With the execption of Apple, most electronics companies follow each other around like lemmings. Many products seem to lack mindful makers: someone who has actually thought about what the product is supposed to do and how best to optimise it for both functionality and style. In the '80s, we had TVs with faux wood. Then we had black plastic, then silver and now we're trudging through the tedium of shiny black plastic. Yawn.
Samsung's A6 range breaks this follow-the-leader mentality with a more cheery design approach. The company's screen styling has always been ahead of the curve, and its recent introduction of the 'rose black' bezel has once again proved that Samsung is happy to veer off the beaten, shiny black plastic track. Available for around £1,200, will the Samsung LE40A6 LCD TV get us marching to a different beat?
The LE40A6's rose black style winks at the ladies and nods at the gents. The effect is quite simple; in a dark room, you'll barely notice the red in the bezel. Look closely in a well-lit room and you'll see the deep red swatch that runs around the screen. While we applaud Samsung for trying to jazz up TV design this way, we can't doff our caps completely. This decision isn't the best the company has ever made -- the red won't appeal to everyone.
We do, however, like the rest of the styling. The TV is plain, with the controls on the front limited to a set of touch-sensitive buttons on the right hand side. This keeps the TV looking sleek, and the whole package works really well.
Still, the shiny black plastic isn't missing completely from this TV: it's in the remote. It's sturdier than the older Samsung product remotes and sports large buttons. Plus, the remote's controls are segmented by colour. Programme and volume controls are blue; menu and directional controls are green; everything else is white-ish. The remote has a backlight too, so you can use it with cinema lighting. The only downside is that it's a slightly unwieldy size and shape.
The connections at the back of the TV include a massive four HDMI inputs. Those lucky people who own a PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 Elite and a Wii -- which connects via either of the two Scart inputs -- will be able to hook the consoles up at the same time. They'll even have room for SkyHD and even an HD DVD player. Bully for them.
Along with more connections than you can shake a remote at, the LE40A6 boasts all the usual features of a high-end TV. It supports 1080p/24 and has 100Hz picture processing, designed to smooth out films so they look more like video for those who can't stand motion judder in movies. The TV also employs an 'ultra clear panel', which aims to increase the contrast of the set by using a specially-treated LCD.
Those people with all three major games consoles are in luck again, and will be pleased to learn that this Samsung continues the company's tradition of producing excellent gaming TVs. The usual gaming modes are present to decrease motion blur.
It would be great if we could start off saying something nice about the TV's Freeview performance. Sadly, the best we can do is to call it adequate. Even for a TV this size, we felt that the picture could have been sharper. Fiddling around with the menu settings didn't really improve the situation either. Sure, the picture isn't horrible by any stretch of the imagination, but we can envision a set with better Freeview detail: there were times when the picture felt washed out.
The good news is the Samsung managed to perform brilliantly with HD material. The 1080p screen proved it can produce some amazing quality pictures, filled to the brim with the details missing from Freeview. The black levels were superb, and the backlight was restrained too, so we never felt we were looking at a light grey when we should have been looking into a rich black.
We tested this television with some scenes from Spider-Man on Blu-ray. Just before our hero is bitten by an vicious arachnid, we noticed that the grass was a vivid green and Kirsten Dunst looked lovely, her red hair impressing our keen reviewing eye -- for the colour, rather than because of our red hair obsession.
As you can imagine, gaming with a PS3 on this TV was fantastic too. Games were sharp, had minimal motion blur and had more colour than Rolf Harris' paint box. We whiled away far too much time playing Burnout Paradise -- the screen immersed us in the action and we couldn't pry ourselves away.
Sound quality on the Sammy was also excellent. Although our usual mumblings about low frequency bass levels are still relevant, the TV has plenty of power, and dialogue is nice and clear. You could certainly watch a Marlon Brando film on this TV without missing half the words and having to switch subtitles on.
We can't leave without a word about the 100Hz motion reduction mode. If you must use this, then you will need to set it as low as possible. On the high setting, we noticed lots of picture distortion in addition to the distinctly unnatural video look this mode gives to movies.
If HD is your bag, this TV is very possibly a good choice for you. Besides providing excellent picture and sound quality, this Pied Piper of a TV will hopefully lead manufacturers away from black shiny plastic designs.
It's a good buy, but its menu systems need an update to bring it in line with current LGs. If you're looking for an alternative, we'd have to suggest the Panasonic Viera TH-42PX80B, which, despite only being a 720p TV, manages to produce a truly stunning picture on all kinds of material.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday