For all its truly groundbreaking capabilities, though, the LE55A956 isn’t perfect. Without doubt the biggest problem is its extremely limited viewing angle. As soon as you get to a viewing angle of around 40 degrees you can see some really quite extreme ‘blooming’, for want of a better word, around bright parts of the picture, especially when showing extreme contrasts.
Actually, on rare occasions there is a little blooming around bright parts of pictures even when you’re looking straight at the TV. This was a much bigger problem on last year’s Samsung LED TV, though, and the extent of the improvement is considerable. So much so that it really is barely a problem at all on the LE55A956 – provided you can look at the TV from pretty much straight on.
Another potentially serious issue with the LE55A956 is that the dynamic LED backlight system seems to cause quite a bit of lag between a source picture entering the TV and it appearing onscreen.
For instance, while trying to play Star Wars: The Force Unleashed on my trusty Xbox 360, I felt as if I just wasn’t performing to my usual standards during the game’s frequent boss battles. I just didn’t seem able to dodge attacks as fluently as expected. Switching back to a reference Pioneer plasma found my performance returning to normal. So I went back to the LE55A956 and the problem was confirmed; namely that while I was reacting normally to what I was seeing on screen, what I was seeing was actually slightly behind what the console was ‘seeing’.
Luckily I didn’t find this lag issue so severe that it caused any lip-synch problems while watching video, so it doesn’t diminish the LE55A956’s potential as a home cinema screen. But hardcore gamers will certainly not be happy about having their performance potentially damaged by the LE55A956’s machinations.
I also found the LE55A956’s screen reflecting ambient light from my test room a little more obviously than I would ideally have liked; dark areas of the picture occasionally looking fractionally green even after colour tweaking; occasional evidence of minor colour banding; and upscaling of standard definition sources that can only be considered solid rather than inspiring.
Turning to the LE55A956’s audio, we should start by saying that we’ve been pretty underwhelmed by the audio efforts of most of Samsung’s recent TVs. But thankfully this flagship model exhibits considerably more power and dynamic range in the soundstage than its cheaper siblings, so that it provides a fittingly potent partner for the huge and dynamic pictures.
Let’s not forget, either, that while the LE55A956 might be expensive by normal LCD standards, it actually seems pretty cheap by LED standards given the sort of prices we’ve heard for upcoming LED models from other brands. Sharp’s 52in LC-52XS1E, for instance, is set to retail for around £8,000.
While its various little picture niggles open the door for other upcoming LED models to potentially outperform the LE55A956, right now the problems don’t do enough to stop me feeling as if I’ve just spent quality time with not only a great picture performance, but a picture performance that could well be at the vanguard of a whole new level of quality coming our way as LED becomes more commonplace.
So if you want a truly huge screen delivering mesmerising LED picture quality, not to mention online interactive features and all manner of multimedia support, but you don’t want to spend the earth, the LE55A956 has got to be worth very serious consideration indeed.