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Sony has a habit of slapping outrageously high price tags on its TVs, but, with the 40-inch, 1080p Bravia KDL-40V5810 LCD set, it's managed to somehow resist this temptation. Despite boasting an impressive line-up of features, including an on-board freesat tuner and a range of Internet widgets, this telly is available online for just £800.
That's it, in the corner
The KDL-40V5810 isn't exactly the prettiest TV we've ever clapped eyes on, and its piano-black finish doesn't exactly set it apart from the competition. But the design is understated enough so that the TV doesn't draw attention to itself when it's sitting idle in the corner of a room. In our book, this is no bad thing.
Features-wise, it's a whole different ball game. The KDL-40V5810 has plenty going on under the bonnet. Not only does it boast a 1080p panel, but it's also got a built-in freesat tuner so you can use it to watch the BBC and ITV HD services without having to worry about subscription fees. Naturally, the TV also has a terrestrial digital tuner, so, if you don't have a satellite dish, you can use a normal aerial instead to watch Freeview channels.
Setting up the telly is pretty straightforward, and there's a manual stored in the TV's memory, so you can call it up on the screen at any time if you get stuck. Most of the TV's features are controlled via the XrossMediaBar interface, which is similar to the interface used on Sony's PSP and PS3 games consoles. It's easy to navigate using the comfortable and pleasantly laid-out remote, but there are also submenus that you can call up at the press of a button, to bring up the picture and sound controls.
Sony has also added handy scene modes to the TV's settings menu. These act like system-wide presets that can be used to quickly change the audio and video settings for different scenarios. For example, there are different scene modes for cinema, sports and gaming.
Despite its mid-range price tag, the KDL-40V5810 is equipped with Sony's AppliCast Internet widgets and network-media-streaming capabilities. Unfortunately, both are something of a disappointment. The widgets are just too basic. For example, there's one for weather and another that's a simple RSS reader, but there's no support for video servers like YouTube -- something that's offered on similarly priced sets from LG and Panasonic. The media-streaming applet also lacks support for popular formats like DivX and MKV, so it's not really much use either.
Nevertheless, the KDL-40V5810 delivers in terms of picture quality. Its black levels are simply superb for a TV in this price range, and they help it deliver beautiful images with really stunning levels of contrast. Its colour performance is fantastic too, as it manages to make colours look exceptionally vivid without vaulting over the boundary into garishness, like some cheaper sets do.
It's the TV's Bravia Engine 3 picture-processing system that perhaps deserves the most praise. It helps the set deliver exceptional levels of sharpness and detail with high-definition sources, but, surprisingly, also works wonders with poorer-quality standard-definition feeds. It did a great job of taking hold of even the poorest-quality freesat channels and pulling the picture quality up to acceptable levels.
We do have a couple of slight niggles on the picture front, though. There's no 100Hz processing, so fast movement isn't handled quite as well as on some of Sony's more expensive sets, and, in very dark scenes, you can sometimes see mild greying at the edges of the screen, due to slight inconsistencies in the backlight. But the KDL-40V5810 isn't exactly the first mid-range TV to suffer from this problem.
The Sony Bravia KDL-40V5810's Internet and networking features may be a letdown, but this set really delivers in terms of picture quality, and that's what counts. As a result, we think it's not just one of the best-value sets from Sony, but from any of the big-name manufacturers.
Edited by Charles Kloet