Sony KDL-40Z5500 review

The Sony KDL-40Z5500's superb performance is ruined by uneven backlighting (again) Tested at £1490.00

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

We’re really fed-up with saying this, but here’s yet another Sony with a superb performance that’s ruined by uneven backlighting


  • +

    Impeccable motion processing

  • +

    punchy, detailed pictures with subtle, neutral colours

  • +

    good sound

  • +

    compact, stylishly-understated design


  • -

    Blotchy backlight

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The Z-series always arrives after Sony's other TVs, but it tends to be worth the wait.

And it's no different here, for the KDL-40Z5500 boasts four HDMIs, internet access and a 10-bit panel with 200Hz Motionflow.

It's this last feature that's key, and the 'Z5500 proves once again that Sony has absolutely nailed motion processing, keeping edges sharp and detail intact while producing exceptionally smooth movement.

No weird motion effects here
Crucially, unlike other sets the Sony avoids ever making motion look unreal, and even those who usually don't get on with motion processing should like this, so long as you keep it on the ‘standard' setting.

The rest of the calibration is very straightforward, thanks to an out-of-the-box ‘home' setup that's even more accurate than most, and any tinkering takes place in the cool PS3-style XrossMediaBar menus.

Play The Duchess on Blu-ray and the typical Sony contrast quality shines through. True, blacks aren't as deep as some, but there's more insight into them, as well as greater white punch. Colours are a touch more neutral and subtle, too.

Its delivery also highlights what a detailed performer the Sony is, avoiding over-enhancing blemishes.

Impressive with DVD and Freeview
The 'Z5500 continues to impress with DVD and Freeview. Colours are still more neutral than most, and motion is very accomplished.

Detail in the upscaled image is very good, and if there's a touch of noise evident in difficult patterns, the overall insight and punch is good consolation.

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Turn the fancy modes off and keep the equalizer flat, and the Sony's sound is impressively balanced and big – so you might be wondering why, if the performance is so rounded, it gets four stars. Well, it's mostly because this is yet another Sony with dodgy backlighting.

The 'Z5500's issues aren't as glaring as other Sonys', but in very dark scenes, there are still blotches of light evident on the display. Given its price, that's simply not good enough.

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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, Reading 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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