Samsung LN-R408D 40-inch LCD HDTV Page 2

The Short Form

$2,600 ($3,800 LIST) / 39 x 30 x 13.125 IN, 60 LBS WITH STAND / SAMSUNG.COM / 800-726-7864
•Solid picture with fast-motion programs like sports. •Excellent onscreen EPG. •Nice styling.
•Weak black level and shadow detail. •Coarse picture effects in highlights. •No front- or side-panel input. 0601_samsung_movie
Key Features
•1,366 x 768-pixel LCD display •Built-in HDTV tuner •Digital cable-ready •inputs CableCARD slot; HDMI, 2 component-video, 1 composite/S-video, all with stereo audio; 2 RF cable/antenna; VGA with minijack analog stereo audio •outputs optical digital and analog stereo audio, minijack headphone •Price $2,600 ($3,800 list)
Test Bench
The Samsung's color temperature measured reasonably close to the 6,500-K standard with its Warm 2 mode selected, although there was a pronounced green shift toward darker parts of the picture that could only be corrected with service-menu calibration. Grayscale tracking was ±200 K, which is average. Color-decoder performance was slightly worse than average, with green and red errors visible through both the HDMI and component-video inputs. With test patterns, the set was unable to display all of the detail in a 720p-format HDTV signal.
Moreover, I couldn't turn off the set's DNiE processing, which includes fairly aggressive edge enhancement that adds artificial-looking white halos around objects - only a split-screen demo mode showed the picture with and without DNiE. Fortunately, turning the sharpness down to minimum removed most of DNiE's ill effects.

PICTURE QUALITY Like most LCDs, the Samsung was capable of showing a clean, bright picture when I watched analog cable channels like CNN in a well-lit room. To really put it to the test, though, I pulled out the new Batman Begins DVD and took a trip to Gotham. In a scene where the creepy Dr. Crane and crime boss Carmine Falcone converse in a psychiatric prison's interrogation room, the skin tones of both actors looked natural, and the piercing blue hue of the doctor's eyes was reasonably vivid. However, the horizontal shafts of white light streaking across the walls behind them had a noisy, coarse look. I also noticed a patchy effect in the highlight portions of various images, which tended to look flat or "burned out."

In a subsequent scene where Batman (Christian Bale) surprises Detective Gordon (Gary Oldman) on a fire escape, the Samsung didn't reveal much shadow detail from their surroundings - the black tones of Batman's costume blended into the scene's dark, urban background. Things hardly improved when the action descended to the batcave, where both Batman and his cavernous environment tended to merge into a uniform dark gray, giving the picture a flat, 2-D look.

The Samsung fared much better on less moodily lit movies, like Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, which I recorded off HBO-HDTV on my cable DVR. In the final match between Average Joe's Gym and the obnoxious crew from Globo Gym, the colorful uniforms on both sides - orange-red for the Average Joe's players, purple for the Globo guys - looked rich. The picture showed a good amount of detail, although it was less crisp than on other, similar-size big-screen LCDs I've tested. But what most impressed me was how the Samsung's high-def picture remained solid even through fast-action scenes of dodgeball mayhem. Some LCDs I've seen have a problem with picture "smearing" on shots with rapid motion, but definitely not this one.

BOTTOM LINE The Samsung LN-R408D's occasionally patchy picture and its weak performance with dark programs - something I've seen on several other LCD TVs reviewed recently - make it a dicey option for serious movie watching. But in well-lit rooms - on programs like news, sitcoms, and sports - you'll appreciate its bright picture and solid handling of quick motion. Good looks and a reasonable price tag just round out the package.