The front of the Sony KDL-40S5100 has a glossy, very dark blue, bezel around the entire display. The Sony logo sits below the display on the logo, with the infrared port sitting slightly to the left of it. Below the bezel is a black speaker bar, with three LED indicators sitting just above it.
On the back of the Sony KDL-40S5100 you'll find a collection of ports towards the right side when facing the back. The power cord extends out from roughly the middle and there are also mounting points found on the back. For information about the ports on the back of the Sony KDL-40S5100 see our Connectivity section.
On the left side of the Sony KDL-40S5100 you'll find another colection of ports. On the right side are the on-tv controls. For information about the ports on the side of the Sony KDL-40S5100 see our Connectivity section.
The Sony KDL-40S5100's stand is a simple glossy black plastic slab, that tapers from back to front. It does not rotate, unfortunately.
The on-tv controls are found on the right side of the KDL-40S5100. From top to bottom they are power, channel up/down, volume up/down, input and menu.
The Sony KDL-40S5100's remote controls is similar to others we've seen from Sony. It's slim, and not too large, with nice big buttons and a curved and textured back that makes it easier to hold.
In The Box*(6.0)*
The Sony KDL-40S5100 ships with a manual, remote and batteries. No cleaning cloth or HDMI cable are included. The television does require some setup, and at it's size you'll want a second person to help getting the display onto the stand.
The Sony KDL-40S5100's looks aren't going knock anyone's socks off. We don't particularly like the very visible infrared port and indicator labels on the front. We also found the grey/blue color of the bezel a bit off-putting. It is a very simple design, however, and should fade into your decor easily.
We measured the Sony KDL-40S5100's black level at an impressive 0.09 candelas per meter squared (cd/m2). This provides a very deep black level, giving you a lot of detail in dark areas of the scene. You can see below that it compares well with the Samsung LN40B650, and is far better than our other two comparison models.
The Sony KDL-40S5100 wasn't quite as bright as some of its competitors at 260 cd/m2. You can see below that this lags behind other comparison models. Still, it should be plenty bright for almost all viewing situations, just don't expect to be able to see content if a bright light is shining onto the display.
The Sony KDL-40S5100's contrast ratio was 2890:1, which is well above average. Because the human eye is very sensitive to contrast having a wide range of contrast is important on an HDTV. Below you can see that the KDL-40S5100 easily beat out the Vizio and JVC models, mostly thanks to it's much better black level, but fell short of the Samsung, which has one of the best contrast ratios we've ever seen.
In this test we look at how well the black level holds up as it represents a smaller proportion of the screen. The Sony KDL-40S5100 did very well in this test, with the black level staying at impressively low levels even when black only made up 5% of the display. This is important because variation in this test means that the contrast ratio you'll get in real life viewing situations may be different from the number we provide above. This won't be a problem with the Sony KDL-40S5100.
This test is the opposite of the one above, here we see how well the peak brightness holds up as the percentage of the screen that's white is reduced. Once again the Sony KDL-40S5100 did well, with the peak brightness staying consistent from 100% white down to 5% white.
The Sony KDL-40S5100's display is extremely uniform. We detected no blotches or inconsestencies across the center of the display with either a white or black screen. With the white screen there was only a very minor dimming at the corners, and with the black screen there was almost no brightening at the corners. The KDL-40S5100's was one of the most uniform we've ever seen.
We measured the Sony KDL-40S5100's gamma at 2.37. Gamma is the curve along which a television makes changes from dark to light. The larger the gamma number the more aggressive the television is. Our ideal gamma is about 2.2, so the KDL-40S5100 is pretty close to our ideal here. Too aggressive a gamma can cause a television to wash out fine details in certain areas, which shouldn't be a problem with the KDL-40S5100.
The Sony KDL-40S5100 is a full 1080p HDTV, which means it can natively handle the highest quality of HD content out there. Unfortunately most content comes in different formats. Here we look at how well the television handles these different formats and resolutions.
This is standard definition content that you get from broadcast television or DVDs. The Sony KDL-40S5100 does a reasonable job upscaling this content to the screen's resolution. You get about 2% overscan on all sides, which means 2% of the scene is cut off on all sides. We saw no major problems with moire patterns and both legibility and resolution was good.
This is officially high definition content, albeit the lowest quality of HD. 720p is used by a lot of web content and is sometimes used by sporting events. The Sony KDL-40S5100 cut off about 2% of the screen on all sides with 720p. We also noticed serious problems with moire patterns. These are complex patterns that televisions sometimes have trouble processing. With the KDL-40S5100 we noticed strange patterns appearing that should not be there, as well as some pixel crawl, which gives you the effect of moving dots on the screen. Legilibity and resolution were good.
