Sony Bravia KDL-46X2000 £4000

31st Aug 2006 | 23:00

Sony Bravia KDL-46X2000

X-series aims to build on Sony's LCD success

TechRadar rating:

4.5 stars

A great harbinger of things to come for Sony's TV division

Like:

<p>HD picture quality</p><p>Features</p><p>Sound</p><p>Connectivity</p>

Dislike:

<p>Struggles to deliver absolute clarity with standard def</p>

It took some time, but Sony is finally enjoying the kind of commercial success with its LCD screens that it once had with its Trinitron CRT TVs - thanks to the successful roll-out of its Bravia LCD brand. Now the company is gunning for critical acclaim in the shape of its eagerly-awaited high-end range, the X-series.

The first of these, the flagship KDL-46X2000, complete with state-of-the-art picture-processing technology and 'Full HD' 1920 x 1080 resolution, hits UK stores this Summer. Smaller screens are to follow in the Autumn.

The 46X2000's design oozes high-tech opulence. The grille-effect silver screen frame is eye-catching, and its impact is heightened by the transparent glass outer frame that has almost become a Sony high-end fl at TV trademark.

Connectivity is the best I've yet seen from Sony - it sports two HDMI inputs able to take 1080p HD signals as well as 1080i/720p. Also a boon are two HD Ready component video inputs. Elsewhere, there's a D-Sub PC jack, three Scarts (all RGB capable), a CAM slot, and even an optical digital audio output for system hook-up.

Naturally a Freeview tuner comes as standard. And as you'd expect, it's bolstered by a well-presented 7-day electronic programme guide, with the option to set timer events simply by selecting them from the listings.

The set does not incorporate the brand's latest DRC-MFv2.5 picture enhancing technology, which is able to deliver a 1080p picture from any video source, but does employ a version of the Bravia Engine EX suite of picture tweaks specifi cally for the extra resolution of the X series.

Also onboard the 46X2000 are two key new technologies sported by Sony's lower-specifi cation S and V Bravia series: Super Vertical Pattern Alignment (SPVA) refracts the angle of the backlight so that the picture retains its integrity over a viewing angle, while a 'Wide Colour Gamut' fluorescent backlight enhances the colour range.

The 46X2000's intuitive onscreen menus are rammed with other, user-accessible features including MPEG block noise reduction; backlight adjustment; horizontal and vertical image shift; a film mode for improving motion-handling with film sources; and an almost infi nitely flexible sliding scale adjuster for the potency of the Digital Reality Creation processing.

With 1080i high-definition from my resident Sky HD receiver and a JVC D-VHS DTheater deck (which for my money gives more consistent results than the first HD DVD and Blu-ray decks), plus 1080p from a Marantz DV9600 upscaling DVD deck, the Sony's picture proved jaw-droppingly good.

The 1080 mode typically offers four picture benefi ts: extra sharpness, less noise, smooth, unjagged contours, and slightly subtler colour toning. And the 46X2000 delivers all these advantages with aplomb.

Its sharpness is particularly remarkable as it became possible to make out the features of faces in the crowd from hundreds of yards away during the BBC's HD coverage of the Trooping of the Colour. The edges of the soldiers' black hats looked immaculate too, suffering no bright haloes or stepping.

My well-worn D-Theater tape of Alien, meanwhile, shows the worth of the Wide Colour Gamut technology; the fi lm enjoys an expansive but natural colour palette, especially where fleshtones are concerned.

This movie also reveals that Sony has made great strides minimising those traditional problems with LCD black levels, as the 46X2000 delivers the darkest corners of deep space with outstanding depth and plenty of that subtle grayscale delineation that gives shadowy areas tangible depth. This makes it an unusually good friend of gloomy Xbox 360 HD games like Prey or Condemned.

Brighter, more colour rich Xbox HD fare like Kameo, meanwhile, shows off the 46X2000's outstanding brightness and vibrancy, as well as suffering seemingly zero colour noise.

The only negative thing I can see in the 46X2000's HD pictures is slight and occasional signs of motion smearing. But, in every other way, the 46X2000 is not only a powerfully persuasive argument for high-resolution LCD, it's arguably comparable to Pioneer's stunning 1920 x 1080 PDP-5000EX plasma monitor.

The 46X2000 is not, however, as successful as the Pioneer at handling standard-definition sources. During the switch down to these, it's noticeable that the set's colour tone loses some naturalism, motion smearing increases, and noise becomes more pronounced than it does on some of the better 768-line panels out there.

I spotted a couple of small operational niggles during our tests too. First, for some reason, our sample often defaulted to 4:3 mode when switching to an HD source. Second, during Xbox 360 gaming the component-fed signal kept triggering the TV to fl ash up the '1080i resolution' information bar on the screen. But I would rate neither of these as really serious glitches.

The 46X2000's audio, sourced from an integrated S-Master digital amplifi er, is undeniably accomplished. There's a vast amount of power on tap, which is put to superb use in combining convincing bass rumbles with clear and natural speech tones and a stunning wealth of harshnessfree treble. The TV's soundstage is engagingly wide too, perfectly matching the scale of its 46in pictures.

This X-series debut is a great harbinger of things to come for Sony's TV division. It's a pity that the 46X2000's merely solid standard-definition performance doesn't stop its performance from feeling like a game of two halves. But then I suspect that its HD talents will be what really matters to its likely target market, and in that respect it's nothing short of imperious. So X really does mark the spot.

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