What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Tue, 11 Mar 2008, 3:00pm

Samsung LE40A656

Tested at £1100
80100
4

This is a detailed performer and stunningly stylish TV, but it's got some strong competition.

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For

  • Excellent detail levels and edge definition with all sources
  • stunning looks
  • terrifically stable DVD pictures

Against

  • Can’t quite do the deepest blacks and greatest insight simultaneously
  • slight ruddiness to skin tones

Things start very well for this Samsung. The ‘rose black' translucent bezel is subtle and extremely attractive. Samsung describes this as the ‘touch of colour' series, but ‘touch of class' would be just as fitting.

Calibration of the ‘656 is fairly interesting, as the screen actually gains a purple tint if you lower the brightness or contrast settings too far. Avoid this though, and turn the backlight down a little, and the Samsung's picture is very nice indeed.

The LE40A656 gives extra texture
The Eastern Promises Blu-ray is fabulously sharp and detailed, adding a degree of texture to Viggo Mortensen's shifty looks that few others can manage. A decent balance can be found between black levels and insight too, ensuring that the seedy underbelly of London is both dark, and detailed, though in both regards it can just be beaten.

A colour-palette that just verges on the reddish side of neutral means there is occasionally a ruddy tint to skin (which you see a lot of in the shower scene!), but it's by no means over the top.

The Training Day DVD equally benefits from the Samsung's detailed and sharp picture qualities, and the scaler does a really brilliant job of keeping complicated patterns, like Ethan Hawke's zip, extremely stable. Blacks still aren't quite as deep or solid as those provided by the very best on test, but they're satisfying.

Freeview pictures are also clean and detailed, and with fine colours. There is a touch of skin-tone smearing present in fast motion, but it's not severe, and the overall picture is very impressive indeed.

Throw in speakers that produce a well-balanced and fairly direct sound, and you have a very solid, stylish entry from Samsung.