Samsung’s latest line of 1080p RPTVs are getting a lot of online buzz these days. The HL-S models are being praised as worthy successors to the previous HL-R line, which was itself very well-regarded. The company sent us the HL-S5687W to use in our review of the BDP1000 Blu-ray player (see Issue 70), and we decided to do a full review of the display as well.
The video inputs are plentiful, with two HDMI (which can accept up to 1080p), two component, two S-video, three composite, one VGA, and two RF, which feed the internal ATSC (digital terrestrial) and NTSC (analog) tuners. Other connections include RS232 (for service only) and USB, which Samsung calls Wiselink, to let you view JPEG photos and listen to MP3 audio files on USB storage devices (though why you’d want to listen to MP3s on the TV’s sound system is beyond me).
Like all 1080p DLP RPTVs, this one uses what Texas Instruments calls SmoothPicture to reproduce all 1920x1080 pixels from a single DMD (Digital Micromirror Device) that has only 960x1080 mirrors. HP, the inventor of this technology, calls it “wobulation,” but the effect is the same: the entire 960x1080 image is rapidly shifted back and forth to form a complete 1920x1080 picture. Some people claim to see artifacts from this process, but I have yet to observe anything untoward in this regard.
One interesting aspect of the light engine is the color wheel—instead of two wedges each of red, green, and blue, the Samsung’s wheel has five different color segments: red, green, blue, yellow, and cyan. This is part of what TI calls BrilliantColor. Samsung’s wheel spins at 14,400 rpm on air bearings to reduce noise. I have to say that I saw virtually no rainbows, which could be due to the extra color segments.
Samsung has been making a big deal of their DNIe (Digital Natural Image engine) imageenhancement processor since its introduction in 2003. Among other things, DNIe provides a form of dynamic contrast by changing the black and white levels according to the average brightness of the image at any given moment. It also changes the color reproduction on the fly, performs noise reduction, and a plethora of other functions. In general, I prefer to turn it off, which you can do in the user menu.
One very important feature in the HL-S5687W is a 1:1 mode that maps each pixel of a 1920x1080 signal onto one pixel of the display, which is great for avoiding overscan artifacts. There’s only one problem: this feature is essentially unavailable! It can only be enabled in the service menu, to which users have no access. And even if it’s enabled, it is automatically disabled whenever the set is powered down! Previous generations of this RPTV had an accessible and persistent 1:1 mode, so this is a giant step backward for Samsung. (The 88 series has a persistent 1:1 mode.)
The remote is a standard Samsung design: long and fairly skinny, with the ability to control up to four other devices using codes in its database. It’s not illuminated, though the mostused buttons are laid out in a reasonable manner. The Menu and Exit buttons are near the 4-way cursor cluster, and Mute is next to Volume Up/Down, which is good. Not so good is the single Source button, which cycles through the inputs; I much prefer dedicated buttons that let you select the input you want directly.
In my view, manufacturers should not include universal remotes with their TVs. If a user wants a universal remote, there are much better ones on the market than those that come with TVs. Instead, manufacturers should dedicate the TV’s remote to the TV and provide direct input-access buttons. This would make the remotes much easier to understand and operate.
The menu system is okay, but not great. Seven main sections appear in a scrolling bar across the bottom of the screen, each of which has its own menu and, in some cases, submenu. Every time you enter the menu system, it starts at the same section; some TVs enter the system at the place you last left, which I prefer.
Some confusion might arise when looking for the normal picture controls (Brightness, Contrast, etc.); these are available by selecting the Mode item in the Picture menu, which also lets you pick the picture mode and color-temperature presets. When you select a picture control to adjust, the menu disappears and the control moves to the bottom of the screen as it should. One interesting section in the main menu is called Menu Map, which presents a list of the other main sections and the items in each of their menus. You can select any item in this manner, making it easier to find the control you want.
Of course, the out-of-the-box settings were wacko, way too bright and too blue. The best grayscale we could get with the picture-mode and colortemp presets was pretty good, but it was still a bit blue.