- Review Price: £600.00
Samsung’s assault on the LCD TV marketplace has been as successful as it has been brutal. By a simple but effective system of renewing its LCD ranges faster than most, manufacturing unprecedented numbers of screens and always being at the vanguard of cost-cutting rounds, Samsung has helped push Korea ahead of Japan as the World’s premier flat-panel nation. In fact, as perhaps the ultimate sign of just how successful it has been, no less an electronics giant that Sony has found itself having to source its core LCD panels from Samsung rather than building them itself.
All of which means we’ve got some pretty high hopes for Samsung’s LE26R41. Especially as its first impressions make such a winning impact. For instance, before we even get to the TV there’s its price tag to consider. At just £600 it’s quite simply outrageously cheap for a 26in LCD TV from such an established brand.
Then there’s its design. Few brands deliver serious TV eye-candy as regularly as Samsung, but even by Samsung’s standards the LE26R41 is outstandingly attractive. Part of the appeal is down to the sheer glamour of the highly glossed black screen surround, with the rest down to its clean lines and the genius decision to build the set’s speakers into a silver triangle section pointing down from the screen’s bottom edge.
The LE26R41 delivers more connectivity than you’ve any right to expect for £600 too, including HDMI and component video options for HD sources, a PC input, and the usual lower quality AV fallbacks. We might normally spend a moment here ruing the fact that the LE26R41 only has one HDMI and two SCARTs, but in light of the £600 price tag for once we’re happy to let this slide.
Especially since the LE26R41 delivers a feature count that would shame many LCDs costing twice as much. For starters, as with all our pre-World Cup TVs the LE26R41 is HD Ready, with a native resolution of 1,366 x 768.
Impressively it’s also got a built-in digital tuner. And yes, this digital tuner is fully supported by an unusually well-presented 7-day electronic programme guide that can be filtered according to programme genre and from which you can directly set timed recording events. What’s more, the LE26R41 also provides a slot for adding subscription cards for ‘pay TV’ services like TopUp TV.
Another unexpected feature discovery at this price point is Samsung’s Digital Natural Image engine (DNIe) image processing system. This multifaceted beast is designed to improve a number of picture elements, including motion handling, colour response, contrast range and fine detail.
Elsewhere within the Samsung’s attractive onscreen menus, meanwhile, can be found a noise reduction system, a dynamic contrast routine that assesses incoming pictures and adjusts the TV’s contrast levels accordingly, a picture in picture facility, and the means to individually adjust up to six separate colour components.
Pretty much everything about the LE26R41 so far has confounded our price-based expectations of it. And we’re very happy to report that this winning trend continues with its picture quality.
The first thing to strike you – almost literally – is the intensity of the colours on show. Bright scenes look blisteringly vibrant and rich, as an unusually potent backlight drives them off the screen at the same time that some impressive colour processing gives them more natural tones than we’d usually associate with such an in-your-face presentation.
Helping reinforce the colour vibrancy, meanwhile, is one of the better black level performances in the 26in LCD world. This helps the LE26R41 paint deep black parts of the picture without the grey cloud hanging over them that we’ve witnessed on so many LCD TVs.
The LE26R41 also scores big marks with us for the sharpness and detail of its pictures, as they merrily go about portraying every last little pixel of image information from our various HD sources. Our Xbox 360 looks particularly pristine and clean, but the ‘true’ HD broadcasts from Sky’s new HD receiver also look the business.
It’s pleasing, too, to find that the sharpness of the LE26R41’s picture is seldom besmirched by LCD’s common problems with smearing over moving objects.
All these many plus points add up to a picture quality that would be impressive on a £900 TV – so on a £600 one they’re pretty much too good to be true.
But that’s not to say the LE26R41’s pictures are perfect. For instance, while black levels are nice and deep, they also feel a little bit empty and, therefore, flat. Next, you can only get the very best contrast levels by activating the set’s Dynamic Contrast feature – yet using this can cause the picture’s overall brightness levels to jump distractingly from time to time.
Finally, it seemed to us that the Samsung’s peak white levels are a touch aggressive, meaning that particularly bright parts of the picture and some harshly contrasting edges are capable of looking a bit too dominant for comfort.
But it wouldn’t be fair to end a discussion of the LE26R41’s pictures on a downer, for while the sort of niggles we’ve described might be considered serious issues on a premium priced set, they’re almost laughably insignificant on a set that’s as bargain basement as this one.
The LE26R41’s sound serves its pictures reasonably well, managing to produce a crisp, open soundstage with more dynamic range than we’re accustomed to hearing from a flat TV. In an ideal world it would have the raw power to go a bit louder while watching a movie, but this is really only a minor gripe.
In our experience, the old adage that ‘you only get what you pay for’ is generally as true of AV as it is of any part of the commercial world. But this delightful Samsung is not only the exception to the rule, but also a potential cause of abject pricing terror in rival brands both big and small.
Score in detail
Image Quality 8
Sound Quality 8
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