Samsung's aggressive pricing is matched by the resilience of its R&D departments to enforce premium quality, and the upshot is some of the best ﬂatpanel TVs on the market for some of the best prices.
The Samsung LE46A786, from the company's Series 7 range of LCDs, is one such telly.
At just over £1,500 for a 46in TV, it already represents an attractive proposition, but considering that you get an Ultra Clear Panel 100Hz screen with LED backlighting for your wodge, it's a steal.
And it looks great too, especially as it's the ﬁrst Sammy TV with a 'Crystal Design' surround that isn't spattered with red. This one has a blue tint haloing the fascia, and I prefer this colour.
I'm convinced it's better than the red when it comes to everyday movie-viewing for the simple reason that it's less distracting. Of course, I haven't lived with either screen for weeks on end, so it may be a case that you get used to both of them over time – just to say that I think I'd rather spend the time getting to know the blue than the red.
Staggering black levels
To be honest, though, as much a talking point the 'Lethal Bezel' (one of mine for the Samsung marketing department) may be, it's a mere sideshow to the 786's main story. Quite simply put, this LCD TV has the best blacks I've seen for the technology yet.
They're so impressive that it could comfortably eat at the same table as a Gen 9 Pioneer Kuro plasma. More amazingly, as our Tech Labs tests conﬁrm, this speciﬁc TV even offers a contrast ratio that's around ﬁve times higher than the aforementioned plasma. Staggering.
It's down to the LED backlighting. Rather than use the strip lighting system found on most other LCD panels, the backlight on the 786 is made up of 640 individual LED bulbs, that can be switched on and off when needed. If the picture in a speciﬁc zone is bright, the LEDs are on; dark, they switch off completely.
Of course, as there's only 640 of them to illuminate over two million pixels, there's still some light bleed during normal viewing, so it can't exactly match the Kuro's precision, but then there is that contrast ratio...
Manufacturer's claims of 2,000,000:1 aside, the real world contrast ratio ﬁgure of 223,864:1 (after calibration) is still incredible. I can't remember seeing such results come from the testing procedure before.
In future, an OLED panel will almost deﬁnitely be close, but current plasma TVs can't quite match LCDs in one speciﬁc area, brightness. While the LED backlight switches completely off for a black screen, the bulbs can also shine much brighter than a gas-ﬁlled pixel – the upshot being extreme contrast levels.
Whether it'll make that much of a difference during average viewing is debatable. Still, it's nice to know that the screen is so capable.
Motion handling skills
Another image-related feature to be found on this Samsung is the company's proprietary 100Hz Motion Plus processing.
It's worth mentioning for a couple of reasons as, a) the technology is vastly improved today over former iterations, which often added more problems than they solved, and b) this is the ﬁrst instance I've seen where 100Hz processing is offered in varying grades.
You can chose to switch it off completely (best for games and HD movies), or have it on low, medium or high levels. I found medium to be the best setting, especially for sports, but I advise giving each a whirl until you're comfortable with the results.
The panel comes with several presets anyway, and they'll do a lot of the hard work for you.
Handy file support
Another noteworthy feature is WISELINK Pro. Almost all manufacturers are devising ways to run content directly on the screen without the aid of a separate player, usually using an USB stick, but Samsung has gone one better.
As well as offering a tastily tarted-up menu system that plays MP3s and JPEGs (including slideshows), this TV can play DivX, XviD and even HD video ﬁles (H.264). Considering you can ﬁt around ﬁve hours of compressed video on a 2GB USB memory stick, you'll use this feature more often than you'd expect.
I could go on – the remote's quite nice, and the built-in speakers are perfectly adequate – but this TV's prowess ultimately comes back to the picture quality, and those blacks.
Bar one nitpick – never, I repeat, never use the optional edge enhancement feature for any hi-def content, it ends up looking artiﬁcial, with more halos than a stained-glass window – the images on the 46A786 are extraordinary.
Superb hi-def pictures
Standard-def DVDs look amazing, with a sense of depth only exceptional black level response can offer.
Freeview transmissions are less impressive (a caveat of digital terrestrial TV itself) but at least they hold colour, and text scrolls maintain integrity. However, it's with HD that this telly sings like a chorister.
A 1080p24 Blu-ray release pings on this screen. It's like an Armani mini-dress on Sienna Miller, the ﬁt is just so right.
I think I've seen the future of LCD televisions in the Samsung LE46A786. And I like it.