The two biggest trends in TV this season are internet connectivity and 'eco' credentials and they share top billing on the stylish Sony KDL-40V5500.
The 40V5500's online approach – dubbed Applicast by Sony – is a 'ring-fenced' one. In other words, rather than providing users unfettered access to the internet, with all the attendant interface problems that could cause, the set connects to a specially created portal to obtain content specifically formatted to suit a TV screen, rather than a PC operating system.
The resulting experience feels impressively like an advanced form of interactive teletext, and so shouldn't intimidate even the most technophobic TV or web users.
On the downside, the 40V5500's tailored online facilities are far more limited than a full internet browser. The widgets currently available are restricted to the ability to read RSS newsfeeds; a small selection of screen saver photographs; a calculator and a world clock.
The service looks impoverished against the YouTube, Flickr and Yahoo services found on Samsung's range of web-enabled TVs.
Meanwhile, the set's eco features, include a power saving mode that reduces the backlight in two stages, or even lets you turn off the picture completely. Plus there's the now de rigueur mode that adjusts pictures based on the ambient brightness.
Also significant on the 40V5500 is Sony's new Bravia Engine 3 video processing system that enables you to view video, music and photo content from your PC via the ethernet port, or via a USB 2.0 slot. There's also Sony's 24p True Cinema mode for enhanced Blu-ray playback, plus a healthy quartet of HDMI inputs.
The 40V5500 uses Sony's excellent Xross Media Bar onscreen menu system, which is a neat and logical twin-axis approach that lets you access all the TV's features with impressive speed.
The remote control also offers excellent support, too, thanks to its fantastic layout and thoughtful button prioritisation.
In many ways, the 40V5500's pictures are spectacularly accomplished, and the clearest example of this comes when viewing high-definition material. The full HD panel delivers exceptional detailing and sterling sharpness (provided you've turned off all the noise reduction systems).
Movies also benefit from the 40V5500's often startling visual dynamic range, as exceptionally crisp, bright whites sit alongside some profound black levels. In between there's a rich, but natural colourscape that's among the most satisfying we've seen.
Also excellent is the TV's motion handling, which is almost entirely free of the overt smearing and motion blur that's afflicted some earlier models. Sony has achieved highly acceptable motion clarity without apparently generating any processing side effects.
The TV doesn't appear to add any noise to hi-def pictures, and even manages to produce its sensational sharpness without creating too much grain.
The – at times – superlative HD images are joined by a very creditable standard-definition performance. Images look a little sharper than is common on full HD TVs, clearly revealing the quality of Bravia Engine 3's upscaling.
Their colours hold up nicely, too, with unusually subtle blends helping to minimise the waxy skin tones that's common with full HD LCD screens. And it's nice to see SD images still enjoying a wide colour range, with little of the compression and loss of naturalism that can occur when some rival LCD screens step down from high to standard def.
MPEG noise from Freeview broadcasts is well controlled by the 40V5500's noise reduction circuits, meanwhile, without making pictures look soft.
The only significant problem with the 40V5500's pictures are the subtle backlight inconsistencies, where some parts of the picture look slightly greyer than others in dark scenes.
You can't see this at all most of the time and it can be minimised by reducing the backlight, but during really dark scenes, the relatively bright pools can suddenly become very distracting. It doesn't help, either, that the brightness pools shift and grow if you watch from even a fairly gentle angle down the side.
The 40V5500 struggles to deliver much bass, but its mid-range is open and powerful enough not to sound cramped, and there's enough clean treble information to create a sense of audio detail and geography.
Without the backlight pooling issue, the KDL-40V5500 would have been a serious bargain, but with this flaw the price looks about right.