Overall, we think the X3500 is a strong contender. It did much better on Freeview than most LCDs of its size. Upscaled DVD also impressed -- our trusty copy of Jurassic Park got our blood pumping in the right way, which was in part down to the sturdy picture quality, but also because of the impressive sound performance from the two 11W speakers mounted on each side of the screen. We would go so far as to say that the speakers on this TV are some of the best we've heard.
We also generally liked the high-definition picture quality it produced. Blu-ray movies had a decent amount of detail in them, although this fell a little short of our expectations, especially with regard to sharpness, which we were never truly happy with.
We can forgive the slightly soft image to some extent, as it's never so bad as to destroy the picture. We have a tougher job forgiving the backlight, which we found a touch too bright, and in dark scenes slightly overwhelming. For the most part, this isn't a massive problem. It's only when you get night scenes or movies set in the deep black of space that you'll notice this.
We loved the picture on Blu-ray, but there wasn't anywhere near as much detail in the pictures as we've seen on other LCDs. Recent plasmas from Panasonic and Pioneer have surprised us with unbelievable detail levels, and in so doing have raised the bar. Our Casino Royale disc did look great though, with strong, bright, realistic colours and we got a kick out of some of the classic scenes from Batman Begins.
Last year this TV would have been at the top of the pile, but this year there's such stiff competition -- especially from the plasma panels -- that good isn't really good enough. That said, the Sony Bravia KDL-40X3500 produces a likeable picture, if some way off perfect, and that makes this TV an attractive proposition overall. We have some reservations about the backlight, but generally this is always going to be a problem for LCD TVs. If you're really picky about perfect blacks, this might not be the TV for you.
At this price point, there are some good Panasonic plasmas available, and we highly recommend the Toshiba 40XF and 40ZF picture-frame TVs. They look just as appealing and, in our opinion, have slightly less overpowering backlights.
Edited by Nick Hide