The only serious concern about the 40A558’s specification is its lack of any 100Hz processing to back up the Movie Plus arrangement. After all, the frame rate-doubling antics of 100Hz have a proud history of profoundly improving most LCD picture performances, while Movie Plus has a tradition of tending to struggle without 100Hz to support it.
Sadly this tradition is all too evident on the 40A558. Fed a fast-paced HD fight scene, like the black and white one in the toilets at the start of ”Casino Royale” on Blu-ray, even on its lowest setting the Movie Plus feature makes the picture look rather twitchy and flickery. And the processing artefacts merely amplify the higher up the Movie Plus power settings you climb.
Unfortunately, though, since there’s no 100Hz on the 40A558, if you leave the Movie Plus mode off completely, motion starts to suffer from occasional yet quite noticeable blurring and resolution loss. It’s a classic case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
While we’re discussing the 40A558’s image processing situation, I also must say that I’m not a big fan of the Edge Enhancement tool. For me, this generally makes pictures look rather forced and inconsistent, with edges taking on an over-exaggerated life of their own.
One more negative to throw into the pot at this early stage concerns the 40A558’s viewing angle. For while far from the worst I’ve seen, it certainly isn’t the best either, generating a few contrast and colour problems for anyone watching from much of an angle.
Having ripped into the 40A558 rather mercilessly so far, it’s high time I introduced some much-needed positive balance. For the fact of that matter is that in most ways, beyond those already covered, the 40A558’s pictures are actually very good for what’s now so affordable a TV.
Black levels, for instance, are unusually deep and neutral in tone, suffering far less with the customary greyness than the vast majority of similarly priced competitors. This helps dark scenes like the one where Bond has to try to resuscitate himself outside the casino appear with an impressive sense of depth and credibility, while also providing a terrific counterpoint for the 40A558’s colours.
And very impressive these colours are, too, provided you avoid the ludicrous ‘Dynamic’ factory preset. Obviously there’s the typical LCD/Samsung trait of extremely rich, bright saturations. But far better in the context of the 40A558’s price point is just how believable those colours are, thanks to a surprisingly expansive and sensitive palette, and smooth, stripe-free blends. There’s little if any sign with HD of the generally ‘PC graphics-flavoured’ colour tones – with their particularly troubling over-pink or green-tinged skin tones – often witnessed on sub-£600 flat TVs. Colour tones even hold up pretty well when you’re watching standard definition footage.