The KDL-46X2000 is the flagship model of Sony's Bravia LCD TV range and its price reflects this -- expect to pay around £3,500 for the privilege of owning such an impressive piece of design.
One of this TV's main selling points is that its 46-inch screen has a 'full HD' 1,920x1,080 resolution. Not only does this mean that 1080i hi-def material (ie the output from a Sky HD box) can be matched to the screen pixel-for-pixel, giving a particularly sharp and detailed picture, but also that it will properly display 1080p material. 1080p is the highest quality form of hi-def soon to be available in the UK -- although you'll need a Blu-ray or HD-DVD player to get it.
With its huge 46-inch screen, the Sony makes for a rather imposing sight -- it's not the sort of thing you can imagine melting into the background of the average living room. Still, it's an attractive, stylish piece of design, bearing the transparent glass-look-a-like plastic frame that has become a trademark of high-end Sony screens in recent years. By a trick of the light, literally, the power indicator LED appears to shine from the middle of the see-through plastic -- it all looks incredibly impressive.
Build quality is excellent, which is really nothing less than you'd expect from Sony -- the set feels rock-solid when placed on the supplied desk stand. Our one criticism would be the fact the that said stand is fixed, and won't swivel. With the likes of Hitachi adding a motorised swivel stand to its cheaper, heavier 50-inch plasma TV, Sony could really give consumers something more interesting here.
One noteworthy design feature is the bezel. The included silver one can be removed and replaced by one of four optional coloured bezels -- red, blue, white and black. A nice idea, but somewhat spoiled by the fact that each one costs an extra £150.
There's a fine selection of inputs on offer here. For hi-def purposes, there are two HDMIs and two component videos, plus a VGA socket that could be used with an Xbox 360 or PC -- so altogether you can hook up five bits of hi-def equipment simultaneously. Standard-definition sources are also well catered for, thanks to a trio of RGB-capable Scart inputs and single S-Video and composite connections. Next to the rear connectors is a Common Interface card slot, which can be used to upgrade the digital Freeview service to TopUp TV.
Lastly, the remote control is well designed and a vast improvement over past Sony models. All in all, there's very little not to like on the design side of things.
The KDL-46X2000 has its own picture-processing technology known as Bravia Engine EX, exclusive to this model. Basically this works to scale standard-definition images up to 1,920x1,080, reduce picture noise and boost colour -- all the usual technical wizardry we've come to expect in any expensive flat-screen TV. Also in the TV's locker are a couple of technologies we've already seen on the cheaper models in Sony's Bravia range: Wide Colour Gamut (WCG) and Super Patterned Vertical Alignment (SPVA). WCG increases the backlight's luminosity in order to create richer, brighter colours and SPVA helps to create a wider viewing angle.
We should again mention the 1080p-compatible screen, which is in many ways this TV's 'killer app'. 1080p may be pretty much unavailable at the moment -- we haven't yet managed to secure a test source -- but thanks to Blu-ray and HD-DVD, it will be here by the end of the year for the early adopters. Next year will also see the launch of the PlayStation 3, which will offer games in 1080p, and at some point in the future we will probably see a 1080p HDTV service. So, while 1080p compatibility might not mean much right now, its inclusion is Sony's nod towards future-proofing.
On the sonic front, Sony has included Virtual Dolby Surround and Pro Logic II, plus BBE digital audio.
Other features include analogue and digital TV tuners. The latter offers access to the full Freeview service and a 7-day electronic programme guide.
Despite all the advanced technology inside, setting up the television is remarkably easy. This is mainly thanks to the attractive, logically laid-out menu system. It's simple enough to make getting the TV tuned in and running a quick job, but also offers loads of scope for adjustment and tweaking if you're the sort of person who wants the perfect image. You can alter the brightness of the backlight, sharpen or soften the image, tweak the colour temperature, set the screen to a special mode for gaming and much more. All told it's one of the most complete sets of image-adjustment options we've seen on a TV.
Great design and features mean little if the picture quality isn't up to scratch and thankfully the Sony does not disappoint here. In fact it provides a superb image with good quality sources. Running the BBC HD channel through it we were impressed by the sheer amount of detail shown in the landscapes of Planet Earth -- every crevice in a rock face is visible.
But there's more to the Sony than the ability to provide sharp pictures. It deals well with movement too -- another scene in Planet Earth sees wild dogs chasing impala, and the camera sticks with the protagonists as the background moves rapidly past. It's the sort of scene that would blur on many LCDs, but here it runs smoothly and ghost-free.
Colour is another strong point, with smooth, gentle transitions from lighter to darker shades handled very well, without the 'stepping' effect being too severe and distracting. Wide Colour Gamut also appears to work very well, as the colours on show are more rich and vibrant than on most LCDs.
Standard-definition pictures don't impress to the same degree, lacking in detail and displaying weaker, more washed-out colours, but that's got as much to do with poor source material and the sheer size of the screen than any lack of effort on Sony's part.
Sound quality is fine, with the speakers providing ample accompaniment to the stunning image. All in all, a virtuoso performance from Sony's best flat panel to date.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield