Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Samsung LE40A559 Review

Samsung LE40A55

Screen: 40in 16:9
Sound System: Nicam
Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Contrast Ratio: 30,000:1
Other Features: DNIe + picture processing, Clear Panel.
Sockets: 3 HDMI, 2 SCART, Component Video, Composite Video, PC input, USB.


The LE40A559, LE40A558, LE40A557 and LE40A556 are essentially the same, i.e. they share the same panels and picture processing technology. Slight cosmetic differences serve to differentiate some of these models, and the A556 is sold exclusively by Dixons/Currys/Amazon as mark of their greater purchasing clout - we imagine ...


Alongside Samsung's 'Crystallized' Rose-Red finish series LCD TV's, the A559 seems rather plain. No clever design touches or extra embellishment in any shape or form leaves us with a standard glossy black unit. But over time these looks grow on you as you begin to appreciate the merits of design in its purest form.

Initially disappointing aesthetically, the 40A559 reminds us of the simple pleasures of a no frills look. Samsung's ultra smooth gloss black finish presents in this panel a supremely simple but effective and ultimately pleasing design.


As a step down model from the higher spec '6' series, the LE40A559 loses 'Motion Plus', Samsung's 100Hz processing technology. HDMI inputs are also down, from 4 to 3.

The LE40A559 does however retain the Full HD (1920 x 1080) resolution of its higher spec sibling and manages a claimed 30,000:1 contrast ratio. The screen also benefits from a dynamic contrast system where a backlight is dimmed to boost black levels for darker scenes.

The LE40A599 features the latest incarnation of Samsung's picture processing technology, DNIe + (Digital Natural Image engine). With a Motion Optimizer, Contrast Enhancer, Detail enhancer and Colour Optimizer, DNIe + works to improve these four main aspects of the LE40A599's performance. DNIe has a track record of producing impressive results on previous LCD and Plasma offerings from the Korean electronics manufacturer.

Samsung's 'Clear Panel' technology has been designed to reduce screen 'glare' and it also works to improve contrast ratio and black levels. Whatever the lighting conditions 'Clear Panel' is constantly making small adjustments by actively changing its responses depending on ambient conditions.

Rather than tweaking the TV's settings for optimum viewing of different material, Samsung 'Entertainment mode' provides 3 built-in picture settings. These three options allow you to access an optimized viewing environment for Movies, Games and Sports.


Testament to the great strides LCD technology has made and continues to make seemingly on a day to day basis, the LE40A559's black level ability comes as no surprise. What does come as a surprise is such an accomplished black level ability for the price. The Samsung LE40A559 is redefining levels of performance in the budget/mid-range category and looks set to significantly raise expectations.

Black level performance for a 40in LCD is not quite as rich and not quite as deep as the best Plasmas or even Samsung's own A656 series, but the performance is not far off the best LCD TV's and is certainly class leading at the time of writing. Again, for the price, not much can match the subtle graduation of shadow detailing on darker scenes which gives depth and realism in these situations.

Providing an excellent backdrop for on-screen colour the superb black level ability has the potential to get the best from the on-screen hues. Slightly disappointing then that colours are not as subtle as we had hoped. While tricky areas such as facial tones are handled reasonably well, they do tend to come across as a little over cooked at times. Placed into context however, for such a reasonably priced screen, the performance in this respect is above what we would normally expect.

Feed the LE40A559 some Blu-ray (High Definition) material and you could be forgiven for thinking that this panel was in a significantly more expensive price category. The Full HD (1920 x 1080) panel presents every nuance of detail, producing pictures of incredible detail, sharpness and vibrancy.

While it is reasonable to expect a stunning HD performance from a Full HD screen, translating the 576 or so lines of a poorer quality Freeview source was always going to be a much sterner test of the LE40A559's abilities. The LE40A599 actually does as good a job as we could have reasonably expected with Standard Definition (SD) material. There is an element of on-screen noise and motion blur (the 40A559 suffering to a degree from the absence of 100Hz 'Motion Plus') but pictures are generally stable and composed. With cable or satellite (especially Sky's 1080i) the A559 is one of the more accomplished SD performers we have come across displaying a composure that few LCD TV's can match.

