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The KDL-40V5500's solid clarity with motion helps it do a great job, too, of reproducing the glorious sharpness and texture of HD sources. The set's Full HD resolution doubtless plays a part in this too, but so exceptionally clean and sharp are the 40V5500's HD pictures that the new Bravia Engine 3 circuitry also has to be heavily involved, boding well for Sony's other upcoming TVs for this year.
Actually, the new Bravia Engine update does a mighty fine job with standard definition too, making it look sharper but also cleaner than it did on previous Sony LCD TVs.
As you'd probably imagine from all this positive talk, the 40V5500 can produce some truly outstanding images. Indeed, it does this for the vast majority of its running time. Yet you'll doubtless have noticed that it still only scores an eight for pictures.
There's really just one reason for this, and it couldn't be more frustrating: backlight inconsistency. In other words, very dark scenes can suffer light pooling, where some areas of the picture look brighter than others. This is clearly distracting, and is made all the more upsetting by the fact that I've had cause to moan about the same issue on some previous Sony TVs I've tested.
To put this into perspective, though, I should stress that the issue is much, much less pronounced than it was on, say, Sony's W4500 TVs. You won't see it at all except during very uniformly dark scenes, and provided you've got the backlight, brightness and contrast settings sensibly reined in, the effect is very subtle.
But while it's possible to calibrate the problem almost completely away, the resulting image will not be as bright as many people would like it to be, especially if their living room is regularly filled with ambient light. And since TVs from many other brands exist without the sort of backlight inconsistencies spotted on this Sony, I really don't see why anyone should have to be forced by an inherent panel flaw into having their picture settings imposed on them.
The excellent but flawed pictures from the 40V5500 are joined by some pretty satisfying audio. Vocals sound credible and clear even under duress, and there's a startling amount of harshness-free treble detailing to be heard too. I was also struck by how nicely the mid-range expands during action scenes, with my only gripe being that there's not as much bass around as I'd ideally like to hear.
In many ways, the 40V5500 really is a terrific TV. After all, for much of the time that you sit there watching it, its pictures could well have your jaw hanging open in admiration. It's just a real shame that all this quality should be blighted by the return of Sony's inconsistent backlight problem.
To be fair, the subtlety of the problem here is such that it only very rarely troubles your viewing, and so it's possible that some, maybe even many people who take a 40V5500 for a test run will end up buying one anyway. But such a flaw to my money makes it impossible to give this set a whole-hearted recommendation.