The first of Samsung's new generation of LCD TVs is nothing if not fully loaded.The 32in LE32R41BD boasts both a built-in digital Freeview tuner and is fully HD Ready.In other words, it's very well futureproofed,which makes its exceptionally low £1,200 price a bit of a puzzle.Has Samsung sacrificed performance to offer so many features for so little dough?
No corners seem to have been cut on the design front,at any rate. The glossy black screen frame is sumptuous and the triangular, silver speaker section underneath is characterful and attractive.
Apart from only having two Scarts,the LE32R41BD has plenty to commend it on the connections side.Inevitably for an HD Ready screen,there's a digital video input - in this case,our preferred HDMI option.Plus there's a set of component video jacks for analogue HD and progressive scan, a VGA PC input and the customary S-video and composite video jacks.Fans of Top Up TV will also find a CAM slot that enables you to upgrade the TV to the subscription service.
Surprisingly, given its price,the LE32R41BD doesn't just rely on its HD Readiness and digital tuner for its feature appeal.Also important is its use of the third generation of Samsung's Digital Natural Image Engine (DNIe) processing,designed to improve motion handling,boost colour response and contrast,and 'amplify' fine details.
Then there's full support for Freeview's seven-day electronic programme guide.This is attractively presented and offers quick loading times and a handy genre-finding tool that highlights sought after programme categories in different colours on the EPG list.You can also select future programmes you want to watch direct from the EPG,so that the TV will automatically turn to them when they start.
Other helpful tricks include digital noise reduction,Dynamic Contrast for automatically optimising the contrast to suit the incoming picture, the facility to specifically adjust six individual colour components without affecting the colour tone as a whole, and a single-tuner picture-in-picture facility.
Thankfully,our worries about whether the LE32R41BD can really perform as well as being feature heavy for £1,200 prove unfounded. It's actually Samsung's best LCD performer yet and easily a match for many more expensive models.
The first thing to strike you is the picture's sheer brightness.Even with the frankly scary 'Dynamic' factory preset mode deactivated in favour of something less OTT, the picture never looks less than luminous and dramatic.
This core brightness is backed up by exceptionally rich colour saturations,too,which ensure the picture has both intensity and solidity.What's more,the days when full-on colours could only be achieved in the flatpanel world at the expense of a natural tone seem to be over,as the LE32R41BD joins a list of recent LCD arrivals to boast overtly natural colours at all times - even when asked to cope with that trickiest of all colour scenarios,skin tones during low-lit scenes.
Also contributing to the picture's dynamism is the screen's basic fine detail response.HD sources enjoy pixel perfect sharpness,while for the most part even standard definition pictures look enjoyably textured and detailed - presumably thanks to the efforts of DNIe.
The only slight bum notes here are that very fine details can look a touch twitch.Also,DNIe can lose its way with particularly low-quality digital or analogue broadcasts, so that its processing ends up making the picture look a touch soft and smeary.
Smear caused by the LCD panel's response time,however, is hardly ever an issue,while other traditional LCD weaknesses such as colour banding and poor black-level response are also very well handled by the LE32R41BD. In fact,with regard to the latter,this Samsung delivers truer, deeper blacks than many much more expensive models.
The generally good black-level response isn't wholly without its problems,though.For starters, it's quite hard to make black areas satisfyingly dark without using the provided Dynamic Contrast feature. Yet this feature sporadically causes some distracting 'jumps' in the overall black-level tone,and can also leave dark areas looking slightly hollow and low on greyscaling.
Now that we've started talking about niggles, there are a couple more to report.First, really full-on whites can look a bit over-dominant and flary.Second,the TV occasionally has problems synching to HDMI sources, requiring it to be switched off and on again before it sorts itself out.At least when they do appear,though,HDMI feeds are much less besmirched by digital MPEG artefacting than they were on Samsung's previous LCD generation - especially if you use the provided Movie picture preset.
The LE32R41BD's sound is more enjoyable than we'd frankly expected from the rather punylooking speakers under the screen. There are limits to its volume and frequency response,but at least the TV understands those limits,never trying to push beyond them and thus avoiding the harshness and distortions that invariably occur when a TV doesn't know when to give up.
What you are therefore left with is a tightly controlled,but still quite wide soundstage containing decent amounts of bass rumble at one end and reasonably rounded peak trebles at the other.The mid range has enough space to keep dialogue sounding open and believable. There's also enough breathing room to allow the speakers to open up a little for loud action scenes.
Samsung has really come up trumps with the LE32R41BD. It's a remarkably complete package, combining excellent all-round performance with a superbly forward-looking feature and specifications list - all in a delightfully designed body. Best of all, it delivers its many glories for a shockingly low price that the other big names out there will likely find it hard to match.