Manufacturers like to play the numbers game with every TV's specifications. The question is whether these spec adjustments amount to something worthwhile. Sony's Bravia KDL-46Z4500 plays the numbers game better than most thanks to its new eye-catching 200Hz trick. It's available now for around £1,800.
Not surprisingly, the 200Hz processing in the 46Z4500 is designed to be twice as powerful and thus, presumably, twice as effective at improving the clarity and fluidity of motion as the 100Hz processing system now commonplace in the LCD world.
While this is not exactly the case, the 46Z4500 does deliver a definite improvement in motion clarity versus Sony's 100Hz sets -- and the 100Hz sets of many rival brands. What's more, it enhances motion without generating significant processing side effects -- at least using its 'standard' setting. This is an impressive feat considering the extensive amount of processing power required to achieve the 200Hz effect.
Increasing to 200Hz isn't the only good thing about the 46Z4500's pictures, either. Colours are extravagantly vibrant and rich, ensuring maximum impact with animated fare such as Ratatouille, while at the same time being subtle and expressive, meaning that skin tones and dark colours are among the most believable we've seen from an LCD TV.
The 46Z4500's black levels get as deep as any standard LCD TV we've seen -- though without reaching the same inky depths as the latest plasma and LED TVs. The 46Z4500 enjoys some of the best standard-definition pictures available on such a large full HD LCD TV too – a result of Sony's Bravia Engine 2 processing system, with its focus on enhanced scaling, noise reduction, colours and contrast.
Moving away from picture quality, the 46Z4500's connectivity is excellent, especially the inclusion of a USB port for playing a variety of multimedia formats, and a DLNA-certified Ethernet port via which you can access multimedia files on your PC.
Finally, the 46Z4500 hits the right notes with its design, which elegantly combines a Midnight Sky colour scheme with Sony's trademark see-through panel along the bottom edge.
While the 200Hz processing does marginally improve picture quality, it doesn't improve things as greatly as we might have hoped. You certainly don't get twice as much clarity and motion fluidity as you get with 100Hz processing, at any rate. In fact, the benefits are so marginal that for some of your viewing time you probably won't really notice them.
While the 46Z4500's 200Hz processing generally works without causing unwanted side effects, occasionally during really difficult footage, such as the swirling mists around the HMS Surprise at the start of Master and Commander, the burdens on the 200Hz engine can result in some slight smearing.
Another issue is that while black levels are good, occasionally the 46Z4500's efforts at retaining shadow detail while also producing convincing blacks mean it exaggerates noise -- especially digital MPEG noise -- that might be tucked away in dark picture corners.
In terms of features, we would have liked a TV as highly specified as the 46Z4500 to have some sort of colour-management system. But given how good colours generally look, we can just about let that one slide.
What we definitely can't let slide, though, is the 46Z4500's price. Sony lists the TV at £2,300 -- while you can find it online for less, it is still a heck of a lot of money for a 46-inch TV, especially one that doesn't have LED backlighting technology.
While upgrading to 200Hz works, it doesn't totally revolutionise TV picture quality in the same way LED backlighting does. This means that even though the 46Z4500 is without question a very fine TV, it's not quite fine enough to justify its price.
Edited by Cristina Psomadakis