Overall, the Samsung LN-T4661F came close to the picture quality of its slightly more expensive brother, the LN-T4665F, but fell a bit short in a couple of areas. The first is its superior detail in shadows, and the second is its significantly better off-axis viewing characteristics. In most other aspects of picture quality, including depth of black, resolution, color accuracy and saturation, the two were very similar. If you're more of a home theater stickler who turns off the lights for movies and can control your room's ambient light in most other situations, then the shiny-screened 65F gets the nod. But if you're stuck with a bright room or simply don't want to contend with the glare from the 65F's screen, the 61F makes a solid choice.
During setup, as usual, we adjusted the picture settings to levels ideal for our darkened theater. We chose the Gamma -2 mode because it seemed to provide the best balance between preserving shadow detail and delivering a smooth, realistic rise out of black. We'd have liked to go with -3 mode, as we did with the 65F, but that ended up obscuring too much shadow detail. After reducing light output to around 40 ftl, we used the extensive color temperature fine-tuning controls to improve quite a bit upon the Warm2 preset (see the Geek Box below). For a complete look at our user-menu picture settings, click here or check out the Tips & Tricks section above.
For this review, we set up the LN-T4661F next to a few other HDTVs we had on hand, including its aforementioned "shiny" step-up brother, the LN-T4665F, along with the Sony KDL-46S3000, the Panasonic TH-42PZ700U, and the Pioneer PRO-FHD1.
We began, as usual, with a good look at the LN-T4661F's black-level performance, and the set did not disappoint. We had it right next to the LN-T4665F and, despite Samsung's "true black" advertising (which pertains to the 65F and not the 61F), after calibration it was often difficult to tell which one displayed a deeper color of black. Our measurements told us it was the 65F by a hair, but that set did have slightly brighter edges compared to the middle, making the 61F appear darker in certain scenes, especially predominantly dark ones like the void of space in the beginning of Planet of the Apes. For the record, both Samsung LCDs and the Panasonic plasma evinced about the same level of black, while the Sony LCD and the Pioneer plasma appeared visibly lighter.
When calibrating the TVs in our comparisons we adjust the relavant controls to achieve the best combination of black level and shadow detail. In the case of the 61F, we felt this combination was best achieved by sacrificing some detail in shadows to get the blacks deeper -- a compromise we didn't have to make with the 65F. The effect of that compromise with the 61F was the most-visible difference between the two sets. When Mark Wahlberg's ship first crashes on the planet, for example, we could see less of the leaves under the darkest parts of the jungle foliage on the 61F. Gradations from light to shadow, which were evident in the hallway of shadowed plant husks outside the ape city, also appeared a bit more realistic on the 65F and the plasmas. The 61F's shadow detail was still a cut above that of most LCDs however, including the Sony.
The LN-T4661F has accurate primary colors in common with its shinier brother, and other areas of color accuracy, including grayscale performance, were very similar. After calibration the 61F, like the 65F, evinced a grayscale that tended to redden dark areas of the image. This issue was evident, for example, when Walhberg's face and, especially, his dark hair appeared a bit redder than on our reference Pioneer plasma after he's thrown to the ground during the apes' dinner and looks back at his tormentor. Overall, however, colors were still quite well-saturated and vibrant, from the green of the jungle plants to the apes' various skin tones to the red cushions and tapestries in the main ape's bedchamber. Even with its less-accurate grayscale, the LN-T4661F's color accuracy is among the best we've seen from a flat-panel LCD.
As we expected, the Samsung also delivered a very clean image. We didn't notice any false contouring during the film, even in tough areas like the sunlight in the misty jungle that showed slight contours on the Panasonic plasma. Video noise, even in skies and shadows, was also not a noticeable issue.
