kdl-40z5800

We'd kind of imagined that Sony would have wanted to announce its Freesat debut with some kind of grand design statement.

So it comes as a surprise – and something of a disappointment – to discover that Sony has merely dressed the 40Z5800 in the same smoky grey colour scheme, glassy finish and slender bezel as the brand's Z5500 TV range – a TV range with which, as we'll discover, the 40Z5800 has much in common.

On the upside, the Z5500 models are, for our money, the most attractive TVs Sony has done for a while, though, so at least the 40Z5800 has chosen the right 'stock' to base its look on.

The 40Z5800's connections broadly mirror those of the Z5500s too, meaning you get such goodies as four HDMIs, a USB port able to play video, photo and music files, and an Ethernet port for accessing files on a PC or Sony's Applicast online service.

But the 40Z5800 also features, of course, one notable addition: a port for attaching a satellite feed.

As usual, if you already have a dish installed that used to point at Sky, all you have to do is attach one of the LNB feeds coming from that dish to the TV and bob's your uncle: you're ready to 'go' Freesat.

If you don't have an old Sky dish set up, though, then you need to be aware that 'Freesat' doesn't quite live up to its name. For you'll have to get a dish installed, which will cost you around £80 on top of the TV's price.

kdl-40z5800

Given that the 40Z5800 already costs the not inconsiderable sum of £1,350, we wouldn't have thought this extra £80 would be a deal breaker for most people.

But if it is, you will doubtless be chuffed to know that at the time of writing, you can reduce the 40Z5800's price by £100 by trading in your current TV in at participating stores before 29 November.

More than just Freesat

Getting back to the TV rather than the story surrounding it, we were intrigued to discover during setup that the satellite tuner inside the Z5800 isn't only geared up for Freesat.

For we were given the option of installing Freesat channels or doing a simple DVB-S scan, with the latter bringing in any free to air channels (many of them foreign language ones) available from the satellites your dish is pointing at. However, you can't use Freesat and DVB-S simultaneously. It's one or the other.

The Freesat package currently offers more than 140 TV and radio channels. So obviously you're going to need an electronic programme guide to 'surf' them.

It has to be said that the one used by the 40Z5800 doesn't do anything very exciting – it's just a long list of channels, really, with their programmes presented in clear white text on grey background boxes.

Still, while in an ideal world the picture of the channel you were watching when you chose the EPG would continue to play in a small box while you browsed the listings, the 40Z5800's efforts to put your huge new channel collection into some kind of order work reasonably effectively and quickly.

There's none of the sluggishness noted with LG's Freesat EPG, for instance.

While Sony might not have gone to town in design terms for its Freesat debut, it has made sure that the Freesat tuner is far from the 40Z5800's only claim to fame. For the set also has a number of features on board to do with its picture processing.

For instance, as well as Sony's latest Bravia Engine 3 video system, it enjoys 200Hz processing – and this is 'real' 200Hz, where the image actually does refresh 200 times a second, rather than being something that relies on a combination of 100Hz and a scanning backlight, as happens with many rivals' 200Hz systems.

The only moan we would make about the 40Z5800's 200Hz approach is that it only features High, Standard and off settings; there's not the same flexibility in customising its activities that you get with Samsung's 200Hz models.

Other smaller but still notable little bits and bobs among the 40Z5800's onscreen menus are separate MPEG and 'standard' noise reduction routines, a black correction system, Sony's Live Colour engine for boosting colour saturations, and a reasonable degree of gamma adjustment.

To conclude this section, we need to talk for a moment about its online functionality. First of all, it's a shame that there's no Wi-Fi support on the 40Z5800, given that Samsung's online TVs allow a wireless connection via an optional USB dongle, and Philips' online TVs have full Wi-Fi connectivity built-in as standard.

Also aggravating is the current lack of any really meaningful content on Sony's AppliCast online service.

All you've got, essentially, are a few downloadable photos you can use as screensavers via the TV's PhotoFrame mode, an onscreen clock, an onscreen calculator, weather reports, and a few news stories, mostly to do with Sony's own products! Here's hoping we start to see this service being expanded considerably sometime soon.