looks extremely sharp and detailed with HD sources.

There are occasions when black levels are reduced by the sudden appearance of low-level background noise. There are also times when HD images suddenly look a little soft – presumably as the 200Hz engine sporadically struggles to keep up with a particularly tricky subject.

But, thankfully, these moments are rare, and do little to detract from the fact that the KDL-46Z4500's pictures are certainly among the most dynamic we've seen from an LCD TV.

Powerful speakers

Audio is adequate, in that it reproduces even dense soundtracks with good levels of clarity and a wide soundstage. A slight lack of raw power and bass extension can leave proceedings feeling a little muddy and flat, however, especially if you've don't use the nigh-on essential Dynamic audio preset.

It's in this department that another otherwise fine flatscreen comes a cropper. We're certainly appreciative of what the 200Hz system brings to the party, but we're just not convinced that it makes quite enough difference to justify spending £2,000 on the Sony KDL-46Z4500.