Available for around £1,500, this is one of the cheapest 'full HD' televisions on the market -- meaning it has a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution and can display the best quality 1080p high-definition video. Not only that, its screen measures up at a whopping 55 inches, boasts one of the highest contrast ratios around and, well, it's made by Sony, not some no-name Chinese brand.
All in all, this TV offers fantastic value for money. It performs brilliantly with both HD and standard-definition material, has plenty of connections for hooking up your gear and yet costs less than half of what you'd expect to pay for a similar-sized plasma or LCD TV. The only real downside is its larger case.
Being a rear-projection television, the KDS-55A2000 is bigger and bulkier than LCD and plasma screens. It isn't heavy like traditional CRT TVs, as there's no weighty glass tube inside, but the set does extend nearly half a metre behind the screen. Obviously, there's no way you can mount this on your wall. A specially designed floor stand is available as an option, but it's not necessary -- you can place the screen on top of any TV bench or low table.
Nevertheless, it's a reasonably good-looking TV from the front, with styling that matches Sony's other Bravia models and speakers located under the screen rather than on either side. The screen itself has a matte, non-reflective finish, which means you can view it in a well-lit room without having to worry about reflections hampering your enjoyment.
A wide range of connections is supplied, including two HDMIs and two component video inputs for high-definition sources and three RGB-capable Scarts for hooking up older kit. Also worth noting is a VGA input for PC users, as well as an optical audio output allowing you to connect the TV directly up to an AV receiver and separate speakers.
This is among the first displays to use Sony's SXRD technology, which is the Japanese company's own spin on the LCoS projection method that has been in use for a few years. LCoS works in a similar way to DLP, except that it reflects light off three LCD panels rather than three DMD mirror panels.
Sony claims its chips are smaller and thinner than its rivals', that the spaces between pixels are narrower, the response times quicker and the contrast levels higher. What this essentially means is that you get excellent picture quality at a price lower than LCD and plasma.
1080p compatibility might not sound like a big deal, but with HD DVD and Blu-ray on the rise, not to mention the arrival of the PlayStation 3, it's an invaluable feature. It's worth noting that the TV only supports 1080p via HDMI, though -- the component video inputs support a maximum resolution of 1080i , so Xbox 360 users are stuck with that.
The TV also comes with Bravia Engine Pro image processing and scaling technology, which includes several noise reduction and colour adjustment modes, as well as a mind-boggling amount of picture settings the user can tweak. It's a nice selection for a picture perfectionist, but the average consumer will find it as confusing as watching an episode of Lost dubbed in Swahili. You can store different settings for each external input, though, which is handy. You also get digital and analogue tuners (both very easy to set up) and a seven-day electronic programme guide.
The remote control is reassuringly big with large, chunky buttons placed just where you'd expect them to be. We like it, but it would be nice if the TV cycled through the inputs quicker, and the fact that the TV always reverts to the digital tuner can be annoying.
It might seem surprising given the price, but this TV is in many ways superior to most high-end LCD and plasma screens. For starters, its blacks are better than anything LCD can manage: even in a dark room, the murkiest parts of gloomy games like Gears of War look black rather than grey. It's the same with dark scenes, like the scene in Tim Robbins' basement in War of the Worlds. Unlike most plasma TVs, however, the picture remains equally watchable when you're sat in a bright room, because of the immense contrast ratio and brightness.
Yep, this is a really bright display. In fact, whites in the picture are eye-searingly dazzling with everything turned up, so some adjustment is required to get a more relaxed image. It's in the lighter areas that one small flaw is evident -- the 'silk screen' effect this TV shares with many rear projectors. You can make out grainy sparkles in bright areas, which is down to the material used to make the screen itself. It's not a huge distraction, and is somewhat outweighed by the complete lack of 'screen door' effect (visible gaps between pixels).
Sony claims the TV has a 2.5ms response time, meaning that the pixels respond to colour changes quicker than a hummingbird on speed. It's borne out when you fire up a game, even something as fast-moving as Pro Evolution Soccer 6 on Xbox 360. Where even the best LCDs will exhibit some slight blurring around pitch markings, players and the ball, they all remain rock solid here.
Detail with hi-def material is sharp, clean and convincing. Even movies on Sky HD, which sometimes look noisy and compressed, seem brilliantly crisp here, although perhaps not quite as pin-sharp as with an LCD TV.
Standard-definition content is scaled pretty well, so does look decent on the huge screen, but it obviously can't match up to HD -- even upscaled DVD has visible jaggies and some noise.
Standard-definition content from the built-in Freeview tuner looks reasonably good, thanks to the scaling and noise-reduction technology, but we still noticed areas of blocky noise on the pitch during an FA Cup match, although part of this is down to the quality of the Freeview broadcast.
DVDs fare better, even when watching movies like Rushmore, the backgrounds of which often looks blocky and noisy on flat panels. Playing it at 1080i from a Denon DVD-2910 upscaling player, it looks remarkably crisp on the big screen.
Sound quality is solid but certainly nothing to get excited about, despite the inclusion of Virtual Dolby Surround -- a screen of this size and quality deserves a good quality external sound system.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Kate Macefield