After a slow and inconsistent start, Sony has finally started to make waves with its flat TVs. Its new W5500 and V5500 ranges have both earned respect for their affordability and performance. Hopes are understandably high, then, that the brand's entry-level 37-inch screen, the 1080p Bravia KDL-37S5500 LCD TV, will continue the winning streak.
The KDL-37S5500 is available now for the remarkably affordable sum of around £600.
The KDL-37S5500's design is not, it has to be said, nearly as eye-catching as its price. Its fairly standard rectangular lines and chunky profile both make it look rather dated, although, on the upside, it does feel robustly built for such a cheap machine.
Its connections are respectable for the price, too. Highlights are three HDMI ports, a dedicated analogue PC input and a USB port able to play JPEG and MP3 files. We couldn't help but notice that there's no Ethernet jack, though, denying you access to Sony's AppliCast online system. Since this system is, frankly, pretty pants at the moment, the missing Ethernet port isn't really something to shed a tear over.
Bravia Engine blues
A bigger disappointment by far is the discovery that the KDL-37S5500 uses Sony's Bravia Engine 2 processing system rather than the latest, much-improved Bravia Engine 3. Bravia Engine 2 looked the part when it first appeared last year, but it's now likely to be outgunned by rival processing systems. This is especially true seeing as the KDL-37S5500 doesn't have 100Hz processing to help it handle motion better.
Another concern is the KDL-37S5500's quoted contrast ratio of 33,000:1. While such figures always have to be treated with an almighty pinch of salt, it's impossible to ignore the fact that 33,000:1 is far below the 100,000:1 or so quoted by Sony for its higher-spec TVs. Many budget brands also tout higher contrast ratios.
Unfortunately, the concerns raised by the KDL-37S5500's claimed contrast ratio turn out to be entirely justified. This set produces a black-level response that's way down on that of Sony's V5500 and W5500 models. Dark scenes struggle to appear through a pall of the grey mist that's all too familiar with LCD technology.