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Samsung LE40B650 Picture Quality

by Vincent Teoh
14 March 2009

High Definition (Blu-Ray)

After calibration, the black level on the Samsung LE40B650 HDTV was measured at 0.04 cd/m2... the lowest we have recorded on a non-LED LCD TV to date. When you combine this with a heightened sense of depth afforded by the "Ultra Clear Panel", what you get is excellent black-level performance that is surpassed only by the Pioneer Kuro plasmas and other LED-backlit LCDs (we have not yet tested Panasonic's NeoPDP plasmas, nor Sony's 2009 LCDs). It must be pointed out though that from up close, the blacks on our review sample took on a purplish tint especially when viewed from an angle. This is a non-issue from a normal viewing distance of 4 to 5 feet away from the screen.

Overall gamma was 2.2 post-calibration, which yielded a wonderful quality of "pop" and three-dimensionality when we watched The Incredible Hulk (Blu-ray) on the Samsung LE40B650 LCD HDTV. There remained a slight dip in gamma tracking below 20% stimulus which meant that shadow detail looked a touch darker than it should be, though this was in no way significant enough to detract from overall picture quality.

The Incredible Hulk

With [Size] set to "Screen Fit" to enable 1:1 pixel mapping, the Samsung LE40B650 LCD flawlessly depicted all the minute details in the movie with exceptional clarity and thankfully no unnecessary edge enhancement. From the finely textured close-ups of Bruce Banner's (Edward Norton) troubled countenance to the sweeping panoramic shots of the endless cascades of Brazilian slum housing, we were enthralled at every turn by the astounding detail coming through in spite of the depth and breadth of the image on offer.

Edward Norton

Owing to the D65 greyscale and spot-on colour hues (achieved through calibration), the sun-drenched campus greenery and skin tones in outdoor shots of the Culver University looked utterly convincing on the Samsung LE40B650 LCD television. And judging from the numerous slow panning shots in the movie (such as the one across the Pentagon at the start of Chapter 3), the Samsung LE40B650 HDTV handled 1080p/24 video signal from the Sony PS3 smoothly without any hint of telecine judder.

Liv Tyler

We experimented with all the [100Hz Motion Plus] settings on the Samsung LE40B650 to find the one most suitable for film-based content. As expected, [100Hz Motion Plus] "Standard" and "Smooth" interfered with the inherent 24p judder of The Incredible Hulk, therefore making the movie look like it was shot using an amateur video camcorder. By contrast, [100Hz Motion Plus] "Clear" didn't appear to have anything to do with 24p judder reduction, which is good news for videophiles who cherish the dream-like filmic quality of 24p movies.

We preferred our own "Custom" setting of [Blur Reduction] "8" and [Judder Reduction] "0" though. From what we'd seen, this delivered the most noticeable improvement in motion resolution in both our reference test pattern (Chapter 31 of the "FPD Benchmark Software For Professional") and real-world material (the "Off Duty" sign on top of the mad cab swerving through New York City at around 1:12:42) without introducing any significant interpolation artefact nor the dreaded "video-like" effect to film-based content.

Standard Definition (Freeview Digital TV)

It's common knowledge that the quality of terrestrial television broadcasts can vary from channel to channel (and even from programme to programme) depending on the transmission bandwidth and compression rate. However, as long as the broadcast quality is up to par, and a sensible viewing distance is adopted, the Samsung LE40B650 LCD TV is more than capable of delivering a compelling SD picture thanks to its reasonably sharp upscaling and excellent deinterlacing (both video- and film-based), not to mention deep blacks and realistic colours.

Football on ITV

Fast-action sports, such as the live football broadcast of the FA Cup quarter-final between Fulham and Manchester United on ITV 1, benefited from the higher motion resolution that [100Hz Motion Plus] brings to the screen. The definition of the running players, the individual figures in the crowd, and the words on the advertising boards were noticeably less blurry if [100Hz Motion Plus] was engaged.

We still witnessed a few instances of tearing interpolation artefacts (even when the least aggressive "Clear" setting was selected), but to be fair these were few and far between... in our opinion a worthwhile tradeoff for the welcome boost in motion resolution.

HD Console Gaming (Sony PS3)

The Samsung LE40B650's impressive video processing comes at a price unfortunately, and it's not good news for avid gamers. We measured the input lag on the LE40B650 to be around 84ms to 100ms slower than our resident Samsung F96 LED-backlit LCD TV (which had [Game Mode] enabled), which is almost as bad as the Philips 37PFL9632D (the worst in our database of reviewed HDTVs). Rock Band was basically unplayable unless we compensated for the input lag via the in-game calibration menu.

Rock Band

Fortunately, we could reduce the input lag on the Samsung LE40B650 to between 17ms and 34ms either by engaging [Game Mode] or using VGA connection (not a feasible option for the PS3, we know). While this amount of input lag is still higher than recent offerings from Sony and Sharp, whether or not you will be affected depends on your individual sensitivity, and the reflexes demanded by the particular game.

Sound Quality

Even though the TV speakers' down-firing position is acoustically disadvantageous, speech clarity on the Samsung LE40B650 was surprisingly clear. Naturally its stereo separation, soundstage and bass extension remained no match for external home theatre speakers, but its overall sonic performance was acceptable enough for day-to-day use. Activating [SRS TruSurround HD] expanded the soundstage and dynamic range somewhat at the slight expense of midrange tonality.

Background Noise

When on, our Samsung LE40B650 review unit emitted a high-pitched electronic buzz from the back of the panel. This was adequately masked by normal TV volume from our seating distance of 4-5 feet away.

4.5 Star Rating: Highly Recommended

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