Sony KDL-S32A12U £1200

28th Sep 2005 | 23:00

LCD continues its assault deep into plasma territory

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

A solid performance from an attractive set. Black levels are the only problem

Traditionally, LCDs were confined within small screen boundaries. But with performance improving, prices falling and larger screen sizes venturing into plasma territory, the technology threatens a full-scale invasion.

Leading the frontline of this assault is Sony's supposedly entry-level KDL32A12U, a fully-fitted, eye-popping performer that could leave plasma manufacturers calling for a new pair of underwear - especially with a bigger 40-inch version also on the way.

With high definition on the horizon, the widescreen WXGA panel features a 720p-compatible resolution and an HDMI digital video input - the prime requisites for receiving HDTV signals. And, before the mainstream arrival of HDTV, you can bide your time watching either Freeview digital or analogue broadcasts via a pair of integrated tuners.

Sony has always had a sense for style and even this relatively sober design falls under the influence of its effortless aesthetics.

Thankfully, flair isn't favoured above functionality with simple, well-presented menus to navigate you through a course of predictable picture and sound settings. You can choose between picture presets or custom settings, which ignore advanced but often ineffective adjustments for ones you'll actually understand. And digital broadcasts are also accompanied by a comprehensive, if overcrowded, EPG.

When watching TV, a word of advice - do it digitally. Analogue broadcasts are poor enough to make a pirate video proud, offering images overcome by an avalanche of white noise. The digital forecast is far better, featuring bright colours and clear spells of detail and depth with only the most complex scenes rousing a drizzle of digital noise.

But TV broadcasts don't even merit a place on the podium alongside the performance offered by DVD playback, especially using HDMI. Images are virtually flawless with enough detail to separate the smallest strands of hair and depth-defining contrast that literally puts the picture into a different perspective. Organic colours are evenly cooked while the picture is clean enough to eat off the floor. And using analogue component connections supporting progressive scan only deprives the image of a few of its HDMI attributes.

Sony's KDL32A12U is proof that LCD TVs are growing in both size and stature. On this evidence and especially at this price, plasma should be planning a case for its defence.

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