After setup, we connected the set to our Toshiba HD-A1 and watched a little of Serenity on HD-DVD. It quickly became apparent that the Samsung, once it was set to the medium Energy Saver mode, easily outclassed the other two comparable LCDs we had onhand--the Dell W3706MC and the Vizio L37HDTV--in terms of producing a deep black. During the nighttime conversation between Mal and Shepherd, for example, the shadows around the fire appeared relatively deep and dark, with plenty of detail as they faded into the corners. We checked back on our measurements of the similarly priced Sony KDL-32S2000 to see how it competed against the Samsung, and the latter also delivered a deeper level of black, resulting in better contrast ratio.
This dark scene also revealed the Samsung's solid brightness uniformity across the screen; unlike many LCDs, its edges didn't appear too much brighter than the middle, although there was still some variation, especially on the lower corners. We also noticed that the LN-S3251D did a better job of not washing out the image when seen from off-angle compared to the Dell and the Vizio.
As we expected, detail looked fine from this high-quality source. During Serenity's flyover of a forest, for example, the trees in the distance appeared sharp with well defined conical forms to the horizon. The color of green appeared slightly yellower than it should have, but not nearly as objectionable as that of some LCDs we've seen. When Mel talks to Inara on the ship after her rescue, her fine, olive skin looked natural in the dim light and not overly tinged with red. Overall color reproduction was good, although areas did appear too blue regardless of the color temperature preset we chose.
Even with the Sharpness turned to zero, however, we did notice some signs of edge enhancement, which we attribute to the Samsung LN-S3251D's DNIe processing. They were undoubtedly subtle but still visible in some areas, usually text. We saw very faint exaggerations along the inside letters of the FBI warning, for example, and in the word Serenity when it grafts onto the side of the ship in the intro. By and large, however, these artifacts were very subtle and didn't detract much at all from the film. We also appreciated that, unlike its 40-inch brother, the LN-S3251D did not suffer from overt false contouring.
The Samsung did relatively well on our battery of standard-def tests. It successfully resolved all of the resolution of DVD via component, S-Video and composite-video, although the latter two did look a bit softer than we'd like to see in highly detailed areas, such as the stone bridge and the grass from the HQV test disc. Likewise, the Samsung did an acceptable job of smoothing out jagged edges from moving diagonal lines, and it successfully detected 2:3 pull-down when we engaged film mode in the picture menu. During noisy shots of sky and clouds, however, the Samsung's noise reduction circuit made very little difference via component and composite video. On the other hand, when we turned on noise reduction with an S-Video source, the image cleaned up considerably.
All told, the Samsung LN-S3251D delivered very good picture quality, especially for a smaller LCD, and its superb design, solid feature set, and complete connectivity also sweeten the deal. Against its like-priced competitors that we've reviewed, namely the aforementioned Sony KDL-32S2000 and the Sharp LC-32D4U, we give the picture-quality nod to the Samsung. Yes, it does cost a good deal more than some of the budget LCDs out there, but if you're willing to pay more, it has a lot to offer.
|Before color temp (20/80)||7,958/6,794K||Average|
|After color temp||6,528/6,525K||Good|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 389K||Good|
|After grayscale variation||+/- 114K||Average|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.642/0.330||Good|
|Color of green||0.272/0.594||Average|
|Color of blue||0.145/0.053||Good|
|Black-level retention||All patterns stable||Good|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Yes||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||No||Poor|