Samsung LN52A750 LCD HDTV 
Home Theater Flat Panel HDTVs LCD HDTVs
Written by Adrienne Maxwell   
Monday, 01 September 2008

I recently saw a CE news headline that read something along the lines of, “Report states that HDTV manufacturers must add more features and interactivity to compete in the future marketplace.” I’m not sure anyone really needed an official report to glean that pearl of wisdom. As performance and price amongst the big-name brands become increasingly similar, features and design play a larger role in distinguishing one TV from the next. With its 2008 line of high-end LCDs, Samsung has gotten aggressive in both respects. The Touch of Color aesthetic aims to catch your eye on the showroom floor, while features like media streaming and RSS feeds give the “connected” user something to be excited about.

Of course, features and design don’t mean much if the TV’s performance is sub-par, but that’s not a concern here. The 52-inch, 1080p LN52A750 hails from Samsung’s top-shelf Series 7 line and consequently employs some of the company’s most advanced imaging technologies. Sadly, it does not sport the LED backlighting found in last year’s 81 Series (Samsung has yet to announce a second-gen LED line), but it does include Auto Motion Plus 120Hz technology, as well as a host of advanced image adjustments and a generous connection panel, for $3,199.99.

Set-up and Features
Embrace the bezel. That could be the LN52A750’s motto. For whatever reason, bezel seems to have become a four-letter word in the TV business, and ultra-thin bezels are the design de jour in both flat-panel and rear-pro circles. Most of the TVs I’ve reviewed this year have put a minimal amount of frame around the screen, which is probably why my husband’s first response upon seeing the LN52A750 was, “That’s a lot of bezel.” There are about three inches of high-gloss-black frame surrounding the LN52A750’s 52-inch screen, compared with less than an inch on the Toshiba 52XF550 I reviewed recently. Beyond the size factor, Samsung further draws attention to the bezel by incorporating a deep red stripe and clear acrylic border all the way around the frame’s edge – hence the Touch of Color moniker. The red effect is actually quite subtle, only really noticeable under brighter lighting conditions. Still, I suspect the Touch of Color design will earn mixed reactions. Personally, I thought the combination of gloss black and deep red gave the LN52A750 an elegance that befits its higher-end status.

The newly redesigned remote has a glossy black face and multicolored, backlit buttons. Samsung has added an iPod-like scroll wheel that’s supposed to make it easier to maneuver the onscreen menus, but I found it frustrating to use: sometimes it was too responsive, and other times it wasn’t responsive enough. Luckily, you can press the top, bottom and sides of the wheel to make it perform more like a directional keypad. The remote lacks dedicated input access; a single Source button scrolls you through the many input options. At least the TV automatically senses which inputs are in use and skips the inactive ones. The Tools button pulls up a handy onscreen interface through which you can change aspect ratio, picture mode and sound mode, as well as set the sleep timer and turn on PIP. While I like this feature, I’d still prefer direct buttons for aspect ratio and PIP; incorporating them solely into this sub-menu demands extra button presses, and no one wants that. I’d love to see Samsung add a direct button to enable/disable the Auto Motion Plus 120Hz feature, so that you can more easily switch modes based on the type of content you’re watching.

The LN52A750 has a thorough connection panel that includes four HDMI inputs (with one on the side panel) that accept 1080p/60 and 1080p/24, as well as two component video and one PC input. A single RF input grants you access to the internal ATSC/NTSC/Clear-QAM tuners. Optical digital and stereo analog audio outputs are available to send HDTV audio to an outboard A/V receiver. There’s no program guide, but PIP functionality is here, with the option for window or side-by-side viewing. Sadly, the PIP implementation is clunky at best, requiring too many steps to turn it on, change channels and adjust audio.

On the LN52A750’s left side panel, you’ll find a USB 2.0 port that allows you to access music, movies and photos stored on a jump drive or another USB device. This function, called WiseLink Pro, offers more advanced sorting and viewing options than you get with many TV media apps, and compatible formats include JPEG, MP3, MPEG2 and MPEG4. You can also update the TV’s firmware using this port. While USB is nice, the LN52A750’s marquee connection is its Ethernet port. Connect the TV to your cable/DSL modem or router, and you can quickly access RSS feeds for news, weather and stocks. A handy Info.L button on the remote launches the RSS menu. The main menu hangs over the top left corner of the screen, while the sub-menus for news, stocks and weather sit in the other three corners. You can view daily or weekly weather forecasts for your zip code, pick your favorite stocks to display and tailor the news to such areas as politics, sports, or money. Using the Ethernet port and the supplied PC Share Manager software (for Windows XP or Vista), you can also add the LN52A750 to your home network and stream movies, music and photos from a PC or any DLNA-compliant media server. If you prefer to wirelessly connect to your home network, you can attach an optional Wi-Fi adapter via the USB port.

