Samsung HLM617W Rear-Projection HD Monitor

Samsung's HLM617W HD monitor combines rear-projection and DLP technologies in one fine display.

There's something ironic about a rear-projection DLP display. A front or rear DLP projector utilizes millions of microscopic mirrors that reflect light toward or away from the screen for each of the image's pixels. A rear-projection display reflects this projected image off of a large mirror, which bends the image so that it will fit within a shallow, confined space. Samsung's HLM617W makes good use of all of these mirrors in their first 61-inch rear-projection DLP monitor.

As if the advanced imaging technology weren't enough, Samsung has included Texas Instruments' HD2 dark chip, their newest digital micromirror device (DMD), which is the heart of the DLP engine. The DMD uses a 1,280:720 array, or 1,280 mirrors horizontally and 720 mirrors vertically. This resolution is high enough to be officially considered high-definition-television compatible. Of course, since most programs are broadcast in 1080i, the display must convert the image to match the chip's native resolution, but such is life. DLP's biggest drawback has always been its inability to create deep blacks, in part because so much light bounces around inside the engine. Some of that light eventually reaches the screen, which is why early DLP displays produced a gray, washed-out image that lacked depth and contrast.

The HD2 chip incorporates a number of advancements that help absorb some of those internal reflections and thus improve DLP's black level. While I didn't have a non-dark chip nearby to compare, I can say that DLP has made great strides in this regard. The Samsung's image had good contrast, in part because it's incredibly bright but also because the blacks are reasonably dark. It might have helped if Samsung had painted the cabinet's interior matte black instead of light gray. A serious enthusiast might be inclined to paint it himself, but beware: Taking off the front screen is a chore. As it was, I could comfortably watch the picture in a darkened room without the image looking too washed out. Ultimately, though, I felt that the image looked a bit better with some of the room lights on.

The HLM617W also includes a built-in Faroudja deinterlacer with 3:2 pulldown for film-based sources and DCDi for video-based material. The deinterlacer and scaler do an excellent job of converting low-resolution NTSC sources to fit the display's 1,280:720 native resolution. Test results show that the processor eliminates any potential scaling artifacts without introducing new ones. This is no easy feat. My favorite torture-test images from chapter 12 of Gladiator and chapter 10 of The Phantom Menace looked beautiful.

Of course, the set has all of the basic features one would expect, including enough inputs to accommodate an extensive home theater. Connections on the left and rear panels offer basic audio, composite video, and S-video for your gaming console, VCR, and other standard components. Of the three component inputs, one is dedicated to interlaced or progressive DVD (480-line) signals. This input offers complete aspect-ratio control for both 480i and 480p signals so that images properly fit the screen. The other two component inputs accept 480p, 720p, or 1080i DTV signals; so, if your DTV tuner outputs a native-rate signal, make sure it upconverts 480i to 480p. These inputs also offer aspect-ratio control that's more suitably tailored for DTV content. To win additional friends (or just to be cool), Samsung offers both a DVI input with HDCP and a 15-pin RGB connector. Both connections should handle either a PC or HDTV signal. It makes a great deal of sense to connect a computer to this display, given its fixed 1,280:720p resolution and its invulnerability to image burn-in.

HLM617W Rear-Projection HD Monitor