At first glance, contrary to what I was suggesting at the start of this review, the 37EX503’s pictures look very similar to those of the 40EX503. Colours, for instance, are just as impressively subtle when it comes to blends and tonal shifts, helping pictures look pleasingly believable and three-dimensional (though obviously not truly three-dimensional in the way upcoming 3D TVs are going to look!).
Colours even share the same characteristic of looking slightly washed out post calibration compared with the more aggressive quality of some rival models. But strangely I found the 37EX503’s colours to be more engaging and less tiring over long-term viewing than some of the more aggressive models around.
The 37EX503 also follows the 40EX503 in being good at upscaling standard definition pictures to its Full HD resolution. They look sharp and noiseless – notwithstanding a small amount of motion blur, which appears despite the 100Hz engine.
More good news finds the 37EX503’s pictures more than bright enough to stand out in a very bright room, and HD pictures looking pleasantly – if not acutely – sharp and textured. The Freeview HD tuner handling is very good too, with the TV reproducing the Freeview HD signals with enough purity to reveal just how curiously mixed they are in quality, with some looking blisteringly sharp and clean, while others look slightly grainy or soft.
It’s when you start watching a few dark scenes on the 37EX503, though, that it suddenly falls short of the efforts of the 40EX503. For where I was very impressed by the depth of the 40EX503’s black levels, I was less taken with the black level response of the 37EX503.
For in place of the really deep black colours seen on the 40EX503, the 37EX503 portrays dark scenes through some of the notable grey mist that’s arguably LCD technology’s most common unwanted trademark. This inevitably makes dark scenes look less natural, as well as leaving them looking flatter and less detailed.
It doesn’t help matters, either, that the 37EX503 seems more ‘viewing angle sensitive’ than its slightly bigger sibling, with black levels reducing rapidly when you’re not watching the picture from directly in front of the screen.
To put this in a wider perspective, the 37EX503’s black levels aren’t bad versus the LCD market as a whole. They’re above average, in fact. But regular readers will know that I consider black level response to be one of the most critical parts of a TV’s picture performance, so I can’t in all honesty reward the 37EX503 with the same Recommended status I gave to the 40EX503.
Wrapping up with the 37EX503’s audio, this does achieve the same decent performance level of the 40EX503. This finds treble detailing being really quite pronounced and clear, and a mid-range that’s open enough to keep vocals clear and well-rounded, as well as managing to avoid sounding soupy or compressed when pushed hard by an action sequence.
As I nearly always find myself saying with relatively small LCD TVs, the main audio weakness is that there’s not quite enough bass around to really get the maximum impact from rich film and drama soundtracks.
The KDL-37EX503 isn’t a bad 37in TV at all when considered in isolation, or against many other 37in TVs from other brands. But it does suffer a bit when compared with its own 40in sibling, thanks to a reduced black level response and the fact that the superior – and, of course, larger! – 40in model can be found online at the time of writing for only around £80 more.