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Samsung HL-S5688W 1080p DLP Rear Projection TV Page 2

The Movie mode default settings are far less bright than the others, though you can bump Contrast up from 70 to maximum with no white crush if you really need it to overcome room lighting. Samsung has a built-in limiter to prevent overdriving the set with the Contrast control. DNiE is permanently off in Movie mode (allowing you to run Sharpness up to 50) and Warm 2 color temperature is selected by default, though it's not the same Warm 2 that's used by the other modes. Warm 2 in Movie mode is considerably less bluish and more accurate than Warm 2 in other modes, though with my sample it was still more bluish than the D65 industry standard. Other sets I've calibrated for customers have sometimes been slightly reddish in Movie mode/Warm 2 (there are variations between samples), but in nearly every case Warm 2 in Movie mode will render a better picture than Warm 2 in the other modes.

Movie mode has one more big card in its favor that sets it apart from not only the other modes, but also from most other TVs on the market—almost accurate color. Primary colors (RGB) were, in fact, remarkably close to the standard. It was the secondary colors (yellow, cyan, and magenta) that fell short just as they do in all the other RPTVs I've seen. The surprising fact is that Samsung did this on purpose. They could just as easily have perfectly dialed in the secondaries as well. So, what you have right out-of-the-box is a set that can, with the push of a few buttons, look more accurate than just about any other RPTV out there, yet one that has the potential for true textbook color perfection far beyond any other TV I've yet tested.

The video default settings for Movie mode were more accurate than most. With 1080i HDMI or Component, Brightness (45) was spot-on and only Color needed a slight change (from 45 to 37). DVD players, however, will often require a significant change in the Brightness control.

Viewing Impressions and Comparisons
I watched this set for weeks next to the JVC HD-61FN97 and Mitsubishi WD-65831 reviewed recently before ever doing any sort of calibration outside of the user menu. I was impressed with how sharp the picture was—sharper than the Mitsubishi in all cases and just as sharp as the JVC. So much for the theory that the "wobulating" 1080p DLP chips used in all rear projection sets so far always make a soft picture. Motion, too, was done well, with the texture of playing fields remaining visible during very slow pans.

Due to the recently incorporated dynamic iris, blacks and dark scenes were quite good—sometimes as good as the JVC and very close to the Mitsubushi, while a shade or two lighter than the Sony KDS-R60XBR2. In spite of a good black level, however, the Samsung would occasionally show a noisy, bluish cast (almost a "glow") in the darkest of scenes that was totally absent from the JVC and Mitsubishi. This was difficult to reproduce, but it showed itself regularly in the dark sewer scenes of It's Alive, a horror flick on DISH Network's Monsters HD channel.

In addition, I think Samsung's version of the dynamic iris might be just a shade less refined than Sony's. The Mitsubishi had its own problems in select dark scenes, which leaves the Sony XBR2 as the clear dark scene winner with the JVC coming in second.

Even in Movie mode, this set was very bright, yet the range of the Contrast control was limited. Even "0" Contrast was far from a dim picture. I didn't find the picture excessively bright except on snow scenes in a dark room, but others might. JVC's "Smart Picture" limits blasts of light from an all-white screen without reducing the brightness of other scenes, which is a pretty good idea. Plasma and CRT based sets do this automatically due to power supply limitations, not some clever design innovation. LCD, LCoS, and DLP will get just as bright with the whole screen at full white as they do with only a small white square lit, so the potential is there for an unexpected assault on your eyes in a dark room.

Because this set can get so bright, a fluorescent backlight stuck to the rear of the cabinet, illuminating the wall behind it, would be a welcome addition. (www.ideal-lume.com) Normal room lighting spills light on the screen and hurts contrast; a backlight does not.

The Samsung's video processing and deinterlacing were quite good. The HL-S was remarkably free of artifacts provided DNiE was turned off. Even deinterlacing torture tests were handled well. The Mitsubishi's video processing wasn't even in the contest, and in this area, the Samsung also had an edge on the Sony XBR2. Arguably, processing differences are somewhat less obvious than differences in black level and color accuracy, particularly with HD. Video noise was commendably low which is fortunate, since the digital noise reduction feature was only marginally effective.

