Sony Bravia KDL-46EX403 46in LCD TV
Big name, big screen, budget price?
Sound isn't handled brilliantly; if the TV speakers are turned on, then the optical output cannot be changed, and will always be PCM. Turn them off, and you have the choice of Auto too, which will create a Dolby Digital output from Freeview's HD channels. Yet it's annoying to have to dive into the menu if you want to listen through the TV late at night. Audio through the TV speakers is passable, with better bass than is found in some of the ultra-slim units, and there’s also support for ARC (Audio Return Channel) on one of the HDMI ports.
DemandFive to catch up with Channel Five’s fine programming – the latest firmware includes iPlayer support
No surprises here – a standard Freeview HD programme guide
Like the more expensive Sonys, there’s a good range of on-line video services, including Fifa, YouTube, LoveFilm and Demand Five, which provides a far better quality picture than I expected, certainly better than you’d get, say, by recording on VHS. However, it is a little slow navigating through the selection of content, and the same is true on other services too – the first sight of most of the services will be a load of grey thumbnails, and a loading icon.
There’s DLNA support too, but it’s the usual half-hearted Sony affair – no AVI or DivX files, nor even MP3s. Still, you can play AVCHD and standard-def DivX if you plug a USB key into the side, although other test Xvid files refused to play. Even so, if some files can play from USB, why not from DLNA? That’s just silly. One neat thing to mention though – geotagged photos pop up a small map on screen.
View a geotagged image and you’ll see a map showing where it was taken
The main interface utilises Sony’s Xross Media Bar, an acquired taste
What of picture quality? Freeview HD looks fine on proper HD material, like the BBC channel, but with a screen this size, it’s pretty easy to see that ITV1 HD, for example, isn’t the real thing. While playback of external HD material is good, the traditional backlight means that you won’t get the deep blacks that film fans yearn for, so while there’s a 24p mode for Blu-ray, you’re trading off size for quality to an extent.