The Samsung LA40N81BDX is a 40-inch LCD television, which features a native resolution of 1920x1080. It is an entry level model and as such sits at an appealing price point. However, in order to make it cheaper, compromises have been made -- particularly in regards to contrast and image quality. Nonetheless, it still has many admirable virtues and will go a long way toward making the 1080p format more popular.
Samsung never really make leaps and bounds when it comes to design. The "if it aint broke don't fix it" mentality has worked well for them so far and as such, the only major change on the N8 is a neon blue light at the bottom of the bezel (which can thankfully be turned off). The stand comes pre-installed and the speakers are covertly hidden to the left and right of the panel. The connections at the rear are easy to access and the remote control is in keeping with the overall aesthetic.
The most notable difference between the N8 and other Samsung 1080p models is the contrast ratio. A dynamic contrast of 10,000:1 means that there will definitely be times when you will notice stepping or discolouration in blacks. However, the ratio is still rather high for an LCD and as such it will not affect image quality in most cases -- but when it counts, this panel is destined to fail. On a positive note, the N8 has three HDMI ports, two component connections and an integrated high definition tuner -- which is what we have come to expect from a high end panel.
For many people 1080p is all about gaming and movies. As such, we used the Playstation 3 via HDMI to test both sides of the coin. For gaming, the N8 displayed an excellent level of detail, rich colours and deep blacks. Edges initially suffered over-sharpening, but this was eliminated by lowering the sharpness level. There was minor stepping in dark areas due to the limited contrast capabilities of the panel, but gamers will most likely only notice this if they are standing around taking in the scenery.
We used a variety of Blu-ray films to see how well the panel fared at 1080p. Unfortunately, the slight contrast stepping seen in the gaming tests became far more overt. In addition, blacks were discoloured in dark areas of the image, and tended to suffer from a green hue. From a comfortable viewing distance, this issue becomes less prevalent but it is still noticeable.
Moving away from the native resolution, we tested 720p and 576i resolutions to see how well the unit handles interpolation. For 720p we connected thevia Component, and the results were on-par with the 1080p testing -- we experienced no pixelation or artefacts commonly associated with interpolation.
For 576i we viewed the lobby scene from The Matrix on DVD. The contrast stepping was still quite noticeable and there was an obvious lack of detail due to the limitations of the DVD format. There was also a moderate level of interpolation noise and a little pixelation on curved edges. That being said, this result is expected for a 1080p panel and compared to other units on the market, the N8 performed quite well.
Considering the price point and the fact that the LA40N81BDX is intended to be a low-end 1080p television, the test results were quite good. On a whole, the unit performed better than many 1080p televisions we have tested, and its faults are purely a result of its market positioning. It is suitable for gaming in both 1080p and 720p, but for watching movies AV purists may want to hold out for something more expensive.