Color rendition as delivered (Movie mode) was good, though not exceptional, held back mostly by excess blue in the grayscale. After a simple grayscale correction with instruments, color accuracy was better than the other calibrated sets (specifically the JVC and Sony) though the Mitsubishi was close and stood out in the vividness of its colors. At this point (after grayscale correction), the Samsung wasn't really standing out overall, but it was certainly not taking a back seat to any of the competitors except maybe the Sony, which has better contrast. I was starting to be very impressed.

Finally, I took advantage of the unique capability of this set and did a full calibration of both primary and secondary colors in the service menu. The result was difficult to achieve but remarkable. Suddenly, the JVC looked noticeably wrong by comparison. It clearly had too much yellow in the mix, which was not obvious before. Brown dogs on The Dog Whisperer (DISH network, the National Geographic HD channel) looked completely different on the two sets, with the Samsung clearly looking more correct. Flesh tones were similar unless the models had dark suntans, which always looked incredibly real on the Samsung but too yellowish on the JVC. The Samsung's primary colors were more realistic (especially greens) but it was the secondary colors that really made the big difference. In a remodeling on the Home & Garden HD channel, the paint color was called "copper" but it only looked like copper on the Samsung. This sort of color accuracy is very addictive once you realize just how natural it looks, particularly in a side-by-side comparison with virtually any other HDTV. While it wasn't always obvious (some scenes looked exactly the same), you generally didn't have to watch but a minute or two before some significant color difference hit you in the face. Too bad Samsung didn't do it like this at the factory.

The bad news is that very few pieces of calibration equipment are accurate enough to do this color correction properly in the field. And these are ridiculously expensive and owned by only a handful of ISF calibrators. This, and the fact that the procedure requires special training and costs at least $400, is the part that the other reviews missed, in my opinion. The vast majority of owners across the country will settle for a set that's definitely competitive but not superior, and operating somewhat under its full potential (assuming that color accuracy, not souped-up color, is the goal).

I watched scenes from Star Trek Insurrection at 480i to see how the set did with lower quality standard definition sources. Flesh tones, which had been outstanding with HD, weren't quite so convincing at 480i. But the resolution was impressive.

The Chronicles of Riddick on HD DVD was as sharp and artifact free as I've seen on any RPTV, though color wasn't quite as "pretty" as on the Mitsubishi. A very artificial film like this isn't a good place to demonstrate the benefits of color accuracy and there will always be sources out there that look "prettier" with less accurate sets. Nevertheless, The Chronicles of Riddick still looked sharp and pretty enough to knock your socks off.

Conclusion
Regardless of which screen size you pick, the Samsung 1080p HL-S series is a winner. I was also extremely impressed with the 71" version I've seen several times in the field. Not only is the HL-S technically competent and generally quite good as delivered (once you know how to set it up), it also has far more tweaking potential than any other set, regardless of technology. Now that Samsung has fixed the video memory feature, there's really no reason to hold back an unconditional "go get it" recommendation.

So what you'll get right out of the box is a set with resolution second to none, competitive contrast and good blacks, very good video processing, good features, fairly convenient operation, a good (but certainly not perfect) factory calibration, and (by a small margin and only in Movie mode) the most accurate color rendition of any RPTV you can buy, though maybe not the flashiest. Some people might prefer flashy, super-vivid colors (you know who you are)—I've fallen in love with accurate. Without further calibration, it still falls slightly behind the Sony XBR2 overall, yet it has the potential to look even better in several respects.

But the icing on this cake is that the HL-S is probably the cheapest premium RPTV on the market at "street price," yet it's right up there in overall performance with the most expensive ones. Yes, it's true that a newer version (the HL-T) is coming out now, but that just means the HL-S will be available for even less while they last, and I'm not sure what kind of tricks the newer model can possibly do to significantly beat this one, unless Samsung actually gets the color completely right at the factory this time.

Highs
Unusually accurate color (Movie mode only)
(Unenhanced) resolution second to none
Tremendous bang for the buck

Lows
Dark scene contrast lags slightly behind the competition
Contrast control needs more range (to darken picture further)
Annoying lags in remote control menu access commands

Randy Tomlinson is a certified ISF technician serving Atlanta and the Southeast and can be reached via his web site at www.advancedtechservice.com

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