If you care about the aesthetics of your electronics equipment, you'll be sure to love the Samsung LE40A856, which is an elegant, slim and very stylish TV going for roughly £1,100. Its thin profile and small bezel make it look much smaller than it actually is, which is great because that means you'll be busy concentrating on what it's showing rather than on the design.
The question is, has Samsung managed to fit everything necessary for a modern TV into such a small package, or has something been sacrificed? Luckily, we got to review one of the first samples, and here are our thoughts.
It's hard not to love a TV that's as thin as this. Although we think slim TVs aren't necessarily worth it, you can't help being a little bit impressed when you see a screen with such diminutive dimensions.
The great thing is, Samsung hasn't sacrificed any features to make the TV monitor just 85mm thick: there are still three HDMI sockets on the back, and a fourth on the side. You get a pair of Scart inputs, component, VGA and S-video in -- with composite video inputs and a USB socket located near the side HDMI input.
The front of the TV is largely unbroken -- there are some touch-sensitive controls on the right-hand side which are totally invisible until you touch the surrounding area. A light at the bottom and centre of the set illuminates the bezel just below the Samsung logo, and that's it. Nice and simple, which means the TV will look great in pretty much any living room, as long as the red colour doesn't clash.
The remote control also features the new scroll wheel interface that Samsung is introducing this year. It's not too bad, but we do have some concerns about how the TV responds to the remote, but we'll discuss that a little later in the review. Other than that, the remote is a sturdy little thing, with nice chunky buttons to help those of us not blessed with fingers like needles. There's also a backlight, which should help you control your TV in reduced light.
Overall, the style of the TV is pretty awe-inspiring, and you don't have to like the red style to respect what Samsung has done here.
New on Samsung TVs this year is something called InfoLive, a simple RSS-style reader that enables the TV to use its built-in Ethernet connection to go online and get information from Yahoo. This consists of stock market, weather and news updates, which isn't much but is actually pretty cool for a quick peek at what's going on.
Additionally the LE40A856 features Samsung's much improved WiseLink Pro, which enables users to browse through photos and MP3 stored on USB devices. This new version even allows you to watch DivX and XviD, which is a definite bonus. Samsung also tells us that the next generation will probably allow playback of the new MKV container -- if only they introduced it this year!
The A8 range also include 120hz picture processing, an improvement over TVs that only offer 72hz or 100hz because it can provide 5:5 pull-down, where each frame of the film is duplicated five times, making for much smoother motion.
First we tuned in Freeview. Instantly it became clear that we were going to have to switch out of the hideous 'dynamic' mode and into something a little less likely to ruin the picture quality. Once we adjusted the picture settings, everything looked good. Colour was restored to realistic levels and skin tones stopped looking like a lobster with a sunburn and took on a more sensible human colour.