Sony's KDL-S32A12U is an affordable, entry-level LCD TV that provides an ideal introduction for anyone looking to trade in their old CRT set for a slimmer model with a future-proof specification.
With high-definition content looming on the horizon, the screen features a high-resolution 1366x768-pixel panel that will support 720p and 1080i high-def signals with pixels to spare. There's also an HDMI digital video connection -- essential if you want to receive Sky's HDTV services, which begin next year. Until then, you can watch either analogue or Freeview digital broadcasts from a pair of integrated TV tuners.
The typical Sony design gives you both flair and functionality -- offering complete connectivity for video components and a basic range of fuss-free settings that even technophobes will understand.
Analogue TV performance is plagued by picture noise, but that can be cured with a dose of digital technology. Freeview broadcasts and especially HDMI-induced video images realise the panel's potential for high-def with well-defined, smooth and stable pictures on a par with several more expensive sets.
Sony has an unerring sense of style and even this relatively sober design falls under the influence. Understated aesthetics and flawless finishing give the screen a timeless appearance that will age more gracefully than some futuristic designs.
While most new-generation LCDs favour a glossed black frame, which is supposed to enhance edge contrast, Sony's screen has a silver lining. The slim surround and a speaker system stretched across the base instead of the sides free up space. And, although there are wall-mounting options, the screen arrives on a pedestal stand that can be fixed to a surface to prevent it from toppling over -- not likely, but it'll give you some peace of mind.
Remote controls are often ignored as an afterthought, but if you're buying into this sort of minimalist lifestyle then an outdated, oversized black remote isn't going to appeal. Fortunately this slender, silver remote isn't embarrassed in the company of its style-conscious screen partner.
The screen itself is better connected than Tony Soprano. Perhaps most important is the inclusion of an HDMI digital input, which allows you to receive HDTV broadcasts or high-resolution video signals from a compatible DVD player. Positioning the HDMI input at the screen's side allows easy access, but leaves unsightly cables sprouting Medusa-like from the straight-edged surround.
Also situated along the side is a standard set of AV inputs including composite and S-video that can be used for additional equipment such as camcorders or games consoles, which needn't be permanently connected. Along the opposite side there's a standard D-sub PC terminal that allows the screen to be used as a monitor and a CAM card slot that supports limited subscription services like TopUp TV.
Otherwise, remaining AV connections are all out of sight at the rear. Here you'll find a pair of RGB-enabled Scart terminals accompanied by component inputs that support PAL/NTSC progressive scan to cater for your main video equipment. There's also a pair of stereo audio outputs if you want to supplement the sound performance with an external amplifier -- but sadly no digital audio output for connecting to a home cinema receiver.