You can choose from four aspect ratio modes for HD sources, two of which let you move the whole image across the screen horizontally and vertically. As we'd expect from a 1080p TV, one of those modes, called Screen Fit, lets the LNB650 scale 1080i and 1080p sources directly to the panel's pixels with no overscan--the best option unless you see interference along the edge of the screen, as can be the case with some channels or programs.
We appreciated the three power-saver modes, which further reduce energy use. Samsung also throws in picture-in-picture, an "E-manual" on a USB stick, and even a customer care screen that includes the firmware version for when you need to call the company. We're also big fans of the new-for-2009 capability, unique among HDTVs, to get firmware updates via an online download, rather than making you go to the Web site, as was the case before.
The LNB650 series offers very good connectivity, although it does follow the recent trend of spurning S-Video inputs--not one is to be found on this TV. The back panel sprouts three HDMI ports, two component-video inputs (one of which can be sacrificed for composite-video, if you need it), one VGA-style PC input, one RF input for cable and satellite, the Ethernet (LAN) port, and one stereo analog and one optical digital audio output. The TV's side panel offers a fourth HDMI, two USB, and one AV input with composite-video.
Accurate color in bright scenes and the customizable dejudder processing are among the Samsung B650's picture quality strengths, while its bluish color in black and near-black areas and shiny screen in bright rooms were the most significant issues we encountered. All told, however, the LNB650 series is still one of the better-performing LCDs we've tested.
Setting up the B650 we first chose the Movie preset, which came closest to our ideal settings for home theater in a darkened environment. Our calibration involved reducing light output a tad to hit our 40ftl target, increasing the gamma setting to bring out shadow detail and more closely approach our 2.2 target (we ended up at an excellent 2.24), and tweaking the grayscale. The grayscale adjustment wasn't as effective as we'd like to see--the scale still varied quite a bit, especially in dark areas--but otherwise the Samsung's numerous adjustments did the job well.
To compare the Samsung LNB650 series we lined it up next to a pair of Sony LCDs--the KDL-52V5100 and the KDL-52XBR9--as well as the JVC LT-46P300 and Samsung's own LN52B750, both LCDs as well. From the plasma camp we included the Panasonic TC-P46G10 and our reference Pioneer PRO-111FD. Most of our image quality tests were conducted with the help of "Gran Torino" on Blu-ray.
Black level: The depth of black delivered by the LNB650 was relatively good, albeit not at the level of the best LCDs we've tested this year. In the dark scenes in Chapter 6, for example, when Eastwood goes after the nocturnal intruder in his garage, areas like the letterbox bars and black shadows in the room were about as dark as the Sony displays but not as deep as the JVC, the Samsung LNB750, or either of the two plasmas. When he confronts the intruder with his gun we could make out adequate detail in the shadowy areas along his face and hands, but these areas didn't look as natural as on the V5100, the B750, or the two plasmas, although they were a bit better than on the XBR9 and the JVC.
Color accuracy: In bright scenes the Samsung B650 delivered solid color accuracy, thanks in large part to its nearly perfect primary and secondary colors as well as spot-on color decoding. When Father Kowalski approaches Eastwood on his front porch in Chapter 8, for instance, the red and blue of the American flag and the green of the grass and shrubs in the yard looked nearly identical to the same colors on our reference display. The priest's pale skin tone didn't appear as close in the shifting illumination under the porch, taking on a bluer-then-redder aspect at times (an issue that might be the fault of grayscale variance), but it was still very good overall, and better than most of the other displays with the exception of the Samsung B750 and the reference. Saturation was also very good for an LCD, and bright scenes looked relatively rich and realistic.
The B650's biggest weakness in this category was caused by its blue cast in dark areas. Many LCDs "go blue" during dim scenes but the B650 was worse than most, and the worst in our lineup. The issue was most obvious in nighttime scenes like the beginning of Chapters 6 and 7, but in brighter scenes we even noticed a blue cast to darker shadows.
