We were able to compare the Samsung to three other big LCDs we had on hand (the 40-inch JVC LT-40FN97, the 47-inch Westinghouse LVM-47W1, and the 37-inch Dell W3706MC). Watching The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift on HD-DVD, it became immediately apparent that the Samsung LN-S4096D delivered the best black levels of the bunch. The letterbox bars were relatively deep and inky, and nighttime scenes, such as when Lucas and Neela confront the evil Drift King in the dark street, looked impressive, with deep blacks and lots of shadow detail. The depth of black in this scene was even comparable to, if not quite as deep as, that of Panasonic's TH-50PH9UK plasma, and just as good as we saw with the aforementioned Sony.
As always, the deep black levels contributed to better color saturation. In bright daylight scenes--like when Lucas flirts with Cindy in the high-school parking lot--colors really popped, from the deep red of the Dodge Viper to the yellow of the school bus. We did have to turn down the color control to keep her skin looking tan as opposed to sunburned, sacrificing some saturation, but it still looked good. Colors did turn a little blue in darker scenes, however, and we detected a bit too much green in some of the midtone walls and other white areas, both a result of the Samsung's inconsistent grayscale tracking.
As we expected from a 1080p display showing an HD-DVD, details looked exceptionally sharp. We could discern leaves on the trees on the background of the parking lot and pick out individual strands of Cindy's blonde hair. Of course, it's worth mentioning that the 1,366x768 displays we had on hand, the Dell LCD and the Panasonic plasma, looked equally sharp. We looked hard at fine details, such as the fringe of hair around the ear of the football jock, the power lines in the distance, and the purple fabric, and couldn't see any difference between the resolution of the Samsung and the lower-pixel-count displays.
For what it's worth, the LN-S4096D came very close to resolving every line of a 1080i test pattern, but it wasn't as perfect as we've seen on some 1080p LCDs (this makes very little difference in apparent sharpness with video material, however). We chalk some of this up to its lack of a pixel-by-pixel option, which on some other 1080p LCDs--from Sony, Sharp and Westinghouse, for example--allows those displays to pass this test.
The extra resolution made an obvious difference when we hooked up a PC, however. According to our DisplayMate software, it couldn't quite resolve every line, but text looked perfectly sharp, and reading 14-point font from our 7-foot seating distance was no problem. Like many 1080p LCD panels, the LN-S4096D makes a superb monitor.
Another area where the LN-S4096D did a fine job was with off-angle viewing. From either end of the couch, the image looked the same, and it didn't begin to wash out until we got pretty far to either side. The other displays, with the notable exception of the plasma, washed out sooner. We did notice that with a completely dark screen, the LN-S4096D's right side was slightly brighter than its left.
We also looked at standard-def sources, and the results were good but not spectacular. Via its component-video inputs at 480i, the Samsung engaged 2:3 pull-down quickly and delivered ample sharpness. Noisy scenes were quieted somewhat by engaging the NR control, although we have seen noise reduction circuits that did better. Moving diagonal lines from the HQV test disc gave the LN-S4096D the most problems, introducing jagged edges worse than with many TVs we've seen. Note that as always, standard-def delivered via HDMI inputs is often subject to the source's conversion to high-def, so these results don't apply.
|Before color temp (20/80)||7,274/6,915K||Average|
|After color temp||7,202/7,306K||Poor|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 428K||Good|
|After grayscale variation||+/- 503K||Poor|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.645/0.324||Good|
|Color of green||0.192/0.634||Poor|
|Color of blue||0.144/0.074||Average|
|Black-level retention||All patterns stable||Good|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Yes||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Yes||Good|