Samsung LE-20S51B review

A new 20in LCD from Samsung piqued our interest

Our Verdict

A style statement that backs up designer looks with a solid all-round performance

For

  • Price

    Pictures

    Design

Against

  • Lack of black level

    Only one Scart

    Lack of native resolution

As Samsung is currently causing a stir with its excellent new 'R41' range of large LCD TVs, we were optimistic about the company's new 20in model, the LE-20S51B.

And our anticipation only grows as we clap eyes on its lovely design. The matt grey, rigidly rectangular screen surround contrasts with the gently concave, silver, triangularbottomed outer frame, resulting in one of the prettiest TVs you'll see.

Connectivity is more of a mixed bag, though. On the plus side there's a 15-pin PC port. On the downside there's only a single Scart, which even a 'second-room'user could find limiting.

At £380, the 20S51B is one of the cheapest 20in LCDs on the market, so it's not surprising to discover it's distinctly feature-lite.The only tricks worth a mention here are a few thematic picture and sound presets.

Also helping explain the £380 price is the 20S51B's rather humble native resolution of just 640 x 480. And this isn't backed up by any other spectacular specifications either; the 400:1 quoted contrast ratio and 450cd/m2 brightness are both fairly run-of-the-mill now.

First impressions of the 20S51B's pictures are pretty positive.We started out with a Sky News picture fed in via RGB Scart, and found the TV doing well with all the colour-rich logos and graphics.The colour palette looks solid, vibrant and for the most part naturally toned, while there are no signs of bleed, edge fuzzing, or chroma noise.

The news 'ticker' that regularly scrolls along the bottom of Sky News also looks impeccably smooth, avoiding the juddering that plagues many budget LCD sets.

Sharp picture

Surprisingly the image even looks quite sharp and textured, defying the screen's lowly native resolution. Help with the sharpness also comes from the decent suppression of LCD's common smearing over motion. What's more, fine details appear largely free of any colour moiring.

Other good stuff includes the general level and uniformity of the picture's brightness, subtlety of colour blend delineation, and edging that's free of shimmer, haloing or jaggedness.

Two things let the side down a touch. First and worst, the 20S51B isn't comfortable with black levels, noticeably greying over and flattening the picture out during dark scenes. Second, we spotted slight bars of brightness across the top and bottom edges of the image, caused by backlight seepage.

Sonically the 20S51B is about par for the small LCD course - ie, not very inspiring. While the speakers fare well enough with typical daytime TV chatshow-style fodder, they simply haven't got the power to go loud or proud with a good film or drama mix, leaving the action sounding thin and hollow. There's not much frequency range either. On the plus side, the speakers never actually distort or cause cabinet rattle, dialogue is generally kept clear, and the soundstage spreads quite a distance to the left and right.

Overall the 20S51B is a very cute looking, reasonably well performing TV, which won't set any quality benchmarks but can be considered good value. John Archer