Suffice it to say that over the past few months, I've read literally hundreds of posts from this forum, other Web forums, individual postings, trade publication reviews, downloaded user manuals from manufacturer websites, etc. all in search of the "perfect" HDTV.
Well, there isn't one. Every technology (CRT, CDT, LCD, DLP, LCoS, plasma, front or rear, what have you) has its benefits and its drawbacks. I came to this conclusion early on and decided not to agonize over minor technology hiccups that might give a buyer pause. I decided to focus on basic features and functionality that suit my current viewing lifestyle, which is:
- Both my wife and I watch a lot of widescreen material, so we wanted a 16:9 aspect ration to minimize letterboxing. 4:3 televisions need not apply.
- As such, I didn't want to be concerned with burn-in issues. CRT and plasma went out the window.
- My wife does not like "fat people" (e.g. 4:3 material streched to 16:9) so a broad range of aspect control was extremely important. (I'm packing a few extra pounds myself, but that's a separate issue). If the TV couldn't resize a progressive signal, it got scratched off the list and was not checked twice.
- We didn't mind spending a few $K but did not want to spend a fortune. High-def plasma, 70-inchers and exotic projectors were shown the door.
After cruising through a few BBs, CCs, Tweeters and some more high-end locales (Hi-Fi Sales in Cherry Hill, NJ - strongly recommend for anyone in the area) my wife and I both liked the PQ, presentation & styling of the Samsung DLP line. I immediately began researching both the core technology & the Samsungs in particular, and we eventually decided it was the right TV for us.
(I personally would have enjoyed seeing the Philips Cineos single-chip LCoS, but they're backordered everywhere in the Philadelphia area, and people are buying them sight unseen. I for one don't buy vaporware that I can't see for myself. I'm also very hesitant to embrace ANY first-generation technology, regardless of the hype).
As such, we took an HLN467 from Tweeter home about three weeks ago. The first night it arrived, Hurricane Isabel killed the power in our area and we couldn't watch anything. How's that for irony?
Overall, we're very pleased with the set. Specific observations:
- The discrete codes (found elsewhere in this forum) work as advertised. I was able to directly program my Philips Pronto 3000 using them, and can now jump directly to an input without having to scroll through that obnoxious menu.
- Warm-Up Creaks. Barely noticeable. About 5-10 minutes after powering on, the case creaks a tiny bit from thermal stress as the lamp comes up to temperature.
- The Rainbow Effect. I see the occasional strobophobic rainbow every now and then - maybe once or twice during a dark movie. You can usually see it when there is a bright light (say a fluorescent ballast) against a dark background, and suddenly look away from the screen. Then again, if you suddenly look away from the screen, YOU ARE NO LONGER WATCHING YOUR TELEVISION. If I keep my eyes on the screen, I am hard pressed to see rainbows. Ambient light certainly helps a lot - I have a 20W light source behind the TV, aimed towards the ceiling. This helps with eyestrain as well. As such, my observation of the Rainbow Effect is that, while you can definitely see it when you know what to look for, it is not overly distracting under normal viewing conditions. YMMV.
- The Swarm Effect - I can see flecks of video and DLP noise (e.g. the insect swarm) if I press my face against the television. I can still see it, much less noticeably, from a few feet away. Otherwise, it's not an issue at standard viewing distances (my couch is approximately 8' from the television).
- Fan Noise - Not overly noticeable. I would characterize the sound itself as white noise, and it's not overly distracting or annoying (kind of a cross between a PC fan and a microwave oven). It barely registers on my sound pressure meter, perhaps 2db louder than the room ambient. From 8' away it is barely noticeable. You will not hear it at all with even a moderately dynamic soundtrack.
Now, most importantly, PQ and tweaks:
- Overall PQ is excellent. Colors are bright (overly so, see below). Lateral fade is much less than RP CRT - I assume the Samsung screen is relatively low gain. You can see some slight color banding with DVE test plates and bright, saturated cartoons, but otherwise it's not noticeable with most video material. Glare is almost nonexistent. The picture doesn't suffer from blooming, as is the case with most non-CRT, fixed-display technologies.
- For tweaks, I highly recommend Josh Lehman's consultation services (firstname.lastname@example.org). I contacted him after reviewing threads from others who retained his services, and I find him to be both highly competent and highly responsive. (In one case, I e-mailed him a question at 9:30PM EST (that's right, PM) and he replied IN FIFTEEN MINUTES. He also called around 10:30PM to see how I was doing. Try getting that kind of service from BB or CC - you have better odds of getting hit by lightning in a Vegas casino).
- Following Josh's advice, the resultant PQ is nothing short of stunning. Black levels are excellent (still dark gray, but contrast has improved remarkably) and the transitions between picturebox black, letterbox black and video black have all but disappeared. Color tweaks are dead-on (verified with the new Digital Video Essentials, which I strongly recommend over Avia). Flesh tones look natural and not saturated. It really illustrates how overly-bright (bordering on obnoxious) the default picture was. Then again, the TV has to compete and look good on a BB/CC showroom floor (which it certainly does). Bottom line - get an ISF consultation for your unit - you won't regret it.
- The sharpness control seems to be defeated (not that I'm complaining). I didn't notice a single difference with the DVE Snell/Wilcox test plate across its entire 0 to 100 range.
The family & neighbors love it - beyond PQ, they can't get over the styling, weight and form factor (especially depth, or rather the lack thereof). With the matching stand, it really becomes the centerpiece of the family room.
The only problem at this point is my current HDTV service. While everyone on the planet seems to have the nice new Motorola 5100s, Comcast serves up a POS Scientific Atlanta 3100HD, which was apparently built during the Eisenhower administration. Bright gray pictureboxing, 1080i output only (I wanted 720p to match the set's native capability) no aspect control, no DVI, no Toslink output (all I have left on my current receiver is optical). A real POS. Comcast says they're trying to change over, meanwhile the coax antenna input looks better than HDTV, but this is beyond the topic of this thread.
Perhaps my only gripe is that there are two component inputs which only accept progressive signals - they do not accept component 480i. This presents certain problems if I have, say, component HDTV and component DVD - you lose all but two aspect controls. Only the "normal" and "wide" modes are available with progressive materials - "panorama" and the zoom modes are defeated. All of them are defated with DVI input, but seeing as I don't have any DVI equipment, this is not a prolem at the present time.
Still, I highly recommend the Samsung DLPs. Overall we're very satisfied with the unit.