With Pioneer claiming a monopoly on black reproduction on its excellent plasma televisions, it's nice to see Samsung pop up and say "actually, we've got something you should look at".
Traditionally LCD TVs worked by having an LCD panel, behind which was a backlight that was uniform and either on or off. LCDs emit no light of their own -- unlike CRT and plasma screens, which both produce light. This means that LCDs struggle to produce black because there will always be some light that will leak through the panel. Enter LED backlighting, which aims to produce deep, inky blacks. But does it work, or is it simply a £2,700 gimmick?
The usual Samsung design ethic has been applied to the . The company remains a leader in aesthetics and we are always excited to get one of its TVs out of the box. This TV features the piano black finish we've come to expect from flat panel screens these days. The F96 adds a few extra design touches that improve it further.
It's worth saying that the F96 only comes in 52 and 70-inch models. Our 52-inch review sample is enormous and big enough to fill any lounge, so be prepared to clear a bit of space and throw out some unnecessary junk/family members if you're buying the 70-inch version.
Firstly, there is a blue LED stripe at the bottom of the screen. As with previous models, this can be disabled if you don't like it, but it also acts as a standby button, which we think is funky but not totally necessary.
On the right hand side of the screen there are some illuminated, touch-sensitive buttons which add to the functionality without distracting the eye too much.
There are a healthy selection of inputs at the rear and side of the TV, with three HDMI sockets -- one of which is on the side panel of the screen -- which we think is a suitable number for most people. Although if you had a hi-def disc player, PS3, Xbox 360 Elite, as well as Sky HD or Virgin's HD service, you might yearn for four.
It would be wrong of us to start with any feature other than the LED backlight because it's the most important part of this TV. The backlight works by having an array of light emitting diodes behind the screen. These replace the more traditional cold cathode tube on regular LCD TVs which while nice and bright, can't be selectively dimmed in certain areas.
As LEDs can be turned off when they aren't needed, this TV can generate much deeper blacks than most LCD TVs. Samsung even claim a dynamic contrast ratio of 500,000:1, which we'll treat with the appropriate sceptisism. Suffice to say, whatever the true figure, this screen does do a great job.
The selective dimming of the LED array isn't especially accurate, which means if you have a totally dark screen and a bright white object, you'll see light bleed around the edges. In real-world viewing this isn't really a problem, but it will show up from time to time as a mild halo around bright objects on a dark background. For example, when you adjust the volume while the screen is showing black, you'll be able to see what we mean.