The television's resolution is a high-definition compatible 1280x768, but the lack of DVI/HDMI input means that it won't support Sky HD. It does mean that you can run your PC display at a nice resolution though, and if you're really keen you can download some high-definition clips from Microsoft and see what all the fuss is about.
Freeview is far from being a simple afterthought and has been integrated into the television very well. The electronic programme guide, for example, is more useful than on most set-top boxes. Not only does it show listings for five channels at a time, but also it displays the current channel in the corner of the screen. You can see the current time, type of programme and a short description of what it is you're watching. It starts to get really clever when you sort programmes by type, such as Film or Education, and the guide goes up to seven days ahead if you have a strong signal.
Memory Stick recording isn't half-hearted either. You can set schedules up to a week in advance and set the individual quality level for each recording. It's doesn't make any sense that they won't play back on a PSP though -- Sony typically has a lot of brand loyalty and plenty of people would want to take advantage of this feature. We should note that our PSP is from North America, and it's feasible that the European version, to be launched in September, could accommodate recorded programmes from the KDL-L32MRX1. We're not holding our breath, though.
The television will also read JPEG images from a Memory Stick Pro or Duo. We experimented with two sets of pictures to see if we could torture our friends and family with mountains of virtual holiday snaps. It wasn't easy -- the menu was slow to navigate, as though there wasn't enough memory inside the media box. It certainly wasn't our Memory Stick that was slow to access, because we were using the very latest 1GB Pro Duo, which offers extremely fast access times. A collection of Glastonbury shots taken from the Nikon D70 digital SLR and subsequently shrunk for the Web looked great. Strangely though, shots that had been kept in high resolution from the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P9 displayed flickering, possibly because of their higher resolution. We doubt it was the camera itself, although the problems with inter-Sony compatibility are quite comical. It would have been nice to see some pretty fades and transitions when running a slideshow, but the only thing you can change is the amount of time each picture stays on the screen.
The KDL-L32MRX1 displays the same excellent menu system as Sony's other TVs, which is a joy to use thanks to another excellent remote control. There were a few small niggles, though -- pressing the Record button doesn't start recording to the Memory Stick. Some of the buttons are far too small, and the recording options are tucked away in two sub-menus. The remote will control other Sony AV equipment, though, and there's a direct button for the Memory Stick picture menu.
We really hate the fact that the KDL-L32MRX1 isn't an HDTV, but as with a child that's failed an exam but tried its best, it's hard not to love it. Freeview pictures look much better than they do on rival LCDs, thanks to the Wega Engine's talent for picture processing. By keeping everything in the digital domain, the screen doesn't display as many of the horrible artefacts that blight most flat screens, and detail is more perceptible as well. The quality of the Freeview broadcasts is pretty poor -- during Wimbledon, the crowd's faces lacked definition when the camera panned across them. You literally couldn't tell whether they had eyes, so we were scared that aliens had invaded earth to catch the women's final. Nevertheless, the Sony copes better than most.
When you upgrade to the component inputs, the noise is removed and the pictures offer real sharpness. Colours aren't amazingly vibrant, but they look natural and the contrast depth of the images is up there with the best. The Wega Engine reflects how well you're treating it, so it's worth investing in a component DVD player.
The audio also punches above its weight. The speakers look sizeable sitting on either side of the glass frame and they certainly don't disappoint. We hope that you'll be using a home-cinema system with the TV, and you'll probably want to use a dedicated centre channel speaker rather than rely on the television's speakers.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide