With the exception of the flawed UE55B7020, Samsung’s edge LED TVs have made a good argument for the technology’s quality. And although not quite as awesome as the best of Samsung’s models, the 42SL9500 suggests again that LED really could mark the future of LCD technology.
For instance, the set produces pretty good black levels that are clearly deeper/less grey than those of even the finest of LG’s non-LED LCD TVs. During a run through of The League of Extraordinary Gentleman on Sky Screen 1HD, I was thus sadly unable to be distracted by a lack of shadow detail in the film’s many dark backgrounds! Instead the shocking script, crap acting and lumpen direction were just as apparent during dark scenes as they were during bright ones.
The 42SL9500 also manages to retain intact LG’s long-running reputation for extreme brightness with its LCD TVs. Colours look dynamic and vibrant, and although the TV delivers its best black levels with a dynamic contrast system active, it still retains a likeable amount of brightness when showing predominantly dark scenes.
As you’d expect, strong direct LED TVs still deliver more dynamic range thanks to their local dimming. But the 42SL9500’s edge LED pictures sure don’t look flat, even when an image contains a wide mix of bright and dark picture elements. Also, as expected, there seems to be a little more subtle detail in the 42SL9500’s dark shots than you tend to get with direct LED TVs.
The 42SL9500 does a good job of reproducing the detail and crispness of HD sources too, notwithstanding a little less ‘snap’ than you get with the best Sony, Philips and Samsung TVs around. Plus it looks pretty respectable with standard definition, rescaling such sources to the screen’s full HD pixel count without introducing too much softness or putting too much emphasis on whatever video noise a standard definition source inevitably contains.
You have most likely noticed, though, that the 42SL9500 ultimately only bags an ‘8’ score for picture quality. There are a couple of key reasons for this.
First, while black levels might be good versus normal CCFL LCD TVs, most other LED TVs we’ve seen manage deeper, more natural black levels still. Black levels are damaged, too, by the way the picture loses contrast - and colour saturation - fast when viewed from any sort of angle.
I also found the 42SL9500 to be a little flawed when showing motion. During The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen run-through, I spotted a few 100Hz glitches from time to time, such as flickering and smearing. Yet turning the 100Hz system off then results in a marked rise in motion blur. To be clear about this, neither the processing artefacts nor the blur that occurs without 100Hz engaged are severe enough to be deal breakers. But they certainly play their part in costing the TV that all important extra picture quality mark.
Other issues I have with the 42SL9500’s pictures include a slightly salmony tone to peak white colours, which no amount of calibration efforts completely removes, and a slight lack of finesse when showing skin tones, which can leave people looking slightly waxy.
As usual with a super-slim TV, the 42SL9500’s audio is hardly earth-shatteringly good. But there’s enough dynamic range, power and clarity to make it at least acceptable, and certainly preferable to the really feeble audio efforts of Samsung’s edge LED series.
Considered against LG’s non-LED LCD TVs, the 42SL9500 can be considered a modest success and a fine TV - though it should be said that the brand’s SL8000 slimline CCFL LCD series run it mighty close for similar money while also adding 200Hz to the mix. However, if you’re after a TV that outguns the rest of the LED world, good as the 42SL9500 is, it doesn’t quite make the grade.