If there’s a disappointment to be found in the 46Z5500’s up-front ‘story’, it’s that the 200Hz engine itself doesn’t appear to be any different to that used by the Z4500s. But then this engine is a genuine 200Hz system, rather than the ‘pseudo 200Hz’ systems sported by most rivals (except for Samsung). What’s more, it seemed to work very well on the Z4500s, so I guess the old ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ adage could well apply.
Other bits and bobs worth covering briefly here, even if they don’t represent any new ground for the 46Z5500, include multi-level MPEG and standard noise reduction systems, a black level corrector, a contrast enhancer, gamma fine tuning, a white level booster, a Wide colour space option, and Sony’s Live Colour system for delivering more natural and vibrant colour tones.
Even though I was quite a fan of the Z4500 range, it’s obvious right away that the 46Z5500’s picture performance is markedly better.
The single greatest reason for this is the image’s clarity. For where I had cause to bemoan a little smearing and trailing when showing extensive amounts of motion with the 46Z4500, this seems to have been almost completely eradicated by the 46Z5500.
I can’t be 100 per cent certain why this should be the case, especially as I haven’t been able to find out if there’s any difference in the native refresh rates of the Z4500 and Z5500 ranges. But I suspect it’s down to the 46Z5500’s use of Bravia Engine 3 rather than the less potent Bravia Engine 2.
Backing up the improved motion handling in producing images of truly excellent clarity is an exceptional talent with portraying every tiny detail of HD sources. Even standard definition pictures look sharp and textured thanks to Bravia Engine 3’s upscaling capabilities.
The 46Z5500’s black levels also seem slightly more profound than those of the 46Z4500 – no mean feat given that the 46Z4500’s rendition of dark scenes was itself impressive. There seems even less greyness hanging over black elements of the picture, and the 46Z5500 is also better at producing shadow details during dark scenes – probably because it doesn’t seemingly need to reduce brightness as much as the earlier model in order to produce a convincing black colour.
The Bravia Engine 3-inspired improvements continue with the 46Z5500’s colours too, which combine similar levels of vibrancy and intense saturation with a seemingly slightly wider range, resulting in colour tones even more consistently natural than those of the 46Z4500.
The relative authenticity of the 46Z5500’s 200Hz engine, meanwhile, means it suffers likeably little with processing side effects. I spotted none of the ghostly second and third cricket and tennis ball ‘echoes’ sometimes witnessed with ‘200Hz’ TVs that use scanning backlights, and nor is there much evidence of the edge flickering/shimmering halo phenomenon seen with so many motion processing systems. So long, at least, as you leave the MotionFlow option set to its Standard and not its High preset.