ex503 review

Let's kick off this section with the all-important Freeview HD playback. Which is... variable.

Sometimes some BBC and ITV material (broadcast currently in 1080i/50, though 1080p/25 and 720p/50 are also supported) looks great - sharp, clean and crisp. And sometimes it looks a little soft and noisy. This slight variability is not the Sony TV's fault, though, but rather an issue with the broadcasts.

Don't be too alarmed by the variability in Freeview HD quality, though. For even one of the less impressive Freeview HD images still beats a standard def Freeview image into a cocked hat.

Decent performance

Turning to the quality of the 40EX503's images rather than those of the broadcasts it receives, the news is mostly very good.

Particularly excellent is the 40EX503's black level response, which achieves levels of profundity much deeper than anything Sony has managed before, and actually deeper than that of almost any other non-LED LCD TV we can think of - bar, perhaps, Samsung's B650 models.

It's nice to find, too, that the 40EX503's screen does a great job of soaking up ambient light reflections. But best of all on the black level front, the 40EX503 suffers scarcely at all with that recurring Sony problem of backlight leakage.

Contrast niggles

If you look really hard during extremely dark scenes, you might just make out the tiniest hint of backlight inconsistency in the extreme corners. But it's much, much less noticeable than it was on many sets from Sony's previous generation, and simply can't be seen at all during 95% of your viewing time.

It's a relief, too, to find that Sony has achieved its excellent black level on the 40EX503 without sacrificing as much shadow detail as we might have expected.

Another feather in the 40EX503's cap concerns its motion handling, as it manages to pretty much completely remove judder from the image, even if you only use the Motionflow processing's Standard setting.

Actually, we'd advise that you stick with this rather than going for the High mode, as otherwise you can start to see a few too many processing artefacts. In Standard mode, side effects are restricted to the rare appearance of momentary flickering or shimmering around very fast objects - something that's easy to live with given the benefits the system brings.

The 40EX503's colours, meanwhile, are good, displaying exceptional subtlety when it comes to blends and colour shifts.

HD images also contain plenty of detail without looking gritty or forced, and standard definition pictures are translated to the screen's full HD resolution without exaggerating source noise.

The only issues we have with the 40EX503's pictures, in fact, are a) that colours are a tad muted post calibration, and b) they're not quite as crisp looking as we'd like, thanks to a touch of motion blur, and a generally marginally soft tone.

But unless you're one of those people who love to see every HD pixel presented with clinical, almost forensic clarity, we're confident that the various plus points of the 40EX503's picture engine will be more than enough to win your heart.