For a TV that genuinely breaks new technological ground, the 40EX503 is a little unassuming to look at. Sony has tried to introduce a bit of flair via an aluminium panel stuck onto the TV’s lower edge, but this only adds a relatively small touch of opulence to what’s essentially another one of those 10-a-penny gloss-black rectangles that dominate so much of the TV market right now.
My first impressions of the 40EX503 weren’t helped, either, by the problems I had with, um, getting the provided batteries into the 40EX503’s remote control - despite Sony providing a diagram stuck to the remote to try and make the process easier. Mind you, in my own defence, the very fact that Sony has gone to the trouble of fastening a battery installation diagram to the remote suggests that it’s far more complicated than it really should be!
The set hits its stride more confidently when it comes to connections. Highlights beyond the predictable four HDMIs include a startlingly flexible USB 2.0 input (MP3, JPEG, and various video formats are all on the menu), a PC port, and an Ethernet port that is actually way more exciting on the 40EX503 than the same port was on any of Sony’s previous generation of Ethernet-sporting TVs.
Why? Because unlike the desperately flimsy offering of Sony’s previous AppliCast online service, Sony’s new Bravia Internet Video platform is arguably as revolutionary in its own way as the 40EX503’s integrated Freeview HD tuner.
Seriously, the amount of online content available through the 40EX503’s Ethernet port - or wirelessly if you get Sony’s optional Wi-Fi USB dongle - is so extensive it borders on bewildering.
It would take forever to cover everything that’s on offer in detail. But a basic list of the 40EX503‘s ring-fenced online services shapes up like this: YouTube; blip.tv; Sony’s Digital Cinema Concert Series; The Ford Models channel (settle down, chaps); Daily Motion; OnNetworks; livestrong.com; SingingFool; National Public Radio; access to various popular podcasts; and LoveFilm.
The latter service is particularly innovative and important to readers of this site, since it will eventually (as in, imminently!) allow the streaming of full, feature-length films accessed via your LoveFilm account - an account which you will be able to sync your TV up with.
This service wasn’t quite up and running as I wrote this review: all you could access via the LoveFilm link were trailers, and these didn’t always stream perfectly on my admittedly fairly uninspiring 2Mbps broadband pipe, despite the 40EX503 impressively carrying a 7-second download buffer. But the LoveFilm service has the potential to become a huge feature for home cinema fans in the months and years to come.
The remote control interface for accessing all the 40EX503’s online features works well too, and leaves Sony in the enviable position of now setting the online pace rather than lagging behind as it did last year.
Looking for more prosaic features, I find the 40EX503 boasting a 100Hz engine for improving motion resolution, and Sony’s Bravia Engine 3 (BE3) video processing engine. It’s perhaps a tad disappointing that Sony has stuck with BE3 rather than doing its usual annual incremental improvement. But to be fair, BE3 has proved highly effective at keeping a lid on video noise, boosting contrast and enhancing sharpness.
Other little bits and bobs included to keep the tinkerers happy include Sony’s Live Colour system for enhanced colour tones, a black correction facility, a flexible gamma adjustment, and thoughtfully separated-out MPEG and ‘standard’ noise reduction systems.