Sony has always favoured LCD technology over DLP when it comes to both front and rear projection. So it's no surprise to find it's still persevering with LCD for its latest rear-pro offering, the 50in KDFE50A12U. What's surprising about this LCD giant, though, is its price: at just £1,400 it's the cheapest 50in TV we've ever seen. So where's the catch?
There's nothing to complain about aesthetically, with the nicely combined shades of grey and unusually skinny screen frame both helping create a more graceful look than you'd expect.
Connectivity doesn't seem to be compromised by price cutting activity either, including as it includes both HDMI and component video high definition options, together with a PC port, a pair of RGB-capable Scarts, and a CAM slot for adding Pay TV services that reveals the presence of a digital tuner.
Backing up the E50A12U's HD capable inputs is a native resolution of 1,280 x 720,confirming the TV's HD Ready status.
Of the set's other features, the most significant is an adjustable iris. By altering the amount of light passing through the aperture according to the darkness of the picture content, adjustable irises have greatly benefitted the black level qualities of some recent front projectors, so hopefully we'll enjoy similar results with this Sony.
The set also employs a Digital Constant Image engine, which increases the picture's stability by only changing the pixels that contain differences from the frame before.
After some great first impressions, the E50A12U's pictures slightly let the side down. The single biggest concern is black level response, as even the Sony's adjustable iris can't stop dark scenes looking slightly greyed over and flat. The iris' adjustments can sometimes cause black levels to jump distractingly, too.
Colours, although definitely bright, well saturated, vibrant and noiseless, also suffer with a tone that's not as believable as with the best CRT and DLP models in this group test.
Another glitch is that edges tend to look peculiarly jagged - especially during high definition viewing - and prone to over-stressing and ghosting.
In spite of all this, the E50A12U's pictures can still looking stunning with the right footage. Consistency is its problem. Positives include a spectacular fine detail response (especially but not exclusively with HD);the removal of almost all traces of the gridlike structure of the LCD panels in the picture; total freedom from the rainbow effect and motion fizzing; and phenomenal general brightness and vitality.
The E50A12U's mammoth pictures are backed up by a heavyweight audio performance that combines raw power with an impressive frequency response, clarity and aggressive dynamics.
Sony is to be applauded for trying to make a class-defining TV - the mix of size, design, connections and features really is unprecedented for £1,400.But in the end, it can't completely make us forget our doubts that LCD is really the best rear-pro technology in terms of sheer picture quality.