Samsung Series 9 (LA46A950)
The best LCD TV we've ever seen.
- Incredible blacks comparable to the best plasmas, fantastic colours, sharp image, handles motion well, lots of bonus features
- Minor aliasing on text, a little detail lost in some dark areas
Samsung's Series 9 LA46A950 is the best LCD TV on the market. While not perfect, its flaws are negligible and it offers an incredible combination of deep blacks, rich colours, sharp images and great motion, along with a host of bonus features, making it the panel to watch out for this Christmas season.
Price$ 5,499.00 (AUD)
If there's one question we're sick of hearing as technology journalists it's whether plasma or LCD TVs are better. Usually you give a spiel about LCDs being better for bright rooms and offering sharper pictures but plasmas having better blacks and colours. With the introduction of LED backlights, however, the distinction becomes more difficult.
We recently had the pleasure of looking at Samsung's new flagship TV, the LD46A950, and we can safely say it is the best LCD TV we've ever seen. Offering black levels that are on par with the best plasmas, the Series 9 TVs represent the current pinnacle of display technology and should be on every enthusiast's Christmas list this year.
It was during the opening moments of our testing that we knew we were in for something special. We test in a sealed room with the lights off, and during one of the loading sequences the screen temporarily went black. The TV was so black the entire screen disappeared into the darkness.
The unit has a rather ridiculous sounding 2,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio. Whether or not this is actually the case, it's clear that it is a cut above the rest. The blacks are so deep a little detail is sometimes lost in dark areas, but the overall contrast performance is still impressive.
What's even better is the colour depth. We tested on the cinema setting and everything looked absolutely fantastic. Bright colours were vibrant without being too oversaturated and skin tones looked smooth and accurate. The overall colour balance was one of the best we've seen and required minimal tweaking of the calibration settings.
Our high-definition tests were well rendered with a crisp, sharp image. There was minimal noise even in our particularly strenuous test scenes, and the level of detail was as impressive as we've come to expect from high-definition media. We spotted some minor aliasing on our Xbox 360 menus; this was the only blemish in an otherwise stellar performance.
In our standard-definition tests the unit performed as expected. It did a good job of up-scaling our test DVD footage with minimal artefacts and aberrations. The picture was a little grainier than in our HD tests, but that is expected and it looked better than many other competing panels. Colours and blacks were still as impressive as they were in our HD tests. The panel should be more than adequate for your day-to-day DVD watching.
Blacks aside, one other point of contention with LCDs is their motion reproduction. It was a big issue with older panels, but it has steadily been improving — this unit is a good example of that. There was no noticeable ghosting or trailing and the 100Hz mode worked well, with minimal artefacts.
While the LED backlight is the star of the show on this unit, it also sports all the extras found on the Samsung Dual WAN Advanced VPN Router (TW100-BRV324) . This includes Wiselink Pro and Digital Living Network Alliance connectivity. DLNA is a protocol that allows you to stream media from your home network without the use of a third-party device. It is still in its infancy at the moment and has some limitations (such as the inability to stream wirelessly) so it isn't particularly useful yet. Wiselink Pro, on the other hand, can be kind of cool. It allows you to play a variety of media, including video and audio, from a USB stick. The number of codecs supported is quite high, so most of your media should be supported. It also features a content library with a variety of features such as recipes, fitness tips, games and stories.
Aesthetically, the unit impresses. It has a carbon-coloured bezel that looks smooth and stylish. Samsung has always been at the forefront of TV design and it shows here. We do have a complaint with the on-board controls, however; they are touch sensitive and are almost impossible to find under regular lighting conditions.
The unit sports four HDMI ports, which should be enough for even the most demanding enthusiast. There are also the usual component, composite, D-sub, S-Video and optical out ports.
Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.
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