56” 1080p DLP HDTV
TV Systems: NTSC & ATSC (8VSB terrestrial)
Channels: Terrestrial (analog & digital) 2-69; Cable (analog) 1-135
Component Video In: 2 (Y, Pb, Pr) 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p
HDMI In: 2 above 5 video formats plus 2-channel PCM audio at 32K, 44.1K & 48 K
PC In: D-SUB 15-pin, analog RGB
Speaker Output: 10W per channel
Voltage: AC 110-120V at 60Hz
Dimensions W x D x H: 50.87” x 16.34” x 35.67”
Weight: 73.41 lbs.
Samsung Electronics America, Inc.
105 Challenger Road
Ridgefield Park, NJ 07660-0511
When the various flat screen and new video technologies began coming out a few years ago I delved into them a bit and soon realized that although some of them had advantages over my top-of-line Pioneer (six years ago, that is) Pioneer Elite CRT HDTV, none of them equaled the black blacks and shadow area details I was getting with my old-fashioned CRT rear-projection set. Now more time has passed and I thought it was appropriate to try out my favorite of the technologies, DLP or Digital Light Projection display. Another goal was to test one of the new 1080 progressive displays, which derives the highest-definition results from the latest models of the new hi-def DVD format players, which output 1080p images. In the meantime, all video displays had come down in price – even in the last several months – more rapidly than with any other consumer electronics. DLP became my personal favorite because plasmas are the SUVs of video displays – hogging more AC power, deteriorate over time and can burn in more easily. I don’t have a setup conducive to handing a display on the wall. DLP uses millions of tiny mirrors which switch on and off over 15,000 times per second to deliver a razor-sharp picture. They also tend tend to have the highest contrast ratio – from black to white – of the technologies other than CRT. I preferred the DLP image quality to even the best LCDs, and although video projectors have also improved greatly and come down in cost I was used to the RPTV approach and wanted to review something around the size of my present 51” display. I find Sony’s LCoS technology excellent, but the premium price didn’t seem worth it to me. The top-selling rear-projection sets are either Samsung or Sony.
Comparisons of Models
The most obvious difference between my old set and the Samsung was the weight: 333 lbs. vs. 73 lbs.! The screen is 56” vs. my unit’s 51” but the frame around it is so narrow that the display fits well between my two CWD equipment cabinets on either side. It does require a matching Samsung base underneath, and is described as a pedestal set. The depth is the next major difference. The Pioneer is 25” vs. about 16” for the Samsung. There are several different models in the various screen sizes. The ones ending in 89 have the latest LED light engine, which eliminates completely the mechanical color wheel required for other DLP approaches. It has a 4000:1 contrast ratio, includes a hi-def PC input, PIP (picture-in-picture) and a cable card. But it is much more expensive and reviews I have seen claim the picture has some problems. In between are the models ending in -87. These have PIP (not included in the 5687), a cable card, Firewire input and RS-232 control, but ask almost $1000 more for these features. If you want cable (I use only OTA reception) you can ask for a set-top box. If 56 inches isn’t big enough for you, there are similar Samsung models in dimensions of 61 inches, 67 inches and 71 inches.
The cabinet is quite beautiful in its high gloss black trim. There is less of it than with the Pioneer Elite display – about 3/4” around the screen – but what there is is equally classy-looking. First I hooked up my Terk indoor HDTV antenna. Five years ago I nearly broke my neck putting up a seven-element yagi on my chimney. Reception was very poor, no matter where it was pointed, even though I can see the transmitter towers. The indoor antenna allows adjustment and worked better with my stand-alone Philips tuner and the Elite display. However, some channels occasionally bowed out completely with a “no signal” display on the screen, and Channel 6 in Portland was basically unreceivable.
I understand the present HD tuners are fifth generation, and there has been a tremendous improvement in their design since the fourth generation. The built-in tuner on the Samsung pulled in Channel 6 perfectly, all the other stations which previously displayed “no signal” never did, and stations in the UHF area which I didn’t even know existed, came in quite well. In addition, the analog channels of some stations, which were full of ghosting and video noise, now were quite watchable. This was useful for the local PBS station, which won’t be simulcasting their listed programming on the DTV channel until January.
