Sony’s belated entry into the Freesat TV market, the KDL-40Z5800, was one of the finest LCD TVs the Japanese megacorps has delivered to date. However, its Freesat HD tuner didn’t come cheap; the set cost almost £1200 - hardly peanuts these days for a 40in TV.
So it’s with some anticipation that I set about the Sony KDL-32V5810. For as well as being - at 32in - one of the smallest TVs around with built-in Freesat functionality, it’s also strikingly cheap for a Sony Bravia: just under £580.
It has to be said, though, that it does rather look its money. Its simple black rectangle design is just about glossy enough not to look ugly, but it feels slightly flimsily built by Sony’s usually robust standards, and doesn’t stand out on today’s crowded AV shelves.
Things look up considerably, though, as you count up its connections. Its four HDMIs, for instance, would look good on any affordable 32in TV, never mind one that has a built-in Freesat tuner and so might reasonably argue that it needs one less HDMI input than most TVs.
Then there’s its USB port, which proves able to handle video as well as JPEG and MP3 files. Plus, as with all products able to receive Freesat HD, the 32V5810 has an Ethernet port for enjoying future interactive features like the BBC iPlayer (which is already available via Humax’s Freesat HD PVR). This is just one string to the Ethernet port’s bow, though. For it can also be used to stream in multimedia files from a DLNA-certified PC, or to access Sony’s Applicast online service.
It’s a while since I explored AppliCast in detail, so I thought I’d go into everything it has to offer via the 32V5810. And this is what I found: a world clock, a calendar, an onscreen calculator, a small selection of images you can download and use with Sony’s Picture Frame feature (a sort of reduced-power screen saver option), and some news items on Sony’s latest range of TVs. This latter feature suggests that Sony has a healthy sense of irony; after all, surely the last thing you want to read about on your new TV is a bunch of other TVs just coming out that might actually be better than the one you’ve just bought?!
The most important thing about AppliCast, though, is that it really doesn’t offer much content at all compared with the online services currently offered by the likes of Panasonic, Samsung and Philips. And the content level hasn’t increased in any significant way since the service first appeared early last year.
I’d hoped that some of the much more impressive and extensive online functionality Sony has unveiled for its upcoming new TV ranges might have 'rubbed off' on the current Applicast system. But there have been no significant updates, and Sony has confirmed that its latest online services will not be coming to current Applicast models via any firmware updates. Shame.