Sony KDL-40Z5800 review

It might have the added bonus of Freesat, and impressive picture performance, but the competition just got a whole lot hotter Tested at £1200.00

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

For once, dodgy backlighting doesn’t entirely ruin a Sony five-star bid – Philips has helped out, too


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    A very impressive picture performance all-round, especially when it comes to motion and colour


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    Minor backlighting issues

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    the strength of the competition

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Sony's approach with its Freesat TVs is simply to take a model from its existing line up, add a Freesat tuner, and slightly alter the product code.

Hence the KDL-40Z5800 is the Freesat version of the range-topping KDL-40Z5500. That means it's got some fancy features, like Motionflow 200Hz, web access and network streaming via ethernet, four HDMIs and the company's Bravia Engine 3.

Typically impressive motion
That all adds up to a very impressive performance. As with many Sonys, the biggest strengths are the motion processing and contrast levels.

The first ensures that whether the TV is being asked to reproduce slow pans or fast action, edges always remain sharp and judder-free. And, unlike motion processors offered by rivals, there's little of the artificial look to annoy those who are sensitive to it.

As for contrast, the 'Z5800 produces punchy whites and deep, black backgrounds. Crucially, though, where Sonys were once the very best in this regard, some rivals have now surpassed them.

It's a similar story with detail. Play Slumdog Millionaire on Blu-ray and in isolation the Sony looks impeccable, reproducing the Mumbai slums with incredible insight and palpable depth.

Looks ordinary against rivals
The problem is that you switch on one of the class leaders and the Sony suddenly looks ordinary. Sure, you'd expect there to be gap because of the price difference, but the enormity of that gap is a big surprise.

The Sony's still a great performer, mind. Its colour balance is brilliantly judged, and ensures that when you switch down to DVD or Freeview, everything remains vibrant, controlled and natural.

Images from Freesat broadcasts are marginally cleaner and a touch more vibrant than on Freeview, but otherwise there's little difference.

Backlighting issues
And the backlight? Well, the '5800 is better than many Sonys we've seen in this regard, but there are still cloudy patches that are occasionally noticeable.

This is clearly a quality-control issue, so although our sample suffered from backlight issues, you may well find a set that doesn't – try before you buy.

So perhaps the most important question is whether the KDL-40Z5800 would get five stars if it had perfect backlighting. And the the answer is no – the competition is just too good.

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What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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