As we noted in our review of the PS50A756, getting the wireless system working was a bit of a pain during our tests, and ultimately involved the unsecure practice of deactivating PING blocking on our router for a short time before we could get the TV talking to its remote information host. But when you finally do get it working, InfoLive certainly feels like a cool if currently limited expansion of what you’d normally expect a TV to do.
Another form of interactivity the LE55A956 shares with the PS50A756 is its Content Library. Again we won’t repeat the weekend’s review by going into detail about this feature here, but briefly speaking the Content Library comprises a selection of materials built-in the TV’s memory banks, ranging from photos and paintings through to recipes, exercise routines and children’s stories and games.
Aside from the excellent collection of pictures to help convert the TV into a picture frame when you’re not using it as a telly, it’s hard to tell how much most people will use the rest of the content Samsung has provided. But it’s certainly an interesting glimpse of the sort of thing we might start to see regularly on future TVs, and certainly beats the credit crunch as a topic of after-dinner conversation.
Other features of note on the LE55A956 include: 100Hz MotionPlus, which doubles the PAL frame rate and interpolates new intermediate image frames to improve the clarity and smoothness of motion; a black level booster; backlight adjustment; a dynamic contrast feature; flesh tone adjustment; edge enhancement; digital noise reduction; and something called Smart LED.
Ah yes, LED – that killer feature of the LE55A956 we seem to have forgotten about since the start of this review. Activating the Smart LED feature is pretty much essential, if you ask me, for it introduces LED’s strongest advantage: the fact that separate parts of the LED backlight array can be dimmed or even switched off independently of each other, with a potentially dramatic impact on black level response versus standard LCD TVs, which use a single, always-on backlight.
For instance, if some parts of a picture are dark and others bright, the LE55A956 can dim the elements of its LED array that are supposed to be showing dark colours without also dimming the bright parts of the picture. Whereas with standard LCD TVs, if you dim the output of the single backlight to improve dark picture areas, the bright picture areas look dimmer too.
To reinforce just how important this difference is, Samsung claims a contrast ratio figure for the LE55A956 of – cue fanfare – 2,000,000:1. This, my friends, is double that quoted even by Panasonic and Pioneer’s latest plasma TVs. Pretty exciting, huh? Well yes, but we should point out that the LED backlight system does make it possible for Samsung – and other LED makers – to play the numbers game even more ‘optimistically’ than usual. For you can, after all, turn a section of the LED array off completely to deliver total darkness at the same time that another part of the array is running at full power. And it’s most likely in these circumstances – which will, of course, almost certainly never be reproduced during normal TV viewing – that the two million to one figure was recorded.
That said, it’s apparent very quickly from watching the LE55A956 in action that there really is something quite special going on with the set’s contrast. Skipping straight to the sword fight in the treasure cave between Barbossa and Captain Sparrow in the first ”Pirates of the Caribbean” on Blu-ray, for instance, finds some remarkably deep black levels sitting right alongside exceptionally bright, vibrant colours and dynamic peak whites.