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Sony Bravia KDL-46Z5500 46in LCD TV - Sony Bravia KDL-46Z5500
Overall, when they're at their best - with a quality Blu-ray image - the 46Z5500's pictures are nothing short of sensational.
But before you get too carried away, the 46Z5500 doesn't always look its best…
The most distressing flaw by far is more evidence of the backlight consistency issue that's so blighted a number of Sony TVs in recent years. On our test screen, when watching a very dark sequence like the opening black and white sequence from Casino Royale, there are some quite large patches of the screen that look slightly brighter - or greyer - than others.
I know what Sony will say to this; that all LCDs struggle to some extent with this problem, and that in any case the inconsistency is so subtle that you can only detect it when viewing very, uniformly dark material of the sort that only rarely crops up in normal viewing conditions.
But while it is indeed true that you won't register the flaw for 99 per cent of your viewing time, just about every film you care to mention contains at least a few very dark sequences. And when the problem appears, it inevitably distracts you from what you're watching.
As for the argument that backlight inconsistency is a common problem, I'm sorry, but I can't think of any other premium TV from any other mainstream brand right now that suffers from the phenomenon as obviously.
It could, of course, be the case that the 46Z5500 sample we tested was an early production model rather than a final production line release, and that the 'finished' screens will have sorted the problem out. I've witnessed a similar situation with one or two previous Sony screens I've tested over the past year or so.
But somehow I just don't feel that this explanation applies to the 46Z5500. And even if it does, after getting so much flak for the problem for so long now, Sony has nobody to blame but itself for sending out a duff early sample again.