Samsung’s knack for churning out some of the most fabulous-looking LCD TVs in town is peerless. The LE26R87 is no different, sporting a gorgeous glossy black finish with a cheeky silver trim and a curved bottom section, resulting in the kind of TV that’ll make your mates’ jaws hit the floor. But there’s also substance behind the style.

Samsung has filled the LE26R87 with technology, which we’re hoping will deliver pictures to be proud of. First there’s DNIe, Samsung’s picture processing engine, which enhances the density, motion, contrast, detail and colour with any source.

Then there’s Movie Plus, which aims to remove motion judder from fast-moving material, while the Wide Colour Enhancer is designed to deliver brilliant colours right to the edge of the screen where they can sometimes look washed out.

There are plenty of sockets on board, most useful of which are the three HDMIs (very generous). They’re joined by component and PC inputs, two Scarts (one RGB-enabled), and a conditional access module slot for pay-TV.

Other features include a Game Mode, which ups the sharpness and response time for video games, and a built-in Freeview tuner with a seven-day EPG. The panel resolution is 1366 x 768, which is enoughto attain HD-ready status and contrast is quoted at an optimistic-sounding 5,000:1.

When it comes to picture quality the R87 does a fine job. Hi-def pictures are the most impressive – Children of Men’s intensely detailed images are reproduced with pleasing clarity. Every stone, shard of glass and chunk of rubble is visible during the Bexhill battle scene at the film’s climax, which makes for a thrilling spectacle.

Falling short

Yet, somehow the LE26R87’s pictures aren’t as awe-inspiring as similarly-priced models featured in this issue. After extensive tweaking of the numerous picture adjustments, we still couldn’t optimise it to a level we were happy with.

The main problem is a black level which is not quite as convincing as we’d like. Dark areas, such as the black markings on the backs of cows in one test scene, look hollow when they should be fully formed and fully realised.

Colour reproduction is impressive though. Skin tones are convincing and natural, the subtle greys and browns of futuristic London are deftly handled and the fleeting glimpses of the green countryside reveal strong saturation. Also impressive is Movie Plus, which removes judder without making movement feel unnatural.

Bright studio-based Freeview broadcasts are generally strong, with crisp edges and decent detail levels, but there’s a little shimmering in the picture and colours can look slightly waxy at times – adding to the not-quite-right black levels.

The set’s hidden speakers fail to muster the big, bass-heavy output that makes movies sizzle. With our test disc, gunfire lacked bite and explosions lacked boom, and you have to crank the volume level very high to hear dialogue properly.

Just short of greatness

Brilliant in places, underwhelming in others, the LE26R87 isn’t quite the runaway success we’d hoped. Some visual and sonic shortcomings spoil the show, but a cracking feature set, three HDMIs and gorgeous looks still earn it plenty of Brownie points.