Samsung HCJ655W 65-Inch Rear-Projection HDTV

Breaching the digital frontier.

Digital, digital, digital. The generic term for the numerical representation of sounds and images is definitely the buzzword for the new millennium. Samsung, a relative newcomer to the U.S. rear-projection market, has taken that buzzword to heart and taken a bold step forward, creating an almost all-digital chassis for their rear-projection displays.

The HCJ655W is Samsung's top-of-the-line digital television. By digital television, I mean that the set receives and internally decodes DTV signals from your local broadcaster. All you need is an antenna on the roof. Then again, you could also consider this a digital television because all signals, both digital and analog, are processed and manipulated digitally. In the end, like nearly all other digital televisions, the Samsung set converts these signals back into an analog wave-form to be displayed on the CRT. Unlike other sets, however, the HCJ655W displays all signals with 1,080 interlaced lines on 9-inch CRTs. This offers the potential for better resolution and a better picture.

To get a better picture, though, you first have to connect the television to your system. For this, the 65-inch set comes equipped with six and a half audio/video inputs. Six and a half? No, this isn't some census figure that says the average household has 2.3 kids and 0.75 dogs—it's just the most accurate way I can describe the set's inputs. For starters, behind the groovy, motorized door on front, there's a full stereo audio, composite, and S-video input—that's one. The second and third inputs, labeled video 1 and video 2, are also complete with stereo audio, composite, and S-video connectors and are located on back. The component 480i/DVD input (number four) has Y/Pb/Pr video jacks and both stereo analog and coaxial digital audio inputs. On the downside, this input won't accept externally line-doubled or progressive-scan DVD signals. However, I think the addition of the digital audio input is pretty cool. This either utilizes the internal Dolby Digital decoder or is switched to the external digital audio output. Inputs five and six are the RF connections for cable and antenna feeds. The half, and final, input is the component 1080i/external-DTV-tuner connector. This jack allows you to use an appropriately terminated external DTV cable, a DBS receiver, or an upgraded terrestrial tuner. I like this flexibility, but I consider it half an input because this connector shares audio sources with the component DVD input. This probably won't be an issue for most people. If you fill up all the inputs that the TV offers, you should consider using an external receiver or preamp anyway.

If you don't have an external switcher, you'll still have plenty of audio options. In addition to the typical analog audio outputs that can be sent to your receiver or preamp, you'll find both coaxial and digital audio outputs. These allow you to send the DTV broadcast's Dolby Digital signal to an external receiver. Analog television channels are converted to PCM and routed out the digital output, as well. Unfortunately, the audio level of the analog channels is extremely low compared with that of the HD channels and their Dolby Digital signal. You may be better off running both analog and digital signals to your receiver for both analog and digital channels, respectively. As I mentioned before, you can also route your DVD's audio signal through this output.

If you don't have an external decoder, you can use the one built into the television. With this, you have the option of using internal or external main speakers with the TV's audio amplifier. I found the internal speakers to perform quite well. They provide relatively deep bass and a clear top end, with only a bit of coloration in the midrange. If you opt for external speakers, you can use the internal speakers for center-channel duty. Powered surround speakers and an active subwoofer can be connected to the line-level outputs. You could run your entire A/V system off this TV.

Not only that, but you can easily control the system with Samsung's excellent user interface. The attractive, intuitive, and well-organized onscreen menu gives you complete control over everything from speaker arrangements and video settings to channel tuning. You can use the onscreen signal-strength meter to align your rooftop antenna to give you the best DTV reception. Then, you can fine-tune the reception for each analog channel. This is great, since the digital-TV-reception level may be too high for analog channels. Other excellent features include an incredibly well-done manual and packing material that's easy to remove. In short, it won't take long for you to unpack, set up, and watch this TV.

The remote, like the menu, is ergonomic. This means that it fits in your hand nicely and you can find useful buttons without looking at it. Maybe it's just my Attention Deficit Disorder getting the best of me, but I don't much like the I-point control. This button is like the point-stick mouse substitute found on PC laptops. Unlike the cursor on my laptop, however, the TV's onscreen cursor moves too slowly, and there's no way to speed it up. Others might find the single-button control useful, though.

The only feature missing is a zoom mode for linear widescreen images. The set offers anamorphic widescreen (1.78), 4:3 (1.33), and panoramic screen modes, the latter of which stretches 1.33 material horizontally to fit the wide screen. However, there's no way to expand nonanamorphic widescreen images or widescreen movies that are letterboxed for a 1.33 image to fill the screen. This is a serious drawback for enthusiasts.

HCJ655W Rear-Projection HDTV