In 2005, Sony invariably put LCD on the map with the launch of their first Bravia television. While Sony was relatively late to market with its own offering, its announcement that it would be halting production of plasma seemed -- at the time -- like a death knell for the display technology.
Two years later and the performance of plasma is at an all-time high. Sony needs to pull something special from its pouch if it's going to rescue LCD from the metaphorical abandoned mine-shaft.
Design and Features
The Sony KDL-46W3100 is a 46-inch LCD TV and its primary claim to fame is its full 1080p resolution. To help it with high-def content, the Sony comes with three HDMI ports, and support for the 24p standard found on HD DVD and Blu-ray disks.
Despite the current -- and we hope, short-lived -- fashion for piano-black coatings, Sony has gone with a brushed, gun-metal look for its new W series. And the effect is understated, yet very attractive. In line with its price, it's missing the floating glass panel of its 1080p counterparts -- the X and XBR series -- but we're not beside ourselves over that.
Apart from the fact that it's cheaper, the W series is also distinct from the X and XBRs in one important fashion -- it also omits the 100Hz found on the other TVs. This may or may not be important to you, as 100Hz technology is still fairly new and none of the various offerings so far have been very consistent. Though it may miss this feature, we did find that the Theatre Mode button reduced some of the judder from movie content.
Other features include a second generation backlight, the Wide Colour Gamut (WCG-CCFL), and the BRAVIA Engine EX processor. For easy connection to a PC, the Sony also includes a VGA port.
One thing we found quite unusual about the 46W3100 is that there was no contrast control. This made it very hard to calibrate the television properly. However, we found that the TV's Cinema Mode was quite good, and so used that for our testing instead. Later we discovered that the control was labelled "Picture" in this case.
As with other LCDs we've seen, blue tones absolutely perplex the Sony -- the material comes out darker in the corners than in the middle. This is most obvious during title screens or when viewing ... ahem ... Windows' Blue Screens of Death.
We hope that there aren't many people who would settle for the sound produced by the speakers on a AU$4,000 TV, but there are times when onboard sound comes in handy. The 46W3100 produces some decent sound, though nowhere near the best we've heard, and dialogue is relatively intelligible.
One problem we experienced -- and this is one that is supposedly dead as the proverbial dodo -- is that of smearing. The panel is rated at 8ms, which should mean that it's largely immune to the ghosting and smearing problems of the past. But we found that this wasn't so. Particularly evident when using the HD tuner, contrasting and moving edges had a tendency to smear.
Ghosting was also evident when watching the superhero blockbuster Fantastic 4 on Blu-ray, though detail and colour saturation were spot on.
But it wasn't all bad. Even when viewed against the stellarthe 46W3100 held its end up when viewing the horror classic Blade II. The opening scenes are a test for any TV, and the Sony did surprisingly well, rendering the murky brickwork as well as the Pioneer. This is mightily impressive.
Colour and contrast levels are generally excellent on this LCD, too, and certainly in the league of the. It's also a lot cheaper than that TV, as well.
While this TV has a lot going for it -- with good colour, detail, and contrast -- it's the old spectre of LCD ghosting (pun unintended) that really spoils what is otherwise an excellent TV.