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Samsung S5679W 56" LED DLP HTDV Review
Board: Help With This Home Theater

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By GusSmed
July 16, 2007

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With all those capitalized acronyms in the heading, I'm tempting to start free-associating others. But they do matter.

DLP sets work by shining a light on microscopic array of mirrors. Rapid vibration of the mirrors by electromagnets varies how much light each pixel reflects, yielding 1024 different shades of gray. To get color, most sets run a spinning color wheel in front of the light source. Typically, the light source is an expensive, very high output mercury light bulb, which you have to replace every couple of years for about $200.

This TV uses a set of color LEDs instead of a light bulb, which solves both issues of color and lamp life. What bothered me about lamp life was more worrying about the lamp burning out without warning than the cost or trouble of replacing the bulb. Some sets have bulb-life warnings, but some just expect you to replace the bulb when the TV fails to turn on. Some early DLP sets had notoriously bad bulbs when shipped.

For whatever reason, this TV is heavily discounted compared to this year's same size Samsung LED model. Current prices are $1400 vs. $1900 shipped from Amazon, for example.

After I ordered this TV, but before it arrived, I felt considerable buyer's remorse. I'd managed to work around some of the problems I had with my older CRT-based rear projection TV, and maybe the other problems were fixable as well.

Now that I've had it for a couple of days, I'm comfortable with the purchase again. It definitely is a better TV, in more ways than I expected.

Picture quality is definitely higher, even with a 480p source. Watching Season 2.0 of Battlestar Galactica, I was struck by how much sharper the picture seemed, and how much richer the colors were. The DLP hype claims DLP sets have a greater color range, and subjectively it seemed as if the bright greens of forest of Kobol were unlike anything I'd seen on the CRT RPTV. The older TV also seems slightly fuzzy by comparison. Keep in mind that while CRTs don't have individual pixels, they do have phosphor masks which limit resolution.

Not all standard definition material looks that good. I'm much more aware of how fuzzy most broadcast and cable / satellite material is. DVDs look much better, even though there is little difference in resolution.

The TV does let you adjust aspect ratio, even if you're viewing 1080p material. You can choose 16:9, 4:3 pillar box, two levels of zoom, and an auto-zoom mode for letterboxed material. That may not seem that important, but I have a handful of older DVDs such as Life Of Brian or the theatrical version of Star Wars which are not anamorphic. On the old TV these appeared with black borders on all four sides, like combined pillar box and letter box. The Samsung lets you see those at full size with the correct aspect ratio. The picture quality does not suffer for zooming in like this, though of course these DVDs tend to be somewhat low quality to begin with.

Broadcast HDTV in 720p and 1080i is excellent - when it comes in. Some stations, such as ABC-HD and PBS-HD, are absolutely trouble free. Most of the others are mostly good, except that the have occasional sound and picture dropouts. The funny thing about digital TV is that if your signal is poor, you can get 80%-90% signal readings and perfect picture and sound, and still lose 1-2 seconds of sound now and then.

This isn't the TV's fault, it's that I'm working with an indoor antenna, rather than a proper rooftop antenna. Even though I'm just 5 miles away from the transmitters in Boston, all of the analog stations are a fuzzy mess, even ABC, which has no trouble at all in the digital signal.

1080i from the 360 definitely looks sharper. More importantly, none of the picture is missing due to the overscan I saw in 1080i on the old TV. Now I can actually read the instructions at the bottom of the screen that were totally unreadable before.

A subtle but important difference is that the screen surface is matte, rather than glossy. I had a terrible time with reflections with the old TV, and I went to great effort to control the light entering the TV room as a result. It's a complete non-issue with the Samsung TV.

The set is far less sensitive to viewing angle than the old rear projection TV. The claimed viewing angle is up to 70� off center, but frankly I did not see any apparent change in the image at any angle. The older TV wasn't really viewable at more than 40� off center, roughly.

The set has 2 HDMI jacks, 2 component inputs, 2 composite / S-video inputs, and 1 composite-only input on the side for camcorders. It also has a SVGA and 3.5mm stereo jack for PC input, which I successfully drove it at 1920 x 1080 from my laptop. To Windows, it looks just like any other plug and play monitor, with a known list of supported resolutions. Once I set the TV as my primary monitor, Civ IV let me select 1920 x 1080, as well as a host of lower resolutions.

The set has optical and stereo audio outputs. The optical is handy because HD broadcasts can have 5.1 or better sound, and it also passes on digital sound from the HDMI jacks. What it doesn't have is optical inputs that correspond to the component jacks. Which may seem like an odd thing to demand, but the lower versions of the XBox 360 don't have HDMI, but do generate surround sound. So you really need to connect those versions of the 360 to your AV receiver and pass the video on to the TV, rather than letting the TV switch as you might with HDMI sources.

I'm following the recommended settings from avsforum, which includes things like turning off noise reduction and DNIe. I fiddled a bit with the "demo" mode of DNIe, which shows half the picture with it on and half with it off, and I have to agree I like it better off. On the other hand, dark scenes often seem too dark, so I'm probably going to mess with the brightness or contrast again.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with it. It seems like a very good TV, and the price is excellent for a 1080p set.

- Gus


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