So how come the picture mark for this TV only reads an 8, not a 9 or even a 10? Because, unfortunately, the 42LE7900 falls prey to that classic LCD problem of an indifferent black level response.
At its most basic level, this problem finds parts of dark pictures that should look black instead wearing a gentle bluish tone that no amount of tinkering with the 42LE7900’s reams of settings entirely got rid of.
More aggravating, though, is the hefty extent to which black levels reduce if you watch the screen from an angle of more than just 30 to 40 degrees; the amount of reflections you get on the rather glassy screen if your room is bright; and the slight backlight inconsistencies you have to put up with.
This latter consistency problem is at its worst, sadly, when you switch the Local Dimming feature on. For while this feature is passably helpful during bright scenes, giving peak whites and bright colours a little extra sparkle, during dark scenes it can result in weird chunks of the screen looking brighter than the rest.
If you want to see this at its most obvious, darken the room a bit, and play something on the TV that features white text in the centre of a black screen, such as the legal disclaimers at the start of some Blu-rays. What you’ll see is a clear ‘square’ around the text that looks brighter than the image to either side, thanks to the edge LEDs in the area where the text is working harder than those handling the dark bits.
The example I’ve just described is, of course, extreme. But I regularly noticed some level of the phenomenon while watching a selection of films on the 42LE7900, especially if they had black bars above and below them – and it’s one of those things that once you’ve seen, you find yourself looking for again.
This will, of course, be manna from heaven to the direct LED brigade, who can use it as proof that local dimming in an edge LED situation will probably likely never rival local dimming on a direct LED TV. It will be interesting to see if Sony’s dimming edge LED TVs fare any better.
Thankfully, of course, you can actually turn off the LED dimming system if you struggle with it as much as I did. But it’s a shame to see such a promising feature not quite working as we’d hoped it might.
One final flaw we couldn’t ‘turn off’ is a very slight, slender bar of extra brightness visible during dark scenes that runs around the screen’s extreme edges. But this one’s pretty easy to live with.
The 42LE7900 sadly further dents its chances of bagging a Recommended badge from us by being a distinctly average audio performer. Its speakers just about cope with day to day telly shows, but as soon as an action film kicks into anywhere near top gear they start to sound thin, trebly and devoid of bass – to a degree that can become really tiring at even quite low volumes.
The 42LE7900 has plenty of ‘wow’ factor in both its design and picture performance, and packs a pretty fearsome feature punch too. It’s clearly the work of a brand thinking on its feet, and hell-bent on making waves at the mid level of the TV world to go with the considerable successes it’s already achieving at the budget end.
Ultimately for me, the edge LED engine isn’t quite good enough with dark movie scenes to completely win my heart, and the set’s sound is average at best. But I’d still recommend that you at least give the 42LE7900 an audition if you can, as there really is plenty to like.