I picked up the 55” model from Costco, and I will say I’m very happy for the price. The first thing was to turn off all of the “Advanced Picture” settings (I got a really screwy gamut and grayscale until I noticed the “color enhancement” was turned on that really messes with the primaries and/or secondaries. Once I turned that off, the gamut was reasonably accurate (there are no CMS controls, which is to be expected for this class of TV).
Grayscale required a little tweaking, but not bad out of the box. If you don’t have calibration equipment, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. On mine, I turned down green gain and bias a few clicks and dropped blue gain a few more. I set sharpness at 5. Starting at 8, sharpness starts to impact resolution. Black level, contrast, and color I left at 50. I may play a little more with contrast, because at 90% luminance I was seeing some green in the grayscale.
Smart Dimming works as well as the technology will allow. This set will go completely black, meaning if it is pitch black in the room and you put up a full field luminance level of 0%, you will not see the screen – no gray, just total black.
However, this technology is not perfect. If you are in a completely dark room and a small, white image is on the screen such as the “play” icon from your Blu-ray player, there will be a slight halo around the image. Turn on a minimal level of ambient light in the room, and it is not noticeable. With mixed dark and light scenes (ANSI contrast), this was also not noticeable. From time to time, I could see the LED array go dim, but again this was on a full black background with a small, white image. You can turn off Smart Dimming, but in a dark room, you will see gray instead of black.
For me, I’m willing to live with the compromises of Smart Dimming in exchange for the 95% of the time that it gives an amazing contrast ratio and deep, abyss-like blacks for an LCD TV.
Of course the Dark Knight is a great test of this technology. Excellent blacks and shadow detail evidence a good gamma (I’ll have to specifically measure it later on) and the contrast ratio creates a very immersive, 3D effect. When the bank robbers slide over the street or Batman jumps from the Hong Kong tower, it gets a bit vertiginous. Tim Burton movies looked amazing from Nightmare Before Christmas, to Corpse Bride, to Alice in Wonderland. Pixar movies likewise looked great.
It’s not a perfect TV (show me one that is), but if you’re after deep blacks and a big contrast ratio, and are willing to put up with an LED “halo” artifact from time to time, I think it is hard to beat this set for the money.