The Samsung UE46B8000 is a 46-inch, 1080p LCD TV with LED edge lights and a host of superb extra features. At around £1,800, though, it's not an especially cheap TV. The question is: is this set worth the money?
LED edge lighting
With LCD TVs, there are two different backlight technologies in use. The first, and by far the most common, is known as cold cathode fluorescent lamp (CCFL) backlighting. CCFL backlighting technology essentially comprises of a series of fluorescent tubes that run behind the LCD panel itself. This is a popular system because it's inexpensive, tried and tested, and has a long life span.
The second and newer method of backlighting uses LEDs to illuminate the LCD panel. These LEDs are placed behind the panel and can be dimmed selectively to increase the contrast ratio of the TV. The problem is, loads of LEDs are needed and TVs using this technology generally cost a bomb.
Now, however, a sort of compromise has arrived. Known as LED edge lighting, it works in exactly the way you'd think from the name. Around the edge of the TV are LEDs. Their light is diffused across the back of the panel, using a clever, proprietary system. This method works very well indeed, and it's an interesting technology to watch in the years ahead while we wait forto arrive.
Because LED edge lighting is a more compact method of illuminating an LCD screen, it enables manufacturers to slim down their screens to the point where they have a profile of virtually nothing. There are pictures in the National Gallery that have deeper frames than the UE46B8000, and that makes it ideal for wall mounting.
Of course, nothing in this world is free -- the wall mount for this TV is a fairly expensive optional extra, but it's designed to wow everyone who sees it. You'll have to decide if that's important to you. We really like the supplied table-top stand, and don't see any real reason to bother wall mounting this delightful-looking TV.
Because of the TV's diminutive proportions, there isn't room on the back for every kind of socket known to humanity. To overcome this, Samsung has used an arrangement of breakout cables to make a Scart connector fit into the space taken by a 3.5mm headphone jack. It's all very clever, but it gives us some minor quality concerns. It's also much more untidy that most other TV systems, which might be an issue for people who want to mount this set on the wall. That said, we prefer everything to be built into the TV, rather than having to use a media box to get our video in.
You do get full-sized sockets for HDMI and VGA though, which means Blu-ray players, games consoles and computers can all be accommodated without any problem. The inclusion of four HDMI inputs seems generous enough, and, with switcher boxes costing a minimal amount these days, if you do run out of sockets, it's not the end of the world. There's also an optical digital output too, for connecting the TV to your home-cinema system.
A pair of USB sockets is included as well. Samsung expects that most people will want to use one for a Wi-Fi dongle and the other for a USB hard drive or memory stick. The TV can easily cope with video, images and music in this way, and the whole system works very well indeed.
As with Samsung's B7000 range, the UE46B8000 can play a variety of video formats. MPEG-4, MPEG-2 and MPEG-1 are all catered for. You can also play back DivX and Xvid files, and MKV container support is included too. We played back 1080p video with no problem, but we should point out that audio codec support is rather lacking. For example, the UE46B8000 can't decode DTS audio, and Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA are out of the question.
While this TV has truly brilliant video playback, it's not perfect. But it's still much better than any other TV we've used, and the media features are so beautifully integrated that it's a pleasure to use. As you would imagine, photos and music are both catered for too. We listened to MP3s and looked at JPEG photo slideshows with no trouble, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
Freeview picture quality
One of the biggest surprises with the UE46B8000 is its charming Freeview picture. This TV handled our lunchtime viewing -- Neighbours and Home and Away on Five, with a smattering of The Jeremy Kyle Show over on ITV2 -- with significant poise.
The Australian soap operas are both produced in high definition, and generally look pretty good on Freeview. The UE46B8000 certainly does a magnificent job of presenting a crisp, clean image with plenty of detail. The Jeremy Kyle Show, with its bright blue set and vivid fake tans looked impressive. ITV2 isn't known for its high bit rate, so for the TV to cope with this channel is an impressive feat.
The only problem we had with this TV was when we switched over to Virgin 1 for an episode of Star Trek: Voyager. We noticed that, because this show is often quite dimly lit, the backlight would appear to pulse slightly, as it struggled to set its brightness level to suit the material. This is very distracting and distinctly undesirable. We didn't, however, have any real problem with it on other material, so we're not going to suggest that this is a huge issue.