Along with most LCD TV's we come across these days, the LE40A559 has a rather under whelming acoustic performance. Sacrificing large visible speakers for a compact design inevitably weakens the acoustic ability of the screen. To be fair to Samsung, most manufacturers have taken a similar route and the acoustic performance is more than adequate for general day to day viewing.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Batman Begins [Blu-ray]

Batman Begins [Blu-ray] (2005)
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine Director: Christopher Nolan Rating: Format: Blu-ray
4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1,220 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman
  • Directors: Christopher Nolan
  • Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rating:
  • Studio: Warner Bros.
  • DVD Release Date: July 8, 2008
  • Run Time: 140 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1,220 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000PC6A3E
  • Amazon.com Sales Rank: #58 in Movies & TV (See Bestsellers in Movies & TV)

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    #5 in Movies & TV > Action & Adventure > Superheroes
    #10 in Movies & TV > Blu-ray

Editorial Reviews

Batman Begins discards the previous four films in the series and recasts the Caped Crusader as a fearsome avenging angel. That's good news, because the series, which had gotten off to a rousing start under Tim Burton, had gradually dissolved into self-parody by 1997's Batman & Robin. As the title implies, Batman Begins tells the story anew, when Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) flees Western civilization following the murder of his parents. He is taken in by a mysterious instructor named Ducard (Liam Neeson in another mentor role) and urged to become a ninja in the League of Shadows, but he instead returns to his native Gotham City resolved to end the mob rule that is strangling it. But are there forces even more sinister at hand?

Co-written by the team of David S. Goyer (a veteran comic book writer) and director Christopher Nolan (Memento), Batman Begins is a welcome return to the grim and gritty version of the Dark Knight, owing a great debt to the graphic novels that preceded it. It doesn't have the razzle dazzle, or the mass appeal, of Spider-Man 2 (though the Batmobile is cool), and retelling the origin means it starts slowly, like most "first" superhero movies. But it's certainly the best Bat-film since Burton's original, and one of the best superhero movies of its time. Bale cuts a good figure as Batman, intense and dangerous but with some of the lightheartedness Michael Keaton brought to the character. Michael Caine provides much of the film's humor as the family butler, Alfred, and as the love interest, Katie Holmes (Dawson's Creek) is surprisingly believable in her first adult role. Also featuring Gary Oldman as the young police officer Jim Gordon, Morgan Freeman as a Q-like gadgets expert, and Cillian Murphy as the vile Jonathan Crane. --David Horiuchi


Toshiba HD-A2 HD DVD Player Review

Toshiba HD-A2 HD DVD Player Review

by Jim Robbins


  • Product Name: HD-A2 HD DVD Player
  • Manufacturer: Toshiba
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Review Date: October 29, 2007
  • MSRP: $198.99
HD Output 720p/1080i
SD Upconversion 480p/720p/1080i
Combo Format disc playback
HD DVD Video
DVD Video
DVD-R (Video)
DVD-R DL (Video)
DVD-RW (Video/VR CPRM not supported)

High-performance SHARC DSP
Dolby Digital Plus 5.1ch
Dolby TrueHD 5.1ch
DTS 5.1ch
DTS HD (core only)
Universal remote with glow print
OSD Language English/French/German/Japanese

Ethernet Port
Component Video Output
RCA Video Outputs (1)
2ch. Audio Output
Digital Optical Output
S-Video Output

16.9" W x 13.6" D x 2.6" H


  • Excellent high definition video quality
  • Excellent sound clarity for HDMI-ready systems
  • Very good upconversion for standard DVDs
  • Built in Ethernet for updates and Internet connectivity
  • Dual video stream playback


  • Slow load times
  • Slow video response for fast forward / rewind
  • Noisy transport
  • No backlight on the remote
  • No 5.1 analogue audio outputs for legacy systems
  • 1080i/60 max resolution (no 24p support)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Planet Earth - The Complete BBC Series [HD DVD]

Planet Earth - The Complete BBC Series [HD DVD]

Starring: David Attenborough Rating: Format: HD DVD
4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1,743 customer reviews)

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