When Panasonic's exclusive TV deal with freesat expired last year, we expected the freesat-telly floodgates to open. But the only other brand that quickly fitted a freesat tuner into one of its sets was LG. It's taken Sony the best part of a year to put together its own freesat model, the 40-inch, 1080p Bravia KDL-40Z5800 LCD TV. It's available now for around £1,350.
From its exterior, you wouldn't know that the KDL-40Z5800 is particularly special. It's not unattractive -- with its smoky grey colour scheme and strikingly thin frame, it's actually one of Sony's prettiest TVs -- but it doesn't look significantly different to the company's non-freesat range.
The only outward hint that the KDL-40Z5800 carries a freesat tuner comes from its connections, as a screw-on LNB input rests alongside four HDMI ports; a Freeview tuner input; a video-, photo- and music-friendly USB port; and an Ethernet jack for accessing either files on a DLNA-certified PC or Sony's AppliCast online service.
The set's freesat credentials become more obvious when you're asked during the initial set-up if you want to tune the set for DVB-S or freesat. Most will go for the freesat option, but it's interesting that Sony provides a choice. The KDL-40Z5800's freesat chops next become apparent in the small matter of the 140-plus satellite-delivered channels you'll find at your disposal, including two high-definition ones: BBC HD and ITV HD.
The set also sports a solidly presented and reasonably fast electronic programme guide for simpler surfing of your huge new channel selection. In fact, the TV has two EPGs: one for freesat and one for the terrestrial Freeview service, which it also supports. Each service has a few channels that the other doesn't.
Sony has chosen to make its debut freesat TV a pretty high-end affair. It boasts both Bravia Engine 3 video processing and a 200Hz engine. Since Sony sources its LCD panels from Samsung, the KDL-40Z5800's 200Hz system is a real one, rather than one that uses a combination of a scanning backlight and 100Hz processing, such as you get with so-called 200Hz TVs from Philips and LG, among others.
The KDL-40Z5800's cleverly designed on-screen menus offer a number of features and picture tweaks. As well as being able to deactivate or adjust the level of the Motionflow 200Hz engine, you can also activate Sony's Live Colour Creation system to boost colour saturation; tweak the image's gamma, black-level and auto-contrast settings; and fine-tune the set's block- and noise-reduction elements with unique finesse.
So far, so good. The KDL-40Z5800 doesn't fall at the picture-quality hurdle, either. In fact, it's one of Sony's finest performers to date.