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Samsung LA40A550 review: Samsung LA40A550

The Samsung LA40A550 LCD television is generally good, but has a few problems here and there. Considering it's a mid-range unit, that's to be expected.

Dave Jansen
4 min read

We'll say this upfront: the Series 5 Samsung LCD is a fairly unremarkable television. That said, it is one of the cheaper 1080p LCD televisions on the market, and while its performance isn't on par with its more expensive brethren, it is certainly sufficient for those on a budget. As a mid-range model we can't really scoff at the LA40A550 because its performance is better than many — just not exceptional for the price. The main problems we discovered were below-par colour reproduction, green shadow noise and scaling shortcomings, particularly in standard definition


Samsung LA40A550

The Good

Handles motion well. Excellent audio quality. Attractive design. Native 1080p resolution. Wide range of connection options. Integrated HD tuner.

The Bad

Stepping and discolouration issues in 576i/p. Some pixellation issues. Annoying input detection. Limited volume range. Vertical banding on PC connection.

The Bottom Line

The Samsung LA40A550 LCD television is generally good, but has a few problems here and there. Considering it's a mid-range unit, that's to be expected.

From a design standpoint, the series 5 can't be faulted. If anything, the only criticism that can be levelled at it is that it looks the same as most TVs on the market with its piano-black bezel and stand. The remote control has an attractive rounded design and works well for the most part. However, using the Samsung HDMI CEC feature to control a Samsung DVD player can be problematic since the remote doesn't have a DVD menu button.

The LA40A550 has a native resolution of 1920x1080, and has all the ports that we've come to expect including three HDMI ports, two component, two composite and a single S-Video connection. There is also a D-Sub port at the rear for hooking up your PC. Whether you have the latest HD equipment or an old, creaky VCR, this TV definitely caters to your every whim.

As a mid-level television it's missing a lot of the advanced features of more expensive models — such as 100Hz, networking, a fourth HDMI port — but it does have the company's DNIe+ image processor and "Wide Colour Enhancer 2", support for 24p content and a 30,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio.

We tested 1080p performance using the Blu-ray film Casino Royale. The opening credits were fairly crisp but there was a slight pixellation along some edges. Motion was handled reasonably with only minor judder — impressive for a panel without a 100Hz mode. Black levels were good, but there appeared to be a very minor level of backlight discolouration along the bottom of the panel. Over-sharpening artefacts were present at the default settings, but these could be largely removed by reducing the sharpness level to zero. The wide colour enhancer is meant to produce better reds, greens and blues but we found that red tones tended to be a little flat overall. Adjusting red levels to compensate meant that the other colours became overbearing, and while it wasn't a massive issue, it illustrates the difference between a mid-range and a high-end television.

Gaming tests garnered a similar result at 720p resolution. We found no response time problems, with excellent performance during fast motion. The minor pixellation experienced at 1080p was more noticeable with in-game text appearing very jagged on some edges. There was also a general softness, perhaps a result of interpolation (scaling the image to the panel's native 1080p resolution). Overall, the image was less crisp at 720p than we saw during the Blu-ray tests. From a comfortable viewing distance, these problems were lessened but still nonetheless present. Colours suffered the same issues as before.

However, it was when the Samsung displayed 576i content that a whole new series of problems started. We expected a certain loss of detail when viewing DVD films but the issues we discovered were beyond the usual detail loss and interpolation noise. The most noticeable problem was shadow noise with green/magenta discolouration, especially on skin tones. We tried two different DVD players to eliminate the player as the source of the problem. The discolouration was most evident in darker scenes with highly contrasting elements. For the most part, it won't really be a big problem but if you have an obsession with moody films like Blade Runner, it could be somewhat annoying.

Another issue we came across was Samsung's input detection. Whenever the remote is used to change inputs, the TV handshakes the ports repeatedly, flashing the "detecting" message on screen. That's not too bad, but it also does it whenever it changes resolution as well. When using the PlayStation 3, every time you load a new game, insert a DVD or a Blu-ray film, it takes 20-30 seconds of detection before it works. If you are playing a HD Blu-ray film that has 480p features, it will detect the input once again. It gets frustrating quickly.

The speakers produce a nice, clear sound with excellent mid-tones, and no major problems with bass or treble. Voice and sound effects blend seamlessly without any undue emphasis on either. However, the volume range is fairly limited and even at full blast it isn't terribly loud. Thankfully, even at the highest level there is no distortion present, but we still would have liked to be able to crank it to 11.

The Samsung LA40A550 isn't the best LCD television on the market and has its fair share of problems. However, considering the price point and its position in the Samsung television range, it seems to be intended as a mid-range unit, so you can't really expect it to be exceptional.