For a generation, TVs have been in the background – in more ways than one – of household entertainment.
- Attractive design, Excellent PC and S-Video modes, Quality speakers, 8ms response time.
- Some issues in standard definition, over-sharpening in high definition
The Samsung LA40M61B is a good buy for those looking for a 40in television with an attractive design that performs well and doesn’t cost the earth.
Price$ 4,499.00 (AUD)
The Samsung LA40M61B is the 40in version of the LA32M61B LCD television that we reviewed in July. With identical specifications, it was no surprise that both units performed identically, with the same strengths and weaknesses. Its picture quality, while not the best on the market, is quite good, and combined with great PC support, an attractive design and a relatively low price tag, definitely makes this a product worth considering.
We tested the standard definition performance of the Samsung using the Philips CE 2006 Demo DVD, Digital Video Essentials and the film Gladiator. The results were consistent with those seen on the 32in model; a few minor noise issues in mid-level grays, some minor stepping in high contrast transitions and noticeable colour saturation problems.
The panel has a native resolution of 1366x768 pixels and is capable of 6.4 billion colours with the help of 10-bit colour processing. The contrast ratio is reported at 5000:1 and is accompanied by a 500cd/m2 brightness rating and a 8ms response time.
The Philips CE 2006 video test revealed minor judder on slow panning videos; a problem commonly seen in most LCD TVs. The colour test images showed bright, vivid colour with some over-saturation when displaying red. Using the calibration tools, we were able to successfully eliminate this problem. In the sharpness and contrast tests we found some minor stepping in harsh contrast transitions which manifested as pixilation and block artefacts. As this could well have been a product of some over-sharpening as well, we attempted to compensate for this by lowering the sharpness to its minimum setting, which lessened the affect but did not remove it entirely.
The Digital Video Essentials test showed minor noise when displaying greyscale images. This occurred mainly in mid-level grays and thankfully, did not occur in the colour block tests. Like the LA32M61B the rest of the DVE tests showed no problems. To test the effects of these problems in a real-world situation, we watched the Fall of Carthidge scene from Gladiator. The noise we witnessed was visible in the darker areas of the image, though wasn't a problem from a comfortable viewing distance. The over-sharpening and pixilation was also present to a minor degree, especially along harsh edges or between light and dark contrasted areas. However, for the most part, the problems did not hinder DVD playback too much and won't be an issue for most consumers.
We also performed some tests running DVDs connected via S-Video as the LA32M61B impressed us with its performance in this mode. Again, this unit produced images that went far beyond how most LCD TVs handle S-Video content. Those that only have S-Video as a connection option would be wise to choose this unit when looking for an LCD TV. However, we recommend, at the very least, using component where possible as it offers a far superior picture.
To test the High Definition capabilities of the panel we connected the Xbox 360 video game console. The 360 outputs high definition at 720p and 1080i natively and as such is a true HD source and excellent for testing purposes. Games looked quite good although there was still some over-sharpening which was most noticeable when viewing text. Unfortunately, adjusting the sharpness or attempting to tweak the image using the calibration tools offered little help for this problem. The noise and stepping seen in the standard definition tests was not present in high definition, in fact, the clarity of the image was rather good. The high definition modes of the LA40M61B will definitely suit most users' needs.
The Samsung excelled when connected to a PC. We ran extensive tests using DisplayMate Video edition and it performed brilliantly. The colours were accurate with excellent contrast, sharpness and brightness. Blacks looked convincing and both icons and text on the desktop showed no over-sharpening, discolouration or over-saturation. Those with Windows XP Media Centre PCs will love the performance in PC mode as video files and TV will look superb.
The design of the LA40M61B is simple, elegant and attractive with a gloss piano black finish on the entire unit. The stand comes pre-installed, unlike its 32in counterpart, and it continues the overall aesthetic. The rear of the unit has a wide range of connection options including a HDMI slot, two component, one composite/S-Video input and a 15-pin D-Sub port for PC connection. The analogue television tuner did its job reasonably well, but as with all units with analogue tuners, we recommend using either a standard or high definition digital set top box to watch television. For a small outlay, it makes a world of difference.
The speakers are hidden beneath the lower section of the bezel, pointed downward. The audio quality is excellent with rich bass and good mid-tones. There is a little loss of treble at high volumes but it still sounds quite good with no distortion.
Overall, we weren't particularly surprised that this television tested almost identically to the LA32M61B. The only difference that we discovered was that the dot pitch (the space between each pixel) seemed slightly larger on this model, but from a comfortable viewing distance this doesn't prove to be an issue. For a 40in model, the price of the unit is very reasonable and for those looking for a television with an attractive design, that doesn't cost the earth and performs well, the Samsung LA40M61B is a good buy.
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