The Samsung UE46B8000 is a 46-inch, 1080p LCD TV with LED edge lights and a host of superb extra features. At around £1,800, though, it's not an especially cheap TV. The question is: is this set worth the money?
LED edge lighting
With LCD TVs, there are two different backlight technologies in use. The first, and by far the most common, is known as cold cathode fluorescent lamp (CCFL) backlighting. CCFL backlighting technology essentially comprises of a series of fluorescent tubes that run behind the LCD panel itself. This is a popular system because it's inexpensive, tried and tested, and has a long life span.
The second and newer method of backlighting uses LEDs to illuminate the LCD panel. These LEDs are placed behind the panel and can be dimmed selectively to increase the contrast ratio of the TV. The problem is, loads of LEDs are needed and TVs using this technology generally cost a bomb.
Now, however, a sort of compromise has arrived. Known as LED edge lighting, it works in exactly the way you'd think from the name. Around the edge of the TV are LEDs. Their light is diffused across the back of the panel, using a clever, proprietary system. This method works very well indeed, and it's an interesting technology to watch in the years ahead while we wait for OLED to arrive.
Because LED edge lighting is a more compact method of illuminating an LCD screen, it enables manufacturers to slim down their screens to the point where they have a profile of virtually nothing. There are pictures in the National Gallery that have deeper frames than the UE46B8000, and that makes it ideal for wall mounting.
Of course, nothing in this world is free -- the wall mount for this TV is a fairly expensive optional extra, but it's designed to wow everyone who sees it. You'll have to decide if that's important to you. We really like the supplied table-top stand, and don't see any real reason to bother wall mounting this delightful-looking TV.
Because of the TV's diminutive proportions, there isn't room on the back for every kind of socket known to humanity. To overcome this, Samsung has used an arrangement of breakout cables to make a Scart connector fit into the space taken by a 3.5mm headphone jack. It's all very clever, but it gives us some minor quality concerns. It's also much more untidy that most other TV systems, which might be an issue for people who want to mount this set on the wall. That said, we prefer everything to be built into the TV, rather than having to use a media box to get our video in.
You do get full-sized sockets for HDMI and VGA though, which means Blu-ray players, games consoles and computers can all be accommodated without any problem. The inclusion of four HDMI inputs seems generous enough, and, with switcher boxes costing a minimal amount these days, if you do run out of sockets, it's not the end of the world. There's also an optical digital output too, for connecting the TV to your home-cinema system.
A pair of USB sockets is included as well. Samsung expects that most people will want to use one for a Wi-Fi dongle and the other for a USB hard drive or memory stick. The TV can easily cope with video, images and music in this way, and the whole system works very well indeed.
As with Samsung's B7000 range, the UE46B8000 can play a variety of video formats. MPEG-4, MPEG-2 and MPEG-1 are all catered for. You can also play back DivX and Xvid files, and MKV container support is included too. We played back 1080p video with no problem, but we should point out that audio codec support is rather lacking. For example, the UE46B8000 can't decode DTS audio, and Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA are out of the question.