Samsung PN58C6400 Plasma HDTV

Audio|Video|Misc
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VIDEO PERFORMANCE

1. GENERAL — The video presets on the PN58C6400 were tried with many different program materials on all the sources. In genernal, Movie picture mode provided the best results, with color tone on Normal or Warm1. Contrast was set around 70%, brightness at around 60%, black tone on Normal or Dark. Dynamic Contrast was left off along with Digital Noise Filter, MPEG Noise Filter, Flesh Tone, Edge Enhancement and other advanced features. A bit of tweaking in the video settings menu — mostly brightness, contrast — could enhance specific program material, but the Movie/Warm1 presets provided excellent results and were usually good enough to leave alone. Colors were rich, vibrant, realistic; contrast and brightness were very good. Movie mode also was the best 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. The quality of the signal and the programming affected the video 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 good transparency. These comments held true for 1080i TV broadcasts, 1080p Bluray discs, as well as a wide range of 1080p and 720p digital files. 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.

3. MOTION JUDDER was a problem with the video output of an earlier HTPC on a lot of program material. This had to do mostly with the synchronization between the TV's natural refresh rate, the refresh rate of the video card settings, and the precise FPS of the program material. It is also referred to as Telecine Judder, which occurs as a result of a slight timing error in the viedo signal as it is transferred from one medium (typically film) to another (typically digital). This is particularly visible during slow, steady camera movements which appear slightly jerky when telecined. The earlier HTPC was built around an AMD 785G chipset and integrated video with a dual-core Athlon.

At the beginning of the review process, before this issue was sorted out, judder with HTPC movies was sometimes so bad as to be utterly watchable. Here are some notes from that period:

  • There is a bit of visible judder via the Shaw HD PVR, which provides TV content in 1080i. This is more than all the various other LCD TVs I've tested / used here (4 in all).
  • With the HTPC, it was absurdly bad at first, gave me a headache in less than an hour of viewing and experimenting. After many hours of tinkering with adjustments, the judder is now acceptable only with some HD (1080/720p compressed & uncompressed) movies. And only with just the right combination of settings.

When this problem was first encountered, we called out to our colleagues at Missing Remote for assistance, as they live and breathe HTPC and big screen TVs. Some of their generously helpful responses and advice:

From Mikinho & Andrew Van Til:

  • You will need to use INPUT 1 and have it labeled as DVI PC. Sounds silly but this changes the presets. Some PN58C6400 options are obscured as presets rather than exposed to the user as real options.
  • As Andrew mentions, you'll also need to configure pulldown on the GPU for 24p since it is not supported on the PN58C6400.
  • For MPC-HC, using MadVR and Reclock offers a great way to reduce judder and optimal colorspace. MadVR produces the best chroma upsampling and scaling quality I've seen. Reclock to reduce the judder.

From Aaron Ledger:

  • I own the PN58C8000 plasma display which is a big brother to the PN58C6400. I don't know a whole lot about the C6400 series, but I think it is a model reserved for sale in club stores like Costco and Sam's Club. From what I understand, it is fairly similar to the C6500 model, which mainly removes 3D capability and proper 24p support (Cinema Smooth).
  • If your source is 24p from your HTPC (23Hz GPU setting which is 23.976Hz), the C6400 should be doing the pulldown to 59.94Hz itself. This will result in the inevitable telecine judder. You could also do the pulldown in the HTPC by putting your output refresh rate to 59.94Hz (59Hz GPU setting).
  • In my experience with the C8000, Cinema Smooth does not exhibit judder that is introduced by 2:3 pulldown. You do of course still have the poor temporal resolution (low frame rate) of the film itself, but nothing can be done about that. Cinema Smooth simply takes each frame of film and displays it 4 times the 23.976 frame rate.
  • If you wanted to, I understand it is possible to change the display type of the lower Samsung plasma models to that of the C8000 to get Cinema Smooth option. http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1242723
  • If you've become used to frame interpolation in LCD displays, the C6400 plasma is going to appear to have more judder. The C8000 plasma features an option called Motion Judder Canceller (MJC) which is essentially frame interpolation and gives a similar effect to what happens on some LCD displays. MJC is not available on the lower tier models. Note that there was a firmware bug on some of the lower tier Samsung plasmas that always had this feature enabled though it has since been corrected, so make sure you have the latest firmware. I prefer to leave this option off all the time except for perhaps watching sporting events.

Further tweaking of all the various settings eventually resolved the problem, but there still were times when the refresh rate of the graphics card simply had to be changed to match the video file characteristics to get acceptably smooth motion.

Interestingly, simply upgrading to the higher performance HTPC (AMD 890G chipset, w/ 4-core Phenom II) resolved all of the HTPC judder issues. Now, HDMI1 is relabeled as DVI PC, the PC graphics settings are set to 1980 x 1080 @ 60Hz refresh, and the TV can play any decent movie or video file without judder.

3. BLACK — The depiction of black was very good, even off to the side, well beyond 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 the same result that we obtained with the last reviewed Samsung LCD TV. This plasma is excellent for black depcition, but it is not better than the LN55C650, only as good. There does not really seem to be much room for improvement, anyway.

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. Still amazing that most of us watched 480i TV till just a few years ago!

AUDIO

The speaker system and ampliers in the PN58C6400 are good enough to allow immersion into a decent program. There is plenty of volume, extended enough highs, and adequate bass. Clarity with dialog is good, though 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 sometimes 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 AllShare 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 spotty, just like with the LN55C650. No surprise, as the feature and implementation are identical. The Samsung TV only saw the Windows 7 PCs in the network. The manual lists a big 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 playable 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. Such directly connected devices are accessed via a single button on the remote called Media Play.

A digital HD video file played directly on the PN58C6400 sometimes looked slightly better than when that same file was played from the HTPC. The reverse rarely, if ever, occurred. The difference, when it showed up, was small, however.



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