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In the past, we've frequently struggled to persuade Samsung to send its relatively low-end tellies over for review. It's been tempting to see this as Samsung thinking its cheaper TVs are a bit shoddy and not wanting them to be pummeled in reviews leading to a resulting drop in sales. However, now that our persistence has finally led to us getting our hands on one of Samsung's current ‘mass market' models, the LE40B550, we're suddenly reassessing our previous thoughts about Samsung's budget ‘shyness'.
You see, the 40B550 is really rather good. So, unless Samsung has suddenly produced a quantum leap in the quality of its entry level products, we're now beginning to think that the brand's previous apparent wish to only send us premium-spec TVs for review may actually have been down to a paranoid obsession with being associated with cutting edge features and performance, rather than a specific desire to avoid negative reviews.
All of which conjecture is very interesting (of course!), but you're probably more than ready for me to get down to the business of explaining just why the TV has led to so much pontification today.
Let's start with its looks which, while considerably less glamorous than those of Samsung's ultra-slim LED models, are still remarkably attractive for a TV costing only a few quid more than £550. Particularly pleasing are the presence of Samsung's customary glass-like ‘Crystal' top layer over the bezel, the subtle arc along the TV's bottom edge, and the way the Crystal top layer is allowed to extend a touch further than the black bezel, to create a slim, light-diffracting outer frame.
This is a very well connected TV, too. Kicking things off in fine, HD-loving style are four HDMIs, with highlight support coming from a VGA PC input, and a USB jack capable of playing JPEG and MP3 files.
Unlike Samsung's B650 LCD series and LED models, the 40B550 doesn't have an Ethernet port for accessing either Samsung's Media 2.0 ‘Internet' service, or content stored on a DLNA PC. Nor does the USB handle video files, like the USB jacks of the higher spec models. But come on; the 40B550 does only cost £555. So what do you expect? A built-in Cappuccino machine?
While I'm on the subject of things the 40B550 doesn't have, it also lacks the 100Hz processing found on Samsung's B650 series. Though that's certainly not to say that the TV is completely devoid of video processing, for Samsung's multi-purpose Digital Natural Image engine (DNIe) system is on hand, as is a Wide Colour Gamut system, noise reduction routines, and an Edge Enhancement system.
It has to be said that not all of these processing tools are particularly helpful; Edge Enhancement can make edges look forced and unnatural, and the noise reduction systems can make pictures look unnecessarily soft if not used sparingly. But the presence of so many options does at least suggest that the 40B550 is a TV with ambitions above its £550 station.
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