Update: read our Samsung UE40B7020 LED TV review.
The Samsung 8 series UE46B8000 LED TV is currently being backed by a huge TV advertising campaign in the UK. Viewers are instructed to simply search for "Samsung LED".
Clearly, Samsung is trying to create some buzz around its new LED TVs, and it's working.
Just like many other strong eco TVs, Samsung's green efforts extend right back to the UE46B8000's core construction.
This deeply gorgeous 46in TV uses an edge-mounted LED lighting array that's claimed to consume 30 percent less energy than a typical direct, rear-mounted LED model (mostly because it doesn't have to work so hard to produce a uniform light level) and 40 percent less than a conventional LCD TV with a CCFL backlight.
To reinforce this point, pressing the Info button on the 46B8000's extravagantly sculpted remote calls up a dial showing how little energy you're currently using compared with a normal TV. Although this feels more like an in-store marketing tool than anything mathematically accurate.
As if all this wasn't already enough to keep the planet smiling,Samsung LEDs are also mercury-free, which is important for recycling. Plus, there's a power-saving option of having the TV adjust its brightness in response to your room's ambient light level.
Remarkably, the 46B8000's LED technology and ultra-slim design (it's under 30mm deep) are just the start of its talents. For instance, it also boasts four HDMIs, two USB ports and an ethernet jack, the latter two of which can play video, music or photo files from USB or DLNA-enabled PC sources respectively.
The ethernet port – or optional USB wireless dongle – lets the TV connect to Samsung's online service, containing stuff like YouTube and Flickr. There's even a stash of multimedia content – recipes, kids' stories and songs, screensaver photos and so on – stored on some built-in Flash memory.
Our experience of this is that, after an initial exploration of the stuff that's available, we didn't really find ourselves drawn back to it very often.
Edge of reason
Edge-mounted LED technology has traditionally been considered a compromise in picture quality terms; something just created to make TVs slimmer. After all, the argument goes, edge-mounted LED systems can't deliver the same key local dimming feature that makes normal LED-backlit TVs produce such outstanding contrast levels.
But based on the performance of the 46B8000, we're not convinced edge-mounted LED is a poor relation to its direct cousin at all. For instance, once you've ditched the TV's awful presets, the 46B8000 produces black levels so deep, natural and inky that they easily rival – and possibly outgun – the black levels of most direct LED TVs.
Also, while the 46B8000's colour range might not be quite as expansive as those of some direct LED TVs, tones seem more natural, with none of the direct LED tendency to over-stress reds and greens.
The full HD panel also produces HD pictures that look sublimely sharp and detailed. And the fast response time – bolstered by 200Hz processing – keeps motion blur and judder impressively low. It isn't perfect, though.
Slight backlight inconsistencies appear if you watch the screen from much of an angle; the 200Hz engine can cause processing side effects if used on anything other than its Clear setting; the sound system lacks bass; and black levels can look washed out from some digital sources if you don't use the HDMI Level Low menu tweak.
However, while not perfect, pictures are still every bit as gorgeous as its design. And you couldn't really ask for more than that.
This review will appear in Issue 65 of What Plasma and LCD TV, on sale 29 May. Issue 66 will be an LED special, it goes on sale on 25 June
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