The PBS outlet, which is where the majority of my OTA HD viewing occurs, is the most problematical of the various channels received, and the same situation is reported by one of my reviewers receiving the LA PBS HD channel. Most of the commercial networks send out their national programming at a 45 Mbps rate – the same as used in the HD codec of WMV 9. (The original HD programming is 1.2 GBps.) Poor PBS uses only 18 Mbps, and local stations must decode and then re-encode that at their end, often getting down to as low as 13 Mbps, throwing out most of the visual information – though not as badly as some of the cable TV systems. Where artifacts are most obvious is in dissolves from one image to another or fast-moving images on the screen; there are basically two images to transmit at the same time and the very low bitrate cannot handle it, going to obvious pixillation effects.
As the highest-quality all-digital connection technology, I wanted to use an HDMI cable to hook up my Oppo universal DVD player to one of the Samsung display’s two HDMI input jacks. However, the cable supplied with the Oppo player would only work for about ten seconds, and then it would cut out. While waiting for a replacement cable from Monster Cable I used a Monster component cable successfully. When the Monster M1000HD HDMI cable arrived I also plugged it in and did a comparison between the component connection and HDMI. No contest: the all-digital HDMI connection provided a considerably sharper and more vibrant picture from all sources. It features low-loss and high velocity signal transfer and has 24k gold-plated contact points. I didn’t make use of the audio side of the HDMI connection because my Sunfire AV preamp lacks HDMI inputs, and the Samsung only accepts two-channel on the HDMI anyway.
Ins and Outs
In dead center of the front of the display just under the bezel portion is a very large round button. It’s the not-to-be-missed on/off button. Over on the right side of the bezel area are LEDs for Standby, Timer and Lamp – the latter coming on when you need to replace the single light source in the rear of the display. The small switches in the row, from left to right: Source selection, Menu selection, the next two for volume up and down and the following for channel selection up and down. The last button is for activating or changing a menu item on the screen.
A side panel on the right offers four connections: composite video and audio for video games or a camcorder, and a “Wiselink” USB input for connecting a USB storage device. The rear panel covers all the inputs you would need. There are two HDMI ports which can be switched in the onscreen menu. Also two component-video inputs, a VGA-type PC input, two S-video inputs, two 72 ohm antenna inputs, an AV output, a digital optical output, and a RS-232 port for service only. About the only thing missing is FireWire, which comes with the model -88W.
Although the 5687W has 1080p native resolution, it achieves this high performance using “wobulation” technology which effectively doubles horizontal resolution. The DLP chip itself only has 960×1,080 discrete pixels, vs. the 1,920×1,080 discrete pixels of LCoS displays. All the various sources, including standard-def TV, are scaled to fit the pixels available.
The image quality was a knockout from first turning the Samsung on. Of course the brightness, contrast, sharpness and red push all had to be reduced, using the DV Essentials test DVD. At first I had some difficult getting a decently low black level, but after tweaking of both the settings on the Oppo disc player and on the Samsung I was finally able to get it down to a reasonable degree of black – though still not quite as deep as with the Pioneer CRT. Details in dark areas were better than the CRT, however. The adjustment of screen size seemed simpler and faster than with the Pioneer; one of the options merely displayed 1.33:1 in that 4:3 size on the screen, and when the source was 16:9 it simply filled the entire screen area. There are three aspect-ratio selections for HD and four for standard-def and all are easily changed from the remote.
The revelation of the various test patterns on the DV Essentials disc was seeing display of those with lines inscribed at the borders parallel to the top, bottom and sides of the screen. The lines were absolutely parallel to the borders of the 56” screen on all sides and perfectly centered, and there was only about 2% overscan. My Pioneer display had much greater cropping of the video image, and the vertical lines on the sides were seriously warped. Also, the increasingly small and close together black and white lines on some of the AVIA DVD test patterns on the Samsung showed up cleanly down to the last and closest-together lines. The Multiburst and Sharpness tests were also passed with flying colors. The uniformity across the wide screen was exceptional. (When displaying a 4:3 image the Pioneer CRT display has always had a warped border on the right side and the ISF expert said there was no way to correct it.)
