It looks like Sony isn't just out to take on the mighty Apple with its latest portable music players. For Sony's new 32E5500 TV, with its glossy white finish and angular lines, has a distinctly Apple-esque look about it. And so predictably, for the most part it's very nice if you like that kind of thing. The only controversial element, so far as I'm concerned, is the thick black outer frame that sits around - and forward from - the main white bezel.
For me the contrast here is too strident for comfort. Though to be fair to Sony - and you know me, I always like to be fair… - the little black ‘frame' does serve a kind of philosophical purpose. For it illustrates the main story with the E5500: that it's pitched as a ‘Picture Frame TV', aimed at folk wanting a ‘designer' TV that also provides an easy way to watch their multimedia gubbins. Hence the decision to make the TV look like some kind of freakish photo frame - right down to the way the TV rests slightly back on its neckless stand.
Sony's obsession with design on the 32E5500 extends so far that you can choose the colour and material of the outer-most frame to suit your décor, with aluminium and even wood alternatives to the black plasticky affair found on our test model.
In looking for other reasons beyond its design that make the 32E5500 stand out from the rest of Sony's current, generally excellent range, though, things start to get a little confused. For so far as I can tell, the 32E5500's operating specification is exactly the same as that of Sony's 32W5500.
To some extent this similarity isn't a bad thing, of course, for the W series sits quite high up Sony's current TV range, and is equipped with features galore. For instance, it's a full HD screen despite its relatively small 32in size, and it carries both Sony's latest Bravia Engine 3 video engine and MotionFlow 100Hz system. Even more pertinently for the E5500's multimedia-friendly positioning, it joins the W series in sporting a USB port capable of playing photo, MP3 and video files, as well as a LAN port you can use to access files stored on a DLNA-certified PC.
The LAN port additionally allows you to access Sony's AppliCast online system - though as we've repeatedly noted, this service is currently rather limited, with just a calculator, RSS newsfeed access, a clock, a calendar and access to a few attractive online stills based on nature, architecture and art themes.