Most broadcast HD content comes in 1080i. This is the same resolution as 1080p, but instead of displaying all 1080 lines at once it interlaces two sets of 540 lines. The Sony KDL-40S5100 did a reasonable job here. We did notice some green coloring and minor pixel crawl with some moire patterns, and legibility isn't great because of the high resolution.
Like anything that emits light a television's light has a certain color temperature. More important than the particular color temperature, which most televisions let you adjust to your tastes, is how consistent that color temperature is across the greyscale. Inconsistencies can cause some content to have a blue or yellow cast in certain situations. Thankfully this isn't a concern with the Sony KDL-40S5100, which had a rock solid color temperature across the greyscale, as you can see from the chart below.
All the colors on your HDTV are created by mixing the three primary colors red, green and blue. In this test we look at the accuracy of these three colors. Below you can see a graph of the Sony KDL-40S5100's color performance.
You can see that the Sony KDL-40S5100's color curves are generally smooth and concave, which is what we want to see. There is a slight notch in the red curve, which is of some concern. What is of even more concern is what happens at higher intensities with blues on the KDL-40S5100. You can see that the graph of blue stops rising at around intensity 221. What this means is that above that intensity level the KDL-40S5100 isn't able to show any differences in blues. This is called peaking and means that you're going to lose some detail with bright colors, especially blues. Thankfully blue is the color that our eyes are least sensitive to, but this is still a problem. Below you can see how the Sony KDL-40S5100 performed against ideal colors and three comparison televisions.
The color gamut is the specific set of color coordinates that define how each color is supposed to look. There are a variety of different color gamuts, but all HDTVs are supposed to adhere to an international standard known as ITU Rec.709. This standard ensures that the colors you see on your television look the way the content produces intended them. Below you can see a graph of the Sony KDL-40S5100's measured color gamut versus this international standard.
You can see that the Sony KDL-40S5100 has problems with both greens and blues. What this means is that those colors won't look quite the way they were intended to on this television. For those geeky enough to care you can see the exact measured coordinates in the table below.
The Sony KDL-40S5100 is at the lower end of Sony's lineup of HDTVs, so it lacks the faster refresh rates that more expensive models have. This had an obvious impact on the motion smoothness of the display, as we saw much more blurring than we saw on other models. In our testing we saw that faces lost almost all detail when moving, and that blocks of color had serious problems with trailing. It's not the worst we've ever seen, but if you're into fast action movies you might want to consider picking up a television with a 120Hz or 240Hz refresh rates.
The Sony KDL-40S5100 had some serious problems with motion artifacting. Artifacts are things that appear on the display due to processing error, and shouldn't actually be there. With the Sony KDL-40S5100 We saw significant rolling shutter effect, which causes areas of high contrast to look like shutters are opening and closing rapidly. We also saw lead and trailing areas of brightness and darkness as the television struggled to keep up with moving objects, as well as some jitteriness and warped objects.
3:2 Pulldown & 24fps*(6.0)*
The 3:2 pulldown process is used to convert content that arrives, usually from broadcast sources, at 60 frames per second (fps) and converts it into 24fps. This is done to get a film-like effect for movies. The Sony KDL-40S5100 had some problems here, we saw significant processing issues with blinking areas and warped patterns in our test. When looking at actual content we noticed some crawling in complex areas, like stadium seats, but the effect was less pronounced. The Sony KDL-40S5100 is also capable of playing back native 24fps content from DVDs or Blu-rays.
The Sony KDL-40S5100's viewing angle was a pretty terrible 13.37 degrees from center. This means that once you move that far off center the contrast ratio of the television will fall below 50% of its maximum. LCD televisions tend to have worse viewing angles than Plasma television, but you can see below that even compared to other LCDs the KDL-40S5100's performance here is poor. What this means is that unless you're sitting right in front of the television you're going to get a degraded picture. This isn't a good choice for a room with a wide range of seating from different viewing angles.
The Sony KDL-40S5100's display is very reflective, we were able to make out every dot of an array that we shone on the television, even on an all white screen. There's also significant streaking across the display with darker content. If you don't want to be annoyed we recommend keeping the KDL-40S5100 out of the line of lights.
As we see on most HDTVs the Sony KDL-40S5100 offers several different video processing options that are supposed to address specific problems. Below you can see what these options are and our impressions of their effectiveness.
Few televisions come out of the box ready to provide you with the best possible picture quality. As such we take the time to calibrate HDTVs before we review them. To do this we use DisplayMate softare, which is the same software used by many telivision manufacturers. You can pay someone to come into your home and calibrate your HDTV, and if you want the exact configuration for your environment this is probably the best way to go about it. Alternatively you can use our calibrated settings below, which should get you pretty close.
The Sony KDL-40S5100 offers four different video modes, below are the modes and Sony's explanation for each.
