I posted this in another thread, but was asked to post it here too. So this is my observation today of the 46" 81 series Samsung:
Well I just came back from viewing the Samsung 4681 at BB in Commack N.Y. in the Magnolia section. (if anyone in that area is interested).
Within that same area was a 60" 7g Pioneer and a 50" 8g (non-Elite) Pioneer. I used these as my reference points. This was the same store I first saw the 8g Pioneer Pro 950. It's a good location since their ambient lighting is quite low and does give you some idea of black levels.
Playing was the typical BB loop, nothing unusual. Here are my observations:
Adjustments- First I was surprised that I DID have access to the gains & cuts with the Standard mode which was the mode I used. I thought that was just available in the Movie mode. Good thing becasue the Movie mode was way too tame for me even with contrast cranked way up. In fact, in terms of whites, you proably wouldn't know it's an LCD when in Movie mode...for some that could be a good thing. I set noise reduction to off in all cases but later experimented with them in the 'on' position. I did a rough gray scale adjustment, but Warm 1 was pretty close and didn't need a ton of adjustment to my eye. I did not calibrate any other TV, just the Sammy. I tried various positions of the black level adjustments too as I watched actual material.
LED Demo- I could easily see that no matter what setting you used, when you hit the 'demo' it went into it's Dynamic mode. Yowser, talk about torch mode. I didn't think the demo was a reaslistic representation of anything, but I was curious.
Black Levels- Very interesting and I must give D-Nice credit here since I think he nailed it. There is no question that this panel can produce a black or, under the conditions I viewed it, certainly what appears to be a black when the entire screen FADES to black. Is it blacker than the 8g Pioneers with a fade to black? Hard to tell, but it's probably close, maybe a bit better or a bit worse, I really couldn't make that assessment. But here's the rub and IMO, it's a big rub. In the lower light registers, when things get overall dim, the more typical LCD muddiness sets in. No, it's not as bad as other LCDs, but I sure as heck saw it. Using the Pioneers as a reference, there was no comparison. There was none of the muddiness with the 8g Pioneer and even the 7g Pioneer looked better in this respect. Detail was simply missing in the Samsung that was very obvious in the Pioneers. So yes, it appears it can do black, but it can not do the lower registers of the light scale, where detail is present, as well as the new Pioneers...or for that matter the 7g Pioneers. I tried engaging and disengaging the black enhancements to see if they were impacting low level detail, but no matter what I did I could not get the detail in the lower registers.
Color- I set the color to 'wide' and again, whether it was due to the black levels in the lower registers or not, I simply could not achieve the depth of color, the saturation and the overall picture depth as the reference Pioneers. Trust me, this was not bias, it was simple observation. I really did try to improve upon this overall depth, but no matter what I did, I could not match the Pioneers.
Whites- No question the Samsung has the eye-searing whites that is typical of LCDs. For me this was never a selling point since a properly adjusted display should never be this bright. Interestingly, as I pointed out at the beginning, in the Movie mode the Pioneer actually had whiter whites than the Samsung. So once you set the display to the proper values, this blinding white becomes less of a comparison point. Anyone that's ever gone into a professional network studio will know what I'm talking about. You will never ever see contrast set so high so as to have whites super bright.
Noise- I don't know why, but I saw considerably more noise on the Samsung then most of the panels in the area. The Sharp LCDs exhibited less noise than the Samsung and the Pioneers were the smoothest and most noise-free.
Overall Picture Quality- I could certainly see the selling point with the new Samsung, brilliant whites for those that like that, and the ability to go to black under certain circumstances. But for me, the failing of low level detail together with a pictrue depth that simply didn't approach that of the Pioneers I was using as a reference point, made this display a disappointment. Beyond getting to that nice black on a fade to black, I didn't see a whole lot of value in the local area LEDs. Sure it gives you a nice CR to tout, but under real world conditions it's simply another inflated manufacturer's spec.
Of course others will have different opinions, but this was how I saw it with remote in hand.