"An Excellent TV for an Excellent Price!"5.0 starson by D-Alvarez
Pros: + Excellent picture with extremely rich colors
+ Viewing angles seem pretty good
+ TV already is very bright
+ Audio is pretty good for built-in speakers
+ Having a very high contrast ratio helps a great deal of bit with color reproduction as well
Cons: - No built-in upscaler
- No S-Video input
- I feel menu system has always been a little clunky
Summary: Visually, this TV is excellent. The colors are vibrant and on-target (no purple cast like I've seen on some lower-end LCD TVs) and there's no ghosting. Like with any high-resolution TV without an expensive upscaler built in, regular definition sources (e.g. older DVD players and game consoles) look a little blocky. You can fix this with a fancy upscaling circuit like you find in the more expensive A/V receivers, but otherwise it's something you'll find on every TV.Edit Link
The audio is pretty good for built-in speakers. It certainly has more bass than our old tube TV did; built-in amplifier technology on the TVs has advanced considerably over the past 5 years or so. The volume control seems a little odd, though, in that when it's quiet you have to nearly double the numeric volume before it's noticeably louder. I wonder if it might be using a linear scale instead of a logarithmic one (decibels, for example, are logarithmic). Still, decent built-in speakers; if you want really nice sound, you'll want an external receiver (which is probably true of any built-in TV speakers anywhere). It has optical and analog audio out if you want to plug it into a cheaper stereo instead of finding a more expensive receiver unit and speakers, which is nice (the analog is in the form of a stereo miniplug (headphone jack), which you can either plug in directly or get an RCA jack Y-adaptor for most stereos).
One of the HDMI jacks has a stereo miniplug linked to it for audio input so you can plug your DVI-capable computer in and pass the audio in through the analog jack (since many computers have DVI, which is easily and cheaply adapted to HDMI but does not carry audio content). This is a nice feature if you have a media PC or plug your laptop in for photo shows, etc.
One thing I wasn't such a fan of was the menu system. Samsung has always made nice TVs, but I feel their menu system has always been a little clunky (my old roommate had an older model and it was almost the same). This machine is at least pretty responsive when you push the buttons, unlike older ones which were a little sluggish, but the menu system goes far too deep and doesn't seem particularly well organized. I still can't figure out how to turn off the dynamic contrast scaling; the menu says it's off, but black screens full of white text (like the credits after The Office) cause the contrast to adjust up and down, making the text a different brightness on each subsequent screen depending on how much white text there is. Minor quibble, and it probably does improve the picture on the show itself, but still.
And, like most LCD TVs these days, it takes about 5 seconds to turn on or off, which is puzzling for people when they hit the power button and nothing happens instantaneously. This isn't unique to this TV or even Samsung TVs, of course, but if it's a surprise to you, don't panic.
My chief complaint about the menu system is that you can really only select from a handful of preset names for each of the sources; items like "TV", "Game", "DVD", "DVR" and a few other assorted oddities. I have a PS2, an XBox and a Wii; I guess I name them all "Game" and hope I can remember which input goes with which? I also have the new AppleTV (which is wonderful), but the closest category that fits it (to my mind) was "IPTV". This is somewhat superficial and not at all a dealbreaker, but it does occasionally confuse the less technical members of my household. Given that it would have been trivial for their software engineers to add an option for specifying a custom name, it's a little disappointing. I think I actually remember being able to do that on my old roommate's older Samsung TV, but maybe I'm misremembering.
Last complaint: No S-Video input. I'm probably part of a sub-1% group that finds this annoying, but I have several older game consoles which provide S-Video out and not component out, and their composite looks terrible (specifically the Super Nintendo). I suppose I'll just have to wait until I get a real receiver, most of which do have S-Video inputs (and better upscaling). I think I was just more surprised than anything else, since this is the first TV I've seen that doesn't have any S-Video inputs.
All in all, I am 100% happy with this TV, and I can't say I've ever seen a modern-day HDTV with a reasonable menu system. Make sure you measure your space before you pick the size, though! I did, and 40" is the perfect size for us; my wife thought it sounded way too big, and we almost went with the 36" (which would have looked oddly small in the space it's in). Eyeballing it is a good way to wind up with a TV that's too big (won't fit or overwhelms people at the viewing distance) or too small.
And, of course, if you're looking for bells and whistles like 120 Hz (I don't really watch anything that takes advantage of it, so it seemed like a waste of money to me), you'll need to pick a higher-end model.
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Updated on Nov 11, 2011
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