Samsung HPN6339 63-inch Plasma HDTV Monitor Page 2

After calibrating the HPN6339 to NTSC color temperature (see "in the lab", below), I settled down to watch the new DVD of X-2: X-Men United. It became immediately apparent that high resolution really pays off at 63 inches. When the mutant kids visit the museum, the closeup of Jean's skin on the huge screen was almost too close, revealing pores and bumps and tiny wrinkles. The scene also made a great showcase for the set's excellent color. Jean's hair was tinged a lustrous auburn, the forked-tongued mutant Arty's rugby shirt was a vibrant red, and the lime shirt and subtly tanned skin of his pre-teen crush were both brilliant and realistic. Thanks to the Samsung's precise color decoder, I could crank the color control to more than 50% without tinting everyone's skin red. samsung 63 inch - back

The movie's opening scene gazes over a star field and, as I expected, the blackness of space wasn't quite the deep, deep black you'd expect to see. Instead the spaces between the stars looked dark gray, causing the image to seem a bit washed out in the dark room. Although viewers who expect the kind of well-defined shadows produced by tube-based sets might be disappointed, the HPN6339 handled detail in darker areas better than many plasma displays I've seen. During the initial sequence where Nightcrawler invades the White House, for example, I could see the ridges of tattoos in his black forehead as he peers through a doorway, and the gradation from the depths around his eyes to the lighter shade of his cheekbone came across relatively smoothly.

HIGH POINTS Extremely detailed high-res images. Accurate color. Excellent video processing.

LOW POINTS Expensive. Picture jitter with 1080i sources. Some loss of detail in white areas.

I had a larger issue with the set's performance in areas of the picture that were near white. The walls inside the president's residence often caused snowy-looking video noise and visible gradations to appear wherever the whites took on slightly darker shades. On the other hand, the smoky clouds left behind by Nightcrawler's teleportation looked clean.

When I connected the TV to 1080i (interlaced) high-def sources, I was surprised to see some areas of the picture jitter. I first noticed this while watching a special on Japan from PBS's HDTV loop, where the white flowers in a bouquet behind a businessman seemed to vibrate slightly. Next I tried Samsung's own HDTV tuner via both DVI and component-video connections: the vibration was most obvious on the menu system, and it disappeared when I switched the output to 720p or 480p resolution. It also occurred on many test patterns from the 1080i D-VHS tape version of Digital Video Essentials (DVE), but again, the 720p version looked rock-solid. The upshot here: Any HDTV receiver or other high-def component connected to the HPN6339 should be set to output only 720p. That's not a huge handicap as far as I'm concerned, since 720p tends to produce more stable, filmlike images anyway.

I watched the restaurant sequence from DVE at 720p, and the clarity of the 63-inch image blew me away. The closeup pan over the food revealed garden-fresh colors in the salad vegetables and subtle textures in the chicken skin, and the raspberries were replete with fuzz. The only glitch I noticed was some dancing motes of video noise and gradations in the shadows on the plates and wrinkles in the tablecloth.

Dancing motes and gradations notwithstanding, the Samsung HPN6339 delivers an immense, jaw-dropping picture. Its facility in rendering the exquisite detail of high-definition TV is matched by its highly accurate color, and the bright image will be especially welcome in day-lit rooms. The stratospheric price makes owning one of these slim monsters a privilege only a few people will enjoy, but if you want the biggest flat-panel set available, there's no other game in town. Anybody who sees this huge yet skinny TV will walk away flat-out impressed.

In the Lab

Color temperature (Warm2 color temperature, Movie setting before/after calibration) Low window (30-IRE): 8,219/6,485 K High window (100-IRE): 7,387/6,525 K

Brightness (Warm2 color temperature, Movie setting before/after calibration, 100-IRE) 40.2/39.2 ftL

Before calibration, the HPN6339 came fairly close to the NTSC standard color temperature of 6,500 K, but it was so blue at very low light levels (20 IRE and below) that I ended up adjusting the low end at 30 IRE. Calibration improved the numbers significantly, and grayscale tracking was average, varying by 250 K from one end of the scale to the other. (Calibration needs to be performed by a qualified technician with specialized equipment, so discuss it with your dealer before purchase, or call the Imaging Science Foundation at 561-997-9073.)

Both before and after adjustment, light output was excellent. The set's NTSC color decoder was very good. Video processing was excellent, and there was no sign of edge enhancement with sharpness reduced to zero. DC restoration was average; the level of black varied somewhat with changes in the average brightness level. Overscan was higher than average, showing a 5% picture loss along the top and right edges.

With a DVI input from Samsung's TS-160 set-top HDTV tuner, there was a vertical stripe along the left edge, and the entire image was shifted to the right, but I was able to fix this in the service menu. While geometry was perfect, brightness uniformity was not: I saw slight variations in the gray field patterns from the Digital Video Essentials test disc. Viewing angle was as good as with any direct-view TV.