|Samsung LN52A750 LCD HDTV|
|Home Theater Flat Panel HDTVs LCD HDTVs|
|Written by Adrienne Maxwell|
|Monday, 01 September 2008|
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Television and Movies
I began my evaluation with some midday viewing of the Euro 2008 soccer tournament and early rounds of Wimbledon on the ESPN HD channels. At its default backlight setting of 5 (which falls in the middle of the range), the LN52A750 has ample brightness that gives HD sporting events a lot of pop in a moderate to bright room. Turning the backlight all the way down produced an image that was a bit too dim for daytime viewing; turning it all the way up made the image too bright for my tastes – it would definitely cause some eye fatigue. One of the first things you might notice about the LN52A750, whether it’s on or off, is that the screen is reflective, more akin to a plasma than a traditional matte LCD screen. Samsung claims that the screen rejects ambient room lighting and therefore helps blacks look deeper, and that definitely proved to be true with my review sample. Black sidebars looked almost as deep as the TV’s dark black bezel, and darker portions of the HD image looked truly black, not gray. Combined with the TV’s great light output, the result is a picture with fantastic contrast that allows HDTV content to look quite striking in a daytime viewing environment.
Further helping the LN52A750’s cause is its fairly accurate color temperature and its ability to render natural colors. The greens in the soccer field and tennis court looked natural, not neon or cartoonish as is so often the case with flat panels. The rest of the color points followed suit, looking rich and vibrant without going over the top. The warm 2 color temperature is a little cooler than the reference 6,500 Kelvin, but neither whites nor darks ever looked overly blue, and skin tones were pleasingly natural. Again, controls are available to fine-tune flesh tones and color saturation if you wish, but I never felt the need to mess with them. Detail in HD sports and primetime programming, be it 720p or 1080i, was very good, and it only got better when I switched to 1080p/24 Blu-ray discs through the HDMI inputs. Demo scenes from Ratatouille (Buena Vista Home Entertainment), Black Hawk Down (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Buena Vista Home Entertainment) revealed excellent detail, great contrast and rich colors, with little digital noise.
As day turned to night and the room’s ambient light faded, those impressively deep blacks lost a bit of their luster, but were still quite good for a traditional LCD. In a completely dark room, the TV benefited from lowering the backlight to its minimum setting, at which point Blu-ray movies had very nice saturation and contrast. For the most part, the TV ably rendered fine black details in darker scenes from War (Lionsgate Home Entertainment), Black Hawk Down, Signs (Buena Vista Home Entertainment) and The Bourne Supremacy (Universal Studios Home Video). However, in both black level and black detail, the LN52A750 didn’t quite measure up to the finest theater-worthy panels I’ve tested, like Pioneer’s KURO plasmas or even Samsung’s 81 Series LED LCD. It lacked that extra bit of nuance, shading and dimensionality, but still produced a very attractive image with no significant performance flaws.
I was impressed with the LN52A750’s handling of 480i sources in both the de-interlacing and up-conversion departments. SDTV and DVD sources were nicely detailed, with few digital artifacts. In fact, the LN52A750 did a better job with both the film- and video-based test patterns on my HQV Benchmark DVD (Silicon Optix) than any TV I’ve reviewed in quite a while. As for 1080i sources, the HD HQV Benchmark Blu-ray disc (Silicon Optix) showed that the TV correctly de-interlaced 1080i sources, but did not pick up the 3:2 sequence in film-based sources (the process by which 24-frames-per-second film is converted to 60-frames-per-second video). That said, I didn’t notice any significant artifacts with film-based 1080i HDTV or Blu-ray content. In the opening of chapter eight from the Mission: Impossible III Blu-ray disc (Paramount Home Entertainment), the staircase didn’t contain the excessive moiré I normally see when a TV has poor processing, but the scene did look a little cleaner when I switched the Blu-ray player to 1080p/24 output. (According to Samsung, a professional calibrator can make changes in the service menu to get the TV to pass the HQV test; however, given that performance is fine with real-world material, it’s not that important.) Digital noise was occasionally a concern with DVD, especially through the component video inputs. However, I found that the auto or high noise-reduction setting did a great job of cleaning things up without softening the picture.
What about the LN52A750’s major feature, Auto Motion Plus? According to Samsung, the LN52A750 outputs every source at a 120Hz frame rate, no matter which Auto Motion Plus setting you choose. What changes as you move from one setting to the next (off, low, medium or high) is how the TV converts the original source to 120Hz. When Auto Motion Plus is off, the LN52A750 purportedly just repeats existing frames. For 60Hz sources, it repeats each frame twice, called 2:2 pull-down, to get 120Hz. For 24Hz sources, it repeats each frame five times, called 5:5 pull-down. Lots of videophiles prefer this 120Hz method, because it preserves the look and movement of film while reducing judder. The low, medium and high modes, on the other hand, appear to use varying degrees of frame interpolation, with information taken from existing frames to create new ones, producing a smoother, more fluid motion that makes film look more like video. I tested the various settings using pans in chapter 12 from the Gladiator DVD (DreamWorks Home Entertainment) at 60Hz and chapter two from The Curse of the Black Pearl Blu-ray disc at 24Hz. The off setting seemed to produce slightly less judder than the traditional 3:2 pull-down process, but didn’t eliminate it entirely. Furthermore, this mode didn’t do anything to prevent the motion blur that’s common to LCDs. With AMP turned off, I saw a fair amount of blur in the moving test patterns on my FPD Software Group Blu-ray disc; however, this blur was clearly reduced once I set AMP to low, medium or high. I found the high mode’s super-smooth, video-like motion to be somewhat distracting and unnatural, while the medium and low modes struck a nice compromise, noticeably reducing judder but allowing film sources to still look like film sources. By offering four modes, Samsung has wisely covered its bases, letting you choose the level of processing that suits your taste. In general, this year’s Auto Motion Plus technology is more stable than last year’s, introducing fewer glitches and artifacts during the process. AMP struggled more with SDTV and HDTV sources, which tend to jump between film and video, than it did with DVD and Blu-ray sources that are consistently film-based.