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The W50A12U can also produce outstanding (by plasma standards) amounts of fine detail and sharpness. This is especially evident while playing an Xbox 360, as the lush landscapes of Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and Kameo, plus the lightning fast freeways of Burnout Revenge, all look so good it brings tears to your eyes. But HD movies also look impeccably sharp and three-dimensional.
Unfortunately, while the W50A12U is happy as Larry with HD stuff, it gets a bit grumpy when asked to show anything less immaculate. Perhaps the biggest single problem is that, WEGA Engine or no WEGA Engine, it exaggerates any digital blocking noise that might be in a source, be it pictures from its own digital tuner, a connected Sky Digital receiver or even some lower-quality DVDs. This can even apply to DVDs you’ve upscaled from standard to high definition using an upscaling DVD player. Another curious glitch is that the TV tends to make contoured edges within a picture look unusually jagged.
We were disappointed, too, during standard definition viewing to see signs of three traditional plasma picture problems that we’d really expect Sony to have got rid of by now. First there’s grey and green ‘fizzing’ in dark backgrounds - a problem usually associated with screens that aren’t adept at keeping electrical charge out of plasma pixel cells that are supposed to be dormant, in order to appear black. Second, motion processing noise means that objects moving across the screen can appear as if they’re covered in a seething mass of flies. And finally, what should be subtle colour blends sometimes appear as rather clumsy stripes.
The W50A12U is much more consistent sonically. Thanks to its use of Sony’s acclaimed S-Master digital amplification technology and built-in subwoofer, the W50A12U’s audio is outstanding, rising effortlessly with almost hi-fi prowess to meet the challenge of every action movie or pop video challenge we threw at it.
Overall, although it’s not a bad TV by any means, it is nonetheless quite easy to see from the W50A12U why Sony has decided to abandon plasma. Sure, the TV looks great and eats high definition for dinner. But standard definition viewing highlights a few fairly fundamental issues that Sony still hasn’t addressed, while the price just isn’t low enough to really be competitive.
In the end we’re mostly left hoping that Sony’s decision to withdraw its efforts from plasma means it has been able to focus more on making its upcoming LCD screens real worldbeaters…