The Samsung HL-T5687S and its 2007 line-mates represent the least-expensive of the company's LED-powered DLP HDTVs. When we reviewed the HL-S5679W last year, the company's first effort at putting an LED light source in a rear-projection TV, we lauded its lack of rainbow effect but noted its uneven screen uniformity. For better or for worse, the 2007 model has similar characteristics. The HL-T5687S delivers very good picture quality overall, with deeper blacks than its predecessor, relatively accurate color and the ability to put the finest of 1080p details on its 56-inch screen. It also overcomes many of the gripes commonly associated with rear-projection sets, exhibiting solid geometry and a very clean picture, give or take some stationery screen grain and the hot spot itself. But even with imperfect uniformity, the HL-T5687S makes a great bargain alternative to large-screen plasma sets costing hundreds more.
The trend in rear-projection design lately has been to reduce the thickness of the bezel around the screen, at least along the top and sides, to as much of an invisible sliver as possible. While some manufacturers, like JVC and Mitsubishi, do an even better job at bezel shaving than Samsung, the HL-T5687S' top and sides measure a respectably slim three-fourths of an inch from the edge of the cabinet to the screen. Below the screen lies the company's characteristic blank swath of glossy black plastic--nowadays most Samsung sets, this one included, incorporate down-facing slits inside which the speakers are hidden--interrupted only by the logo and the company's standard circular power button and blue accent light, which can be turned off entirely. The overall look is sleek and all glossy black, although a strip of silver lines the bottom of the speaker slit and brings some welcome relief to the blackness.
Samsung touted the slimness of its new DLPs when they were announced at CES, but they certainly can't compete with models like the JVC HD-58S998, for example, on depth. The Samsung HL-T5687S measures 50.4 inches wide by 34.9 inches high by 14 inches deep, and that 14-inch depth is just 1.4 inches less than last year's HL-S5679W. Like most microdisplays, the HL-T5687S is comparatively feathery, weighing in at just 69 pounds.
We generally found the slender remote 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 secondary controls clustered at the clicker's base, which kind of blend together. We'd like to see dedicated buttons for each input, but since the set automatically senses and skips inactive inputs, cycling between sources is less arduous than usual.
The big news with the HL-T5687S is its LED light source, which as far as we know, is unique to the company. Unlike other microdisplays, which use a single bulb to illuminate one or more pixel-filled chips, the HL-T5687S has a set of three LEDs--one each for red, green, and blue--that create the picture by bouncing light off of one DLP chip. The LEDs last longer than standard bulbs--20,000 hours according to Samsung, vs. about 3,000 for bulbs--and provide one other key bonus compared to other DLP rear-projection TVs: immunity to the rainbow effect.
The HL-T5679S has the same single 1080p (1,920x1,080) native resolution DLP chip that's used in other many rear-projection HDTVs, such as Samsung's own HL-T5676S. That level of native resolution is enough to resolve every detail of 1080 resolution HDTV sources. As usual, all other sources, whether they be from HDTV, standard TV, DVD, or computer, are scaled to fit the native resolution. (Update 07-20-2007) It's also worth noting that these DLPs scan at 120Hz, which with LCD-based sets is said to clean up motion blur. DLP TVs, however, don't typically suffer from motion blur -- and indeed, we didn't notice any improvement in picture quality that we could attribute to the increased scan rate. However, the 120Hz rate does allow these DLPs to integrate 3D compatibility (see below).
Compared to Samsung's line of flat-panel HDTVs, including the HP-T5064 plasma and the LN-T4665F LCD, the HL-T5687S doesn't offer quite the same range of picture controls. We especially missed the ability to adjust color temperature beyond the five presets and the limited "white balance" slider in the user menu (see Performance for details). Samsung includes three picture presets that are each independent per input, although only the Movie preset allows full control over every picture adjustment option.
Those options include a choice of three color gamuts (sRGB came closest to the HDTV standard in our tests); a three-position noise reduction control; Samsung's DNIe function that we left off for high-quality sources because it introduced edge enhancement, and the welcome ability to adjust the position of the image in all four directions, moving it up to see subtitles, for example, or down to obscure tickers. In addition to the aforementioned slider for white balance, the Detailed Settings menu (available only in Movie mode) continues with adjustments for gamma; a Black Enhancer that we left off to preserve shadow detail; a Dynamic Contrast control that we left off because it adjusts contrast on the fly, an Edge Enhancement control that we left off; and a My Color control with sliders to adjust the intensity of various colors. We left them in the default positions because the control didn't seem to have much of an effect, and color decoding and primary colors were generally quite accurate anyway.
In the Setup menu Samsung hides a couple of picture-specific settings, starting with a Film Mode that (ineffectively, it turns out--see below) engaged 2:3 pulldown detection. The Color Weakness control is said to compensate for the "user's color weakness," but for normal users, we suppose, this option shouldn't engaged. There's also a Game mode with picture settings supposedly designed for Adventure, Sports and Standard games, all of which are designed to minimize lag between the controller and the on-screen action. Similarly, the home theater PC mode offers picture settings said to be optimized for computers. We didn't test either of them.
We appreciated the solid range of aspect ratio controls, which include four choices for HD sources. Just Scan is the mode best suited for 1080i and 1080p sources, because it displays the image with no scaling, although like all rear-projection sets, the HL-T5687S did exhibit some overscan even in the Just Scan mode. 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 set also includes a picture-in-picture feature to display two channels or sources at once.
In a laudable effort to ease installation hassles, Samsung mounted the HL-T5687S' entire array of connections on the right side, as opposed to the rear. The array, headed up by three HDMI inputs, provides plenty of connections for even the most tricked-out home theater. There are also two component-video inputs; a VGA-style PC input (1,024x768 recommended resolution), two AV inputs with composite video and S-Video; two RF-style inputs for cable and antenna; an AV output with composite video; an optical digital audio output for audio from the ATSC tuner; a "Wiselink" USB port for displaying JPEG digital photos and playing MP3 files via the TV; and an RS-232 port for custom control systems like Crestron and AMX.