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Sony KDL-40W5500 review

Here's the replacement for the 2008 Award-winning Sony KDL-40W4500. Question is, is it any better? Tested at £1100.00

Our Verdict

In some ways this is an improvement over the outgoing W4500, but with such irregular backlighting it can't make that fifth star

For

  • Impeccable ergonomics
  • immersive Blu-ray images, especially where motion is concerned
  • quite reasonable sound

Against

  • Noticeably uneven backlighting, even when showing images
  • so-so TV tuners

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

In some ways this is an improvement over the outgoing W4500, but with such irregular backlighting it can't make that fifth star

Pros

  • + Impeccable ergonomics
  • + immersive Blu-ray images, especially where motion is concerned
  • + quite reasonable sound

Cons

  • - Noticeably uneven backlighting, even when showing images
  • - so-so TV tuners

New Sony products are always keenly anticipated, and when it's the replacement for an established favourite (as this KDL-40W5500 is) excitement can reach fever pitch.

The outgoing KDL-40W4500 was our TV Product of the Year 2008 and a product we've referred to again and again over the last year – this new model has a lot to live up to.

It looks slightly tidier than the old model and, inevitably, slightly fresher. There's none of your Philips/Samsung 'super-slim' chassis nonsense here, but it's as discreet and harmonious-looking a product as we've come to expect from Sony.

An absolute doddle to set up
It's also an absolute doddle to set up – the logical Xross Media Bar menus look great – and to keep up with the Joneses, the W5500 is DLNA-capable.

TV reception, the Achilles' heel of the W4500, is improved here to the point that it's average by the standards of newer rivals. There are hints of the old coarseness when broadcast quality dips (Setanta, we're looking at you), but it's as competitive a performance as we've seen from Sony lately.

At the other end of the scale, 1080p/24fps images look splendid. Pictures are colourful and natural, with fine levels of detail retrieved and convincing skin-textures, while motion (so long a Sony specialism) is unimpeachable.

Picture noise is little more than a rumour, and contrasts are generally impressive. Sound is equally forthright and persuasive.

Uneven backlighting lets it down
We looked at many W4500s last year and experienced no backlighting issues. This new W5500, though, suffers from the most uneven backlighting of any LCD we've recently tested.

When we first received it, the light bleeding into the top corners almost prompted us to deem it faulty.

A week's running in calmed the problem, but didn't eradicate it – this is one of the few screens where uneven backlighting can occasionally be discerned even when the screen is displaying a picture.

That's where the Sony's fifth star has gone. We don't think our KDL-40W5500 is faulty, we just don't think the backlighting is good enough.

To find out how the Sony KDL-40W5500 fares against its rivals, don't miss our Supertest of 40-42in TVs in the May 2009 issue of What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision, on sale April 8th.

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.


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