The TV also comes with Bravia Engine Pro image processing and scaling technology, which includes several noise reduction and colour adjustment modes, as well as a mind-boggling amount of picture settings the user can tweak. It's a nice selection for a picture perfectionist, but the average consumer will find it as confusing as watching an episode of Lost dubbed in Swahili. You can store different settings for each external input, though, which is handy. You also get digital and analogue tuners (both very easy to set up) and a seven-day electronic programme guide.
The remote control is reassuringly big with large, chunky buttons placed just where you'd expect them to be. We like it, but it would be nice if the TV cycled through the inputs quicker, and the fact that the TV always reverts to the digital tuner can be annoying.
It might seem surprising given the price, but this TV is in many ways superior to most high-end LCD and plasma screens. For starters, its blacks are better than anything LCD can manage: even in a dark room, the murkiest parts of gloomy games like Gears of War look black rather than grey. It's the same with dark scenes, like the scene in Tim Robbins' basement in War of the Worlds. Unlike most plasma TVs, however, the picture remains equally watchable when you're sat in a bright room, because of the immense contrast ratio and brightness.
Yep, this is a really bright display. In fact, whites in the picture are eye-searingly dazzling with everything turned up, so some adjustment is required to get a more relaxed image. It's in the lighter areas that one small flaw is evident -- the 'silk screen' effect this TV shares with many rear projectors. You can make out grainy sparkles in bright areas, which is down to the material used to make the screen itself. It's not a huge distraction, and is somewhat outweighed by the complete lack of 'screen door' effect (visible gaps between pixels).
Sony claims the TV has a 2.5ms response time, meaning that the pixels respond to colour changes quicker than a hummingbird on speed. It's borne out when you fire up a game, even something as fast-moving as Pro Evolution Soccer 6 on Xbox 360. Where even the best LCDs will exhibit some slight blurring around pitch markings, players and the ball, they all remain rock solid here.
Detail with hi-def material is sharp, clean and convincing. Even movies on Sky HD, which sometimes look noisy and compressed, seem brilliantly crisp here, although perhaps not quite as pin-sharp as with an LCD TV.
Standard-definition content is scaled pretty well, so does look decent on the huge screen, but it obviously can't match up to HD -- even upscaled DVD has visible jaggies and some noise.
Standard-definition content from the built-in Freeview tuner looks reasonably good, thanks to the scaling and noise-reduction technology, but we still noticed areas of blocky noise on the pitch during an FA Cup match, although part of this is down to the quality of the Freeview broadcast.
DVDs fare better, even when watching movies like Rushmore, the backgrounds of which often looks blocky and noisy on flat panels. Playing it at 1080i from a Denon DVD-2910 upscaling player, it looks remarkably crisp on the big screen.
Sound quality is solid but certainly nothing to get excited about, despite the inclusion of Virtual Dolby Surround -- a screen of this size and quality deserves a good quality external sound system.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Kate Macefield