Sony Bravia KDL-37S5500 37in LCD TV - Sony Bravia KDL-37S5500



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It doesn’t take long watching the 37S5500 to notice two important facts about its picture quality. First, images are clearly not as good as those of the V5500, W5500 or WE5 models. But second, they’re still a fair bit better than those of the much of the similarly priced competition.

Looking first at reasons why we’d probably advise you to try and save the extra £100 or so you’ll need to step up to Sony’s V series, colours don’t look quite as natural as they do on higher-end Sonys – at least while watching standard definition.

Standard definition pictures look slightly softer on the 37S5500 than they do on the V5500 series, and the set’s Bravia Engine 2 system doesn’t suppress MPEG artefacts in really low-quality standard definition broadcasts quite as successfully as Bravia Engine 3 models.

Probably the single biggest issue I have with the 37S5500’s pictures, though, concerns their black level response. There’s markedly more greyness over really dark scenes than you get with any of Sony’s higher-spec LCD models. Perhaps because of this I also felt that the antics of the dynamic contrast engine – which continually adjusts the image’s brightness in response to the darkness or otherwise of the image being shown – were slightly too obvious at times.

The black level situation isn’t helped, either, by the fact that, in common with the vast majority of LCD TVs, the 37S5500 loses contrast if you watch it from much of an angle.

There’s also some good news concerning black levels, though. Namely: there’s only the very minutest trace of the feared backlight inconsistency issue. Using a flat black test signal it was occasionally possible to see ‘shoots’ of light coming in for an inch or so from the screen’s extreme corners. But they’re so subtle – especially if you’ve got the backlight and brightness settings set sensibly – that you’ll scarcely if ever notice them during normal viewing conditions.

It’s also worth saying that although black levels fall some distance short of those of Sony’s higher end models, they actually compare pretty well with other budget LCD TVs such as, for instance, Panasonic’s S-series and X-series.