The slight lack of colour vibrancy noted earlier isn’t the only flaw with the 32V5810’s pictures, however. For it also fails to float my boat with its black level performance, for two reasons.
First, dark scenes look generally a bit milky by today’s fast-improving standards - despite the TV quoting a respectable 60,000:1 contrast ratio. This greyness leaves them looking a bit flat and short of shadow detail.
To be fair, not so long ago I might have been quite impressed by the 32V5810’s black level response; it’s certainly not bad for a sub-£600 TV. But nor are black levels as consistently good as they are on Samsung’s LE40B550 or LE32B650 LCD models, or Panasonic’s TX-P42X10 - a 42in plasma model which can, remarkably, now be found routinely selling for around £500.
What’s really got my goat about the 32V5810, though, is the appearance of quite obvious pools of backlight seepage coming in from the screen’s top corners. These pools extend for about an inch and a half across the picture, and while invisible during dark colourful footage, are all too evident during very dark scenes.
I’ve reported similar phenomena on various other Sony TVs over the past year, so I dare say Sony is sick of hearing me bang on about it. But frankly I’m getting sick of seeing it, too, and can only pray that the problem has been sorted for Sony’s upcoming new TV ranges.
You can reduce the backlight pooling’s obviousness if you ramp down the set’s backlight output and brightness. But this might not chime with the settings everyone wants to use with their TV, and it still doesn’t completely stop the problem from distracting you during dark scenes - or when watching 2.35:1-ratio films with black bars around them.
Turning to the 32V5810’s sound, the rather unprepossessing speakers running along the TV’s bottom edge actually produce a passable soundstage, combining a decently wide mid-range with some fair treble detailing. Things sound a bit compressed at the bass end, but this is common among small, flat TVs, and at least there’s seldom any actual distortion.
Sony’s attempts to make a built-in Freesat tuner more affordable succeed on some levels, but overall the set doesn’t do enough to warrant more than a qualified recommendation - especially if you watch a lot of dark films.