Samsung HLN467W DLP RPTV

"Yes, but can you live with it?"

I had just expressed my enthusiasm for the HLN467W, Samsung's latest slim-bezel rear-projection DLP set, to a skeptical fellow consumer-electronics writer. His reaction to the lightweight (73.8 pounds), 46-inch, $4499 tabletop wonder had been less than enthusiastic. (Yes, it's true: Writers—even when they write for competing magazines—sometimes compare notes.)

"What about the video noise?" he hammered.

"You have to put your eyeballs on the screen to see it," I countered.

"What about the white crush?" He was referring to the set's dynamic-range compression at the bright end of the scale. "What about the grayed-out blacks?"

And so it went, as he ticked off the list of DLP's shortcomings that, while well known, are usually never mentioned in the mainstream press's breathless coverage of new microdisplay technologies.

Every technology has its pluses and minuses, and Samsung has not worked DLP miracles with the HLN467W. What it has done is come up with a more than competent implementation of Texas Instruments' HD2 chip, starting with a handsome, space-saving physical cabinet of muted silver and black with an almost frameless screen, a versatile and easy-to-use operating system, and a full complement of useful features.

May I Use Your Facilities?
The HLN467W's rear-panel inputs include two each for antenna and composite/S-video with L/R audio, and three sets of component-video inputs (all with L/R audio), two of which are high-definition–capable (the third accepts only 480i and 480p). There's also a DVI-HDCP connector, and a DB-15 for PC. The chassis's right side hosts composite and S-video plus analog audio inputs, as well as basic operating controls, including access to the onscreen menu system. Three LEDs on the front panel monitor timer, lamp, and temperature status.

Samsung's remotes are mostly gray, unattractive, unlit affairs, and this one is no exception. But at least it's versatile and well laid out, with well-differentiated buttons of varying size. Still, I had to practice working the Highlight/Select joystick to avoid pushing down and selecting when I meant to only navigate.

Press the On/Off button and a chime lets you know your command has been obeyed. I found the setup menu system convenient, exceptionally easy to use (no video game–like animated graphics), and extremely versatile.

There are three preset picture settings (Standard, Dynamic, Movie), plus Custom, which lets you optimize the set's picture beyond the cartoon level of the presets. When you choose a parameter to adjust, its graphic drops to the bottom of screen, giving you a clear view of the test patterns. Each input's settings are retained in memory—a big plus.

Pressing the remote's TV/Video button displays a clean, easy-to-read graphic show-ing all inputs, each conveniently labeled "connected" or "not connected." Using the remote's navigation button, you scroll to the desired input and select it.

Overall, the HLN 467W's ergonomics are very well executed. Though the set is packed with features and performance op-tions, I found it easy to use.

Stellar Performance
It took the HLN467W less than a minute to produce a fully lit picture, though its out-of-the-box performance was seriously hampered by ridiculous factory color-temperature settings—well above 15,000 kelvins over most of the IRE range, dropping to 11,000K at 20 IRE. No wonder everything looked like a cartoon. Post-calibration, the set tracked close to the ideal 6500K across the board (see the accompanying calibration results).

TI's HD2 chip has a native resolution of 1280x720, to which the Samsung converts all incoming signals. Both analog antenna and S-video inputs looked more than acceptable from my DirecTV receiver, most of the problems being due to source limitations. Over-the-air analog looked richly saturated and more than adequate—but how many of you will be watching such signals? A 4:3 image can be stretched with the HLN467W's Panorama mode, which did a pretty good job of leaving most of the picture intact while unobtrusively stretching the sides. There are also two picture-cropping Zoom settings.

Playing DVDs through the set's component-video inputs or DVI connector (using Samsung's $299 HD-931 DVD player, which lets you match the player's output to the display's native resolution) looked clean, crisp, and reasonably natural, with few noticeable artifacts on either video or film sources. Winged Migration looked particularly stunning, though compared to my Hitachi 65XW20B 65-inch CRT-based RPTV, the picture was almost too crisp—the live footage looked almost computer-animated. In my experience, that's a problem all fixed-pixel devices have in comparison to CRTs.

Overall, displaying scenes with average or bright lighting, the Samsung's performance with DVDs was eye-catching. Not surprisingly for a DLP, dark scenes gave it the biggest problems, though not to the point of looking noticeably gray or washed-out. The old standby Dark City was rendered sufficiently dark and rich to be more than acceptable, though video noise was quite noticeable when I got as close as 5 feet from the screen.