Few brands know how to make a TV look as distinctive as Sony, so it comes as no surprise that the S32A12U is eye candy of the highest order. Willy Wonka would have been proud. It lacks the chutzpah of the boldly black V32A12, but its subtler colour scheme and gently voluptuous lines are similarly seductive.

Connectivity is good. An all digital HDMI connection is bolstered by component video, two Scarts and a DSub PC jack. There's also a slot for adding Top Up TV to the integrated Freeview tuner.

The digital tuner itself is pleasingly sophisticated. It features a 7-day Electronic Programme Guide, which permits searches of the listings based on genre, and direct timer setting.

Being an S-series Bravia, though, there's little in the way of extra picture processing horsepower. You need to go further up the price range to find Sony's WEGA Engine picture processor. The panel resolution is 1366 x 768.

In use this Sony gets many things right. Colour performance is above average. Hues are consistently amongst the most naturally toned and vibrant in this entire group.

Also impressive is the picture's freedom of noise, with dot crawl, motion smearing, MPEG blocking, grain, colour fizzing and edge shimmer all largely insignificant. This trait applies across to all sources, both standard and high definition.

Of course, the former don't look quite as sharp and detailed as they do on the upmarket WEGA Engine sets, but they're not bad at all; feed the set highdef and the clarity really jumps out.

The Sony only falls over when it comes to black levels. They're quite limited. Consequently, dark portions of the picture tend to look somewhat greyed over, which hides background detail.

The S32A12's audio performance is solid, managing to deliver more bass than most flat TVs without overwhelming an unusually open midrange, or leaving trebles sounding harsh.

There's no doubt on the evidence of the S32A12 that Sony is moving in the right direction with its Bravia range. But on its entry-level S-series, its black level and contrast still lags behind some of the competition. John Archer