Design and set up
Moving around the back we have every connection that a consumer will possibly need, with some cost cutting applied. Instead of the now standard four HDMI connections we are given three here, two on the rear panel and one side mounted. Also included are two scart sockets and other legacy inputs such as s-video and composite. Unlike the more expensive Sony panels the S5500 does not have an Ethernet connection, so you will not be able to hook up your PC or Sony’s Applicast online service. However, for those looking for music and video playback of MP3 and MP4 files, the TV does have a USB port for that functionality. Rounding off the package is the TV remote which as you would imagine is cheap looking plastic, but is well laid out and intuitive to use.
Setting up the TV is a pretty straight forward affair with the analogue and Freeview channels tuned automatically when you first switch the set on. This takes all of 10 minutes and you are ready to start watching content. So with that done we better set up the picture options available.
Other menus cover the sound set up options as well as manual tuning and other basic set up controls. Overall, there is a very basic feel to the menus and it looks like we will be forced to enter the service menu to get the very best out of the S5500.
So lets look at the best out of the box picture options and how they measure up to the industry standards for TV and film playback.
Out of the box measurementsLooking through the various picture presets I found that the cinema picture mode and warm colour temperature looked the most accurate to the standards by eye. This was after doing a basic set up using the usual pluge and contrast test patterns to get the dynamic range set for the viewing room and calibrated pattern generator. Once this was done, it was time to measure the actual cinema and warm settings to see if I was right.
Moving to the colour gamut performance of the S5500 and again we have seen far worse results than those here on the Sony. In terms of hitting the Rec.709 standard, things do not look that bad. Green is slightly oversaturated and has a hue error and the secondary’s are also slightly out with hue errors for cyan and magenta. There are also a few other slight errors in there such as over saturation but looking at the DeltaE errors and things are not on the extreme side. In fact unless you look at accurate images every day (like us here at AVF Reviews) you may be hard pressed to even see these slight errors with the Gamut. Some issues we would like to have fixed are the luminance results for blue and the slight hue and saturation issues with green and the secondary colours. So although it’s not perfect in greyscale and colour results, the S5500 out of the box is better than many competitors in this regard. Sadly there are no calibration controls for users to further improve on these results.
CalibrationSo, moving to an advanced calibration to the industry standards we hit the first snag with the S5500. Despite the very good results out of the box we want to try and get the results even closer to how TV and Films are mastered and sadly that’s were we struggle. There are no calibration controls in the user menus of the Sony so we are forced to enter the engineer’s service menu to calibrate the greyscale correctly. This is far from ideal and is best left to suitably qualified calibrators. LG and Samsung are two of Sony’s rivals that do offer such controls as standard on all their TVs, so we would like to see Sony follow suit and compete in this regard. Indeed the LGs all have ISFccc controls.
Entering the service menu we are given access to the white balance controls for correcting the greyscale on a two point basis. This allows us to correct the greyscale at the top end (80ire) and low (30ire). So upon doing this and checking the results on screen we managed to improve on the out of the box results as you can see below.
Although we had controls in the service menu to correct the greyscale there is no Colour Management System available at all, so correcting the gamut to the Rec.709 standard was impossible. However, just by correcting the greyscale we were able to get the secondary colours looking slightly better and luminance errors with just a two click adjustment of the main colour control also improved very slightly. I would have liked to have managed better results here but sadly it’s a lack of controls that have held me back. The Sony has given us far better results than we expected from such a budget LCD but it could have been even better. But lets not scoff at what the Sony is producing here, the real test will be with TV and film material.
Video ProcessingThe S5500 comes with the Bravia engine 2 for its picture processing and there are no advanced 100Hz or frame interpolation controls here. So the TV will have to handle movement on its own with the bravia 2 scaling and de-interlacing. And sadly everything is not quite correct here.
First of all there is no overscan defeat controls so HD images are not following any 1:1 pixel mapping. As such multiburst tests show a loss of resolution in the high frequency range (fine detail) that point to the scaling struggling to produce a full HD image. And adding to this the de-interlacing also suffers playing back interlaced images with jaggies being the major culprit when running the usual HQV tests. This was also visible on some football coverage I watched on the S5500, with the white pitch markings showing up jaggies. It managed to display correctly both Pal 2:2 and NTSC 3:2 cadences, for the playback of films from Standard Definition sources.
24fps material from Blu-ray was better with correct playback of the frame rate with no artefacts being seen. So, what we can see here is that the picture processing of this budget model suffers with a less than adequate performance with interlaced images and struggling with scaled images. It is noticeable on the majority of material, so if you demo this TV as a prospective purchase make sure you look at a range of interlaced and progressive material.
And there is nothing we can do about it either. So again if you are going to consider this TV (or any Sony at the moment) have a good look at the screen uniformity in a softly lit room.
So, with some of the negatives out of the way what about the positive? Well the S5500 is capable of producing some very nice images that look in terms of colour and greyscale very accurate. Bright outdoor scenes in King Kong on BD look fluid and lifelike with very good skin tones and fine details. Shading and shadow detailing is also good but there is a lack of absolute shadow detailing due to the high gamma and lack of absolute dynamic range of the panel. Talking about contrast and dynamic range and the S5500 offers a good if average amount of range to its images, with the uniformity and lack of absolute blacks holding it back slightly. Sadly for the S5500 some of the more recent Samsung LCDs at the same price point offer that little bit more in terms of black level and accuracy.
- Good no nonsense design
- Easy to use menu system
- Very good colour and greyscale performance out of the box
- Good build quality
- Poor de-interlacing and scaling
- Response issues with black trailing
- Restricted viewing angles
- Backlight and screen uniformity issues
Sony S5500 (KDL-40S5500) LCD TV Review
So overall, the S5500 is a very mixed bag and with strong competition from rivals LG and Samsung, it fails to impress in every department. Add to this the problems with inconstant backlighting and it becomes a lucky dip with some panels looking good and others suffering from an obvious clouding issue. If you are going to demo the S5500 we suggest you look out for these issues we have found with our review sample (which was sourced from a retailer and not Sony direct).
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
Our Review Ethos
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