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Samsung LN55A950 Review



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Introduction

The Samsung LN55A950 represents the next generation of LCD HDTVs, as it packs in not only all the features Samsung has been able to come up with, but also it’s piece-de-resistance, LED backlighting with local dimming. The combination of the latter two features allows the A950 to approach the absolute best TVs in contrast and black level – two very important aspects of picture quality that LCDs have traditionally not been very good at compared to their plasma counterparts.

Design

Style wise, the A950 series follows the other TVs from Samsung’s current lineup, with an acrylic bezel, glossy screen and a rectangular base that swivels. While a little basic, the design is classy and understated, and shows that Samsung has adopted their own sense of style, much like Sony has.

Samsung uses the same remote they do with most of their current TVs, and while it isn’t bad, it’d be nice to see something a little more, er, differentiated. After all, this is Samsung’s absolute best TV, with a price to match!

The GUI too is very similar to other Samsung TVs, but that isn’t a bad thing, as Samsung’s GUI is fairly attractive, and very well laid out. There are very detailed options for setting and calibration, but the whole layout is such that a newbie can easily find his or her way around without getting confused.

Features

The A950 series TVs all have a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels. Although they have lots of great features, their biggest deal is LED backlighting and local dimming. Why is this a big deal? The LEDs are arranged in a way similar to pixels, though not as numerous. LEDs, not being bulbs, have even light output that can be almost infinitely controlled, and can be completely turned off in dark areas. How does this lend to the movie viewing experience? Well, black levels, contrast ratios, color accuracy, screen uniformity and even power consumption are all much improved. With the exception of color accuracy and power consumption, all of those factors were areas in which LCDs compared poorly with plasmas, so this set may be the one to finally beat the best plasmas. See performance for more information on that.

In addition to that, a 24p mode and 120 Hz processing make short work of judder, and with lots of video presets and customizability, this makes for a very promising set. The A950 has all the web and multimedia features of the 850, 750 and 650 series, which means its very well loaded. There are even high-definition instructional videos stored on internal flash memory.

Performance

The A950 performed very well in our black-level tests. Thanks to the locally-dimming LEDs, the black bars above and below the image in a 2.35:1 movie were absolute black, blending into the pitch black room we tested in. The black level was too low to register on our equipment, but it is absolute black when the LEDs behind the screen are dimmed. There aren’t nearly as many dimming regions as there are pixels, so unfortunately, this works best with the black bar area. Obvious comparisons to the latest Kuro must be made, and in the black bar area, the A950 is a bit darker.

Shadow detail, while excellent, fell just a little short of the current top choice, the Pioneer Kuro. The difference was extremely marginal though, and the fact that an LCD can come this close to the Kuro says something about next-generation LCDs. A difference in black level can still be seen in the area of the image, or in an anamorphic movie, and this is because the Kuro can still dip to its lowest black level in that type of content, while the A950 can’t turn off the LEDs in that area, otherwise no image would be seen.

Contrast levels are excellent, surpassing even the excellent A650 series, the previous LCD champ for contrast. We weren’t able to obtain an accurate black result, but this is the highest contrast we’ve seen on a TV other than the Kuro. Color accuracy is very good, especially after adjustment.

The A950 displayed great video processing and upscaling capabilities, just like the A650. Standard definition content looked great on this large 55” and there were no visible artifacts introduced. DVD video looked sharp and not overly soft as it often does on large high-resolution sets.

Uniformity is an area where even the best LCDs often fall short. Because of the way traditional backlights spread their light, bright spots and clouding are very present on all traditionally backlit LCDs, and even when they display a decent enough image, such as in the case of the Sony XBR6 series, dark scenes reveal the uneven spread of light and detract from the viewing experience. LED backlighting changes all that! This A950 looks drastically better than most LCDs thanks to the LED backlighting, and uniformity is much improved. The only problem with LCDs, and LED-backlit ones in particular, is that viewing angles are almost terrible. For some reason, LED-backlit TVs are even more prone to this, and like the A650 series, you have to be sitting front and center to see that great image. If you move off-axis at all, even to the next seat, you won’t experience the same quality.

Bright room performance, as with most LCDs, is great. Turning the backlight up high allows for a punchy, high-contrast image in even the brightest of rooms, but the highly reflective screen and poor viewing angles take their toll as well. If you intend in watching TV mainly in a bright environment, this TV is probably not the best choice because there are better bright-room choices, and the majority of the benefits of this admittedly expensive TV are lost in such an environment.

Conclusion:

The Good: Great blacks in all-black areas, great shadow detail, accurate colors, eliminates many of the drawbacks of traditional LCDs.

The Bad: Big Achilles Heel in its limited viewing angles, expensive.

Overall: A very capable, expensive TV from the near-future. The Samsung LN55A950 is one of the best LCD TV’s currently on the market.

Buy the Samsung LN55A950 55″ 1080p LCD HDTV at Amazon

3 Responses to “Samsung LN55A950 Review”
bSamsung/b LN55A950 Review - Satellite TV Guru - February 26th, 2009 at 5:05 am

[…] Read the original:  bSamsung/b LN55A950 Review – Satellite TV Guru […]

Sony KDL-55XBR8 Review - Satellite TV Guru - March 2nd, 2009 at 12:43 pm

[…] XBR8 suffers from a problem that also affects the Samsung A950 – limited viewing angles. Now, all LCDs suffer from this problem to some extent, but this pair of […]

[…] […]

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