Ergonomics & Durability*(6.9)*
The Sony KDL-40S5100's remote is the same one we've seen on several other Sony HDTVs. It's relatively slim, which makes it seem longer than it actually is. The remote is made of matte black plastic, with grooves on the back to provide some grip, as well as a notch for your finger to sit in. The remote isn't very heavy and balance is good when holding it at neutral. Moving your hand down the remote to access other buttons does cause the balance to get a little off. The buttons on the remote are made of soft plastic, with the exception of the directional pad which is hard plastic. The buttons could do well to provide a bit more key travel, and definitely need better tactile feedback. The remote doesn't have a backlight, which is a concern when operating in the dark.
Button Layout & Use*(5.5)*
The layout of most buttons on the Sony KDL-40S5100's remote are reasonable, with one glaring exception that we just can't understand. You'll notice in the picture to the right that the channel and volume buttons are located almost at the opposite end of the remote from the directional pad. These are your most used buttons on any remote, and placing them far away from each other is a silly decision. Even worse is placing two often used buttons like volume and channel in a place that doesn't feel very well balanced. Aside from this major problem the buttons on the Sony KDL-40S5100 are clearly labeled, easy to understand and comfortable to press.
Programming & Flexibility*(1.0)*
The Sony KDL-40S5100's remote cannot be used as a universal remote. It can, however, be used to control other Sony products connected to the KDL-40S5100 via HDMI cable. This uses a proprietary Sony technology, and as we aren't big fans of proprietary tech we're only awarding a single point for it.
The Sony KDL-40S5100 offers a good selection of input ports, grouped into two locations. On the back you'll find one HDMI input and two component video inputs with associated analog audio input. One of the component video inputs also doubles as a composite video input. You'll also find the RF input for cable and antenna on the back.
On the left side of the television you'll find two more HDMI inputs, a VGA input for connecting a PC along with a 3.5mm audio input, an S-Video input and a composite video input with associated analog audio input.
As with most HDTVs the Sony KDL-40S5100 offers only two output ports, both for audio. These are one digital audio out and one analog audio out, both of which are found on the back.
The Sony KDL-40S5100 doesn't offer any other connectivity options like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
The Sony KDL-40S5100 doesn't support media playback from USB or Memory Cards.
The Sony KDL-40S5100's ports are reasonably well placed. The ones on the left side are easy to get to, albeit a little recessed. The ports on the back are located just beyond them around the left side, so they're not that difficult to access either, although a rotating stand would have been nice. All the ports are well laid out and clearly labeled.
The Sony KDL-40S5100 has very good audio quality from the built-in speakers. It's certainly not as good as a dedicated set of surround sound speakers, but it provides both clarity and more bass than we see from the average HDTV speakers. The KDL-40S5100 does have a dedicated surround sound feature, but we actually found the audio quality less pleasing with this turned on. It didn't seem to actually provide any more depth to the audio, it just seemed to dampen some aspects of it like voices. If you do want true surround sound definitely invest in a set of speakers.
The Sony KDL-40S5100 doesn't uses Sony's fancy PS3-like menu interface, for which we can only be thankful as we've never really been fans. Instead you get a simple and attractive tabbed interface. That's not to say there are no problems, for example on-screen explanations for items aren't very explanatory, and you can't wrap around from the top to the bottom of a list of items, an area of particular annoyance. These things aside, however, any television user should have no trouble getting around.
The range of picture controls offered by the Sony KDL-40S5100 isn't as extensive as some more expensive HDTVs. The basic are found at the top level of the Picture menu, but the advanced section only has two options: 3:2 pulldown and white balance. The latter does give you fine control over RGB, which is nice.
The manual that ships with the Sony KDL-40S5100 is pretty good. There's a table of contents at the front, a (small) index in the back and tabs on the edges of pages so you can quickly flip to a section. Our only concern is that the manual is relatively small and doesn't include much advanced information. If you do need to access that you might want to look at online documentation for the KDL-40S5100, which can be found here.
The Sony KDL-40S5100 is a 1080p television, which means it can handle the highest quality of HD content, which is usually only available from Blu-ray players. The television can handle the 3:2 pulldown process to convert content into a film-like view, and it can also handle true 24 frame per second content. The television doesn't offer a wider color gamut.
The Sony KDL-40S5100 cannot play back photos from a USB device or memory card.
Music & Video Playback*(0.0)*
The Sony KDL-40S5100 cannot play back video or music from USB or memory cards.
The Sony KDL-40S5100 cannot connect directly to the internet to stream video content.
The Sony KDL-40S5100 does not have any additional media features like a built-in DVD player.
The Sony KDL-40S5100 does a good job with power consumption, consuming less power in our tests than similarly sized televisions, albeit not a ton less. To do this test we set the backlight of the television to a level that produces 200 candelas per meter squared. We do this to make results comparable. Below you can see the Sony KDL-40S5100's power consumption at this level, and at maximum and minimum backlight.
