We should again mention the 1080p-compatible screen, which is in many ways this TV's 'killer app'. 1080p may be pretty much unavailable at the moment -- we haven't yet managed to secure a test source -- but thanks to Blu-ray and HD-DVD, it will be here by the end of the year for the early adopters. Next year will also see the launch of the PlayStation 3, which will offer games in 1080p, and at some point in the future we will probably see a 1080p HDTV service. So, while 1080p compatibility might not mean much right now, its inclusion is Sony's nod towards future-proofing.
On the sonic front, Sony has included Virtual Dolby Surround and Pro Logic II, plus BBE digital audio.
Other features include analogue and digital TV tuners. The latter offers access to the full Freeview service and a 7-day electronic programme guide.
Despite all the advanced technology inside, setting up the television is remarkably easy. This is mainly thanks to the attractive, logically laid-out menu system. It's simple enough to make getting the TV tuned in and running a quick job, but also offers loads of scope for adjustment and tweaking if you're the sort of person who wants the perfect image. You can alter the brightness of the backlight, sharpen or soften the image, tweak the colour temperature, set the screen to a special mode for gaming and much more. All told it's one of the most complete sets of image-adjustment options we've seen on a TV.
Great design and features mean little if the picture quality isn't up to scratch and thankfully the Sony does not disappoint here. In fact it provides a superb image with good quality sources. Running the BBC HD channel through it we were impressed by the sheer amount of detail shown in the landscapes of Planet Earth -- every crevice in a rock face is visible.
But there's more to the Sony than the ability to provide sharp pictures. It deals well with movement too -- another scene in Planet Earth sees wild dogs chasing impala, and the camera sticks with the protagonists as the background moves rapidly past. It's the sort of scene that would blur on many LCDs, but here it runs smoothly and ghost-free.
Colour is another strong point, with smooth, gentle transitions from lighter to darker shades handled very well, without the 'stepping' effect being too severe and distracting. Wide Colour Gamut also appears to work very well, as the colours on show are more rich and vibrant than on most LCDs.
Standard-definition pictures don't impress to the same degree, lacking in detail and displaying weaker, more washed-out colours, but that's got as much to do with poor source material and the sheer size of the screen than any lack of effort on Sony's part.
Sound quality is fine, with the speakers providing ample accompaniment to the stunning image. All in all, a virtuoso performance from Sony's best flat panel to date.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield