Samsung LE40A856S1W review

A good-looking 40" LCD TV with some not-so-useful extras

TechRadar Verdict

A good all-rounder, this TV will probably sell on its looks alone. Doesn't need its fussy extra features


  • +

    Appealing design

  • +

    Good value

  • +

    Vibrant colour


  • -

    Contrast-heavy scenes lack detail

  • -

    Frustrating remote control

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It's gorgeous, it's full HD and its got HDMI inputs galore, but the Samsung LE40A856S1W has got a secret weapon, too, called InfoLive, which functions by connecting the telly to your broadband home network, turning the internet into your plaything.

InfoLive is a unique service provided in conjunction with Yahoo that gives you localised five-day weather forecasts, scrolling news, sport, politics and entertainment headlines and even share prices as onscreen 'widgets'. And all at the touch of a button. A bit like, er, Teletext, which was invented in the 1970s.

We can understand the appeal of access to web pages, YouTube or even IPTV channels, but InfoLive seems a poor substitute, though it does work quickly and can be endlessly customised (or switched off).

Link to your PC

Once the Samsung LE40A856S1W is on a network it's also possible to access digital media (MP3 music, photos and even some video files) stored on your PC or Mac, but this is frustratingly slow.

Another hidden feature is arguably even more obscure: a Contents Library stores pre-loaded pictures, recipes, spoken children's stories and even fitness regimes. It's a wild idea, but the result is bland: 'party' mode shows Hong Kong fireworks set to appalling 'elevator' music, while the cookery and stretch workouts are merely slideshows. Neither very interactive, nor especially interesting, a proper web browser would be far better.

Of far more use is the connection roster, and the set's side panel is especially nice as it accommodates a fourth HDMI input not to mention a 'WiseLink PRO' USB slot capable of playing digital media files.

Invisible speakers

Sound is dealt with by completely invisible 10W speakers, which use a SRS TruSurround XT mode.

The latter is an attempt at quasi-surround sound, though the provision of an optical digital audio output makes this set capable of connecting into a dedicated home cinema system.

User-friendly TV

The Samsung LE40A856S1W isn't the easiest TV to operate and the blame largely rests with the remote control, which is over-fussy and contains far too many buttons. While well weighted and backlit for use in the dark, it's hardly a winner. So a secondary remote in the shape of a pebble has been supplied. This palm-sized plastic zapper controls only volume, channel changing and standby, but it's a welcome relief.

We liked the way icons on the input selector menu turn from monochrome to colour when the source is live, but both scrolling down the list and selecting one with the remote is cumbersome.

Another point loser is the cute slim design, as any cables connected to the rear inputs do protrude significantly, ruining the appeal for those who want to mount the screen on a wall.

Vibrant colours

A blast of the BBC HD channel through a Virgin V+ set-top box reveals some convincing black areas of the picture, but they do lack detail and depth. A moving shot over a football crowd brings in just the occasional motion artefact and only a slight loss of fine detail is proof that this screen's 100Hz engine is working well.

However, there is some picture noise on show and this continues to a lesser extent during the murky scenes of I, Robot on Blu-ray.

In normal light pictures are sublime, with an exemplary level of detail really showing-off the value of full HD at this size. The vibrancy of colour is stunning in bright scenes and lends a real sense of realism, but much of that good work is lost in murky scenes.

We did spot some motion judder during camera pans, but if this TV is set up correctly – and it's not a difficult screen to adjust – the LE40A856S1W does a more than adequate job with high quality sources. It just doesn't always deliver the cinematic brilliance it should be capable of.

If hi-def lacks ultimate pizzazz, standard definition is presented very consistently. Digital TV channels tune in quickly and produce pictures that retain a lot of sharpness, and despite the occasional judder and flicker from DVDs, images are relatively clean and contain a lot less noise than HDTV channels.

Great value

The set does an adequate job with dialogue-heavy material, but the impact of movies is lessened and not helped at all by the SRS TruSurround XT mode. Music, meanwhile, lacks bass and, with little treble detail, sounds muffled.

The Samsung LE40A856S1W is all about 'the look', and in that it succeeds at a canter. With a £1,000 price tag the feature-loaded screen (even if some of them are pointless) certainly offers decent value for money.

Jamie Carter

Jamie is a freelance tech, travel and space journalist based in the UK. He’s been writing regularly for Techradar since it was launched in 2008 and also writes regularly for Forbes, The Telegraph, the South China Morning Post, Sky & Telescope and the Sky At Night magazine as well as other Future titles T3, Digital Camera World, All About Space and He also edits two of his own websites, and that reflect his obsession with travel gear and solar eclipse travel. He is the author of A Stargazing Program For Beginners (Springer, 2015),