- Review Price: £1198.07
Damn. Having just (sort of) recovered from a nice bout of some flu-based nastiness, I’ve got to admit that I kind of wanted an easy life with today’s TV. But no; instead of some no-frills budget bit of fluff, I find myself staring at Sony’s KDL-40Z5800: A 40in LCD TV that just so happens to be the brand’s first set with a built-in Freesat tuner. As I said before: damn. Suddenly I need a Lemsip like I’ve never needed one before.
Once I’d wiped the beads of sweat from my eyes after lifting the screen onto its desktop stand, though, it started to occur to me that maybe this review might not be as tough as I first thought. For in terms of both design and spec it’s a dead ringer for the Sony KDL-46Z5500 model I reviewed a little while back – except, obviously, for the small matter of the Freesat tuner and six inches of difference in the screen size.
In other words, with a bit of luck I’ll be able to keep really quite brief about most of the 40Z5800’s features, referring you to the earlier 46Z5500 review when the going gets complicated. Result.
Anyway, getting back to those looks I mentioned, the fact that those of the 40Z5800 are so darned similar to those of the 46Z5500 isn’t a bad thing, for to my eyes, the combination of the slinkily slender bezel and glamorously glasslike grey finish make the Z5500/Z5800 design the prettiest – or maybe classiest would be a better word – Sony has delivered for some time.
The 40Z5800 also matches the 46Z5500 in the majority of its connections, with shared highlights being four HDMIs, a USB 2.0 port able to play various music, photo and video file types, and an Ethernet port for logging into either a DLNA PC or Sony’s (currently infamously lame) AppliCast online service.
The Ethernet port has an extra potential use on the 40Z5800, though, and that’s as a means of accessing the BBC’s long, long-awaited – but apparently genuinely imminent now – iPlayer via Freesat service.
It’s worth just mentioning, too, that obviously the 40Z5800 also adds a screw-on LNB connection for hooking up your satellite dish – be it an old Sky dish or a new Freesat one, both of which work equally well, of course.
The 40Z5800’s features list, as noted earlier, is very close indeed to that of the 46Z5500 except for the few little differences introduced by the Freesat tuner. Which essentially boils down to the ‘small’ matter of the more than 140 TV and radio channels Freesat brings to the 40Z5800’s party, and the extra electronic programme guide support it therefore needs to carry.
One other slightly surprising little satellite-related feature of the 40Z5800 that popped up during installation is the option to tune the built-in satellite tuner for general DVB-S services rather than Freesat. This effectively means any digital satellite TV service that’s free to air, made to the general (rather than Freesat) DVB-S broadcast standard, and carried by the satellites your Freesat dish is pointing at.
Such open-mindedness is really unusual for Sony, and could make the 40Z5800 a hit among the satellite obsessive fraternity out there. And believe us: we know they really are out there.
Those satellite geeks – said affectionately, I promise – should take note, though, that the 40Z5800 doesn’t support simultaneous installation of Freesat and DVB-S services. You have to make your choice and stick with it, as no flitting between the two platforms is allowed post installation.
Other pertinent stuff to quickly run by you without dwelling on it (due to familiarity from the 46Z5500 review) is the 40Z5800’s heavyweight picture processing duo of MotionFlow 200Hz and Bravia Engine 3.
In assessing the 40Z5800’s picture performance, the first thing I decided to check out was not actually how well it does with Freesat fodder. Instead, I headed straight for the darkness of our ”Dead Space” Xbox 360 game, and the relentless night skies of ”30 Days of Night”. For what I wanted to know right from the off – since the answer would colour the tone of the whole review that follows – was if the 40Z5800 suffers from Sony’s oft-reported issues with black level inconsistency.
And… it doesn’t. Well, not in any significant way, anyway. This is an immediate and major relief, since experience suggests that if a recent Sony TV manages to avoid this killer problem, it tends to do rather well.
In fact, without strange bright patches to spoil them, dark scenes on the 40Z5800 look really very good indeed by straight LCD (as opposed to LED-backlit LCD) standards. Black colours look black rather than a milky grey, yet the set manages to deliver this without sacrificing so much brightness that large amounts of shadow detail disappear into the darkness.
With light, colourful scenes, meanwhile, the 40Z5800 exhibits Sony’s customary flare for brightness and colour vibrancy, while simultaneously proving able to do subtle tones and colour blends. This subtlety is essential, since it makes pictures feel three-dimensional and realistic rather than flat and cartoonish.
At which point I’d probably better have a look at the all-important Freesat broadcasts! Though actually, there doesn’t seem much to say, to be honest. The TV appears to receive Freesat at least as sensitively as Panasonic’s TVs, and appears to decode them equally as well. In fact, presumably thanks to the 40Z5800’s Bravia Engine 3 processing, I’d say that standard definition Freesat pictures look slightly better – crisper, less noisy – than they do on any of Panasonic’s Freesat LCD TVs that I’ve seen.
The Freesat EPG is effective enough too, presenting its information reasonably clearly and, thankfully, quickly. There’s no sign of the sluggishness I noticed with LG’s Freesat EPG. Some people might wish that the EPG could include a small screen showing the channel you were watching when you chose the EPG, but from my experience of Sky’s revamped EPG, I personally have to say that I’d rather have more listings on screen at once and live without the picture.
Getting back to matters of picture quality, the 40Z5800 packs all of Sony’s customary knack with sharpness and detail when showing BBC HD footage – or, of course, Blu-rays. In fact, thanks to the quality of Sony’s latest 200Hz engine, as recorded in our review of the 46Z5500, the 40Z5800 actually looks even sharper than most Sony TVs, as there’s precious little motion blur to worry about.
The 40Z5800’s pictures aren’t quite perfect, though. As usual with an LCD TV, for instance, you don’t have to watch it from much of an angle before contrast and colour levels diminish. Also, I occasionally spotted a few brightness ‘jumps’ caused by the dynamic backlight being too aggressive (though if this bugs you, you can always turn the dynamic contrast system off). And finally, for some reason I felt slightly more disturbed than usual with a Sony set by the 40Z5800’s presets, with none of the provided options really getting results out of Freesat – or any source, come to that – as good as those I arrived at myself via a little manual calibration.
The 40Z5800’s biggest failing, though, lies not with its pictures but its sound. Basically, there’s just not enough of it. So while your ”Jeremy Kyle Shows”, with their talking and occasional shouty bits, sound absolutely fine, a James Cameron action scene or two soon catches the speakers out, as they fail to go to six, never mind 11. Action scenes – or orchestral scores come to that – all thus sound thin and low on clarity.
While the 40Z5800’s audio shortcomings and, come to think of it, a slightly steep-looking price stop Sony’s new Freesat posterboy from achieving 10 out of 10 greatness, the neatness of its Freesat integration and, above all, some outstanding picture quality make it a comfortable 9 out of 10 all the way.
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We test every TV we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
Score in detail
Image Quality 9
Sound Quality 6
|1920 x 1080
|Refresh Rate (Hertz)