The Series 7 LCDs also have internal flash memory and come preloaded with entertainment content, located in the Content Library under the Applications menu. It’s an odd hodgepodge of content, including a photo gallery, a recipes gallery, games, a fitness section and a children’s area that includes stories, songs and games. Frankly, I found all of this content to be of the throwaway variety. I’d like to think that future firmware updates might make this Content Library a more meaningful application by adding the ability to rent or buy media via the network connection, or perhaps Samsung will announce deals with media outlets to make free content available. But that’s just speculation at this point. If the Content Library and the WiseLink Pro USB port don’t interest you, consider the step-down LN52A650 ($2,999.99), which lacks these features but should otherwise offer the same performance.

The features don’t stop with the connection panel. Samsung has included just about every picture control you could want. In addition to expected offerings like preset picture modes (dynamic, standard and movie), an adjustable backlight, five color-temperature options and digital noise reduction, the LN52A750 offers white-balance controls, flesh tone and gamma adjustments, and multiple color spaces with the ability to precisely tweak all six color points. You can configure each picture mode differently for each input. With the movie mode as my foundation and the Video Essentials DVD (DVD International) as my guide, I found that I didn’t need to make many adjustments to enjoy a very pleasing picture. The default gamma setting of zero produced below-average black detail, so I turned this setting up to +2 or +3 (its maximum). The movie mode defaults to the warm 2 color temperature, which proved closest to the accurate 6,500 Kelvin. I never felt the need to move out of the default auto color space, as colors looked very natural. The picture menu also includes set-up parameters for Samsung’s Auto Motion Plus 120Hz technology; the options are off, low, mid, and high, and I experimented with all of them. We’ll discuss performance specifics in the next section. On the audio side, the LN52A750 offers five sound modes, with an equalization feature to fine-tune various frequencies. SRS TruSurround XT processing is available, as is an Auto Volume function that equalizes the level between TV shows and commercials. The Series 7 is Samsung’s only new LCD line to incorporate an internal woofer, which effectively produces a fuller audio experience than I’ve heard from most other flat panels I’ve reviewed.

This year’s models add three entertainment modes that offer fixed video and audio settings designed to suit the type of entertainment (sports, cinema or games) that you’ve selected. When you enable an entertainment mode, it locks most of the video and audio parameters at preset levels. The cinema entertainment presets are slightly different from those of the basic movie picture mode; it’s still a solid choice that might please the average viewer, but it’s a shame to lose access to all those great set-up parameters (especially the adjustable backlight) that Samsung has so kindly included. I therefore opted to keep these modes off and use my own settings instead.

The LN52A750 has six aspect ratios, including a Just Scan mode that displays 1080i/1080p sources with zero overscan. You can also resize 4:3-shaped sources that have been incorrectly stretched across the screen on an HD channel like TNT or TBS. An Energy Savings mode is available that reduces the TV’s brightness and thus its power consumption; if you’ve already set the TV’s adjustable backlight to zero, the Energy Savings options won’t reduce brightness further. The auto Energy Savings mode slightly improves the black level, but it also causes the picture’s brightness to noticeably fluctuate, which I found distracting.

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.

The Downside
My primary concerns with the LN52A750 involve room conditions more than the picture quality itself. Like most LCDs, the LN52A750’s viewing angle is not very good. The TV does produce a watchable image at fairly wide angles, but black levels begin to rise and image saturation begins to fall when you move just 45 degrees off-axis, so the picture loses that great contrast that makes the image so inviting. You’ll want to set up your room so that the main seating area is directly in front of the LN52A750.

Then there’s that reflective screen. Yes, it does improve black level and contrast in a room with ambient lighting, but its highly reflective nature can be distracting. When I tried to watch darker DVD and Blu-ray scenes from The Curse of the Black Pearl, The Bourne Supremacy and The Corpse Bride (Warner Home Video), even under moderate lighting conditions, I could see my own reflection and the reflection of other items in the room. This distracted me from the viewing experience and made it difficult to see fine black detail. Obviously, it’s less of a concern with brighter HDTV and SDTV content. Still, you need to give extra thought to where you place this TV in your room in order to minimize reflections from windows, lamps and the like.

Between last year’s 81 Series LED TV and this year’s LN52A750, Samsung has established itself as a top performer in the high-end LCD realm. The LN52A750 is simply an easy TV to recommend. It renders a beautiful high-definition image with little set-up effort required, while offering the desired picture controls for those discerning fans who want to fine-tune the image. Whether it’s HDTV by day, Blu-ray movies by night, or even standard-def DVD and SDTV, the LN52A750 doesn’t fail to impress. Add in a generous connection panel, lots of features and an attractive design, and the LN52A750 is a must-see for the person who wants a high-performing all-purpose HDTV.
Manufacturer Samsung
Model LN52A750 LCD HDTV
Reviewer Adrienne Maxwell
Diagonal Screen Size 43 to 56-inches
# of HDMI Inputs 4
# of Component Video Inputs 2
HDMI Version 1.3
Native Resolution 1080p
Refresh Rate 120Hz

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