From what we've seen of it so far, we love Sony's new Wega Engine processing. It keeps all of the screen's picture scaling in the digital domain - dispensing with messy digital to analogue conversions as well as adding detail and improving contours, contrast, colour tone and gradation. Sony's debut Wega Engine LCD TV, the KDL-32MRX1, proved that the system works magnificently well.
The only problem was that it cost a walletbusting £4,300. For a 32in telly. So let's hear it for the 32in KLV-L32M1. It tones down the 32MRX1's design finesse, chucks out the digital tuner, multimedia/ tuner box, MemoryStick slot and PC compatibility, but retains Wega Engine - for around just £2,300.
Even though the KLV-L32M1 doesn't share the truly spectacular aesthetics of the 32MRX1, it's certainly no Jabba The Hut. The confident colour schemes and bold backward curve of its top leave it looking rather lovely - if a little bigger than most rivals.
Connections are decent, and include three Scarts (two RGB capable) and component video inputs able to take progressive scan and high-definition. Many rival brands omit HD from their low-priced screens, so we salute Sony for including this key futureproofing feature. The lack of PC connectivity is a disappointment, but if that's the price we have to pay to get Wega Engine on an affordable LCD TV, we'll accept it.
As with the 32MRX1, Wega Engine helps Sony's latest screen kick Empire butt. Colours are especially awesome. Saturations are vibrant, clean, and rich - but never less than completely natural in tone. Even the alien skin tones and colours in Episode IV's cantina looked frighteningly authentic!
What's more, the KLV-L32M1's fine detail levels are astounding. As C-3PO and R2-D2 scuttle away under Stormtrooper fire near the start of Episode IV, the amount of texture and reflection visible on the their bodywork was remarkable. And that this detail is visible on a moving object proves that Wega Engine generates practically no unpleasant side-effects.
All the small things
The Stormtroopers' uniforms showed that the Sony also has a good white balance and an intense brightness. And black levels are good - not worldbeating, but good enough to give Star Wars' space-bound scenes depth and solidity. Wega Engine even proved to be unusually adaptable. It works wonders on a standard analogue broadcast, but also takes a back seat during high-definition viewing.
Sound isn't as accomplished as pictures, but it's still good. There's a decent amount of detail, and the speakers picked up subtleties in the Star Wars mix that many other LCDs miss. There was also enough bass to open things up during the enormous Death Star explosion. The only downer is a slightly thin midrange, which can occasionally cause harshness.
Sony's KLV-L32M1 is a benchmark product. We already knew that Wega Engine was good. But now it's a genuinely mass-market proposition, we reckon Sony's rivals must be quaking in their LCD boots.