Unfortunately, the 40S5500's backlight/contrast issues weren't its only flaws, motion blur was also very evident - thanks no doubt to a combination of the old BE2 processor and no 100Hz. It could even be that the 40S5500 uses an older panel design than Sony’s higher-grade models, too.
The 40S5500’s older Bravia Engine 'brain' also finds its pictures looking a touch noisier than those of Sony’s V5500 and above, with even HD pictures looking a touch too gritty and forced. The 40S5500’s colour palette, too, seems slightly less expressive and natural than that of Sony’s Bravia Engine 3 TVs.
Thankfully the 40S5500 isn’t wholly immune to the Sony picture qualities that have won us over with at least some of its latest Bravia range. HD pictures look clean and crisp, not to mention very bright and punchy provided there's not too much blackness to cope with (and that you haven’t pushed the backlight and brightness levels down too far in a bid to get rid of the backlight inconsistencies!).
Standard definition pictures are rescaled reasonably well to the Full HD resolution too, leaving a slightly soft overall tone but not exaggerating source noise in the same way some rival Full HD TVs do.
Considering what a battering I’ve given the TV for much of this picture testing section, you might be surprised to hear me say that there are times when the 40S5500’s pictures actually look pretty superb for its money. But if you think about it, there are actually plenty of times when you find yourself in the course of normal TV viewing watching bright, colourful, relatively static images - just the sort of content, in other words, behind which the backlight and motion blurring problems can hide.
However, I’m pretty sure that anyone reading this website will want to get a bit more picture consistency for their £570 than the 40S5500 is capable of offering.
The 40S5500 completes a disappointingly average day at the office by carrying a fairly bland audio system to accompany its patchy pictures. The speakers just aren’t powerful enough to cope with the biggest explosions and raucous car chases of Gone in 60 Seconds, leaving such scenes sounding muddy and flat. The speakers even distort if pushed really hard.
Despite the harsh tone of much of this review, if considered purely in the context of other £500-£550 40-42in TVs, the 40S5500 isn't an unmitigated disaster. It’s just hugely average. Its backlight issues are a massive problem for any discerning film viewer, while the likes of the far superior step-up from this model, the KDL-40V5500, has been seen for just £20 more than this set and the Samsung LE40B550, another very capable performer, for as little as £520. Thus the 40S5500 isn't the bargain it first appears.