Video processing: Like other 2009 Samsung LCDs the LNB650 series features adjustable dejudder processing, with a Custom mode that lets you turn down the smoothing effect while preserving the antiblurring properties of the 120Hz refresh rate. We got the best results by turning Blur Reduction to 10 and Judder Reduction to zero.
Such a setting preserved the native frame rate of film when we watched in 1080p/24 mode--visible in the juddery-but-not-hitching motion of the camera over Eastwood's porch in Chapter 8, or in the pan that follows the kids as they turn the corner in Chapter 9--but didn't smooth these shots artificially or remove the judder of film. With dejudder turned off, or the judder reduction control reduced to zero in Custom mode, the B650 also properly preserved film cadence during the flyover of the Intrepid from "I Am Legend."
If you want to engage dejudder you'll see the smoothness kick in. Turning up the Judder Reduction control in Custom, or engaging the Standard or Smooth preset modes, made the motion look less film-like (and worse, to our eye) and also tended to introduce artifacts. When the punks push Sue around in Chapter 9, for example, her head moving quickly against the background of the chain-link fence was surrounded by a faint halo, which became more obvious with more dejudder applied (and downright strange-looking in Smooth). The effect in their respective Standard modes was less obvious on the Sony displays than on the Samsungs, but of course with the Samsungs' adjustable judder we could dial in the smoothness--and accompanying artifacts, or lack thereof--as we wanted. The dejudder modes of the B750 and B650 behaved the same as far as we could tell.
The main processing difference between the two came not when watching regular program material, but when we shifted to the patterns in our motion resolution test. The B650 scored similarly to most other 120Hz displays we've tested, delivering between 500 and 600 lines, whereas the LNB750 scored a typical (for a 240Hz model) 900 to 1,000 lines. As usual, we found it nearly impossible to tell the difference between the two, or indeed between either one and the 60Hz JVC, when watching normal program material as opposed to test patterns.
In our still resolution tests the Samsung performed as expected, delivering every line of 1080i and 1080p sources and de-interlacing film- and video-based sources properly. The TV must be set to the Screen Fit aspect ratio and Auto 1 Film mode to pass these tests.
Uniformity: The LNB650 delivered relatively solid uniformity across the screen compared with the other sets in the lineup. Its sides and corners were a bit brighter than the middle, but there was no obvious bright spotting as we saw on the Sony XBR9. From off-angle the set washed out at about the same rate as the other displays, although the bluish tinge crept into the opposite side more noticeably when seen from one side or the other.
Bright lighting: Samsung used the same sort of glossy screen as last year, and the same one found on the B750, and we're still not fans. In bright lighting, with windows facing the screen and overhead lights turned on, the screen does a very good job of preserving black levels in dark areas. However, the trade-off is overly-bright reflections from those light sources and from other bright objects in the room, such as this reviewer's shirt. These reflections were much less bothersome during bright scenes, of course, but in darker scenes they proved distracting.
Standard-definition: The B650 did a very good job with standard-def sources, beginning with the ability to resolve every line of the DVD format and deliver sharp details in the grass and stone bridge of our sample clip. It was the best of the sets in our lineup at removing jaggies. Noise reduction was also solid, although the Auto option was less effective than simply choosing from the three manual settings. The Samsung also engaged 2:3 pull-down correctly when we selected either of the Auto settings for Film Mode.
PC: Samsung's LNB650 series delivered excellent performance with HDMI sources from computers, resolving every line of a 1,920x1,080 image with no overscan or edge enhancement. The image did appear softer via VGA, and resolution wasn't quite full, but it was still very good.
|Before color temp (20/80)||6716/6823||Good|
|After color temp||6457/6490||Good|
|Before grayscale variation||392||Average|
|After grayscale variation||107||Average|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.642/0.329||Good|
|Color of green||0.291/0.591||Good|
|Color of blue||0.148/0.059||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Y||Good|
|480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps||Pass||Good|
|1080i video resolution||Pass||Good|
|1080i film resolution||Pass||Good|
Power consumption: We did not test the power consumption of this size in the Samsung LNB650 series, but we did test the 46-inch version. For more information, refer to the review of the Samsung LN46B650. How we test TVs
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