We just love to see how much better HDTVs are every year. Half the fun is the when two technologies go head to head, -- especially when they don't require us to take sides just to enjoy out favorite movies -- and the only battle older than LCD vs plasma in the world of HD, is 720p vs 1080i; and thanks to advancements in technology the battle changes fronts every year. This year, the big buzz in LCDs that's supposed to shake up plasma is 120Hz. With this latest addition to the LCD feature set, it makes the motion smoother and compatible with 24p. Samsung's latest LCD is on the list of LCDs sportin' this feature and we had a chance to put it through the paces. Lets start out by clearing something up, we love HDTVs but we're not certified by the Image Science Foundation and we don't own big money equipment to test them. So while we do our best to run TVs through the ringer, if you're looking for hard stats and figures, you're not looking in the right place. What you can expect is a review of the overall product and any obvious imperfections in the picture.
One look at this set and it's no wonder that Samsung is number one in the world of HDTVs. Sure it's the picture that really counts, but we all know that the external appearance can be just as important. The LN-T4671F doesn't disappoint, it has a nice glossy piano black frame and a classy badge. The frame is little wide, but it's obviously aesthetics, as the outside edge is clear on each side. The base comes pre-installed which saves you time on the initial setup and the speakers go unnoticed -- in more ways than one. The touch sensitive power switch is a nice touch, but you probably won't use it much -- assuming you can find it. Like most Samsung TVs, it plays a little tune when you power it on and off, we're very pleased that Samsung allows you to turn it off, as it's only cute the first few times. The other thing that's cool at first is the blue light, and again you can configure when it's on (never/standby/on) using the Light Effect option under setup.
Three HDMI inputs are pretty standard these days and we really appreciate the HDMI port on the side, but we'd really like to have more. Samsung is betting you don't many older devices as well, as the set only includes two component and one composite/S-Video input. Overall we're pleased with the array of inputs, but would really like to see an RS-232 port for home automation systems and coaxial digital out. We realize that people don't use it much, but we would've liked to have seen a CableCARD slot, maybe when OCAP is available they'll add it. The remote is a standard issued Samsung and for the most part we like it, but what's up with the fact that only a few buttons light up when you enable the backlight?
We enjoyed having this TV in our labs and found the menus easy to navigate and features easy to access. The info pane is really great and we were happy to have detailed information about the signal the TV was receiving -- like 1080p24 etc. Also, we didn't have any problems with HDMI hand-shaking between all the sources we tried. The audio worked via HDMI as did the HDMI-CEC control protocol (Anynet). While the HDMI-CEC did work, it wasn't fantastic, we felt like most of the functionality wasn't easily accessible -- but it was nice when our Blu-ray player turned on automatically when we switched to that input.
There are two RF cable inputs, one for antenna and one for cable, which makes sense; the tuner easily found all of our OTA HD channels as well as QAM. The QAM scan took a long time, but we really appreciated the fact that it automatically removing the scrambled channels from the lineup.
The other cool thing is that on a few channels -- not sure why it's not all -- it was actually able to recognize the channels and the current show.
The picture modes were nice and like most 1080p TVs it supports 1:1 pixel mapping. The menus are nice, but we found the edit channel list very cumbersome. While we're talking about things we don't like, man this remote really needs to be pointed at the bottom right of the TV, -- even if you're a few feet from it -- maybe we need to check the batteries. And like most HDTVs today the PIP is almost useless since you can only use it with the internal tuner, rather than with a component or HDMI source.
Picture and sound quality
We might be too accustomed to having a full surround sound system, but man the built in speakers sound like tin cans, but who cares as long as you can't see 'em right? As for the picture quality, it doesn't disappoint and while we didn't run any high tech diagnostic utilities, this set easily handled all of the tests on the HQV Blu-ray disc.
One of the biggest draws to 120Hz is to avoid 3:2 pull down which is great for 24p. We connected a Samsung BD-P1200 via HDMI and were able to enjoy a movie at it's original frame rate. We'll tell you one thing, this set is bright! It has no problems with whites and the dynamic setting out of the box is like staring into a flash light. Once we found the movie setting things got better, but to our eye the contrast and colors weren't on par with our reference HDTV (PDP-6010FD) -- but we'd be surprised if anyone complained about the overall picture quality. Since we are here to complain, there were a few issue. The most annoying was what is sometimes called the triple football affect. Basically, when you're watching football and the QB throws the long bomb, you see three footballs instead of one. We didn't noticed it during any other programming, but if you watch football as much as we do, it might be a problem. The other issue is that the LCD backlight isn't even; you really only notice it when the entire screen goes black -- like right before a commercial break -- but it can still be annoying.
Pros: build quality, picture quality and overall rock solid usability.
Cons: Price, triple football effect, and uneven back light.
We really like this TV and wish we didn't have to return it; it's not perfect, but what TV is? But, at ~$3000 we would be hard pressed to pay the premium.
**Update** Samsung informed us that this was actually a pre-production model and that it might differ from the production version.