• Good picture quality
  • Freeview HD onboard
  • Good value
  • Excellent internet features


  • Picture could be crisper
  • Colours could be more vibrant

The Sony Bravia KDL-40EX503 is Sony's very first TV to come packing a built-in Freeview HD tuner.

As we sit in our high-spec, tech-fuelled test rooms, it's easy not to get particularly excited by Freeview HD. After all, we've had loads of HD channels for years now from Sky, as well as a couple from Freesat.

But the reality is that our tech labs are hardly representative of the Great British TV marketplace as a whole. For many 'normal' people, getting a satellite dish and new receiver for Freesat HD involves too much hassle and clutter, while the monthly subs cost of getting Sky's HD platform just doesn't bear thinking about.

In fact, let's be honest here: there's a healthy chunk of the British populace that barely understands what HD does, much less actually watches any of it.

So the truth is that in terms of potentially making HD mainstream, the arrival of Freeview HD - an HD service you can receive through your TV aerial rather than a dish - is potentially a very big deal indeed.

Sony bravia kdl-40ex503

When we talk here about Freeview HD arriving in the UK, we're not meaning that Freeview HD broadcasts have only just been switched on. The Crystal Palace transmitter has actually been sending out HD signals since December 2nd 2009.

But today sees the launch of a new product at the reception end of the Freeview HD chain: the UK's very first TV with a built-in Freeview HD tuner, able to receive the new DVB-T2 transmission standard.

That TV is this Sony's 40-inch KDL-40EX503. Which has to count as quite a coup for the Japanese giant, given that it can sometimes be slightly late to the party when it comes to mainstream (as opposed to enthusiast) TV technology.

In fact, you could argue that the 40EX503 has arrived too early! For as happened with standard definition Freeview when it launched, Freeview HD is currently far from a nationwide phenomenon.

Freeview HD issues

The need to upgrade transmitters for Freeview HD means the service is currently only available from two transmitters: Crystal Palace in London and Winter Hill in the North West (the latter transmitter covers around 2,690,000 homes in a circle centred near Blackburn and stretching to Chester and Macclesfield to the South, and Lancaster and Skipton to the North).

Around 60 per cent of the UK's population is expected to be able to get Freeview HD by the end of 2010, but there will still be huge swathes of the country that won't be able to receive Freeview HD until 2011 - at the earliest.

However, while this Freeview HD 'regionalism' seems hugely unfair given that we all pay the same TV license fee, it is, of course, not Sony's fault.

Sony bravia kdl-40ex503

In fact, Sony would doubtless love it if every single person in the UK could already get Freeview HD, since all it can do with things as they are is provide a TV geared up for the areas already lucky enough to have Freeview HD broadcasts, and hope that other people in areas not currently served by Freeview HD will fancy buying a Freeview HD TV anyway, just so they're future proof.

If you want to find out just how much of a wait you have before Freeview HD reaches you, a postcode checker can be found on Freeview's website.

The final little background 'disappointment' we ought to cover before getting our teeth into the 40EX503 is the amount of HD content on Freeview. For at the moment you only get the BBC's part-time HD channel, and the very sporadic HD content from ITV.

Channel Four's HD broadcasts are promised to hit the platform soon, though. And in any case, for cash-strapped and/or dish-hating folk, having any HD channels at all via your aerial is infinitely better than having none.