Turning to a favourite Blu-ray or two, it’s immediately noticeable how intensely sharp and detailed HD pictures look. Surfaces and faces appear with a level of texture and detail that’s phenomenal, given the 52XV555DB’s price. In fact, the detail levels are so acute, especially using the set’s pixel-for-pixel Exact Scan mode, that if you’ve not experienced big-screen HD before, you’ll probably find that it’s a day or two before you can actually watch a film properly rather than just ogling all the extraordinary minutiae the picture contains.
I was very pleased to note, too, that despite the lack of any major motion processing, the 52XV555DB handles fast action sequences well. During HD films there’s no severe smearing and only a little of LCD’s common blurring problem.
Panning around in ”Dead Space” is a little less successful, as the picture smudges momentarily before settling down again once I’ve settled on a route to run. But this sort of fast panning round is a tough test for any TV, and the 52XV555DB doesn’t handle it badly at all compared with many other affordable TVs.
HD images fare markedly better than standard def ones with their colours, too. Tones are generally more credible and expressive, with skin tones in particular looking a million times more believable – not least because of the massively superior subtlety on show when it comes to reproducing the fine colour blends that help give a face shape and three-dimensionality.
I do still have a couple of issues with the set’s HD video playback, though. First, that generally exceptional sharpness I mentioned earlier can occasionally be accompanied by a slightly gritty look. Using the provided Movie preset can improve this problem considerably, but many will also find this mode’s general tone a little too muted and dull, requiring time twiddling with picture settings to arrive at a picture that treads the right noise/dynamism balance.
My second concern is that despite carrying a dedicated 1080/24p mode, Blu-ray pictures are by no means impervious to judder – a problem which can give the picture the impression of lost resolution at times, too. That said, the judder is not significantly worse than we see on the majority of rival flat TVs, especially at the affordable end of the market.
The 52XV555DB’s audio, meanwhile, tries hard, but ultimately doesn’t have the core power and frequency range to really deliver the goods. Which effectively means that while dialogue sounds fine, the soundstage soon becomes thick and indistinct when pushed by an action sequence – though the TV’s ‘Focus’ and ‘TruBass’ audio processing features ensure that things never become truly disastrous.
If you’re after a big-screen all-rounder at an aggressive price, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that Panasonic’s 50in TX-P50X10 plasma screen can now also be had for under £1,000. But if you’re in the market for an affordable big TV to do duties predominantly as a movie or game monitor, then the 52XV555DB’s exceptional sharpness with HD also make it impossible to ignore.