Samsung LE40A856 review: Samsung LE40A856

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First we tuned in Freeview. Instantly it became clear that we were going to have to switch out of the hideous 'dynamic' mode and into something a little less likely to ruin the picture quality. Once we adjusted the picture settings, everything looked good. Colour was restored to realistic levels and skin tones stopped looking like a lobster with a sunburn and took on a more sensible human colour.

After our initial tuning, we noticed something quite interesting. The picture and sound had drifted out of sync ever-so-slightly. Turning the TV off and on fixed the problem, and we didn't notice it again during our testing. It's possible this was a one-off glitch, but if it were to be an ongoing problem, it would be fairly annoying to live with.

Blu-ray material look great -- the 24p support this TV offers to compatible players really means the picture looks wonderfully stable. There is very little motion blur, and what blur there is comes without the unnatural look that some built-in processing modes can create.

We didn't think the LE40A856 had the most detailed picture we've ever seen, but it certainly made our Batman Begins Blu-ray look pretty decent. We watched some of our favourite parts of the movie as well as The Dark Knight prologue and were very happy with the accurate colours. Pictures were very clear, too.

We should also congratulate this TV on its black levels. In the past, thinner TVs have had problems in two areas: firstly the backlight can look uneven because of its closeness to the panel, and secondly the backlight can appear too bright, which is a problem when you pack all of the screen elements in closely together. The Samsung doesn't suffer from either of these, though the backlight is slightly visible at the edges of the screen.

Sound from the LE40A856 isn't outstanding. It was certainly easy to hear dialogue but the TV doesn't seem able to produce much volume, and there wasn't much in the way of low-end sound. Movies are likely to need an external speaker system of some sort.

Overall, this is a decent TV. The picture is good, at times excellent, and we love the styling despite the red colour. Performance is strong for the most part, and we think everyone who takes one of these home will be pretty chuffed with their purchase.

If you want a TV with as much visual impact as this one, you'll need to consider the Hitachi UT42-XV7000, which is expensive and needs an external box of tricks to receive Freeview or accept analogue inputs. That said, we do think the Hitachi had a slightly more detailed picture. The other option is the Toshiba 40ZF355D, a great TV with beautiful styling but a touch less impact visually than the Samsung and Hitachi.

Edited by Marian Smith