This all adds up to a pretty impressive level of flexibility for a 32in set costing the right side of £500 – though as we’ll see, you might find yourself spending more time in the presence of some of these features than you’d really like…
Before we move on, it’s worth pointing out one feature that the 32A558 does not have, namely 100Hz. Used by some rival TVs – and bigger sets in the A558 range, come to that – to counter LCD technology’s traditional issue with losing resolution over moving objects, hopefully we’ll find the lack of 100Hz on the 32A558 negated by the Movie Plus system.
The 32A558’s pictures seem to be pretty much on a par with those of the 32A656 – no bad thing considering how impressed we were by that TV’s pictures back in May. That said, the 32A558 also proves that three months can be a long time in TV technology, as its pictures no longer stand out from the LCD pack as starkly as 32A656’s once did.
Starting with the good news, the 32A558’s HD pictures look impressively sharp and detailed, at least where there’s not much motion to deal with – especially if you use the TV’s Exact Scan mode. This perfectly maps the 1,080 lines of HD sources to the 1,080 lines of pixels in the TV’s screen, delivering a definite jump in sharpness as you take image rescaling out of the processing equation.
There’s a good degree of subtlety in the screen’s colour rendition too – another potential benefit of the Full HD pixel count, which sees colour blends looking free of ugly striping.
The picture retains its quality from a much wider viewing angle than is common in the LCD world, meanwhile, making it an instant hit with people whose living room layouts demand that members of the household have to sit to the side of the TV screen.
Motion is quite well handled too, with only a little blurring and resolution loss, and black levels are decent, reproducing nicely the dark corners of the low-lit Epitaph online level in Halo 3 (which I’ve suddenly become obsessed with all over again for some reason).
However, you’ll have noticed that we didn’t exactly rave about the 32A558’s motion or black level handling. This is because of advances in those areas made by one or two recent sets from other brands. This means I’m now slightly more aware of the 32A558’s soft look to rapidly moving objects, especially when watching standard definition, and slightly more aware of a touch of greyness in dark areas on the 32A558 than I was when I saw the 32A656.
You can improve the motion situation by turning the Movie Plus feature up to its medium or high setting, and darken black levels with careful tweaking of the backlight, black boost and dynamic contrast settings. However, if you crank the Movie Plus feature above its ‘Low’ setting, sporadic glitches and twitches start to crop up in the image, especially during rapid camera pans. And focussing too much on black level depth can significantly reduce the amount of visible shadow detail in a dark scene.