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Which? Review of Sony KDL 46Z5500


Standard Member
"If you're after a high-end, big screen TV with all the latest extras, a classy finish and top-drawer picture, it's hard to go wrong with the Best Buy 46-inch full HD Z5500. Reasonably solid and detailed sound quality help give it the edge on much of the big-screen competition.

There's a lovely depth, rich colour and natural feel to the picture. Dark scenes can seem a little too shadowy but this rarely takes away from the overall quality. Freeview pictures look especially good, thanks to a spot-on balance of sharp detail and natural softness (to disguise the graininess of the lower-quality broadcast signal). Occasionally, it can appear too stark but this rarely detracts from the solid images on screen. The 200Hz Motionflow software smooths out motion judder (and does a better job than most rivals), but our experts felt it looked slightly artificial and preferred it switched off. Motion still looks impressive, even when you do this.

HD is vibrant and even our eagle-eyed experts found it hard to fault. However, the Sony does have an Achilles heel. Viewed head on the picture is fine, but sit too far to the side and it fades. This probably won't be a problem for most homes, say if the TV sits in a corner, but could be an issue in bigger living rooms where the TV is flush against the wall.

Sound quality is a pleasant surprise. The well balanced, large-scale sound, bursts with drive, energy and detail, more than making up for the woolly bass and occasional sibilance (a slight hiss, usually on speech). To get even better sound, there are analogue stereo and digital optical outputs to connect the TV to a traditional hi-fi or surround-sound system.

There is a good range of other connections too, ranging from a USB port, four high-definition HDMI sockets, a couple of Scart RGB sockets for standard-definition equipment, an high resolution analogue VGA port for hooking up to your computer and a versatile headphone socket with volume control independent of the main speakers and controlled via the remote. All the HDMI sockets can double up and be connected to a computer, and all support Bravia sync, which allows control of connected equipment (and menu systems) with just the TV remote. Extras like this set Sony apart from many rivals.

Among the Z5500's more exotic extras are a DNLA-enabled ethernet port for streaming media files from a connected PC and Sony's Net TV application Applicast. This doesn't give full internet access, but offers around 30 ‘widgets' such as calendars, clocks and calculators. Hardly groundbreaking and it pales next to the YouTube and Picasa widgets on offer from rival brands, but in future you should be able to download more widgets from the Sony website and transfer them to the TV via the USB port. The internet connection also enables the TV to download location maps to show you where any downloaded photos were taken (using a compatible GPS-enabled camera).

Is it easy to use?

Usability is so-so. On-screen menus and EPG (electronic programme guide) are easy to navigate but they can be difficult to read and the remote is long, weighty and quite busy. A blue backlight to illuminate the buttons on the remote is a nice touch, as is the on-screen instruction manual covering the main features and Bravia TV tips.

The Guide plus+ EPG (an alternative to the standard EPG) is confusingly set-up and best avoided. It has audio description (additional narrative for visually impaired people), a voice zoom feature that can boost dialogue over background noise and music, and an automatic volume control that keeps the volume constant across programmes and ads.

Energy use

At about 155 watts, power use is fairly low for a 46-inch LCD and this can be reduced to under 100 watts by selecting the highest power-saving setting. Sony has also crammed in energy-saving extras, such as an auto-off option, an ambient light sensor that cuts power in low-light and a screen-blanking option for listening to digital radio. We think the quick-start standby option is wasteful - the TV will turn on marginally quicker but it uses more than 16 watts while waiting to do so.

If you need to re-tune (lots of Freeview channels will be shifting around to accommodate Freeview HD) there is a re-scan option in the menu system. This is quite common, but we'd prefer to see an auto re-tune option to take some of the panic out of digital switchover.

Pros: Solid picture performance and plenty of features, ranging from the exotic to the functional. Sound quality is a cut above most rivals

Cons: Picture can fade from an angle, the current internet TV widgets are a little disappointing"

any other thoughts on what looks to be one of the best in its class?
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Only the 4500 had better sound - A seperate subwoofer.

and my my belief that internet features (Widgets/DNLA) is currently in its infancy and very limited.

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