- Review Price: £798.00
Normally we’re all in favour of brand’s giving their TVs catchy names rather than horrible, impenetrable lists of letters and numbers. But we have to say we’re a bit suspicious of the ‘Tulip’ name Samsung bandies about when talking about its ‘M87′ range of TVs. It just sounds a bit too genteel and effeminate for our liking. So for once it’s perhaps just as well that Samsung doesn’t use a name to market the 40in ‘Tulip’ we’re looking at today, after all. The LE40M87BD it is, then…
Regular readers with good memories may recall that we assessed a much larger Tulip – sorry, M87 – a while back, in the shape of the 52in LE52M87BD. And very impressed we were too. So if the LE40M87BD can carry on the same sort of standards at a much more practical size and price point, we’ll be very happy bunnies indeed.
It’s certainly just as peachy to look at. The high gloss black screen surround together with clean minimalist lines, gently curved edges and narrow, angled, light-coloured strip along the bottom edge all combine to glorious effect.
Connections, meanwhile, press all the right buttons by including three HDMIs all, unusually, configured to the v1.3 standard, permitting such ‘advanced’ features as Deep Colour (for a richer colour range) and automatic synchronisation of a digital source’s audio and video tracks.
To be honest, we’re starting to feel as if HDMI 1.3 on a TV is something of a white elephant given the continuing lack of support for Deep Colour from the software side of the industry. But hey – if anyone DOES get round to doing a Deep Colour disc, then this Samsung TV will handle it while many of its current rivals will not. So fair enough.
While we’re talking HDMI stuff, it’s also worth adding that those on the LE40M87BD are equipped with the CEC system, allowing the TV’s remote to control pretty much fully any CEC-compatible devices that may be attached to them.
Few if any brands play the specification numbers game better than Samsung. For as well as a full HD pixel count of 1,920 x 1,080, the LE40M87BD boasts a remarkably – if not dubiously – high, claimed contrast ratio of 15,000:1. This is only 1,000:1 shy of the figure Pioneer quotes for its KURO plasma TVs, with their practically revolutionary black level response. Hmm.
Obviously achieving such a figure on an LCD TV requires the use of a dynamic backlight system whereby the picture’s brightness can be reduced when dark scenes are detected in order to make black levels look deeper. But also playing a part is the LE40M87BD’s employment of one of Samsung’s new ‘Super Clear’ LCD panels, with their various light-leakage filters.
Sitting quite high up the Samsung LCD TV ‘tree’, it’s no surprise to find the LE40M87BD pretty well stocked with features. On the image processing side, you get Samsung’s Digital Natural Image engine (DNIe) to improve colours, contrast, motion handling and detailing; Movie Plus which interpolates extra frames of image data to reduce LCD’s traditional resolution loss over moving objects; and the self-explanatory ‘edge enhancer’.
There’s plenty of fine-tuning available in the attractive onscreen menus too, including almost infinite degrees of colour adjustment, MPEG and standard noise reduction tools configurable to various levels of potency, black adjustment, gamma adjustment, white balance adjustment… Really it’s hard to think of an option Samsung hasn’t provided.
We do report this with a slight sense of irony, though. For with so much thought having gone into putting so many adjustments at your disposal, it frankly beggars belief how little thought appears to have gone into the TV’s factory presets. Clearly designed just to grab attention in a bright shop environment, the LE40M87BD’s out-of-the-box pictures threaten to damage retinas at home and leave most sources you pipe in looking essentially pants.
Happily, though, provided you’re careful and selective with all those fine-tuning features (we’d suggest you arm yourself with the (Digital Video Essentials disc and its helpful test signals), you can get the LE40M87BD to deliver some really very nice pictures indeed.
Take, for instance, the LE40M87BD’s black levels. During a run-through of Poseidon on HD DVD, the black level response in dark scenes, like those outside the ship at night as it finally sinks, is stunning – possibly the best we’ve seen on an LCD TV, in terms of both the sheer depth of blackness and the amount of shadow detail retained in dark areas.
The full HD pixel count, meanwhile, earns its corn by the way it renders with pin-point precision all the remarkable textures in the walls of the huge upside-down set of the Poseidon’s ball room. It’s noticeable, too, how this detailing is delivered without any serious signs of noise – a likely benefit of the TV not having to rescale HD images (provided you use the set’s 1:1 pixel mapping mode, called ‘Just Scan’ in the onscreen menus).
Colours benefit from the full HD situation, too, in the form of unusually subtle blends to accompany the sort of full-on brightness and rich saturations we usually expect to see from Samsung TVs. Furthermore, during Poseidon’s many low-lit sequences, it’s clear how well the LE40M87BD copes with skin tones compared with many previous Samsung LCD sets.
There is, it has to be said, room for improvement with the LE40M87BD’s motion handling. With the set’s Movie Plus mode activated, moving objects look reasonably sharp but suffer with shimmering, flickering noise at their edges. Yet with Movie Plus deactivated, there’s a noticeable loss of resolution as objects pass across the screen. We’d also recommend that you deactivate the Edge Enhancement feature, as it over-stresses harsh edges.
In terms of audio, although the TV is perfectly solid sonically, in an ideal world we wouldn’t have minded a bit more power from the set’s speakers to meet the considerable challenges of Poseidon’s ‘wave hitting the boat’ sequence.
Although we ended on a little run of negatives, it really doesn’t make sense for us to get too churlish about the LE40M87BD. For the simple fact remains that it’s a superbly well-featured TV that also happens to produce frequently excellent 40in LCD pictures, especially with HD sources – and if all that isn’t worth considering spending just £800 on, we don’t know what is.
How we test televisions
We test every TV we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
Score in detail
Image Quality 8
Sound Quality 7