The LED backlighting on Samsung's 1080p 81-series makes it the best LCD I've ever seen. You've been hearing about such a screen's advantages for months—that it can turn off individual LEDs section to section, moment to moment, keeping blacks blacker and brights brighter—but over the last few weeks with this pre-production but final spec TV I'm sold on the tech. Even without running test discs, it's clearly blacker than the last LCD I tested, the 65 series Samsung, and I suspect it's blacker than the Sharp 92 series TV I tested before that, which is one of the best LCDs ever made in this regard. But unlike both of these great LCDs, it does not sacrifice shadow detail or brightness when tuned black. It has no problem whatsoever maintaining the greys from washing to nothingness. UPDATE: Great memory, haragr, The Qualia 005 was first, at $15k. There's more great feedback in the comments.
I tested using an HDMI splitter from Gefen, Blu-ray and HD DVD titles like 300, Batman Beyond, and Xbox games like Halo 3, Halo 3, and Halo 3. I don't think that motion handling was improved over the last generation LCD, and plasma still has the advantage here. But the picture is as life-like as I've seen on a TV like this generation. It is a big jump. But not perfect. Although Sound and Vision and CNet liked this TV's predecessor a lot, and are bound to love this one, a quick standard def HQV test disc test showed that the TV is running the same level of upscaling performance as the 65f. PC mag didn't love that about this TV and to my eye, it was a middling performer at best. This is undoubtedly its weak point. Also, some other readers have complained about the brights being too bright, causing halos; I love bright screens that can replicate a day on the beach vividly, so I'm not as concerned. Color seemed even to me, uncalibrated, when viewing a simple color bar pattern. Like all the glossy screened Samsung TVs, it kicks up a lot of glare, and the case itself is a dust magnet. It has an 8ms response time, which is twice that of the 92u Sharp series, but that didn't bother me a bit; I've never been able to directly qualify 120hz or sub 8ms response times as something I could notice. (Unlike the contrast of this TV.)
The LED count behind the screen is in the hundreds, and there are dozens of sections that can be individually controlled. The dimming occurs in many degrees, and because LEDs can be turned down with a greater degree of control than CCFLs, its easy to get lighting to be pretty close to zero without dropping to complete black. That helps gray detail. The controls are pretty bad-ass, too: Full touch controls for everything, and the power switch is the round semi circle under the logo. Very slick.
The TV itself isn't cheap: For a 46-inch set, you'll pay $4000 at Crutchfield, but like anything, they'll drop in price soon enough.
So far, this is the best LCD I've seen yet. Highly recommended. I'll either match this up against a Pioneer Kuro or a Olevia LCD next. [Stats at Samsung]