With most manufacturers now comfortable with the basics of LCD TV production, we’re starting to see a sudden, widespread and welcome charge to tackle the seemingly intractable technological problems that are arguably stoping big-screen LCDs from reaching the same giddy picture quality heights as the best plasmas out there.
In the case of Samsung’s 40in LE40N73, this ‘problem solving’ drive is focused on the rather key area of colour. Usually LCDs struggle to deliver a wide and believable colour range, but Samsung has come up with what it claims is a solution in the form of eXtended Wide Colour Gamut (XWCG): a new backlight phosphor solution that apparently produces up to 30 per cent more of the ‘real world’ colour gamut than LCD can usually manage.
We’ll get to whether this new feature works shortly, but in the meantime we’ve got some genuinely extravagant aesthetics to cover. The 40N73’s gloss black finish, stylish angles and application of a cute angled strip along the bottom go together sublimely well – so well, in fact, that it’s quite possibly the finest looking 40in LCD TV ever.
The set is seriously healthily connected, too. Twin HDMI support leads the way, backed up by the inevitable set of component video jacks for analogue high definition duties. But there’s also an unusually wide-ranging selection of what might best be called ‘multimedia’ jacks, in the form of a D-Sub PC input; slots for various multimedia storage card formats; a USB slot for playing back digital photos from USB storage devices; and even a PictBridge jack for sending an image you’re viewing to a printer!
Needless to say you get the connection basics too – Scarts, S-Video, composite video. But there is one final little eye-catcher to note: a CAM slot for adding subscription TV cards that instantly reveals the presence of a built in digital tuner.
Hunting for features beyond the digital tuner and wide colour gamut system we’ve already touched on, the first thing we spot is Samsung’s Digital Natural Image engine (DNIe) picture processor, aimed at making a range of different picture elements – colour, detail, motion, contrast, etc – look better.
Elsewhere the set employs 10-bit video processing that’s claimed to help the 40N73 achieve a striking 25.6 billion colours, while black levels should be boosted by the use of a dynamic backlight system whereby the light output is automatically reduced when a dark scene is detected. Thanks to this feature, Samsung claims a seriously high contrast ratio (by LCD standards) for the 40N73 of 6000:1.
Within the TV’s onscreen menus, meanwhile, the most interesting features we uncovered were a few picture in picture options, and a neatly presented 7-day electronic programme guide to support the digital tuner.
First impressions of the 40N73’s pictures are frankly little short of scary. They hit you like a truck – which is not, of course, a good thing. Colours are intense to the point of gaudiness, brightness levels make you squint, and there’s a fairly unpleasant amount of video noise around.