After making a frankly underwhelming start in the flat TV world, the time now finally seems right for Sony to start re-establishing the sort of dominance and association with quality that it once enjoyed with its Trinitron CRT TVs.
After all, the introduction of the first Bravia range marked a significant leap forward in Sony's flat TV quality, ambitions, and fortunes, so there's every reason to hope that the second generation of Bravias, as represented today by the KDL-40D3500, will advance things again.
First impressions, though, aren't spectacularly promising. For its design is totally uninspiring; just a boring dark rectangle for the most part, with the only ‘flourish' coming from a thin silver outer trim. Woo. Given the groovy designs now being delivered by Sony's Korean rivals, the Japanese brand really does need to start trying a little harder in the aesthetics department.
Connectivity is something of a mixed bag, too. On the downside, the set only carries two HDMIs when we increasingly like our large HD TVs to have three. But these HDMIs can, at least, take 1080p/24 feeds from Blu-ray players, and are joined by more or less everything else you'd expect of a modern TV, including component video and D-Sub VGA options.
The 40D3500's panel is a full HD affair, sporting a very striking claimed contrast ratio of 16,000:1 - the same figure as that quoted by Pioneer for its KURO plasma TVs, with their genuinely groundbreaking black levels. Crikey. If Sony has really managed to coax black levels out of an LCD TV that rival those of the leading plasma TV around, then the 40D3500 will really be something to talk about.
However, before we start to get too excited about this, we have to point out that inevitably, unlike with plasma technology, the 40D3500 can only claim a 16,000:1 contrast ratio by using a dynamic backlight system, whereby the backlight output (and therefore the image's brightness) is reduced when dark scenes are detected. The ‘native' contrast of the Sony panel with the dynamic backlight inactive is a rather more down to earth 1,800:1...
Still, as well as deserving credit just for actually publishing this more realistic figure when most rival brands don't, 1,800:1 is really not a bad native contrast ratio by LCD standards. The L37X01 we looked at recently, for instance, could only muster 900:1.