CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. How we test TVs

Sony Bravia KDL46Z5500 review: Sony Bravia KDL46Z5500

Boasting improved design and an upgraded picture engine, the Sony Bravia KDL46Z5500 is perfect for watching the World Cup on. Which Cup is up to you.

Ty Pendlebury Editor
Ty Pendlebury has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.
Expertise Ty has worked for radio, print, and online publications, and has been writing about home entertainment since 2004. He is an avid record collector and streaming music enthusiast. Credentials
  • Ty was nominated for Best New Journalist at the Australian IT Journalism awards, but he has only ever won one thing. As a youth, he was awarded a free session for the photography studio at a local supermarket.
Ty Pendlebury
5 min read

It's been 12 months since Sony first dipped its toes in the 200Hz waters with the KDL-46Z4500, a product which basically invented a new category. Now that more 200Hz televisions have appeared on the market Sony has upped the ante with its latest model: the 46Z5500.


Sony Bravia KDL46Z5500

The Good

Excellent black levels. Detailed images. 200Hz is suited to sport. DLNA streaming onboard.

The Bad

DVD replay could be better. 200Hz is poor with non-broadcast sources.

The Bottom Line

Boasting improved design and an upgraded picture engine, the Sony Bravia KDL46Z5500 is perfect for watching the World Cup on. But which Cup is up to you.


While the previous model was stylish in its own way, we suppose, Sony has outdone itself with the design of the Z5500. It's austere, yet also sleek and unobtrusive. Sony has been on the picture frame path of late with the EX1 and the E4500 — the Z series is a natural progression from that. The bezel is finished in a gun metal colour which has an attractive, silky sheen.

Whereas last year's television had the speakers dangling off the bottom like sheep dags, the Z5500 uses down-firing speakers on the underside of the bezel. This has enabled a more compact look and, as we found, doesn't impact on sound quality.

In this age of high-quality universal remotes it seems almost redundant to review TV remotes, but we know that some of you out there still use the remote that comes with the TV! The Sony remote is relatively friendly at the bottom but starts to get cluttered at the top — small, inconsequential buttons are starting to creep into design again. If you're looking to buy a TV based simply on the remote control, then Pana and LG make some of our favourites.


The Sony 46Z5500 is a 46-inch panel and features a 1080p resolution with the company's own Bravia Engine 3 on board. The panel uses a Wide Colour Gamut Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamp (WCG-CCFL) backlight and boasts a 100,000 :1 contrast ratio. It also supports the 24p standard, as most TVs also now do.

Of course, the "star" here is MotionFlow 200Hz, which is the second generation of this technology. What it aims to do is make a "laggy" technology such as LCD run better — because unlike plasma and OLED, LCD images aren't instantaneous. Though the lag is down to 5ms or less there is still a noticeable difference between LCD and other screen types. Features like 100Hz and 200Hz aim to "trick" the screen into refreshing more often and thus reducing ghosting. It does this by "interpolating" or calculating three extra frames between each original one to create a "smoother" image.

Like many of Sony's other TVs this year, the Z5500 features DLNA networking which means you can stream content from another PC or other server inside the house. The number of files the screen supports is quite limited in comparison to the ones supported by the new Samsungs and LGs, but it’s easier to use because it’s accessible from the company's XMB (Xross Media Bar).

Connectivity supports this well, with an Ethernet and USB port bolstering the impressive four HDMI ports and two component inputs. You also get three composite inputs and a PC input.

Finally, the TV features a number of Eco features, including a hard power switch, and is also relatively economical to run with a 3.5 Energy Star rating. The "Eco" mode did a good job of gradually increasing backlight to suit light levels when we turned it on; not suddenly and coarsely like LG's.


While 100Hz systems are yet to come of age, they have certainly matured. Like its forebear, Sony has yet again advanced the technology forward. Though the effects it achieves are a matter of taste — ie, it can make some content material look like video or worse: "fake" — it can work wonders on free-to-air sport. Watching some AFL there was a lack of artefacting, and the action "solidifies" more quickly under 200Hz, which made it easier to follow what's going on. While it also gets rid of judder it does remove a small amount of crispness from the image.

Where the effect didn't work was on other material such as Blu-ray or DVD. There we experienced some strange artefacts in "Standard" mode on the Batman Begins Blu-ray — movement became jerky and insubstantial, and on "High" it was even worse. The moral to this: don't use 200Hz for movies.

Without it though, images were bright, detailed and incredibly deep. The Bravia Engine 3 processor is the company's best yet, and does a brilliant job of cleaning up video nasties like laggies and noise. However, one thing we did notice is that the default Sharpness was too high and some "fake" details did creep in. Turning Sharpness down to "Min" fixed this.

The old adage "watch LCD in a lit room" didn't really apply here, because even in a dark room the black levels were deep. While you wouldn't mistake it for midnight in a coal mine, they were nevertheless very good for non-LED backlit television.

Blu-ray looked best and everything from the moody Batman Begins to the frenetic Mission Impossible III looked great. MI3 itself has a tendency to look grainy and a bit garish — especially the bridge scene — but the Sony responded with a detailed image without the "poster colour palette" of other TVs.

DVD replay, on the other hand, was respectable but not as successful. While King Kong was given natural colours and that great "three dimensionality", it shared similar problems to the Z4500. For instance, the clouds in the Kong's Last Stand scene came out looking like a plasma with a lack of smooth colour gradations and a tendency to break up into "mosquito-like" noise.

Sony prides itself on its audio products, and the Z5500 was able to acquit itself well here. For small down-firing speakers, intelligibility was great and bass was relatively full. In short, the sound was very well-rounded. While we have heard better on-board speakers the Sony did a very good job given the design constraints.


There is little doubt that Sony currently makes the best 200Hz system out there, but there is still a ways to go. It's not great for movies, but for sport it's perfect. And when seen in conjunction with all of the other features on this TV, it turns out that the Sony 46Z5500 is a very good buy indeed. It may be the same price as last year's model, but we feel it's a better deal overall.