Review Price free/subscription
We guess Samsung had a bit of a problem as it started trying to design its latest LCD TV range. For with most critics - and punters - appearing to agree that Samsung's previous LCD TV range was already the prettiest around, it must have been hard to come up with something even better. But as any English football manager would tell you, with the new mid-range LE40A656, ‘the boys done good'…
The clue to the main design feature of the 40in LE40A656 is the ‘touch of colour' phrase Samsung has been using to market the TV. For while last year's range was almost universally all about black, for the 600 range Samsung has injected a subtle deep red tone (called Rose Black by Samsung) into the bezel that becomes gradually more apparent the further the bezel extends out. This proves to be a masterstroke, giving the TV a unique identity without becoming too overstated.
The TV's build quality is exquisite too, ensuring that the TV looks almost as nice from the back as it does from the front. This is down in part to an industry first, whereby the bodywork doesn't employ any glue or screws in its construction. Presumably this means it's all held together by magic or something.
Not that its opulent-looking design and build are the only things the LE40A656 has going for it in these early stages. For starters, its connections include no less than four HDMI sockets, all built to the v1.3 specification for Deep Colour compatibility; all equipped with CEC functionality for control of compatible sources via the TV's remote; and all capable of receiving 1080p/24 sources of the sort output by the majority of Blu-ray players. Cool.
Elsewhere, you get the customary component video input, a D-Sub PC input, an optical digital audio output, two SCARTs, an S-Video input, a composite video input and, last but not least, a USB 2.0 port for playing back JPEG stills or MP3 audio files.
The 40A656 incorporates a 1,920 x 1,080 full HD resolution and promises a supremely high contrast ratio of 50,000:1, delivered with the assistance of the inevitable dynamic contrast system where the TV's backlight is dimmed to boost black levels during dark scenes. Also playing its part is some innovative filtering technology in the screen itself, which drastically reduces contrast-spoiling reflections.
A quick delve into the rest of the LE40A656's features finds something that on paper ought to fill us with glee: 100Hz processing. This technique for doubling the normal PAL refresh rate has proven very successful at reducing LCD's problems with portraying motion without the normal levels of resolution loss. Yet we've also seen it occasionally make pictures look worse if the processing engine driving it isn't up to scratch. And we're concerned about its appearance on the LE40A656 because we weren't entirely convinced by the Movie Plus motion-enhancing system found on Samsung's previous LCD sets. Fingers crossed Samsung has upped its game this time…