With Microsoft's Xbox 360 and the upcoming Sony PlayStation 3 both offering hi-def pictures - both from games and HD DVD and Blu-ray movie discs - HD-ready TVs are going down a treat with gamers as well as home cinema fans. Samsung knows this only too well, and is tailoring its flatpanel TVs towards this growing area of the market.
This 26in LCD has a "Game" mode, which offers a quicker response time to combat image lag - an annoying effect of liquid crystal technology - while sharpening the image and enhancing dark areas. Given that most console games are based on speed, this is a godsend for gamers everywhere.
But it's not only pictures that benefit - Game mode also enhances sound effects, which are an integral part of any gaming experience.
But even if you're one of those people who thinks Gears of War is about mountain bikes, you can still appreciate the LE26R74BDXs numerous other features. First up, Samsung have made it a design masterclass, dressed in a super-sleek glossy black frame with a back angled triangle along the bottom. The speakers are hidden underneath the screen, which gives the set a compact appearance.
Connections include an HDMI, which is ideal for plugging in a PlayStation 3, but if you've also got Sky HD or an HD DVD deck you want to use as well, and you don't invest in a HDMI switcher, you could have a problem. Meanwhile, Xbox 360 owners can plug their console into the component video inputs to get full-on hi-def pictures. There's even a PC input should you fancy hooking up a laptop, and a digital audio output. The latter will become useful if the UK's digital terrestrial TV services ever start supplying Dolby Digital audio signals.
Packed to the rafters
Samsung TVs always come packed to the rafters with impressive picture technology and the LE26R74BDX is no exception.
On board is Digital Natural Image engine (DNIe), which boosts contrast, detail and colour while smoothing motion. A dynamic contrast is also present, which ups the contrast ratio to a optimistic- sounding 3,000:1.
Terrestrial TV is accessible with the built-in digital tuner and seven-day EPG, plus there's a CAM slot for adding pay TV channels.
As for performance, the Samsung delivers some first class pictures. Hi-def games look absolutely magnificent with Game mode activated - sharp, vibrant and clean with quick movement and minimal levels of motion blur.
The same can be said for hi-def movie material from Sky HD, which looks every bit as crisp and vivid as you'd expect. Fast cameras movements are handled admirably by the set's processing and there's a pleasing lack of video noise.
Standard-def pictures are also impressive, making this a great all-rounder at a decent price.