Sony's been pushing its 200Hz Bravia Z4500 and Z5500 TVs so hard that its X4500 series has rather slipped under the radar. That's a pity because, with their use of direct LED backlighting with RGB dimming, they're just as innovative. What's more, on the evidence of the 1080p, 46-inch Bravia KDL-46X4500 LCD TV, available for around £2,700, they're also rather good.
In case you hadn't noticed, not all LCD TVs with LED backlights are the same. You can use LEDs to light a TV in two ways. The first is by placing the array of LED lights directly behind the screen. The second is by arranging the LED lights around the TV frame, so they beam light across the back of the screen that's then reflected out towards the viewer. While the edge-based approach can lead to spectacularly slim TVs and lower running costs, traditional wisdom has it that the direct, rear-mounted LED approach delivers the best picture quality.
If you then use an RGB dimming system for your direct LEDs, rather than the more common -- and far cheaper -- white dimming system, you should be able to boost performance even further, especially when it comes to colour reproduction.
The fact that Sony's KDL-46X4500 uses both direct LED backlighting and RGB dimming thus raises huge hopes for its performance quality. Those hopes are further supported by its 1080p resolution and huge 1,000,000:1 claimed contrast ratio -- enough to make normal LCD TVs weep.
Contributing considerably to this claimed contrast ratio is the set's local dimming system, whereby the screen can adjust the brightness of separate sections of its LED array individually. This means that, unlike ordinary LCD TVs, which have just a single light source, the KDL-46X4500 can turn some of its lights off nearly completely in dark parts of the picture at the same time as it leaves the lights on maximum in bright parts of the picture.
In other words, the KDL-46X4500 should be able to deliver pictures with much more contrast range and dynamism than ordinary LCD TVs.
The KDL-46X4500's connections are also good, including a very respectable four HDMI sockets, a USB port for multimedia file playback, and even an Ethernet jack for accessing files on a DLNA-certified PC. You can't also use this Ethernet port to access Sony's AppliCast online functionality, but this is no great loss given how basic AppliCast is at the moment.
The only cause for concern on the KDL-46X4500's spec sheet is the Bravia Engine 2 video processing. This is last year's system -- most of Sony's 2009 TVs sport Bravia Engine 3.
Initially, the KDL-46X4500's pictures didn't excite us as much as we expected them to. Some colours -- especially rich reds and greens -- looked slightly forced, and video noise levels were distractingly high.
Careful time spent in the picture-adjustment menus soon saw off most of our concerns, though. Afterwards, we were faced with pictures that were, at times, nothing short of magnificent.