Samsung’s hard-won but well-earned reputation for quality televisions at attractive prices is ably illustrated by this, the LE40R88. For starters, it’s a helluva lot of screen for the cash – 40in, HD-ready and equipped with a Freeview digital tuner, and all for £800 (or less if you shop online).
And then there’s the sheer quality of the thing: it’s professionally finished, attractively styled and a whole light year on in living-room appeal from the supermarket-special tat jostling for your attention at this price.
Not the most dramatic spec, but good enough
The Samsung’s feature set is largely on the money, too. You get a PC in, three HDMI sockets, a dedicated ‘Game’ mode, and support for the HDMI-CEC protocol (so you can get one-button operation of TV and, say, DVD player, proving it also conforms to the system).
Resolution? Well, it’s not a Full HD panel – that would be a bit too much to expect at this money – but its 1366 x 768 resolution is still ample for most needs, meaning the set is perfectly able to display 720p and 1080i HD content.
However, the LE40R88 won’t handle 1080p video (never mind 24fps), so it’s not necessarily ideal for Blu-ray or HD DVD users. That’s partially because the set’s three HDMI inputs are ‘only’ to 1.2 specification, rather than the latest 1.3a spec as found in Samsung’s newer TVs, but it’s also a reflection of this set’s target market: it’s a ‘middle-market’ design, rather than something pitched at the spec-chasing enthusiast, but there’s no shame in that…
Quality performance for the price
Wired and fired, the Samsung’s image quality is very impressive for the money. The digital tuner performs well, with negligible digital blocking in backgrounds and impressive stability. It can be afflicted by some smearing – you’ll notice a slight ‘trail’ behind players on fast-moving football, for example – but overall, this is a very impressive television image indeed.
Switching to DVD and HD content looks better still, of course. Colours have admirable snap and solidity, lending considerable three-dimensionality to action movies, and almost all evidence of picture noise is ruthlessly expunged. You’re left with a picture that’s sharp, natural and very involving.
Weaknesses? Only two: it won’t handle 1080p/24, as we’ve already said, and it also lacks the black depth of the best price rivals (such as Panasonic’s TH-42PX70 plasma). But overall, this is a cracking TV, and an ultra-competitive one at that.