Sony KDL-32V4000 £540
26th Mar 2009 | 09:00
Sony's 32" HD Ready TV is versatile and classy with attractive, Bravia-driven pictures
Any remaining CRT sets still out there should start saying their goodbyes about now. The Sony KDL-32V4000 is a desirable, yet eminently affordable flatscreen that looks destined for some serious mainstream success.
It's positioned at the cheaper end of Sony's Bravia series and the features list is adequate, rather than exhaustive. It's HD Ready, which is arguably all the resolution you need at this size and the back panel sports just about everything except S-video.
The stand-out feature is the much-admired Bravia system, which incorporates the manufacturer's consistently impressive image 'engine' and the 'Theatre Sync' facility for bringing other Sony kit under the control of one remote.
Much of Sony's pre-eminence in mass-market consumer electronics is owed to its consistently user-friendly products and the KDL-32V4000 is a case in point.
The set's user interface is simple and intuitive, and you won't need a manual to get it up and running to your satisfaction. The remote, meanwhile, is one of the firm's more basic, but sits in the hand nicely enough and is impeccably logically laid out.
The Bravia engine-driven picture is sure to delight those who prefer rich, cinematic lustre to grandstanding displays of sheer resolving power. The pleasingly natural palette is infused with a certain richness reminiscent of celluloid, and is quite different in effect to the more precise, super-reality offered by processing technology such as Philips' Perfect Pixel system.
The comparison is sufficiently pronounced to resist any kind of objective conclusion as to which sort of picture is better; each succeeds in different ways and it's up to you which sort you prefer.
Aesthetic preferences aside, the basic video performance is very good indeed. Or, more accurately, enables material to perform to its full potential, which means that hi-def and DVD look lovely, while Freeview veers between surprisingly acceptable and dismal.
Anything with above-average production values (films, decent documentaries and quality drama, for example) fares pretty well, with pleasingly accurate colours underpinned by adequately deep blacks and possessed of as much detail as the rather limited bandwidth currently allows.
Midday fare such as Bargain Hunt and fading American imports look as shabby as you might expect through no real fault of the set itself.
The colours appear to be true, but that doesn't make watching the drab, camcorder-quality of so much of Freeview's output in the televisual no man's land of the afternoon any more pleasurable.
DVDs, on the other hand, look lovely. The Bravia Engine does seem to bestow a mellow patina reminiscent of film on decent quality sources, and the effortlessly realistic colours are a treat for the eyes.
Daylit, outdoor scenes, such as the lochs and highlands of the Harry Potter movies, look particularly fantastic, and the whole is so persuasive that you'll find yourself lost in whatever you're watching within seconds.
Blacks are reasonably solid, although the Sony does seem to struggle to differentiate between shades at the murkier end of the scale, and a uniform darkness can blanket the subtle tonal gradations at times.
Hi-def looks predictably impressive, although you won't see the leap in resolution that you'd find on a larger, 1080p set.
While there is still a gratifying amount of detail on display, it's just not as aggressively foregrounded as it can be with some whizz-bang processing systems, and feels like a natural component of a highly absorbing picture. Just the right amount of clarity and texture is on offer for a set of this size watched in the average front room, and, bar the odd motion judder, this tops off a solid overall performance.
The audio performance is slightly better than you'd expect from a mid-sized set. There is a surprising amount of volume at your disposal, with adequate verging towards 'a bit loud' just a small way up the slider.
Unfortunately, the raw power isn't fleshed out by much bass, so the upper reaches tend to sound loud but hollow, with all-important dialogue getting a bit swamped in the thin, rather shouty din. It's perfectly equipped to handle TV audio, though and makes a decent fist of movie soundtracks.
Neither the best nor the cheapest 32in set we've seen, it is by no means expensive either and is a decent enough performer. An archetypal four-star set in the very best sense.
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