Review Price £649.99
Most monitors don't have media and internet features, and with many TVs they're thrown in for the sake of being able to list them. However, Samsung's Series 9 TA950 has all the prodigious talents of Samsung's top-end LCD TVs and plasmas in this area. The Smart Hub is accessed by a dedicated button on the remote and offers an attractive interface. Here you'll find apps covering a broad range of services and activities.
There are TV-related ones giving access to an EPG, TV recordings (to external storage) and favourites. Video and other media rental, consumption and storage is catered for by favourites like LoveFilm, BBC iPlayer, Acetrax Movies, Daily Motion, Vimeo, Picasa and Youtube, while for the social side of things you'll find hallmarks like Facebook, Twitter, Google Talk and Skype. There's a lot of choice here; even Google Maps is available, and there are a few casual games like Tetris, which work surprisingly well with the remote.
Samsung's exclusive Explore 3D channel (a downloadable app within the Smart Hub) gives those with access to fast internet the chance to get their teeth into some free but decent 3D content, including documentaries, music videos and trailers, to really show off that extra dimension.
There's also extensive playback of video, photos and music by source and type. For video, the TA950 supports AVI, ASF, MOV, MKV, MPEG, TS, WMV and more, with the only significant omission being RMVB. In our testing it handled every test trailer we threw at it flawlessly, except for one high-bitrate 1080p MKV which it refused to recognise – but to be fair, even some of the dedicated media players we have reviewed struggle with that file. Unfortunately, photo and music compatibility is far less impressive, with only JPEG and MP3 support, but then videos will be far more of a focus with a display like this.
Regardless of source, whether from the TV tuner, media hub or piped in from an external device, this Series 9 will upscale standard definition and 720p content, of which it does a remarkably good job. As it uses the exact same Genoa P processor that's at the heart of the £2,600 Samsung D8000 plasma, it's no surprise that it's some of the best upscaling we've seen from a TV, though of course the relatively small 27in screen size also contributes to everything looking remarkably sharp.
When it comes to audio, we really weren't expecting too much considering the TA950's small (by TV standards) dimensions and slim lines. However, the SRS-enabled stereo efforts in its base surprised us pleasantly. With enough volume to fill a small room, plenty of depth and decent bit of bass, they're some of the better integrated efforts we've heard at this size and price point. This means external speakers probably won't be a requirement for anyone who's happy with this small of a picture in the first place.