Samsung LE40C650 review

Selling for as much as £899 from the likes of Tesco and Argos, we spotted this mid-range Samsung LCD selling online for under £650 - and at that price it's an absolute steal. As well as being a Full HD panel with a touch of class, the red-tinted LE40C650 loads on the features to let it compete - and beat - its rivals.

With a fairly average price tag for a 40-inch TV, the LE40C650 includes Freeview HD, access to YouTube and Lovefilm (and soon to BBC iPlayer,) wireless networking, and DivX (and even DivX HD) movie playback via USB.

That's some package, but are those media-savvy features a mere distraction? For under the bonnet of the LE40C650 you'll find a LCD screen with none of the LED goodness that Samsung has been aggressively promoting for the last year or so. At least it's capable of 100Hz scanning, which ought to lessen the blur that blights so many bog-standard LCD panels a class above.

This LCD panel, however, is a class above; it's capable of the kind of wide contrast and deep, believable blacks that we expect to see only on high-end plasmas and pricey full LED-lit panels.

This is still a bright panel, however, and helped by its contrast-heavy pics, colours on the LE40C650 also impress with both their vibrancy and accuracy. Blur is kept to a minimum by the set's effective 100Hz processing, though its HyperReal picture processing engine doesn't include frame insertion - or "film mode" - tech to rid Blu-ray of its native judder during slow camera pans. In practice this is no loss because there's little judder to complain about; the set's 24p tech seems to reduce this problem to manageable levels.

The TV is just over 8cm in depth, which is at least 2cm shallower than rival sets, while the bezel also sports a tinge of red along the bottom and a transparent neck leading to the desktop stand.

Aside from Freeview HD, it's Internet@TV that will snag a few buyers. Fully updated from last year's rather thin offering, Samsung now provides a far busier interface that comprises widgets for Lovefilm, History Channel, Twitter, Picasa, AccuWeather, GettyImages, USA Today and YouTube. The interface itself is actually rather drab and poorly thought-out - it's not a patch on Sony's refreshed Bravia Internet Video platform.

Also relying on the set's Ethernet LAN connectivity (WIS-09ABGN USB Wi-Fi adaptor also available) is AllShare, Samsung's name for a feature that streams digital media from a PC on the same broadband home network. It works easily, though not with Macs, and deals in the same files its own media player software can read from a USB drive: DivX, DivX HD, MPEG, WMV, WMV HD, MP3 and JPEG - an impressive list.

Audio is reasonable, with SRS TheaterSound - and the SRS TruSurround HD mode in particular - giving some width as well as depth to TV sound, though it struggles with movie soundtracks.

Verdict

Well presented Freeview HD software and useful compatibility with DivX HD files meets a rather busy Internet video platform. Add those to some blur-free, lively and contrast-heavy HD and SD pictures, and here's a great value 40-inch TV that proves there's life in "standard" LCD yet.