Our annual cost is calculated using the average cost of power in the United States and average television usage. You can see below that the Sony KDL-40S5100 performed the best in this area amongst our comparison models.
Value Comparison Summary
The LN40B650 sits higher up Samsung' product lineup than the KDL-40S5100, and you can see this from the specifications as it features 120Hz refresh rate and USB connectivity, neither of which are available on the Sony model. From a performance standpoint both models did reasonably well, but the Samsung has one of the best contrast ratios we've ever seen and that 120Hz refresh rate makes a big difference in motion performance. If your budget can afford it we say go with the Samsung as you get a lot for your extra money.
Blacks & Whites
Both models did well here, but the Samsung beat out the Sony by putting up some of the best scores we've seen on any HDTV. It's a difference betweeen good and great.
Both models did a good job with color temperature, but the Samsung model did significantly better with color accuracy.
The Samsung's 120Hz refresh rate makes a big difference here, as it exhibited far less motion blur. Both televisions had problems with motion artifacts, however.
Neither television had what we would call a good viewing angle, but the Sony's was that much worse.
The Samsung model definitely offers better connectivity options compared to the Sony KDL-40S5100, not surprising for a more expensive television. There's one additional HDMI input, but you also get internet connectivity via an ethernet port and two USB ports for viewing media. This is definitely a win for the Samsung LN40B650.
The Sony KDL-40S5100 offers significantly better audio performance from the built-in speakers as compared to this Samsung model.
Value Comparison Summary
The Vizio SV471XVT is one of Vizio's top of the line models, which explains the price that is almost twice that of the Sony KDL-40S5100. It's also a larger television at 47 inches, versus the KDL-40S5100's 40-inches. In addition to the size difference the Vizio model brings 240Hz refresh rate and USB connectivity. The refresh rate make a big difference with motion, and for those who love fast action movies this alone might be worth the price difference. In other areas of performance, however, the Sony KDL-40S5100 offers quality as good as or better than the Vizio, so unless motion performance is very important to you we'd call the Sony KDL-40S5100 the better value here.
Blacks & Whites
This is one area where the Sony KDL-40S5100 clearly outperforms the Vizio model, it's black level is more than four times deeper than the Vizio television, which means that despite the brighter display on the Vizio the Sony KDL-40S5100's contrast ratio is almost three times better. We'll take those deep blacks and wider contrast ratio over brightness you probably won't use any day.
Both televisions did a reasonable job with color accuracy, although the Vizio SV471XVT did slightly better with RGB performance and significantly better in staying true to the appropriate color gamut. The difference here isn't great, however.
This is the area where the Vizio SV471XVT simply blows away the Sony KDL-40S5100. That 240Hz refresh rate on the Vizio makes a huge difference for motion blur, whereas the KDL-40S5100 is blurry mess. What's more the Vizio accomplishes this feat with only minor motion artifacts, whereas with the Sony KDL-40S5100 we saw things appearing on the screen due to poor processing all over the place. A clear win for the Vizio here.
The Sony KDL-40S5100's viewing angle was poor. That's not to say that the Vizio's viewing angle was good, it wasn't, but it was definitely better.
The Vizio has a slight edge here, with one more HDMI input and a USB port for viewing media.
Value Comparison Summary
The JVC LT-42P300 is the comparison model most similarly priced to the Sony KDL-40S5100 at only $50 more. Those $50 buy you two extra inches of screen real estate and an integrated iPod dock. From a performance standpoint the two televisions are similar with one glaring exception, the JVC model's black level and contrast ratio are simply terrible. With the Sony KDL-40S5100, in contrast, you get above average performance in both areas. If an integrated iPod dock is really important to you the JVC might be the better buy, but for most people we'd say go with the Sony KDL-40S5100.
Blacks & Whites
Here you can see the Sony KDL-40S5100 blow away the JVC model, with a contrast ratio almost four times that of the JVC, mostly thanks to a much deeper black level.
Both televisions did a reasonabl job here, with the Sony KDL-40S5100 doing slightly better with RGB performance and the JVC doing a better job sticking to the standard for the color gamut. Both had very stable color temperatures.
Neither television did well in this area, but the JVC had a slight edge in both motion smoothness and artifacting.
The JVC model actually had a pretty good viewing angle for an LCD television, a sharp contrast to the terrible performance of the Sony KDL-40S5100 in this area.
The two televisions have very similar connectivity options, with one major exception, the iPod dock offered by the JVC LT-42P300. This allows you to connect an iPod or iPhone to the television and view movies and photos or listen to music stored on the device.
Sony S5100 Series
Sony's S5100 series of HDTV's represent an entry-level line. All models in the series have 3 HDMI inputs and offer full 1080p resolution. They lack the higher refresh rates and media functionality of Sony's higher-end models, however.
Meet the testers
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We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.Shoot us an email