Bearing a gloss black bezel sunk with a blood red hue, Samsung's latest 46in LCD TV emits an unusual aura when set-up – and a not particularly striking one. But while this 'crystal design' is hardly revolutionary, the LE46A656A1F does start a riot of colour where it really counts.
The root of its success stems from a huge feature count. It's almost as if it's been put together by Samsung to leave high definition home cinema wannabees salivating.
Highlights include four HDMI inputs (all latest version 1.3), Full HD 1080p resolution, 100Hz processing and 24-frames-per-second playback. In short, the LE46A656A1F is perfect for pairing with a Blu-ray player.
Fitted with an Ultra Clear panel, the LE46A656A1F also has the latest incarnation of Samsung's own picture enhancing tech (termed DNle Pro), which is largely what you pay for when you choose a big brand TV over a supermarket cheapie.
The LE46A656A1F's rear leaves nothing to chance. Aside from that feast of HDMIs, a couple of Scarts sit alongside component video and various other basic video ins, but the most interesting inclusion is a USB port on the TV's side. Attach a memory stick (or even some cameras and MP3 players) stored with music and/or JPEG pictures and the LE46A656A1F turns temporarily into a hi-fi-cum-photo viewer.
What the LE46A656A1F hasn't got is a Common Interface slot, so you can't add subscription channels (like Setanta Sports) to the digital TV tuner. Oops.
Also missing – at least when compared with Samsung's other high-end LCD screens – is an LED-backlighting system that can produce arguably the most realistic black levels LCD tech is capable of. That expensive feature has been sacrificed to achieve the LE46A656A1F's 'crystal design', but we know what we'd rather have.
Versatile LCD TV
Kicking-off our test with a Blu-ray disc of Beowulf, the LE46A656A1F immediately shows its class with some extra special close-ups packed with detail. Colours do seem overcooked, but it's nothing a quick calibration doesn't solve.
Pleasingly, the LE46A656A1F's handling of deep blacks is excellent, helped along by a dynamic contrast feature, which automatically tweaks levels in the picture as you watch, allowing you to spy fine detail in darker areas.
Used with the gloom of Beowulf, this TV reveals itself to be primarily a movie screen, though its versatility is boosted by some preset modes.
Of most use is Game mode, which increases the response time of the panel to avoid blurring, which can be at its most distracting when playing video games. Another mode of use is Sports, whereby the colour green is pushed while audio is tweaked for simple voice rendition (so you can hear Motty loud and clear).
Motion in general is handled smoothly and standard definition digital broadcasts appear exceptionally clean and free of picture noise. Where the LE46A656A1F isn't well-equipped is in the audio department, where two measly 10W speakers sit side-by-side and push out sound that's acceptable at best.
As uniquely designed as it is unusually skilled, Samsung's LE46A656A1F overcomes some of LCD technology's major problems with gusto. If you can live with the look, this 46-incher won't disappoint.