This 46in Bravia LCD is all about eye-candy whether you're watching TV or not.

The Sony KDL-46W4000 features a design concept dubbed 'draw the LINE' - no, I have no idea what it means either.

Suffice it to say that the set has a Midnight Sky metallic blue flake finish which may or may not appeal, a transparent perspex strip below the screen which rivals the LG's hole for aesthetic futility, and fancy on-screen menus using a scrolling pictographic system similar to that of the PlayStation 3.

Impressive spec

There are three HDMI inputs, two on the rear, one on side (the set is 115mm deep); plus two RGB Scarts, optical digital audio output, 15-pin D-Sub PC Input, component video input, some analogue tomfoolery and a USB 2.0 port.

Within the W4000 lurks Sony's Bravia Engine 2 picture processing LSI, offering Advanced Contrast Enhancement, Live Colour Creation, xvColour and a 24p Cinema mode.

The set's audio talents extend to Virtual Dolby and BBe Viva pseudo-surround technology. The screen also sports a CEC-based Bravia Sync system which allows control of other compatible products from the TV's remote, when linked via HDMI.

Outstanding performance

In its default Vivid mode, the picture is predictably too colourful; but reset to Standard and swiftly calibrated the picture is undeniably stunning.Indeed, I'd say that this is probably the best-looking Sony LCD that I've seen to date. Colour, clarity and black levels are all outstanding.

Watching high-definition sports, wildlife and concert footage on this TV is like looking through a window; pin-sharp detail is accompanied by a natural colour palette.

My beloved Amy Winehouse sequence, for example, looks great. The songstress actually looks like a genuine human being, not an orange stick-insect. Close-ups of sportsmen show every bristle and contour, while on the other sets these could disappear in fuzz.

Our reference tigers, during wildlife footage, are realised in a natural ochre hue, not orange or red.

Smoother pictures

This excellent colour palette is accompanied by deep and convincing blacks. Only on a couple of shots did I think that the Panasonic delivers better shadow detail.

However, side by side with Panny's much-lauded plasma technology, I'd say that the Sony nails it. It even deals moderately well with shonky Freeview images; certainly the 46W4000 does a good job of smoothing out micro-blocking, and compression artefacts.

And I won't deduct points for slight fizzing in large dark areas.

Weak audio

The set's sonic performance is not so distinguished; though clear and offering fair mid-range, it lacks volume, as if the designers are afraid that anything louder would cause distortion.

It's fine and dandy for the news and EastEnders, then, but for serious entertainment you would certainly want to engage a standalone system.

The finish of the case and the fancy on-screen menus may be a matter of taste, but where it counts the Sony really delivers, with a stunningly detailed and engaging picture that really pops with Blu-ray.