The Sony Bravia KDL-40V5810 Sits towards the bottom of Sony's current line up of TVs. This would signal a telly that's born into mediocrity with many other manufacturers.
However, the 40V5810's impressive specification would suggest otherwise, because alongside its Freesat HD tuner it also boasts the latest Bravia Engine 3 picture processing, Applicast internet widgets and green features that promise to make it kinder to the environment. Best of all, though, is the sub £800 asking price.
The standard issue, glossy black exterior doesn't exactly set the pulse racing, but under the hood it's surprising just how feature-rich the 40V5810 actually is.
The 1080p panel and Freesat HD tuner let you enjoy every ounce of detail that the likes of BBC HD has to offer. Sony has also been generous by adding four HDMI ports, but perhaps most impressive is the presence of the well regarded Bravia Engine 3 picture processing.
The set's green credentials aren't bad either: in Eco mode it uses its light sensor to detect ambient light in your room and adjusts the screen brightness accordingly. There's also an automatic Power off feature that shuts down the set when it detects that it's been idle for a long time.
However, the TV lags behind the competition when it comes to internet and networking features, especially compared to those found on TVs from the likes of Panasonic and LG. It does offer internet widgets for viewing pictures, checking the weather forecast and reading internet news feeds, but there's sadly no support for internet video services such as Youtube.
The home networking features are also below par as the file format support is just too limited. For example, the set can only stream basic MPEG2 and AVCHD video files; there's no support for the popular DivX, Xvid and Maktrosa video formats that LG's keenly priced TVs now handle with ease.
Ease of use
The set's unfussy remote feels very comfortable to hold, and its intelligent button layout puts all the important controls, such as volume, channel choice and EPG access at your fingertips.
Most of the TVs functions are accessible via the Xcross Media Bar menu system that'll look instantly familiar to anyone who's used a PS3 or PSP games console, but you can also call up quick menus for picture and sound controls.
We like the electronic version of the manual stored in the screen's memory, enabling you to view it on the screen at any time and another clever addition is the Scene selection feature. This acts as a sort of super preset menu that quickly tweaks the TV's picture and audio settings for things like movie watching, sports or game play.
There's no doubting that the screen's core strengths lie in the picture department. The naturalness of its colours lend its pictures a realism that's lacking on many similarly priced rivals. What's more, the set's stunning black levels help it produce beautifully rich images that are full of contrast and have a real cinematic feel.
The darker, more brooding scenes in No Country for Old Men on Blu-ray looked superb. The Bravia Engine 3 works wonders, too. Not only does it enhance contrast and sharpness on HD sources, but it also helps wring the very best out of even the poorest SD feeds.
There are a couple of downsides, however. The TV lacks 100Hz processing so motion isn't quite as smooth as on some higher end sets, but to be fair, it still performs pretty admirably in this department for a telly in this price range.
The backlighting also isn't quite as even as it could be. In very dark scenes you can see slightly greyer patches at the edges. But again, this is hardly the first LCD to suffer from this, and unless you watch the opening of any of the Star Wars movies on a loop you're probably not going to notice it.
When it comes to audio, the 40V5810 puts in an impressively potent performance. It's got no problems kicking out a racket at higher volumes, the mid range is strong and there's enough bass to keep the sound nicely rounded.
We also liked the Voice Zoom feature which does a surprisingly good job of making dialogue sound more distinct. This can be especially useful at night when you're likely to watch TV at lower volume levels.
It may lack 100Hz processing and have a lacklustre design, but overall the 40V5810 is still impressive.
It has bags of features, excellent picture processing that works wonders with both HD and standard-def sources, and, unlike a lot of Sony TVs it doesn't have a wallet bashing price tag. So on the performance to price ratio we think it scores highly.
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