Many of the other familiar A656 picture strengths remain, too. The HD images from the ‘Pirates’ Blu-ray look outstandingly crisp, textured and sharp, for instance, with the purity of the Samsung processing allowing you to revel in the screen’s Full HD resolution.
Then there’s the 46A656’s black level response. For starters, the automatic contrast system is a vast improvement on any such system Samsung has utilised before, ensuring that you aren’t distracted by obvious brightness ‘jumps’, even during the sharp contrasts between bright and dark shots during the fight in Barbossa’s treasure cave. Even more importantly, though, the screen can deliver much deeper, richer blacks than the vast majority of its current rivals. Needless to say this works wonders on a beautifully mastered, contrast-rich movie like ‘Pirates’.
Good black levels usually sit side by side with good colours, and so it proves on the 46A656. Saturations are often intense, while tones are generally among the most natural yet seen on a big-screen Samsung LCD TV.
There are two areas where the 46A656’s pictures fall a fraction short of the heights enjoyed on the smaller screens, though. For starters the extra inches highlight a slight noise issue when watching standard definition – or, at least, low-quality standard definition sources such as an outdoor broadcast on ”Sky News”. MPEG artefacts from the digital tuner can look rather obvious, and the picture generally suddenly becomes a touch mushy, for want of a better word.
The other point is that the image doesn’t look quite as dynamic as those of its smaller brothers, with less brightness and seemingly slightly less colour intensity.
At this point it should be said that the 46A656’s pictures are still hugely impressive by big LCD standards. But I didn’t fall in love with them to quite the degree I did with the smaller models – especially the 40in set.
It’s also worth adding that the 46A656’s pictures also, like those of its siblings, suffer badly if you don’t switch the set from its crazily OTT Dynamic preset. And its sound follows the lead of the smaller sets too in feeling clear and detailed, but slightly underpowered for the size of screen on show – a result, perhaps, of the need to make the set’s speakers invisible to preserve the integrity of the design.
The LE46A656’s extra inches make it an even more potent design statement than its smaller siblings, and it seems good value too at under £1,250. But although its pictures are capable of some truly spectacular moments, especially with HD material, they’re not quite as consistently awesome or as at home with standard definition as we’d hoped they would be.
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