Samsung has an incredibly varied and diverse line of LCD TVs available this year, and while they’ve made some excellent high-end large LCDs, it’s time to have a look at how their smaller LCDs fare. The 32” segment may not make the front page much, but it is one of the fastest growing, not to mention competitive segments in the industry.
The 32” size means that for use as anything other than a computer monitor, 1080p resolution is overkill and unnecessary, which is why you’ll see very few 32” HDTVs with a 1080p resolution. There are a number of other factors that are far more important when it comes to evaluating displays, and we’ll have a look at them in the performance category.
The Samsung LN32A450 shares many of the same basic design traits as other, higher-priced Samsung displays, which is a good thing. A simple, black glossy bezel frames the screen, which is about the same thickness as on larger Samsungs. That’s not really a good thing, as this is a 32” TV and the bezel could be a little thinner, but perhaps Samsung wants to draw the illusion of a larger TV this way.
The speakers are integrated and hidden, which is great as it makes for a nice, clean look. The TV rests atop an oval base that swivels, something that is very important for an LCD TV, especially one of this size.
I liked that the remote included was a slightly simplified version of the one they include with the more expensive TVs – it’s a very user-friendly and aesthetically-appealing design. All the buttons are large and easy to find, and the only thing missing is backlighting – but at this size and price level, that’s an easy thing to dismiss.
The GUI is not the same as Samsung’s other recent TVs, but it’s still not bad. It’s a little staid compared to say, Sony’s PS3-esque interface, but it’s easy to navigate and offers tons of functionality.
Like many LCD TVs, this one has a resolution of 1366×768, or more simply, 720p. As I discussed in the introduction, this is not a drawback in any way at this size. Even if you intend on connecting a Blu-Ray source, there will be no noticeable difference in sharpness/resolution between a 720p TV and a 1080p TV at anything further than three feet.
Samsung doesn’t really limit the customizability and functionality of the GUI in this TV too much, which is a refreshing change from other manufacturers. It allows the individual or a certified professional to calibrate the TV very well, bringing it very close to the color standard. It’s not as well-designed as the last few Samsung TVs, which are an exercise in simplicity and functionality however.
All the picture presets and aspect-ratio controls you’d expect are found here, and as far as connectivity goes, it’s pretty good for the segment it competes in. Three HDMI inputs and two component inputs take care of most imaginable HD needs for a set of this size, and there is a VGA port as well – however a DVI-HDMI cable or converter yields far better results. Unfortunately, the analog input for the VGA does not work when using DVI-HDMI.
Most Samsungs perform decently in a dark room, with some being flat-out excellent. In the price and size class that this TV competes in, the black level and dark room performance is above average, in fact, near the top of the 32” heap. With our ideal settings, we measured a black level of about 0.019 ft-L, which is only slightly off Panasonic plasmas. Shadow detail trailed most plasmas quite a bit, which was a little noticeable in certain types of scenes, such as the opening of Seinfeld episodes where Jerry is performing stand-up – many of the details are lost in his jacket and other shadowy, dark areas.
Contrast on this TV was also above average, thanks to its above-average black level. We obtained a result around 2200:1, which is better than most LCDs, and trails only the best at the moment. We were able to max the contrast out without any washout, and combined with the good gamma control, a very balanced picture can be had.
Like many recent Samsung TVs, color accuracy after calibration was excellent. We were able to obtain a result that tracked within 100k of the 6500k standard, with no glaring problems with any primary color. Out of the box, of course, colors are not that accurate, but as usual, the Movie mode comes closest to the standard.
The Samsung’s processing of video was okay, but not excellent as with its uplevel brethren. When looking at DVDs of Seinfeld, the image was not nearly as crisp as on the best TVs, but was about average for 32” TVs. Having a native resolution of 1366×768, some detail loss was seen with 1080i content, but it otherwise deinterlaced properly, and showed more detail than 720p content. Having a 60 Hz refresh rate and no interpolation mode, there was quite a bit of motion resolution loss, as with most LCDs, dropping to 400 lines or less at times. This is average to above average for this class.
The LN32A450 suffered from the classic uniformity issues with LCDs, though at a lower level, probably due to its size. There was some irregular backlight spread and clouding/mura, but a lot less than larger iterations. This model was not that susceptible to color and contrast shift with viewing angle changes, which is nice to see.
The set performed well when we tested it with a PC at its native resolution of 1366×768, both when connected by VGA and DVI-HDMI, however, the image was certainly more crisp and noise-free over the digital connection.
The Good: Great color accuracy, good black level and contrast, attractive looks.
The Bad: Speakers are tinny and underpowered, shadow detail should be better, bezel too thick, Samsung’s newest GUI should be implemented.
Overall: A great value, probably the best in its class.
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