Inevitably, the success of Sony's W4000 models has raised my expectations for the Sony KDL-52W4500.
Especially given this set's massive, movie-friendly 52in screen size.
So it's a testament to the 52W4500 that in so many ways it doesn't disappoint.
This is not a svelte screen, but it does have some welcome design ﬂourishes. I particularly appreciate the see-through section cut out of the bezel beneath the screen, enabling it to cut a unique and stylish ﬁgure unlike anything else on the market at the moment.
Connectivity is good too, especially the presence of not one, but three 'multimedia' ports: USB 2.0, DLNA-certiﬁed Ethernet port, and a Digital Media Port.
The USB plays JPEGs and MP3 ﬁles from USB storage devices, the Ethernet port lets you access JPEGs and MP3 files (but, alas, no video) stored on a PC, and the Digital Media Port is there so you can access – via a suitable, optional adaptor – audio or video files from connected portable media players. Versatile indeed.
In an ideal world I would have liked to ﬁnd four HDMIs on a set as fearsomely well-specified as the 52W4500, rather than the three you actually get. But to be fair, three will probably be enough for most users.
I also like the 52W4500's onscreen interface, which has previously been seen on other products in the brand's equipment range.
It uses a double-axis arrangement dubbed the XrossMedia Bar and it really does make it possible to access a large volume of features with impressive speed.
While I feel there's still room for improvement in the way some features are divided across different submenus, overall the XrossMedia Bar is deﬁnitely a system I'd like to see Sony develop further.
World in motion
The 52W4500's headline attraction is arguably its advanced video processing, which comprises Sony's Bravia Engine 2 software bouquet and so-called MotionFlow 100Hz.
The Bravia Engine 2 system certainly delivered the goods on the W4000 models we've tested, so it's no surprise to ﬁnd it having a pretty profound effect on a number of different picture elements here, too.
Standard-deﬁnition sources are upscaled to the 52W4500's Full HD native resolution with astonishing aplomb (provided they're of decent enough provenance in the ﬁrst place), with noticeable extra sharpness and some impressive noise reduction routines that calm MPEG and mosquito video noise far better than many rival 1080p sets.
This ability to make DVDs in particular shine gives the screen a tangible edge over its more expensive rival, the Samsung LE558956D6.
The set's colour ﬁdelity is also excellent. Standard- and high-deﬁnition sources alike exhibit spectacular vibrancy and rich saturation. But that's not to say the screen's colour palette can't also be subtle.
The face of Javier Bardem's deadpan killer in No Country For Old Men (Blu-ray) looks all the more terrifying when his features are being presented without any tell-tale colour striping or blocking problems.
The sharpness noted with standard-def sources is multiplied with hi-def material. Highly-detailed textured scenes on the immaculate No Country For Old Men BD, such as those in the desert around the fateful drug shootout crime scene, appear fantastically sharp and clean, with grains of sand clearly visible on the cars and in the air.
No more smearing
Sony's MotionFlow 100Hz system doubles the screen refresh rate and introduces new image data in a bid to make motion suffer less with judder and LCD's common problem with resolution loss.
I found that, for the best results, this should be set to 'low'; in this case MotionFlow 100Hz works very well indeed, improving the clarity of movement across the screen without throwing up many significant, distracting side effects.
The smeary nightmare witnessed with Sony's W3000 models last year now looks like a distant memory.
The darker the better
When it comes to black level, a familiar Achilles' heel of CCFL-backlit LCD screens, this Sony performs well ...with caveats.
Dark patches in otherwise bright scenes provide a punchy, realistic-looking counterpoint to the exceptionally vibrant colours, and the screen's native black level response also looks good during darker moments, such as the tense No Country… night-time street shoot-out.
Sony claims a contrast ratio of 50,000:1. In our real world contrast measures, we recorded a ratio
of 32,000:1 out of the box, and 23,000:1 after calibration.
The backlight, though, is definitely uneven, which led to some demerits by the Tech Lab team. Fed a Full White ﬁeld, the positioning of the backlights is clearly detectable – even at 100%. This translates to 'dull vertical ridges' through the screen. I also noted subtle grey pools in the TV's corners. However, outside of a test pattern environment these foibles disappear, effectively masked by onscreen video.
Turning from the 52W4500's pictures to its audio, the massive images are joined by an impressively potent soundstage, replete with ﬁne detail, surprisingly rich mid-bass and reasonable stereo spread.
The screen can comfortably handle a good action sequence, illustrating just how far TV audio systems have developed in recent years.
Get an audition
When all's said and done, Sony's 52W4500 is an outstanding TV which doesn't disappoint. Its picture processing is close to state-of-the-art, producing images that have a three-dimensional depth be they standard-or hi-def.
Given that this isn't one of the most expensive large screens on the market (similar sized TVs can easily command as much as a grand more with only minor differences in specification), it should be considered a bona-ﬁde star.
With the KDL-52W4500, Sony is back with bang. This really is a brilliant Bravia.