Samsung LN55C650 55" LCD HDTV

Audio|Video|Misc
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VIDEO PERFORMANCE

1. GENERAL — The video presets on the LN55C650 were tried with many different program materials; Movie and Natural were the choices that provided the best results, with Normal or Warm1 color balance. Some tweaking in the video settings menu — mostly brightness, color saturation or backlighting — could enhance specific program material, but the defaults were usually good enough to leave alone. The slight reduction in sharpening in Moview also made it the better choice for less than pristine HD material; for example, 1080i broadcast TV under higher compression conditions (such as prime time on the Shaw cable TV network in Vancouver).

2. HD — With a high quality HD signal, the video performance was consistently excellent. Vivid and natural come to mind. The quality of the signal and the programming affected the video far more than minor changes in the TV controls. With poorer quality material, the artifacts and flaws of the original were easily seen, much like with poor sources and a high quality audio system. In general, the Samsung video processing handles the deinterlacing, upconversion and other tasks very well, with great transparency. These comments held true for 1080i TV broadcasts, 1080p Bluray discs, as well as a wide range of 1080p and 720p digital files.

The Auto Motion Plus 120Hz motion smoothing feature seemed to work better than in last year's Samsung UN55B7100. Engaging the presets or manually adjusting the 10-step controls gegerally improved the clarity of the foreground in fast moving scenes. However, it was not 100% consistent. In many high action sports, the motion on the screen occurs in multiple directions simultaneously — for example, players sprinting in opposite directions, while a ball is moving in yet another arc, with the camera tracking the ball, and sometimes with the camera moving as well. In such scenes, the quest for perfect clarity seems downright silly.

Tests for film resolution, video resolution loss, signal filtering ("jaggies") and HD noise in the HD HDQ Benchmark Blu-ray disc by HQV Silicon Optix were all easily passed by the LN55C650.

3. BLACK — The depiction of black was superb, even when well off to the side, in excess of 30 degrees off axis. There was simply no fading to gray of black portions on the screen viewed from anywhere in the 12' width of the room. This is clearly superior to last year's much more costly Samsung LED LCD TV, UN55B7100, whose blacks tended to slide towards gray when viewed more than 20 degrees off axis.

4. STANDARD TV — No one buys a HD TV capable of 1080p resolution video to watch 480i programming but it still happens from time to time. When it does happen, your eyes will not be insulted by this Samsung TV's video processing, which does a good job of making the lower quality signal watchable. Amazing that we watched 480i TV most of our lives!

AUDIO

The speaker system and ampliers in the LN55C650 will not win high end audio awards, but they are good enough to allow immersion into a decent program. There is plenty of volume available before any distorition occurs, extended enough highs, and adequate bass. Clarity with dialog is good, though of course, it varies with program material. If you are not planning to view HD music videos on a regular basis, the speakers and amp in this TV will do fine. The standard audio profiles (Movie, Clear Voice, etc) are equalizer presets which can be improved upon by directly tweaking the 5-band equalizer. The internal speakers can be turned off when using an external amp and speakers.

NETWORKING, MEDIA SHARING

Samsung's home networking function, called DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) in the past, is now called AllShare. It provides networking to access media files on any number of networked devices and PCs from the TV. No software needs to be installed in any of the other devices; they just need to be connected to the TV in one way or another.

Access to/from PCs was somewhat spotty. In our network, there is a mix of Windows 7, XP, and Vista machines. For whatever reason, the Samsung TV only ever saw the Windows 7 PCs in its network. The manual lists an impressive range of supported files: AVI, MKV, ASF, WMV, MP4, 3GP, VRO, MPG, and TS. In actual use, the TV's ability to recognize media files was considerably more limited than any Windows HTPC. There's was no clear rhyme or reason why one MKV file would be recognized and played but not another.

Generally, access to non-PC devices connected via USB (such as external hard drives, cameras, etc) with flat, simple folder structures were always more consistent than files in PCs, which invariably have more complex folder systems. Such directly connected devices are accessed via a single button on the remote called Media Play.

One consistent result was that a digital HD video file played directly on the LN55C650 always looked slightly better than when that same file was played from our reference Home Theater PC, whose video output is generally excellent. The difference was generally subtle, but it was there to be seen. Compared to direct play using AllShare on the Samsung TV, the HTPC feed always looked a bit too contrasty with too much sharpening. Samsung TV made the same video file look softer and smoother without losing sharpness or detail, more natural without losing vividness. The Samsung's video processing simply seemed a touch superior to that of the embedded GPU in the AMD 780G chipset of the HTPC. Two other PCs with recent Intel and nVidia GPUs were also tried briefly; the Samsung TV's internal processing of the video files was always the winner. It's unfortunate that not all video files in all connected devices were recognized consistently by the TV.



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