Update Dec 10, 2008: After a subsequent conversation Samsung's representative did provide a bit more information.
"The newer A950 sets feature a slight enhancement to black level performance which improves the already excellent picture quality of the A950. That said, most of the Samsung A950 sets sold in the market now feature this upgrade. Customers who have already purchased an A950 set can find out if their TV is the enhanced version or not by calling 1-800-SAMSUNG (1-800-726-7864). If customers would like to upgrade their A950 TV, a software upgrade will be provided free of charge in the form of a USB stick. This software upgrade, available within 30 days of request, will enable performance similar to that of upgraded A950 TVs."
Unfortunately, we have not been able to get more information out of Samsung on this issue, and the company still has not provided a clear way to distinguish between products that have the update and those that don't. The best advice we can give for A950 owners concerned about the problem is to contact Samsung and try to get a resolution, and comment here about your experiences.
Samsung has updated the A950 series, the company's flagship line of LED-based LCD HDTVs, by introducing changes that affect picture quality. In accordance, we have updated our review of the 46-inch LN46A950.
While the change will have a minor impact on picture quality, it probably irks current A950 owners to find out that they don't have the most up-to-date version of the television. Here's the relevant section from the review's updated performance section, describing the differences we saw:
To assess the picture quality impact of the changes, we compared our original LN46A950 review sample side-by-side to a new one, and will use the new one in all comparisons involving the A950 going forward. The differences we saw concerned black levels primarily. The company has raised the black level in very dark scenes--those with a very low "average picture level." In those scenes the new model showed improved shadow detail and eliminated some of the worst blooming effects we mention below, while the older model reproduced darker overall black levels--its LEDs appeared to dim more aggressively, while the new ones stayed more illuminated. We didn't notice any differences between the two Samsungs in the vast majority of scenes however, which have higher average picture levels. As a result, we're not modifying the rating for this review.
According to Samsung, all A950 series sets sent to market after September 20, 2008, will feature the upgrade. Of course that means A950 series TVs sent to market before that date, whether still on store shelves or comfortably at home with their new owners, won't have the update.… Read more
Panasonic has announced limited availability of two Tru2way plasma TVs. The two plasma flat-panels, the 42-inch TH-42PZ80Q and the 50-inch TH-50PZ80Q, become the first products available to consumers that are Tru2way compatible, making good on Panasonic's pledge to have the debut products in stores by year's end.
Tru2way is a new technology that allows full interactive ("two-way") access to digital TV and HDTV cable systems without the need for a standalone cable box. That's an improvement on the earlier CableCard technology, which couldn't be used to access interactive services (such as pay-per-view and video-on-demand) via third-party devices such as the TiVo HD DVR.
The Panasonic Tru2way models will be priced at $1,600 and $2,300 for the 42-inch and 50-inch model, respectively. Compared with their non-Tru2way predecessors, the TH-42PZ80U and TH-50PZ80U, it looks as if the new technology will cost consumers a premium of $500 to $670.
For now, distribution will be limited to the Denver and Chicago areas, where the cable systems have been certified to be Tru2way-ready. That area should widen as more cable operators around the country add the capability. Additional manufacturers--including Sony, Samsung, and RCA--are planning to release Tru2way products in 2009 and beyond.
So my prediction that we don't see (Tru2way TVs) until sometime in 2009 was dead wrong. But, to my mind, the technology still needs to address three key points before it's truly ready for the mass market: … Read more
On November 1, Energy Star will officially launch its revised specification for TVs, version 3.0, which promises to significantly reduce power consumption. After that date, TVs must meet the new spec to carry the Energy Star logo.
It may come as a surprise that prior to the new spec, TVs were only tested in standby mode (plugged in but turned off) to comply with Energy Star. The TVs were never turned on for the test, and the only thing that qualified them for the logo, since 2005, was the ability to draw less than a watt when turned off.
Standby testing is important, of course--TVs, even in America, spend more than 80 percent of the time turned off--but by early this year the majority of TVs on the market have standby draws of less than a watt, which is insignificant considering how much power they draw when turned on.
Version 3.0 finally institutes standards for "power on" certification, and judging from the extensive list of supporting documents at Energy Star's official site, settling on a spec was a long and contentious battle. But now that the spec is in effect, TV power consumption in "power on" mode will lilkely fall across the board. The key, as usual, is in the details of the spec.… Read more
Rumor has it that HDTV prices are about to dip, and this may be the first evidence: Dell has the Sharp LC42SB45U 42-inch LCD on sale for $899, shipping included. That's 500 bucks less than the original price, and a couple hundred less than I've found it anywhere else.
In addition to its 1080p resolution, the LC42SB45U (there's a name that just rolls off the tongue, huh?) offers three HDMI inputs, two component inputs, and a QAM-compatible tuner. What's interesting is that this is a brand-new model, not some closeout from two years ago--which is normally … Read more
BenQ describes its MP512ST projector as "designed for the Nintendo Wii," and by that we assume they mean white, inexpensive, and standard-definition. All the more reason for us to be surprised when this little unit produced a decent picture, albeit not quite at the level found on more-expensive high-definition projectors. Still, for less than $600, or about the price of a bargain-brand 32-inch flat-panel LCD, it's tough to complain.
In the contest for "best LCD," the main combatants for the last couple of years have been Sony and Samsung. We reviewed Samsung's LN52A650 earlier this year and liked what we saw enough to award it our Editors' Choice. Sony's latest contender for that award is the subject of our latest HDTV review, the KDL-52XBR6.
First things first: this Sony ain't cheap. But its ability to produce a deep shade of black is unmatched in our experience by any non-LED-based LCD or non-Kuro plasma, and many other aspects of its performance, especially its video processing, were definitely impressive. On the other hand, for that much cash we expected better color accuracy and screen uniformity.
Those picture quality issues swayed our decision making enough to keep the EC award in Samsung's camp for this round, although both scored the same overall and the argument can definitely be made that the Sony has the better overall picture, price notwithstanding. If black levels are your bag and you don't want a plasma, you can't do better than the XBR6 without shelling out gobs more money for an LED model.
Read the full review of the Sony Bravia KDL-52XBR6.… Read more
That's the dog-sized Bluetooth headset you can buy to go with today's real news item, the new BlackBerry Storm: announced but not released. Until it comes out, though, it's basking in the warm glow of the "meeting and maybe exceeding expectations" judgments coming from the media. In sum, it sounds cool. And Google decides it's high time they made some money on that whole YouTube thing.Listen now: Download today's podcast EPISODE 826
BlackBerry Storm 9500 hands-on http://www.engadget.com/2008/10/08/blackberry-storm-9500-hands-on/ http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-10059498-1.html
YouTube adds … Read more
A PriceScan report entitled "LCD TV Prices Fall Fast in Advance of Holiday Shopping" has found that prices for 40-inch 1080p LCD HDTVs fell 12 percent in the third quarter of 2008, including eight percent in September alone.
According to Jeff Trester, PriceSCAN Co-CEO and Chief Economist, "This is a fairly stunning drop in the price of state of the art high-definition televisions of a size sought by many households. One would have to consider 40 inch 1080p LCD televisions a bellwether of the consumer electronics market, so this current accelerating price decline may be indicative of … Read more