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Sony Bravia KDL-32W5500 32in LCD TV Review

Verdict

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Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £573.00

We recently had a bit of a pop at Sony’s KDL-32E5500 for offering basically the same specification as the brand’s 32W5500 while costing almost twice as much. So we thought it would probably be a good idea to back this argument up as soon as possible by actually taking a look at the 32W5500.


The first thing that has to be said about the 32W5500, out of fairness to the 32E5500, is that it’s nowhere near as striking to look at. Essentially, it just follows the same severe lines and fairly slender black bezel blueprint found throughout Sony’s S, V and W5500 ranges. Though actually I suspect some people will prefer the 32W5500’s relatively laid back approach to the 32E5500’s glossy white with starkly contrasting outer frame look.


The 32W5500’s connectivity is excellent. Four HDMIs gets things off on the right foot, but there’s sterling support too from a USB port able to handle all manner of video, music and photo files, and an Ethernet jack with which you can jack into either files stored on a DLNA PC, or Sony’s online Applicast service.


We’ve covered Applicast numerous times before, so I won’t dwell on it for too long here. Suffice it to say that aside from allowing you to access RSS newsfeeds, Sony currently only offers its own little widgets and applications, such as a world clock, a calculator, Sony news stories, and a handful of digital stills you can use as screen savers. The lack of third party content from the likes of YouTube means that although it’s prettily presented and easy to navigate, Applicast ultimately falls damagingly short on content compared with the online systems offered by rivals.


Turning to what I believe are much more important features of the 32W5500, its video processing includes both the latest generation of Sony’s reliable Bravia Engine system, and MotionFlow 100Hz, which doubles the usual PAL refresh rate for extra motion clarity by adding in newly calculated frames of image data.


A trawl through the 32W5500’s well-presented if not always completely logical onscreen menus uncovers a few more bits and bobs of interest too, including a white level booster; Sony’s Live Colour Creation system for enhancing colour saturation and tone; separate gamma and black level adjustments; and two types of noise reduction, including one aimed at smoothing away the blocking noise that frequently besmirches Freeview broadcasts.

As predicted in the review of the 32E5500, I really struggled to find any significant differences between the picture performance of the 32W5500 and the 32E5500. Which means that the 32W5500 is indeed way better value than the 32E5500, and a mostly very accomplished TV by any standards.


Especially striking is how deep black levels are. The night-time backdrop to surprisingly effective gorefest ”30 Days of Night” looks very dark and free of LCD’s grey-mist tendencies, yet there’s also a reasonable amount of background detail to be seen, proving that the screen isn’t having to drop its brightness levels too severely to make such black levels possible.


LCD technology in general has really made great strides with black levels over the course of 2009, but Sony – along with Samsung – is definitely leading the way.


As is so often the case where a TV has good black levels, the 32W5500 also revels in extremely bright, richly saturated colours. These cover a gratifyingly wide spectrum, too, helping the set cope equally comfortably with ultra-rich fare like ”Wall-E” and dour, naturalistic fare like, well, ”EastEnders”. This combination of dynamism and subtlety is notoriously difficult to achieve, and Sony is to be congratulated for pulling it off here.


As noted with the 32E5500, the 32W5500 also does nicely when it comes to reducing the sort of judder that can characterise flat TV playback. Even 24p Blu-rays look smooth provided you’ve got the MotionFlow option active. Just make sure you only set MotionFlow to its Standard level, not high, otherwise you’ll notice numerous processing side effects.


Final aces up the 32W5500’s sleeve are its exceptionally sharp HD presentation, and the way it manages to upscale standard definition sources to its Full HD resolution with plenty of added sharpness but without exaggerating noise. Bravia Engine 3, we salute you.

The 32W5500’s strengths have been a carbon copy of those noticed on the 32E5500. But sadly the same goes for its weaknesses. And so the picture still loses intensity quite badly if you have to watch from the side. Also, the 32W5500 displayed exactly the same curious blue smearing problem over certain – thankfully rare – dark image elements noted in our review of the 32E5500.


With less bitching about price to distract me than I had with the 32E5500, I also noticed that while the MotionFlow system reduces judder nicely on the 32W5500, motion still tends to look a little blurred, presumably because the screen’s inherent response time isn’t all that great.


Sonically, the 32W5500 is slightly above average, meaning it’s able to handle a potent action movie scene with reasonable authority and clarity, but doesn’t have enough bass or power range to rival the very best audio performers.


”’Verdict”’


As expected, the 32W5500 performs pretty much identically to its much more expensive 32E5500 sibling, and so represents an enticing prospect. What’s more, when the 32W5500’s pictures are good, they’re really very good indeed, making it a truly attractive proposition for Sony die-hards.


The only problem for the 32W5500 is the existence of Samsung’s 32B650 which, while not sounding as good, offers slightly more consistent pictures, a considerably more attractive design and a superior Internet service for roughly the same amount of money.

We test every TV we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.

Find out more about how we test in our ethics policy.

Used as the main TV for the review period

Tested for more than a week

Tested using industry calibrated tools, discs and with real world use

Tested with broadcast content (HD/SD), video streams and demo discs

Trusted Score

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Score in detail

  • Features 9
  • Value 9
  • Image Quality 8
  • Design 7
  • Sound Quality 7

Features

Size (Inch) 32in
Display Type LCD

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