Apps

Although the Sony KDL-26EX553 has core quality, its apps are its ace-cards. A king among fools is BBC iPlayer, as usual, though it does have its brethren, BBC Sport and BBC News, for company, as well as YouTube, Demand 5, Sky News and, err, Muzu.tv.

In terms of movies, you get Lovefilm, Netflix and Sony's own Video Unlimited. Not a bad haul, though there are many, many other apps that aren't worth listing.

Sony KDL-26EX553 review

The user interface generally works well, though Sony's services - Video and Music Unlimited, as well as newcomer PlayMemories (a cloud photo storage service) - are siphoned off on their own, away from other apps.

There are also a couple of different ways that apps are displayed (Twitter and Facebook are separate, too), which might confuse some.

Sony KDL-26EX553 review

One final gripe is that installing firmware updates - a very regular occurrence on smart TVs - is a rather manual experience; the GUI informs us of the update and what we should do/where we should go to install it, when it should be completely automatic and invisible.

While we're on 'new media' we ought to mention the excellent Sony Media Remote app. We tested the Sony Media Remote iPhone app, though a Sony Media Remote Android app is also available.

Sony KDL-26EX553 review

Picture quality

We really rate the Sony KDL-26EX553 on the pictures front; pictures from Andrew Marr's History of the World on BBC HD are perfectly judged in terms of colour, and certainly had enough detail at this size. The purity of black areas of the image is also noticeable, even at wide viewing angles, and though there's scant fine shadow detailing on show, that's really not critical on a 26-inch TV.

Switch to a DVD of The Last Emperor and the Sony KDL-26EX553 does a fine job of upscaling, though its smooth ways even better suit the likes of YouTube, where some archive footage of Pele's best goals appeared clean and highly watchable.

Sony KDL-26EX553 review

Wall-E on Blu-ray looks simply fabulous, with strong colours and just enough detail, and though we did notice the odd blur during fast camera pans, this was cured by engaging the mild Film Mode - the oft-irritating frame interpolation feature that, for once, gets rid of blur and judder but doesn't introduce nasty side-effects.

The Sony KDL-26EX553 never produces an in-yer-face, ultra-bright image, but the nuanced, refined and slightly muted treatment of all sources makes this a surprisingly cinematic and versatile performer.

Sony KDL-26EX553 review

Sound quality

Audio is merely average for a small TV, but since it's so ambitious elsewhere, its weedy sound comes as a disappointment.

Dialogue is very sharp - it's clearly been optimised for this type of audio - but other effects very obviously come from underneath the screen.