The color wheel required in the implementation of most DLP displays is said to be an advance model in the Samsung. It was certainly very quiet; I must be one of those persons who cannot see the artifact of “rainbows,” because I was unable to see them on other DLP sets and this one was no exception. I tried some areas of high contrast between light and dark but was unable to replicate the effect.
Many options are provided for customizing your picture on the 5678W. First, there are four overall picture modes: Dynamic, Standard, Movie and Custom. You can adjust each one for contrast, brightness, color etc. and the settings will remain when you switch between them. There is even a Game mode, which cranks up the saturation of color and adds lots of edge enhancement. I don’t play games but I’m sure those who do will dig this feature. Other settings adjust color temperature, image noise-reduction, 2:3 pull-down film mode, color control, and even one called Color Weakness – designed to compensate for personal vision differences such as slight color blindness. I used the Custom picture mode to adjust the various parameters using the DV and AVIA test discs, but after doing so the picture was a bit dark, so I increased contrast and brightness very slightly. The Dynamic setting does something similar. The Movie preset also gave an excellent picture; it’s already programmed for Warm2 color temperature which looks about right.
The noise-reduction setting can be helpful for poor quality analog sources but would probably be best turned off for HDTV. The other option that is best left off for HD watching or even high-quality DVDs is Samsung’s proprietary DNle processing; it added several artifacts including too much edge enhancement.
The internal speakers on most smaller TVs are such an afterthought that even the simple ZVOX speaker/amp unit we reviewed recently can make a great improvement on sound for TV. With larger TVs there is more cabinet to serve as possible speaker enclosure, and some tricks similar to the Bose Wave Radio are used to extend the bass end in spite of using tiny drivers. The Samsung display goes one further in disguising the speakers completely by having them fire downwards, hidden in the bezel at the bottom of the screen, which also has the seven buttons and three LEDs for basic control of the TV. The design is something like that used in the latest iMacs, and like those, doesn’t sound nearly as bad as an audiophile might expect – keeping in mind the tiny drivers and low power used.
What was most mind-blowing was the very effective pseudo-surround from almost any stereo or multichannel source. I at first thought I had enabled the SRS TruSurround in the Samsung, but discovered that the particular option was off (using either the menu or just pressing the SRS button on the remote) and what I was hearing was the generic Virtual Surround circuit built into the Oppo DVD player. The most enveloping surround – with imaging on the sides and even behind in some cases – came unexpectedly on the original soundtrack music in stereo for some of the silent films in the Kino DVD set I just reviewed. I later turned off the surround option in the Oppo and tried the one provided in the Samsung – which wasn’t quite as noticeable.
I’m not suggesting that anyone going for this display should forego the usual addition of a complete six-speaker home theater speaker system including subwoofer. That is always going to be the ultimate accompaniment to the HDTV display, whether it is a large or small one. However, if space/decor/money/time considerations rear their ugly heads, you could do worse than investing in a pair of the tiny Orb speakers and accompanying subwoofer plus a simple stereo amp, and use the pseudo-surround feature to fill out the HT soundfield.
PC Display Option
The 5687W offers the possibility of hooking up to your PC using a standard 15-pin D-SUB computer cable plus an audio cable. Using Windows XP software you have control over screen display size and other parameters. Resolution is like a giant computer monitor. Unfortunately this is not a cross-platform option and I couldn’t access it with either of my Macs. I did try connecting the composite video out on my iBook to the composite in jack on the Samsung. The resulting image was considerably sharper than doing that with my Pioneer CRT display, but still not good enough that I would want to get a wireless keyboard and mouse to do my computing from my sweet spot in the media room rather than my office. A side panel jack lets you connect any data storage device which uses a USB connection, so you can view jpeg photos or play MP3 audio files stored on it.
I’m very pleased with the solid performance of the 5678W display. I vote it the best value for the money. Its picture knocks the socks off similar displays of even a year or two ago, it seems to have no serious “cons” against it, and due to both the recent price reductions of all large video displays, as well as the savings seen in this particular model – which dispenses with a few bells and whistles such as PIP and CableCard – purchase of the Samsung won’t break your bank.
– John Sunier