Thankfully this horror show turns out to not be inherent to the TV’s performance, but rather a function of the bonkers factory presets Samsung ships the TV with. Spend some quality time shunting the brightness, contrast and colour settings downwards, and the picture soon becomes a whole lot more appealing.
In fact, with high definition content at least the 40N73’s picture quality is capable of being frequently excellent. And with proper calibration the colours that initially seemed so troublesome suddenly become the TV’s biggest selling point.
Basically the XWCG technology not only works, but it works very well. There really does seem to be an intensity and vibrancy to the 40N73’s colours that the vast majority of rival LCD TVs cannot match. This is spectacularly evident with bright, colour-rich Xbox 360 games like Viva Pinata, but it’s also clear in the extra solidity and intensity of even the darkest movie scenes.
Talking of dark movie scenes, the 40N73 can also boast pretty impressive black levels. We’re not sure the degree of blackness on show quite justifies Samsung’s extravagant 6000:1 contrast ratio claim, but dark areas are certainly free enough of LCD’s common greying over problem to look three-dimensional and involving.
HD footage also revels in the 40N73’s eye for detail, as it portrays detail-rich scenes with extreme clarity and practically no video noise. In fact, notwithstanding the odd moment where colours come on a little too strong, there’s really nothing seriously bad to say about the 40N73’s HD performance at all.
Sadly it’s a different story when it comes to standard definition. For starters, standard def pictures look much less sharp generally, to the point where they seem almost out of focus when showing a particularly low-quality source. It doesn’t help here, either, that the TV’s ability to handle motion, which seemed OK with HD, suddenly looks very suspect with standard def. Football players, for instance, look noticeably smeared as they run around the pitch.
Standard def viewing also finds those rich colours slipping off-message more often than they do with HD, and the DNIe processing doesn’t seem to do as good a job of suppressing source-based video noise as we’d hoped.
It’s fair to say that the above standard def problems aren’t present all the time, though; with some high quality standard def digital sources, especially if they’re fairly static in nature, the 40N73’s images can look great. But if you haven’t got Sky HD to give you a fair amount of quality HD time, you might eventually find the standard def weaknesses a little wearing.
It’s a pity, too, that the 40N73 shares the same slightly underwhelming sonics of many of Samsung’s current range – a product, we suspect, of Samsung’s otherwise cunning idea of hiding the speakers on the underside of the TV’s bezel.
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If you’ve got HD sources coming out of your ears, the 40N73 delivers some really very good picture quality for its remarkably cheap asking price – and looks great while it’s doing it. But if you’re standard definition only right now, your money may be better spent elsewhere.