After initially struggling to find its feet in the flat TV world, Sony finally made its mark with its first Bravia range. So it's with high expectations that we set about testing the £1,600 Bravia KDL-46W3000: a true 'second-generation' 46-inch Bravia model that looks -- on paper, at least -- like it's got everything a TV needs for success.
The 46W3000 hits the ground running with excellent build quality. The TV's bezel is made from brushed metal, making it simultaneously ultra-robust and highly stylish.
It keeps the good first impressions coming with an expansive set of connections that includes three v1.3 HDMIs -- compatible with the Deep Colour picture format -- plus two component video inputs, a dedicated PC port and a digital audio output.
It's pleasing to find that the 46-inch screen features a 1080p resolution, and a sky-high claimed contrast ratio of 16,000:1 -- one of the highest such figures we've yet seen on an LCD TV -- made possible by the TV's employment of a dynamic contrast system which dims the TV's backlight during dark scenes to boost black level response.
Working hard to improve the 46W3000's picture quality is the latest refinement of Sony's mid-level Bravia Engine EX image processing, designed to improve noise reduction, colour tones/saturations, fine details and contrast. Other handy features include a special colour tweak optimised to suit digital photos, endless adjustments to the colour matrix, a 'game' picture preset, MPEG noise reduction, a black corrector, an edge enhancer, a contrast corrector, white balance adjustment -- honestly, the list seems almost endless.
The 46W3000 puts its flexibility to good use with its pictures. For after a few minutes spent calibrating everything to our liking, the set produced some of the finest colours we've seen from an LCD TV. Rich reds, blues and greens look terrifically vibrant, with superbly subtle blends that show no hint of LCD's still-common 'striping' problem. Even better, the TV's colour tones are unusually natural, especially where skin is concerned.
While watching daytime TV, the 46W3000 also seems to have cracked LCD's problems with black levels, and most types of video noise are consigned to the dustbin. The last tick in the positive column comes from the 46W3000's audio, which is unusually clear and powerful.
Unfortunately, much of the 46W3000's good picture quality work is undone the second the image gets moving, at which point things start to go rather horribly wrong. The problem is simply that as objects move around the screen, they blur and smear to a really quite alarming degree, making high and standard definition sources alike look distractingly soft and unnatural.
We're still used to seeing this common LCD motion trait on low-cost flat TVs, but it really should not be turning up to such a severe degree on a new premium set from one of the world's leading AV brands. At this point, it occurs to us that for all the picture processing and fine tuning the 46W3000 carries, one feature conspicuously absent is any sort of 100Hz system that might have been able to combat the set's motion problems.
Meanwhile, the 46W3000's black levels, which generally impressed with ordinary TV viewing, are found lacking by the more extreme contrast range of a film, causing slight clouding over of dark scenes such as, well, just about anything in Blade Runner.
Finally, in an ideal world, the mostly decent sonic performance would have more bass to underpin the solid mid and treble range.
Although there are signs of real quality in the 46W3000, its severe problems handling motion ultimately make it a pretty major disappointment. Especially considering it's hardly cheap by LCD standards these days. Here's hoping the brand's upcoming new X Series screens, with their 100Hz processing, manage to deliver a significant improvement.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday