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Reviewed: 14 July 2008
Samsung now have three variations on one what is essentially one model, the LE37A656, LE37A686 and LE37A616. The LE37A656 and LE37A686 models are the same apart from cosmetic differences while the LE37A616 loses a single HDMI input bringing the total to 3 and has the 'Clear Panel' rather than Samsung's 'Ultra Clear Panel'.
By employing a unique manufacturing process to produce their A656 series of LCD TV's, Samsung have managed to create a uniquely stylish range of panels. Describing the finish simply as 'Rose-Red' doesn't do justice to Samsung's 'Crystallization' process which gives the 6 series a subtle hint of deep red which gets deeper towards the edges of the screen.
Adding to the stylistic mix, Samsung have scored another industry first as the only flat panel TV to dispense with the use of either glue or screws in the manufacturing process. The result is a flat panel which looks like it has been hewn from a solid block.
Even the likes of Sony and Panasonic have not yet convinced us that a Full HD (1920 x 1080) resolution on anything less than 40in brings any tangible performance benefits. It will be interesting to determine whether or not a 37in screen can convince us of the merits of Full HD.
Screen: 37in 16:9 Tuner: Digital Sound System: Nicam Resolution: 1920 x 1080 Contrast Ratio: 15,000:1 Other Features: DNIe Pro picture processing, Ultra Clear Panel. Sockets: 4 HDMI, 2 SCART, Component Video, Composite Video, PC input, USB.
The LE37A656 sports an impressive 4 HDMI inputs (v 1.3). The v1.3 HDMI's are able to accept 1080p/24 input, they support Deep Colour and are able to control compatible devices through a single remote using the CEC standard.
The LE37A656 benefits from the latest developments of Samsung's proprietary picture processing technology, DNIe (Digital Natural Image engine). In its latest guise, 'DNIe Pro' with its Motion Optimizer, Contrast Enhancer, Detail enhancer and Colour Optimizer, works to improve these four main aspects of the LE37A656's performance.
With a built-in USB port on the LE37A656 you can display digital still JPEG's or play MP3 music tracks. An intuitive slide show function allows you to set the speed of a slide show and even select an MP3 track to have as background music.
With an innovative mix of high and low reflection layers, Samsung's 'Ultra Clear Panel' works to improve contrast ratio and black levels whatever the lighting conditions actively adjusting its responses depending on ambient conditions. 'Ultra Clear Panel' is Samsung's evolution of their 'Super Clear Panel' technology found on previous LCD and Plasma screens.
The merits of a Full HD resolution on sub 40in screens have divided opinion now for some time. Although we believe that most of you will appreciate its implementation on the LE37A656, the experience of High Definition (HD) material becomes much more satisfying even with the slightly larger LE40A656. What is not in doubt, is that the 37in screen displays a level of detail and sharpness which makes for a supreme home cinema experience.
Illustrating the increasing level of development aimed at LCD TV technology along with Samsung's own expertise in this area, the black level performance of the LE37A656 is nothing short of stunning. The best plasmas still have the edge, but only just, with the performance gap in this respect having narrowed considerably. Most notable is the subtle graduation of shades which reveals detail in even the darkest of scenes, placing the LE37A656 into the leading pack of black level performers.
The impressive black level performance of the LE37A656 provides an excellent canvass for colour production. The LE37A656 makes the most of this backdrop by producing a rich palette of colours which avoids becoming too 'garish', a trap that some LCD TV's have been prone to fall into. Like its bigger 40in brother, there is the odd minor tonal inconsistency, but you will have to look hard to spot them.
Upscaling a Standard Definition (SD) Freeview signal (with around 576 lines of detail) into 1920 x 1080 pixels was never the best recipe for a truly accomplished picture performance, but the LE37A656 like the rest of the A656 series does as good a job as we could have reasonably expected. In fact it is one of the most accomplished SD performers we have come across. If you look closely, you will spot some on-screen video noise, but Samsung's picture processing engine, DNIe keeps it to a minimum. If you have a cable or satellite feed, you will benefit from a much improved SD performance than Freeview can offer with Sky's SD (1080i) pictures translating particularly well onto the Full HD screen.
As with the rest of the A656 series of LCD TV's, we were rather under whelmed by the acoustic performance of the LE37A656, it being one of the few areas on this screen that does not fulfil the potential suggested by the spec sheet. There is a slightly 'tinny' edge to sound when pushed, but Fortunately, it is not so weak as to detract to any great degree from the screens excellent performance in other areas.
The A656 series of LCD TV's from Samsung have quickly established themselves as part of the leading pack of flat panel TV's. With the LE37A656 Samsung are set to maintain their reputation as producer of some of the finest LCD TV's around.
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