Bravia screens have been receiving a lot of attention. There's that bouncing ball advert for a start, and all of Sky's HDTV demonstrations have used Bravia LCDs to display it's potential. Why all the fuss?
Because Sony's second-generation screens are some of the finest examples of LCD TVs that we've seen. We can only question the limited connectivity, and the fact that they're more expensive than your average display, but ultimately the KDL-32V2000 is worth every penny.
We have always held Sony designs in high esteem and the Bravia range is the epitome of understated elegance. The design uses subtle finishing and superior build quality to make a style statement that doesn't need to try too hard to impress.
Unlike typical glossy designs, which are often used to distract attention away from compromised constructions, the frame is finished in matte gunmetal grey. This gives the screen a discreet appearance that will agree with any living space, whatever your taste in interior design.
Although the design deserves recognition, the accompanying connectivity can only be considered average at this price. The greatest disappointment is the inclusion of only one HDMI input, especially when many less expensive models are arriving with dual digital connections. It means you can only connect a single HD source at a time -- unless you use the component inputs or invest in. Nonetheless, there are two RGB Scarts and the component inputs support progressive scan video, which will please conventional analogue users. PC users will be able to use the screen as a monitor or connect to a media system using a recently incorporated VGA input with audio options.
All these connections are arranged in a central position across the rear panel, but there's also a set of standard AV inputs that can be easily accessed from the side. They are useful if you want to temporarily connect a device like a games console without having to blindly fiddle behind the screen. Close to these connections is a CI card slot that can be used to receive limited subscription channels from TopUp TV, although it could play a greater role in the future.
Like the screen, the remote is attractively designed and extremely user friendly. Controls have been kept to a minimum, leaving ample space between keys and allowing absentminded operation.
On paper the specification seems underwhelming with little intimation that this screen offers anything out of the ordinary. The 1366x768 resolution is high-definition compatible and there's an integrated Freeview tuner, but features like these are almost standard nowadays. So, why is Sony claiming this is its best LCD ever?
The reason resides in the unseen technology that lies beneath. At its core is the latest Bravia Engine, which unlike previous Sony processing systems has been specifically designed for LCD. It uses several underlying systems, all aimed at enhancing individual picture elements such as detail, contrast, colour and multi-faceted noise reduction.
This is supported by several additional technologies, including the redesign of the liquid crystal system to extend viewing angles and the Wide Colour Gamut backlight that uses phosphors with improved light emitting properties to create more extensive, natural colours. Sony also claims an 8-millisecond response time that's considerably faster than earlier LCD models and supposedly enhances fast action movement.
As always, Sony's on-screen menu system is beautifully displayed and easy to use. The colourful icon-based menu simply involves scrolling between an extensive array of advanced settings. You can manually adjust all picture elements, adjust backlight brightness and choose between several preset picture and colour temperature modes. Sound options are equally impressive with frequency adjustments and its own pseudo-surround system.
There's also an excellent EPG that displays 7-day schedules for 12 channels at a time with numerous sub-options such as a 30-minute view and programme reminders. Put simply, the screen is a joy to use.
With a little fine-tuning this screen's performance deserves a place on the podium alongside the finest LCD TVs we've reviewed in the last year.
Almost independent of source and connectivity, image quality is unreservedly outstanding. Breathtaking colours are immediately engaging with a balance that separates natural skin tones from vivid surroundings without confusion. Dense black levels create excellent contrast and expose meticulous detail, even during low light scenes. Movement is particularly impressive with no trace of smearing or staggering, whether you're watching fast paced action or slow camera pans.
Images are immaculately clean whether you're using HDMI or component inputs, and even digital broadcasts suffer from less instability than we've seen before. There are occasional artefacts with digital programmes, but that's more a case of poor broadcast signals than any screen limitations.
It is hard to criticise any aspects of performance for the KDL-32V2000. Contrast edging could be sharpened, but the only flaws are too subtle to mention and are easily ignored given the exceptional performance elsewhere.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield