The Samsung LE40B650 LCD TV is proof that Samsung isn't about to turn its back on standard, non-LED LCDs.
Underneath its glossy, red-tinted frame are some unusual features, but while this TV's internet connectivity and wireless networking will grab the headlines, it's the completely re-worked approach to picture quality that makes it such a polished performer.
The LE40B650 goes well beyond the boundaries of a normal LCD TV. Advanced features come in the shape of Contents Library and PC networking and Internet@TV.
The latter is a set of widgets supplied by Yahoo that offer access to websites such as Flickr, YouTube and news sites in real time. Attached to a router either wirelessly (using a dongle supplied by Samsung for a further £50) or wired (by an ethernet LAN cable), the LE40B650 can also stream digital files from a PC.
Samsung's own Contents Library is likely to have less appeal. Stored on a built-in hard drive, it consists of a mix of arty pictures set to music, bedtime stories for kids, a decent recipe section and even some 'wellness' videos.
More important is the LE40B650's use of an Ultra Clear LCD panel, which reflects the light in a room to make dark colours seem deeper. Just as crucial is the appearance of an impressive Motion Plus 100Hz engine and the birth of Samsung's Crystal FHD Engine picture processor that claims to upscale standard-definition fare better.
The LE40B650 looks to tackle LCD technology's weaknesses head-on and offers plasma-like richness. Samsung is not the first manufacturer to try this, but as we'll see, it's one of the few to succeed.
Ease of use
Despite the LE40B650's lofty ambitions with digital media, it's a simple set-up procedure. It uses the DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) standard to locate any PC on the same broadband network, from which it can stream myriad video formats such as DivX, AVI, MP4 and even MKV files.
Unfortunately, the LE40B650 supports only MP3 music and JPEG photos through USB, with no video of any format recognised. A bonus is that a separate hard drive can be attached via one of the USB ports.
Starting Media Player takes one button press on the bulky backlit remote control. Despite its exhaustive controls and intuitive design, the onscreen menu system is often unresponsive and regularly needs to be reminded that it's meant to be doing something.
This adds a sluggish feel to its otherwise impressive menus and the widget-based taskbar that drives the Internet@TV feature.
Unusually, the LE40B650's Motion Plus 100Hz comes with three settings: clear, standard and smooth, with a further user-defined option provided where you can choose your own settings for both blur and judder reduction. Aimed squarely at Blu-ray playback, the technology actually goes further than simply doubling the refresh rate of video – it inserts its own guessed-at video frames to create a smoother look.
Using a test disc of Gandhi on Blu-ray and with Motion Plus 100Hz set to 'clear', we didn't notice any judder at all. Blur was also virtually banished from fast-moving scenes with only the occasional smear evident on a camera pan across some writing on a wall.
There was also some smearing evident when using an Xbox. We'd recommend switching Motion Plus 100Hz off for gaming, though arguably even games can't fail to benefit from the TV's skill with colour. Realism and accuracy are guaranteed, even from dark pictures.
Incredibly, pitch-black scenes seem plasma-like in their richness and, while not every detail can be discerned, the LE40B650 capably demonstrates liquid crystal's continued march towards home cinema greatness.
Utterly cinematic with HD, the screen also does a reasonable job with Freeview pictures, by upscaling an adequate, but jaggy, amount of detail to a broadcast of Newsnight.
Alas, its lacklustre speakers quash the joy of using the LE40B650 with a hard drive stuffed with MP3s. Its SRS TruSurround HD audio option does a reasonable job at widening movies soundtracks and dialogue is presented clearly enough, but we'd recommend using the digital audio output to route everything into a separate audio system.
Gamers may be disappointed, but anyone who wants internet access or the ability to stream files from a PC should take a second look.
Add in its excellent performance with Blu-ray, its deep blacks and smooth motion skills, and you've got a great value set that belies Samsung's 'entry level' label.
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