If you're struggling to convince your other half that you need a larger telly, opting for a 37-inch set like the 1080p Sony Bravia KDL-37EX403 might be a good compromise. That's especially true since this LCD TV's asking price of roughly £450 won't be overly punitive on the household finances.
The KDL-37EX403 doesn't look all that striking when you take it out of the box. It uses traditional CCFL backlighting, so it's rather bulbous around the back compared to the latest LED sets. But, once you've sat it on the swivelling stand, it looks quite handsome, thanks to its angular design and the grey bar that runs along the bottom of the chassis. In fact, the design does a good job of hiding the set's chunky dimensions -- you won't notice the extra girth unless you actually peer around the back.
With four HDMI ports, you should have no problem connecting up all of your high-definition kit to the TV. These HDMI sockets are joined by a set of component inputs, a pair of Scart sockets and a VGA connector. There's also a USB port on the side, and an Ethernet socket on the rear.
The USB port and Ethernet socket can be used for media playback either via the Internet or locally attached storage devices, such as a USB key or hard drive. Note that you'll need external power for most hard drives, as the USB port doesn't seem to provide enough juice to power them on its own.
Unfortunately, the TV's file-format support isn't all that good. Although the TV plays DivX and Xvid files, it refuses to play ball with MKV files -- and even budget LG sets now support MKV. The good news, however, is that the set's support for Internet services is top-notch. Along with BBC iPlayer, you'll have access to other offerings, like Demand Five and Sony's own Qriocity movie- and music-on-demand service.
As with Sony's higher-end TVs, this one uses the XrossMediaBar system for displaying menus. This is similar to the menu system used on the PlayStation console. It looks pretty futuristic and covers all the TV's key functions, from picture and audio controls to the various online media services. You can even use it to channel surf if you want.
The TV has a Freeview HD tuner, so you'll find HD offerings from the Beeb, ITV and Channel 4 in among the usual standard-definition channels in the speedy and well-presented electronic programme guide.
Despite its fairly low asking price, the TV is built around a 1080p panel. It's not lacking in picture-processing tricks either, as it includes Sony's 24p True Cinema and Bravia Engine 3 features. The former helps keep Blu-ray movies looking authentic, by retaining their natural frame rate of 24 frames per second, while Bravia Engine 3 takes care of pretty much all the other picture-processing functions, such as colour and motion control.
By CCFL standards, the KDL-37EX403's black levels are impressively deep. That helps it to produce high-contrast, cinematic images from Blu-rays. The TV also delivers rich and natural colours that are very vivid without looking garish. Hi-def pictures generally look impressively crisp and sharp.
It's not all a bed of roses, though. The TV's lack of 100Hz processing soon becomes obvious when it's dealing with plenty of motion. During speedy camera pans and action scenes, there's a notice drop in resolution as motion blur raises its ugly head. It's not exactly terrible, but it's noticeable to the discerning eye.
When it comes to audio, the set puts in an above-average performance. The large chassis presumably allowed Sony to fit in bigger speaker drivers than usual, and this leads to a bassier sound than you get from the majority of today's slimmer LED TVs. High frequencies are crisp without sounding harsh, and the mid-range is very solid, helping dialogue in movies and dramas to cut through.
The Sony Bravia KDL-37EX403 definitely has some strong points, but these have to be balanced against its weaknesses. For example, its pictures look rich and cinematic, but also suffer from noticeable motion blur. And, although it has a good line-up of Internet services, its support for digital media formats could be better. On the whole, we think it's a decent-enough set that delivers good, but not exceptional, value for money.
Edited by Charles Kloet