• Recommended by TR
Sony Bravia KDL-40EX503 front


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Review Price £569.99

After driving 130 miles to receive a blasted Freeview HD signal, it seemed only right to start my tests of the 40EX503 by checking out its Freeview HD pictures. And I’m happy to say the set did really well indeed, handling the HD signals amply well enough to confirm what I’d already come to expect from Freeview HD via previews I’d seen in the past: namely that Freeview HD broadcasts veer between being merely decent to being really quite excellent.

As with the fact that I had to go to London to test the 40EX503, the varying quality of the Freeview HD fare (from The BBC and ITV, with Channel 4 coming soon) is, of course, not the 40EX503’s fault. In fact, it merely shows just how pure a path the set is providing from the tuner to the screen, allowing the source material to appear exactly as broadcast.

Sony Bravia KDL-40EX503 front angle

Naturally, the 40EX503 is perfectly capable of trying to improve the look of the lower quality, noisier HD fare that occasionally comes over the Freeview HD airwaves, thanks to the Bravia Engine and its noise reduction circuits. But to be fair, even the least impressive Freeview HD image easily trumps the best Freeview standard def pictures. And in any case, since my focus here is on a TV rather than the current state of the Freeview HD broadcasting service, I’d rather focus on the times when Freeview HD really hits its stride, and is shown in all its standard def-murdering glory by the 40EX503.

Regular readers will know that I’ve had more than a few inconsistent backlight problems with recent Sony TVs. So a good place to start my assessment of the 40EX503’s pictures is by saying that its black level response is really outstanding, and the dreaded ‘light pooling’ phenomenon is almost non-existent - or, at least, is barely visible over what I’d estimate to be less than 5 per cent of your overall viewing time.

The black levels achieved during really dark scenes attain almost LED-like depths at times, yet the amount of brightness the 40EX503’s dynamic contrast system has to lose to make such black levels possible isn’t as drastic as I’d have expected. Which means, of course, that bright elements in predominantly dark picture content still look reasonably punchy, and dark scenes overall look agreeably dynamic. Another hint as to just how clever the 40EX503’s dynamic contrast system is can be seen in the good amount of shadow detailing the set retains in dark areas.

More good news finds the 40EX503 exhibiting an unusually deft touch with colour reproduction, serving up generally immaculate blends and transitions, and managing to reproduce even the trickiest, smallest skin tone differentiations with aplomb.

Some people might feel that the 40EX503’s colours look ever so slightly washed out once the set has been calibrated to deliver its best all-round results. But for me this is a small price to pay for what works out to be predominantly very accurate colour tones that show source material in the way it was designed to look, rather than the more crowd-pleasing but ultimately less authentic approach favoured by more vulgar LCD TVs.

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March 23, 2010, 11:47 am

Any time to test input lag, John? I'm on the verge of buying a Samsung for its excellent value-for-money regarding picture quality, but the only thing stopping me are the reports of some unplayable games. I'd like to think as a console maker, Sony's tellies can accommodate its own intensive gaming better, no?

Hamish Campbell

March 23, 2010, 12:41 pm

Don't suppose they'll be bringing the video playback over usb and improved applicast to early sets...grissle grissle.

Applicast is really poo, but in theory that should get these new options as well as sits there and says there will be more content coming. Well, one can live in hope.


March 23, 2010, 3:19 pm

Where I live we are in the mad position of currently not having any freeview at all (only channels 1-4 on terrestrial), but are switching over starting tommorow (I live in stroud in the West region) and in 2 weeks when switchover completes we get freeview HD! I can understand it makes sence to add HD when switching transmitters but i think its a bit riduculous we have had to wait till 2010 for digital at all!


March 23, 2010, 4:51 pm

@GoldenGuy - Unfortunately Trusted Reviews have said they won't be introducing input lag figures into their TV reviews. This is dissapointing for a review site that covers a wide range of technology, including games consoles where input lag figures are important. To me, this limits the usefulness of TV reviews here, as input lag is one of the most important, yet overlooked, considerations when choosing a TV.


March 23, 2010, 6:38 pm

What's the difference like between Freeview HD and Freesat?


March 23, 2010, 9:26 pm

Thanks Metalex - that is a (another) disappointment indeed.


I think the only difference is that that Freesat/Freesat HD service requires you to install a digital satellite dish on your house. But the 'free' still means free - there is no subscription; you still just pay for the decoder box (or the price is included in Freesat-integrated TVs).

Tony Walker

March 24, 2010, 4:46 am

Eh oop lad, yuv fairled yerr baaaysic Lancastrian geeogruffi.

It's Booorlton that the big metal TV thingie is near. Blackbrrn is about 3 times as far.


March 24, 2010, 1:29 pm

Totally back the calls for TR to look at input lag in TV reviews. It's not like the readership of this site, or indeed the writership (?) don't play console games!


March 24, 2010, 2:36 pm

It looks like the demand is there for input lag figures to be included in TV reviews, so does anyone from Trusted Reviews have any comments on whether or not this might be included in the future? If not, why not?


March 24, 2010, 10:15 pm

@haim: I went out and bought their previous generation TV four months ago, so I am completely with you on the Applicast bashing. I have tried to write to customer service to lobby for a firmware upgrade, no answer yet, I am still crossing my thumbs.

I don't think they would loose a lot of customers by sending a little love to the previous models, after all, who changes their set every year?

If they did bring internet TV to older models it would certainly get some stars in my book, and my next TV down the line might very well be a Sony again.

Horace Coker

March 25, 2010, 1:14 am

I've just checked on the Sony website and there is a 37" version of this telly - yippeeeeeee!!


March 25, 2010, 2:41 pm

Dear John Archer/Trusted Reviews!

Last year you reviewed the 46" W5500 and gave it a 9 for picture quality.

Now you give EX503 a 9 for it's picture quality.

Has the standard changed in one year? Are there any significant change in picture quality between EX503 series and W5500 series?

It is now possible to get a 52W5500 at almost the same price as a 46EX503. Wich would you recomend for me to buy? I care more about the picture quality than the size.


April 3, 2010, 2:06 pm

Hi Snunlefot,

Between the EX503 and the W5500, in terms of picture quality there isn't a massive difference at all, the backlight issues seem to be sorted with this model, other than that i'm sure its pretty much the same. The main benefit of this model is the features really

kwg uk

May 13, 2010, 11:34 pm

Interesting read, hope the qualities translate down to the 32" model


July 27, 2010, 11:49 am

The input lag is supposed to be 60ms in game mode for this set according to another review, which is quite high. However I have bought this TV, (actually the European model, KDL-40EX500) tested the several FPS games, did not notice any input lag at all in game mode. (BF2, Call of Juarez, Farcry 2)Tried moving around the mouse pointer rapidly as well, it responded immediately. What I had to get used to at first was actually the large size of the screen, otherwise games look and play awesome on it.


September 2, 2010, 4:16 pm

I have heard rumour that input lag may be less on the VGA port.


April 29, 2011, 12:40 am

What I like about sony Bravia is its outer sleek looks and the color of the body

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