Producer of one of the first 40in LCD screens, Samsung has a reputation for being a pioneer in the LCD market. That TV started the whole plasma vs LCD battle for top billing in the big-screen stakes. And with the LW40A23WDX - which we found heavily discounted online - Samsung sets its stall out as a home cinema fan's dream.
This is largely down to the Samsung's rear connections. There are not one but two sets of high-definition and progressive scancompatible component video inputs. And that's just for starters. A DVI input is another highlight, because as well as being HDCPcompatible (and therefore able to show Sky's planned HDTV transmissions) it means an all-digital feed from a PC or compatible DVD player will result in stunning picture. Two Scarts (1 RGB), S-video, composite video, coaxial and optical digital audio inputs, and three stereo audio inputs complete an impressive range of connections.
Ideally, however, we'd like to see more than a solitary RGB Scart, because if you want to connect both a PlayStation and Freeview box they'll be Scart-swapping nonsense, but the performance from the lone Scart is exemplary. So often LCD screens can crumble when faced with the challenge of a Freeview feed, with motion blur being the main culprit, but the response time of the display was good enough to combat this old bugbear. Dip below the RGB Scart connection to a regular composite input and the inadequacies are spread across a large screen for all to see - but it would be an insult to a screen of this size and price to feed it such a poor input.
Nice and natural
With better-quality inputs, Samsung's Digital Natural Image (DNIe) improves the picture's verve and sharpness no end. With DVI sources the LW40A23WDX doesn't sweat over producing top-notch results, with particularly notable brightness levels bringing out the best from our often muted Lost in Translation test disc. Fine details were ably represented, awash with good colour variations that didn't bleed. But results like these are to expected at this level, and the set still has to perform with analogue sources...
Across all sources, there were few blurred edges to be seen. On the other hand, however, the set's contrast could be improved slightly. In Lost in Translation, when Charlotte and Bob share a meal in a dingy restaurant, there's not too much detail apparent, revealing that the Samsung's contrast ratio is occasionally found wanting. Should you wish to turn off DNIe you will notice that this effect worsens, so congratulations are due to the engineers at Samsung for making an impressive outing in terms of picture performance.
As far as sound goes, this set is fairly unique in that it is able to decode and amplify Dolby Digital, DTS and Pro Logic II and output them to a sound system. This is done via springclip connections, with an added sub line out to handle bass. Audio from the speakers was average. It's daft not to pair such a TV with a decent surround sound package, but for those buying in stages it serves as a capable stop-gap.
This is a great example of a screen that has been around for six months and is now heavily discounted online as dealers try to clear their stocks. Fully equipped for the HDTV future, and as such a fantastic screen for those who want a bit of luxury and futureproofing, we declare that the once massive price difference between plasma and LCD is officially over. The picture may not be quite up to some of its rivals, but overall performance and the connections roster should help the LW40A23W onto any luxury shortlist.