Despite being an expensive choice, this TV sadly lacks Sony's acclaimed Wega Engine processing - something that has helped the company's larger LCDs win our affections in the past. But can the KLV-17HR3 hold its own without the help of fancy technology?
It certainly looks the part, with a thin, recessed outer frame, gentle curves, funky circular stand and sturdy finish that befits a member of the stylish Sony family.
Connectivity is par for the course - there's a Scart, aerial input and side-mounted AV inputs. The lack of component and digital video inputs is no surprise (although this is more pricey than some 17in sets), so the only disappointment is that there's nothing to enable the KLV-17HR3 to double up as a PC monitor.
Features aren't extensive either, but again, this is to be expected. It's surprising to see BBE sound processing, however (which makes soundstages appear more natural on larger screens) given how poor the speakers on most small LCD TVs are. Other additions of mild interest are picture freeze, noise reduction and backlight adjustment.
Ease of use doesn't garner top marks thanks to the on-screen menus - their text is too small to be comfortably readable unless you press your nose up against the screen! Still, the elegant, superbly laid out remote control makes general use a doddle.
Any reservations we had about the KLV-17HR3 were pretty much forgotten when we checked out its pictures. The greatest achievement is the richness of the colours - we've rarely seen a small screen pack such a colour punch.
Raiders of the Lost Ark's colourful scenes in the bazaar bore this out; as the truck Indy thinks Marion is imprisoned in skids, crashes and bursts into flames, we had to conclude that few LCDs could make this scene shine quite as much as the Sony.
The absence of picture noise is also impressive. We spotted hardly a trace of dot crawl, grain, moiring or edge fizzing during a run-through of Raiders via the RGB Scart - surprising given the amount of background detail and fast-moving action - and even regular analogue TV broadcasts looked remarkably clean.
The KLV-17HR3's fairly high native resolution also helps it serve up a pleasingly detailed picture, with tightly controlled edges free of ghosting or over-emphasis. And even traditional LCD motion smearing didn't detract too much from our enjoyment. Provided the contrast isn't set too high, smearing was seldom a serious distraction - especially with RGB Scart viewing.
Bolstered with features, the Sony's sound is almost as pleasing as its excellent pictures. Even at the lowly audio power rating of 3W, the BBE processing ensures that dialogue maintains a well rounded tone and the soundstage is always coherent. The soundstage was also bigger and punchier than we had expected, but without any sense of it being stretched too thin.
In short, this is one of the best sub-20in LCD audio performers around. That may not be saying much considering the competition, but get it up and running in a small room and you'll appreciate the importance of good speakers.
Ideal for the kitchen or bedroom, this Sony nevertheless falls short of being the ultimate small LCD because of its lack of a PC input. What a waste. Still, with style pushed up a few notches and picture quality following suit, the KLV-17HR3 manages to overcome most setbacks. A flawed genius.