"Solid performance at reasonable price"3.5 starson by forkboy
Pros: Surprisingly strong black levels for LCD; plenty of input options; solid performance & color straight out of box; excellent matte finish screen for strongly lit rooms; remote not overly complicated; sufficient picture adjustments
Cons: Speakers are weak in both volume and quality; bezel too reflective on sides & top, while bottom bezel is distracting;
Summary: We haven't had this television very long (a few weeks actually), but thus far it has been more impressive than I had anticipated of a mid-level LCD television. While I was sold upon plasma (Panasonic to be specific), I recognized that our rather brightly lit television room presented serious challenges to a wide-screen television with reflective glass. Even screens treated with anti-reflective coatings were clearly reflective in the showroom. This particular Sony LCD comes with a matte-finish screen and it makes a monumental difference.
While not LED back- or edge-lit, I found very little difference in apparent picture quality when compared to it's LED backlit brother, which I was able to compare almost side by side. The additional $300+ in pricing for LED seemed both unreasonable and unnecessary.
While I might prefer a few additional setting options in regards to picture, I haven't yet found any real need for them. Colour, brightness, etc. all seem "correct" right out of the box. We have made use of the custom setting function, but found the standard Normal mode to be very satisfactory under most circumstances. Besides, I sometimes think too much is made of the myriad possible adjustments some televisions come with. Some folks appear to spend more time adjusting than watching their sets. Colours appear nicely saturated and natural with our custom adjustments, but our adjustments were very close to the Normal setting anyway.
Using the opening credits to the Blu-Ray disc of "A Clockwork Orange" I found the uniformity of the backlighting to be very, very good. Even and completely filling the screen it is better than our 32-inch Sony LCD television purchased a few months back for another room. Zero complaints here.
Two reasons I was originally sold on plasma were the unlimited viewing angle and superior black level. Being major fans of sci-fi black levels are obviously an important issue. I was aware that both issues have been addressed over the past few years in regards to LCD televisions, but I was surprised at how much better they had become. In our television room none of the seating is greatly off the central axis of the television so there was less reason to be concerned, but we have not discerned any loss or washing out of colour based upon our particular seating arrangement. In addition, I'm very, very pleasantly surprised with black level performance on this television. I realize a plasma may still be better, but I have yet to find myself experiencing any complaints regarding the black level performance. I'm surprised, but incredibly relieved at the same time.
So, what do I not like? First and foremost the speakers are not the best. Sure.... most television speakers aren't great (or even good), but these are fairly disappointing. They disappoint in both volume and audio quality. I find myself turning up the set's volume more than its 32-inch Sony brethren, and find the overall quality to be lacking. For the first time ever, with any television, I find myself turning on the A/V receiver just to watch cable. I will concede that the downward firing design may have some major impact upon both the volume and quality (all our previous television have had forward firing speakers). Regardless, I consider such to be a design flaw and would like to see the speakers facing forward in hopes it would help. While this may not make for as handsome a unit, it would hopefully solve the speaker volume/quality issue.
Second, while the overall look of the television is simple and clean (and I like it better than some of Sony's previous models), I find the bezel to be distracting. The top and sides are glossy, black plastic, which is highly reflective. This seems odd considering the well matted screen. In addition, as the bezels are fairly wide they sometimes become a bit distracting while watching the television, especially with material that is darker. The bottom bezel is a different style in that it has a matte finish (yea!), but is of another colour. The colour is still dark (medium grey maybe), but also becomes a bit distracting while watching the television, perhaps because it is the only visible design element that isn't black. I understand the desire and/or need of television designers to try and differentiate their wares from those of their competitors, but I don't think this particular style works well when it comes to television viewing even though the overall look is pleasant.
If, for any reason, I find any of this initial opinions changing (for the better or worse) I will return with a follow-up review.