Editors' Note 04/29/2008: The rating on this review has been modified from 8.0 to 7.7 due to changes in the competitive marketplace.
Samsung's LN-T4671F is the third HDTV we've reviewed to incorporate video processing that smooths out judder, or the inherent choppiness and stutter during motion that can show up most noticeably on film-based video. Although we're still ambivalent about its effect on most Hollywood films, we really like how it treats material that includes slow pans and other steady camera movement. No matter what, once you've seen de-judder in action, it changes the way you perceive all kinds of video. Samsung's first attempt at the processing has a mild case of the hiccups, but you can turn it off (provided you have the latest firmware), and in most other areas of picture quality we liked what we saw from the Samsung LN-T4671F.
We described the Samsung LN-T4681F as "ultrasleek," and it would be unfair to not use the same words on the 71F series. In fact, the two look almost identical. The LN-T4671F is also clad entirely in glossy black, accented by the same vertical strips to either side of the panel: one clear and one silvery-gray, contrasting with all of that gloss. On the 71F series, however, the clear strips are mounted on the outside while the gray ones are on the inside; the 81F turns the order of the strips inside-out, comprising the only distinguishing external difference between the two (aside from a discrete logo touting the LED backlight on the 81Fs). The clear strips are cupped slightly to deflect sound from the side-mounted speakers into the room.
The overall appearance of the LN-T4671F, especially considering the rather broad sides of the glossy black frame, is of a very wide HDTV. The wide look is further enhanced by the relatively slim top and bottom edges of the frame. The LN-T4671F measures 48.1 by 29.6 by 12.6 inches and weighs about 72 pounds including the swivel stand; sans stand it measures 48.2 by 27 by 4.4 inches and weighs 61 pounds. In case you're wondering, the 81F series is 0.3 inch wider and, inexplicably, 5 pounds heavier. Maybe those LEDs weigh more.
Once again, Samsung equipped its higher-end LCD with a shiny screen, the same one we moaned about in the 81F and LN-T4665F reviews. While the screen catches the eye on the sales floor and lets you check your teeth, those benefits are outweighed by its distracting reflectivity under normal room lighting.
Samsung's remote is almost the same as last year's model, and we generally found the slender wand easy to operate. Only the keys for volume, channel, and device control (the universal clicker can command four other pieces of gear) are illuminated, but that's better than most TV remotes, which skip backlighting altogether. All of the buttons are nicely separated and differentiated, with the exception of the secondary controls clustered at the clicker's base, which kind of blend together. Although we'd like to see dedicated buttons for each input, cycling between sources is less arduous than usual since the set automatically senses and skips inactive inputs. The menu system is easy to navigate, and we appreciated the text explanations that accompanied the selections.
Like many high-end LCDs this year, the Samsung LN-T4671F offers a 120Hz refresh rate. Simply put, it refreshes the image on the screen twice as quickly as other HDTVs, nearly all of which refresh at 60Hz. While often touted as a way to eliminate the blurring in fast-motion that supposedly plagues LCDs, we found that the main benefit of 120Hz mode is to allow the inclusion of video processing that removes judder. The company calls its processing Auto Motion Plus 120Hz, and it's available in three flavors: Low, Medium, and High. These modes introduce varying degrees of frame interpolation, which in practice makes motion appear progressively smoother from Off to High. If you don't like the smoothing effect of this mode, which we'll describe in detail below, you can always turn it off. Doing so keeps the TV refreshing at 120Hz but preserves the judder.
Other picture adjustments abound on the LN-T4671F. We liked the ability to adjust the three picture modes independently for each input, allowing us to customize each source with three different groups of picture settings. Only Movie mode allows full adjustment, however, so we recommend using it for the most demanding viewing conditions.
In addition to the five presets for color temperature, there's a full set of detailed color temperature controls. Labeled "white balance," they offer both gain and offset adjustments for red, green, and blue, which allows more advanced users to really zero in the set's grayscale. The My Color control, on the other hand, doesn't seem to do much of anything helpful, so we left it in the default positions. The selection of secondary picture controls includes items labeled "black level," which affects shadow detail; dynamic contrast, which adjusts black level on the fly; gamma, which affects the rate of progression from dark to light; and a selection for color gamut, which controls the range of colors the display can reproduce.
We appreciated the solid collection of aspect-ratio controls, which include four choices for HD sources. Just Scan is our favorite because it introduces no overscan and does not scale 1080i or 1080p sources, preserving the dot-by-dot match to the TV's native pixels. Standard-def sources allow four choices as well, including two zoom modes you can adjust vertically to see subtitles or obscure tickers, for example. The Samsung also has a picture-in-picture function that allows it to display two programs at once.
The setup menu controls, among other items, are the energy-saving function of the LN-T4671F. You can choose from four different Energy Saver modes, which limit peak light output (backlight intensity) to conserve power. In past Samsung LCDs, we've had to use Energy Saver modes to get the best black-level performance, but in the case of this TV, we achieved black levels without having to futz with Energy Saver. See the Juice Box below for complete details on the LN-T4671F's energy usage.
Like many 2007 HDTVs, the Samsung LN-T4671F offers three HDMI inputs, as opposed to just two, and all are HDMI 1.3-compatible, for what that's worth. Two are located on the back, while a third can be found in a recessed bay along the panel's left side. The Samsung's commendable connectivity continues by including a pair of component-video inputs; an AV input with S-Video and composite video; two RF inputs for cable and antenna; and a VGA-style RGB input for computers. That recessed bay offers an additional AV input with S-Video and composite video, a headphone jack, and a USB port that can interface with thumb drives to display photos (JPEG only) and play music (MP3 only).
The overall picture quality of the LN-T4671F places it squarely among the better LCDs we've tested this year, and it scored well in both black-level performance and color accuracy. We did encounter more issues with its judder-busting processing than we saw on the Sony KDL-46XBR4. Unfortunately, your mileage may vary depending on which firmware version your 71F employs.
Setup: We began our review, as always, by adjusting the TV's user-menu controls for viewing in our completely dark theater. These adjustments included attenuating light output to a comfortable 40 footlambert (ftl) and calibrating the grayscale to closer to the broadcast standard of 6,500K. It may be mildly interesting to some readers that our review sample's Warm1 color temperature preset came closer to the standard than Warm2, which was a bit too red. A few tweaks to the user-menu grayscale controls brought the color temperature somewhat closer overall, although we couldn't quite eliminate the faint bluish tinge from the very darkest areas. For our full user-menu settings, click here or check out Tips & Tricks above.