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For a succinct snapshot of just how extreme Sony's latest TV range is, you only have to compare the entry-level KDL-37V4000 reviewed a few days ago with today's KDL-55X4500. For these two LCD TVs exist a whole £3,000 apart - a difference that's sure as hell going to take some explaining if you're trying to sell the idea of a 55X4500 to a reluctant other half. Especially as the 37V4000 is actually rather good within the context of its self-imposed limitations.
The key with the 55X4500, though, is that it doesn't really bother with boring stuff like ‘limitations'. Its £3,520 price suggests that Sony's engineers have been given room for some true ‘blue sky' thinking - with really quite amazing results.
The grandeur begins as soon as you set eyes on the 55X4500. For as well as enjoying the customary high-gloss black bezel, the 55X4500 extends outward beyond the black bezel's outer edge with two transparent glass wings, within which sit a pair of slender ‘finger' speakers. You can even choose optional Obsidian Black or Ruby Red speaker grilles if you want to up the glamour even further.
One extra touch of ‘bling' comes, too, from the way the Sony logo illuminates when the TV's turned on. Before film purists start moaning about how they don't want their viewing experience ruined by the sight of a brightly lit Sony logo floating under the picture, the illumination can be turned off if you wish!
The only slight bum note in what's otherwise a pretty extraordinary design is the TV's depth. It sticks out 144mm around its rear, making it possibly the fattest ‘flat' TV I've ever seen.
Oh well - at least that chubby butt plays host to an exemplary selection of connections. Four HDMIs, two component video inputs, and a PC jack are just the start of its charms, for it's also laden with an outstanding level of multimedia support. A LAN connection enables you to jack the TV into your PC network, for instance, so that you can play back multimedia files stored on your hard drive(s). Plus there's a Digital Media Port through which you can access pictures and audio from attached portable media players via suitable (not included) adaptors. And finally there's a USB port for direct playback of AV files stored on USB storage devices. Maybe this proves Sony has officially given up on Memory Stick? Here's hoping.
It's not the connections that provide the best excuse for the 55X4500's big rear end, though, but rather the screen technology enclosed within it. For rather crucially, the 55X4500 is Sony's very first LCD TV to use LED backlighting. Which is pretty exciting stuff when you consider how excellent other recent LED TVs have been.