Sometimes less is more, and in the case of the LA40M61B, it's at least partially true. This LCD TV forgoes any kind of particularly fancy bezel design, instead opting for a simple black finish and a nicely rounded base that also affords a measure of rotation. At the same time, however, the lack of ornamentation does rather make the LA40M61B look a little simple and cheap, which with an asking price of AU$4499 it's certainly not. The one striking aspect of the LA40M61B's design is the power button, which works in almost exactly the reverse way that you'd think it does. When the unit's powered up, it goes off; when you suspend power -- either by pressing the power button or hitting the power button on the hefty remote -- it glows blue. This is good for movie watching in the dark, as you don't have a distracting light, but poor if you're installing the LA40M61B in a bedroom, as the blue glow will drive you to distraction -- or at least as far as pulling the power plug out. The LA40M61B comes with its own stand, but it's also a suitable candidate for wall mounting.
The LA40M61B's remote is pleasantly chunky and is unlikely to be lost behind the sofa, which is a good thing. It's also very intelligently laid out, so you'll quickly get to grips with where the common functions are, and most importantly where to access them when you're watching something later at night. Our sole complaint with the remote is that our review sample wasn't terribly responsive, even with fresh batteries. However, given the pounding that many review samples undergo it's hard to say if this is a design flaw, or if we were just unlucky. Most of the common functions are replicated with very small buttons on the base of the LCD panel, although, rather like HotBlack Desiato's ship, they're in black ... on a black background. Not the easiest thing to spot when you're making a minor adjustment in the middle of a movie.
The LA40M61B is a 40-inch 1,366 x 768 pixel LCD panel with a claimed response time of 8ms, a contrast ratio of up to 5,000:1 and a brightness rating of 500cd/m2. Samsung claims that it has a very wide viewing angle of 178 degrees from any angle -- it strikes us that if you're watching the LA40M61B upside down and at a 13 degree angle you've probably got more problems than whether your TV is visible, but it's a nice feature nonetheless. Like the rest of Samsung's TV range it uses Samsung's proprietary DNiE (Digital Natural Image Engine) for smoother image processing. On the inputs front, it includes all of the current major input formats, and plenty of them -- a single HDMI on the back is surrounded by two component inputs, 1 D-Sub input for PCs and a composite input. For the gamers among you, there's also a grouping of common side inputs -- in the LA40M61B's case it houses a single S-Video input along with another composite input, as well as additional stereo RCA plugs.
We tested the LA40M61B with a variety of image sources, from high definition television through DVD and games consoles with each of the display's inputs. On the higher-end, higher definition side of the spectrum the LA40M61B fares reasonably well, and it's immediately evident that this is a very bright screen. Samsung touts the LA40M61B's brightness sensor, which automatically adjusts the onscreen brightness to match the action; in theory this can also save you some power and operational lifespan by lessening the strain on the LCD panel itself. In operation we found it had mixed results; for TV or DVD inputs it worked quite well, although some darker films tended to have negligible drops in brightness anyway.
Where we did find it less than optimal was for any kind of gaming. Hooking up an Xbox 360 and playing through some Dead Rising and Oblivion, we found it tended to shift towards too dark in some areas, making them annoying to play through. Predictably, hooking up video inputs through the lower quality inputs produced pictures that we were less happy with; that's both a function of the lower quality inputs struggling on such a large screen, and the image processing within the LA40M61B struggling a touch.
LCD TVs have had a bad reputation for viewing angles for some time, and here the Samsung LA40M61B lived up to its hype. While physical constraints didn't allow us to watch it hanging from the roof, bat-style, from every comfortable viewing angle we could clearly see the onscreen display without any noticeable visual problems.