An early proponent of Digital Light Processing (DLP) rear projection, Samsung has moved ahead of its competitors in DLP sales volume. The HL-R5668 56-inch model represents Samsung’s smallest screen size using Texas Instruments’ latest 1080p chip. Like all other 1080p DLP RPTVs to date, this one uses TI’s SmoothPicture technology (commonly called wobulation) to leverage the 960x1080 array of mirrors on the chip to produce 1920x1080 pixels on the screen.
Unlike previous Samsung models I have reviewed, the HL-R5668W has many high-end features, including CableCARD, TV Guide On Screen, and D-Net (Samsung’s name for FireWire). The HL-R5668W also provides a number of convenience features, including picture in picture (PIP), timer functions, and input naming. Especially useful is the set’s automatic input sensing, which ignores an input when cycling through them with the SOURCE button on the remote control if the input isn’t used.
Rimmed with a black bezel around an anti-reflective screen, the HLR4668W contains its internal speakers in the light-gray lower portion of the housing. The rear-panel has two sets of S-video and composite inputs, two sets of component inputs, a PC input with audio (D-sub 15-pin connector), two FireWire jacks, and two HDMI inputs. Only one of the HDMI inputs has an associated analog audio input, so you are limited to a single DVI source with a DVI-HDMI converter cable (HDMI carries both digital audio and video; DVI only video). I consider this configuration an unfortunate oversight because many source components today (e.g., DVD players and DVR cable boxes) still use a DVI output. The right side of the HLR5668W contains another set of Svideo/ composite and audio inputs for connecting occasional analog sources such as a video game or camcorder. The set’s remote control is not backlit, nor is it very user-friendly. A lower slide-out door hides a number of buttons, such as the aspect-ratio control (labeled P. SIZE) and a RECORD button for a connected VCR, but they are too small to be easily usable. With no direct access to the user picture controls, I needed more than seven button pushes just to change the CONTRAST setting. Samsung does provide a DNIe hot button (Digital Natural Image Engine is Samsung’s name for its video processor). The button puts the set into demo mode, which, in my opinion, is worthless for the end user.
I began by setting the picture controls for my various sources: DVD via component- video (480i) connection, DVD via HDMI, and cable via Cable CARD. To my surprise and dismay, I discovered this Samsung does not provide a TINT control for any of these inputs; it’s grayed out of the menu. This omission is quite unusual for a 2005 top-tier high-definition television. The HL-R5668 does have separate user-control memories for all the inputs, permitting me to optimize each source.
As I began evaluating picture quality, I discovered that the HDMI input had some problems with its color. Connecting the HDMI input to a Samsung DVI-equipped DVD player (using a DVI/HDMI converter cable), I saw a distinctive green pallor when directly compared to the player’s component-video output using the same content. The same thing happened with a number of discs, but it really stood out during the night scenes of Batman Begins, causing the Gotham City sky-line, the bat suit, and everything else in black to appear green-black. Skin tones were also affected, exhibiting an unnatural honeydew hue.
As the set offers no TINT control, I experimented with another set of useraccessible controls called COLOR WEAKNESS, which feature three onscreen graphic sliders for red, green, and blue. The defaults are all set to zero, and there are no negative values, so the only option is to increase one or more of the colors. The amount of increase for each step is larger than ideal, with level 1 coming closest to fixing the problem; level 2 was an overcorrection. Had Samsung engineers applied the COLOR WEAKNESS controls separately to each input, this approach might have worked. Unfortunately, they didn’t. Unlike all the other picture controls within the HLR5668, this one is global, affecting every source. When I switched to the component-video input, Bruce Wayne developed an instant sunburn! This problem is not a color-temperature issue; the set’s color temp came close to neutral from dark gray to white, measuring around 7000K. Rather, this seems to be a function of how the HDMI input applies color. Using the HDMI input did improve the picture quality in other ways, with slightly fewer artifacts. It looked best when I let the DVD player upconvert the signal to 1080i and let the TV deinterlace the content to 1080p.
The HL-R5668W’s internal video processor did a reasonable job with high-quality SD (standard-definition) material, but it fell short with inferior content, causing faces to take on a “waxy” look and developing an overall softness. In addition, the level of video mosquito noise and other artifacts was excessive. SD material is often the Achilles’ heel of 1080p; it appears that Samsung’s upconversion is not yet fully up to the task. HD cable content, however, offered a bright side, with 1080i content having excellent detail and a different balance than with DVDs. Black crush was slightly greater, burying more darkshadow detail no matter how I adjusted the set’s BRIGHTNESS control. This was clearly evident when I viewed Spider-Man 2 on HBO-HD. Dark apparel and shadows lost detail, fading into a black murkiness. Brighter content was too bright and a little peaky, with facial details appearing just a bit washed out. All in all, there was little sense of “looking though a window.” I also checked the set’s gamma (the rate at which black transitions to white) using my Sencore signal generator’s ATSC RF output with a Progressive Labs CA-6 colorimeter. Content ranging from 20 IRE (dark) to 100 IRE (white) was all reproduced brighter than it should have been. Black crush was not evident in this case because the image was static; with moving images, DNIe kicks in and expands the dynamic range, resulting in black crush. In general, I rate the set’s images to be very good in HD, but they still aren’t as accurate and pleasing as they could be.