LCDs From Sony, Samsung, Toshiba & Philips Our Motion Tests

Our Motion Tests:

FPD Benchmark Software Blu-ray disc: A world map and a screen filled with letters and Chinese characters; both move at varying speeds and at various brightness levels.

Gladiator, chapter 12: Our standard processing test, a flyover of the Coliseum, is also a great motion test.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Blu-ray disc, chapter 3: Includes several pans of varying speeds, including one of a brick wall with precise details in the bricks.

Heroes, Off-Air 1080i: Pan around a dark room.

I hate interpolated frame. I hate it a lot. With the worst offenders here, the Sony and Samsung, I found the effect so distracting that it actually (and I'm not kidding here) made me queasy. Seeing as I would turn this feature off, I can't see spending the extra money on these models when their 60-hertz brethren perform better and are cheaper.

What's frustrating is that it's not 120-Hz that I don't like; quite the opposite, in fact. It's just the implementation of it so far has been pretty spotty. There are other ways to do 120-Hz that don't massacre the film aesthetic. How about a choice for black-frame insertion? Better yet, where's 5:5 pulldown? I mean 120 is a magic number divisible by 60 and 24. I'm all for reducing motion blur, but not when the cost is an entirely new artifact that actually bothers me more.

But I have to pick something, or Adrienne will kick my ass. The Philips does a lot right, but a low contrast ratio and no adjustable backlight drops it out of contention. The Sony and Samsung are out, as I'd rather get their 60-Hz versions. The Toshiba seemed to look the best (regardless of what the measurements say) and had the least objectionable handling of 120-Hz, at least after the Philips. So, begrudgingly, I'd pick the Toshiba, although in reality, I wouldn't pick any of them.—GM

The idea behind a 120-hertz refresh rate sounds intriguing. Instead of dealing with 3:2 pulldown, it's just doubling video and quintupling film. Plus, motion on LCDs would look that much better because their screens are refreshed twice as many times per minute. Unfortunately, at least with these sets, it just means extra processing. To me, that's never a good thing. 3:2 is still there, and now there's the bonus of interpolated frames.

How drastic the processing is depends on the display. With the Sony, it seems to work pretty well when the motion isn't too fast; but as soon as it's a quick pan, the processing gives up and it looks like a regular LCD panel. The Samsung, with three settings, affects the motion quite a bit. I find the 120-Hz processing a little unnerving and unnatural—sort of like the skeletons in Clash of the Titans. Dare I say there should be more blur than there is? I have a feeling that this function is going to end up as a polarizing factor for people—like edge enhancement tends to. In the case of the 120-Hz processing on these displays, the best aspect is that you can disable it. It just comes down to whether you like the look of it or not. If you don't, save some cash and find a cheaper set without the feature.

If I were forced to single out one of these displays, I'd lean toward the Toshiba. The colors pop more than the others, and that tends to draw my eye.—JH