If you still have a CRT TV you'll probably be used to looking at a screen that's around 20-28 inches. There were CRTs made that were larger, but they generally weighed the same as your house so weren't enormously practical. These days, someone with only moderate strength can easily pick up a 40-inch TV on their own without risking a hernia. How times have changed.
If you're looking to build a decent home cinema, or you just love watching sport on a big screen, a 40-inch TV offers the right balance between 'too small to see from across the room' and 'so big it takes up an entire wall'. Forty-inch screens also start at a reasonably sensible price. The Samsung LE40M87, for example, can be bought online for around £800, which puts it almost in the bargain-basement range, despite being able to show 1080p material.
Despite its budget price, the LE40M87 still boasts the same classy design as its bigger brothers. The smooth piano-black finish and stylishly rounded corners are both present and correct.
Round the back, there are two HDMI inputs, with a third at the side. Set-top boxes, DVD players and games consoles routinely use HDMI now, so it's good to see three of them on a relatively budget set such as this. There are VGA, component and Scart inputs too, for hooking up all your older stuff.
Our standard gripe with Samsung TVs is the remote control. They always feel cheap and nasty and although they're light, they don't have a pleasant balance to them.
The Samsung features the usual picture modes. It can support 1080p at 24Hz, which is an added bonus for PlayStation 3 owners and fans of HD DVD and Blu-ray. HDMI 1.3 is also supported, so you'll get the benefit of wide colour, if your player supports it.
You'll also find Samsung's movie mode, which aims to reduce the level of motion judder found in film-based material. You'll either love this mode, or switch it off, but it's a handy option to have.
Samsung has also kept its popular game mode in this screen too, which is designed to improve your experience if you're an avid gamer.
Firing up the Samsung for the first time yielded the usual menu system and set-up routine. There's nothing especially painful about this -- if you're in a Freeview area, the TV will tune itself in, configure everything and you're good to go.
Other than that, the menus are easy to use, and offer an excellent level of control over all the picture settings. As with most TVs, we spent a decent amount of time setting the screen up so that it looked good in our test room. With the backlight reduced, we were able to get a picture we really liked.
Freeview performance was good. Colour looked natural and the TV does a good job with deinterlacing -- we didn't notice any artefacts, such as picture tearing on fast motion -- and while the picture looks blocky at times, the screen copes well with standard-definition material.
Of course, popping on a DVD via an upscaling player proves that standard definition doesn't need to look like hell on a hi-def screen. The Samsung does well when fed an upscaled picture, but if you're using a non-upscaling DVD player, don't worry, it can still put on a good show. Indeed, we didn't see a huge difference in picture quality when using Scart instead of HDMI.
HD material looked spectacular, as usual. We opt to turn off all the flashy picture-enchancement modes. As movie fans, we don't really like the artificial smoothing that 'movie mode' offers -- we're happy that film is slightly more jerky than video. Once you've tweaked all these settings, you'll end up with a very strong picture.
Sound quality on the LE40M87 is very good. There isn't oodles of bass, but there is enough to balance the sound. Movie buffs will still want to get themselves a 2.1 or surround-sound system for the best viewing experience. Our main complaint about the sound is that the amplifier in this TV is underpowered -- you have to whack the volume up quite high to get a decent amount of sound out.
We did notice some backlight leakage at the top of the TV, but you'll only spot this if you have the backlight turned up and are watching a dark movie in a dark room.
You can't argue that this TV offers spectacular value for money. At around £800 you get a 1080pTV capable of 24Hz and decent picture quality. There are other TVs around for a similar price -- look out for Toshiba's Regza 37X3030D, an excellent TV that isn't that much smaller in real terms.
All-in-all, there's nothing about this TV that would prevent us from recommending it. It's a sturdy all-round performer at a sensible price.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Nick Hide