Although Apes appears a bit softer than many Blu-ray titles, it still packs plenty of detail, which the LN-T4661F conveyed faithfully. We enjoyed the weave in the carpet under the card-playing soldiers, for example, and the individual golden strands of Estella Warren's hair during a close-up. It also behaves exactly the same as the 65F in our resolution tests--failing to resolve every detail of a 1080i test pattern, for example, and failing both of the Geek Box 1080i deinterlacing tests (although it passed the video test when in "16:9" as opposed to "Just Scan" mode) from the HQV HD DVD and Blu-ray discs. We didn't see any evidence of those failures in Apes, but we did find a scene in Ghost Rider, where the grille of the RV at the end of Chapter 6 evinced some diagonal moirÃ© along its horizontal grille. We don't consider failure at deinterlacing a deal-breaker for HDTV picture quality, although if you have access to 1080p content, we recommend choosing it to avoid the chance of seeing these sorts of artifacts.
For what it's worth, Samsung sent us a firmware update that worked with both sets to fix the deinterlacing of video-based, but not film-based, 1080i content and to show every line of a 1080-resolution test pattern. (This update is not reflected in our Geek Box results.) Update 06-20-07: We originally reported here that the firmware update would be available as a download from Samsung's web site. Now we hear from the company that the update may instead only be available to owners who call the Service Center and ask to have it sent. We'll update this section again when we're told more. New TVs equipped with the updated firmware will arrive on store shelves, according to Samsung, by mid- to late July 2007.
Flat-panel LCDs often display imperfect uniformity across the screen, although the LN-T4661F was better than most in this regard. We've mentioned that the screen of the 65F appears brighter along the edges than the middle, especially in darker areas. The 61F does as well, but the difference is quite a bit smaller, and its rightmost edge is the only area that was visibly brighter in black fields, such as the shots of the orbiting space station from the beginning of the film. In dark gray test patterns (15-20 IRE fields), we did notice a very slightly brighter area across the screen's middle as well, but it wasn't apparent in any program material we watched.
One area where the LN-T4661F falls a good deal short of its shiny cousin is in off-axis viewing. All LCDs, including the 65F, wash out a good deal when viewed from somewhere farther than a seat or two away from the sweet spot right in the center of the screen, but the 61F (along with the Sony) also acquired a slight reddish tinge when seen from off-angle to either side, an issue the 65F does not have. The washed-out blacks and red coloration became more apparent the farther we moved off-axis.
On the flip side, the LN-T4661F's matte screen reflected far less ambient light than the shiny screen of the 65F. With the room lights turned up, the 61F actually delivered a darker apparent color of black, and of course, we didn't see nearly as much of the room--including a watcher's white shirt or the coffee table in front of the TVs.
When we checked out the HP-T4661F's standard-def picture quality, using the HQV disc at 480i resolution via component video, the set performed exactly the same as the 65F--which is about average. According to the color bars pattern, the set resolved every detail of the DVD format, and the grass and bricks of the detail test were relatively sharp. On the other hand, it allowed many moving diagonal lines, such as the stripes on a waving American flag, to appear more jagged than we like to see. The four noise-reduction settings did a progressively better job of removing random motes of snowy noise from the disc's low-quality sunsets and shots of skies, but as usual, there was a trade-off, and details were softened somewhat as we increased NR. The Auto setting didn't really work well to automatically adjust the NR, especially in the "motion-adaptive" scenes with the roller coaster, so we recommend choosing one of the manual modes when you'd like to fight the noise. The LN-T4661F did engage 2:3 pull-down quickly and accurately.
As a PC monitor via the VGA input, the LN-T4661F performed exactly as its 65F counterpart. According to DisplayMate test patterns, the set resolved every line of vertical resolution and nearly every line of horizontal resolution with our video card set to 1,920x1,080 output. We detected a slight bit of softness in PC text at font sizes smaller than 10-point, but it certainly wasn't overt. The desktop filled the screen perfectly, and overall, we think most viewers will be happy with its capabilities as a big computer display.
|Before color temp (20/80)||7006/7088K||Average|
|After color temp||6398/6490K||Good|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 623K||Average|
|After grayscale variation||+/- 126K||Average|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.641/0.327||Good|
|Color of green||0.296/0.578||Good|
|Color of blue||0.149/0.068||Good|
|Black-level retention||All patterns stable||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Y||Good|
|480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps||Y||Good|
|1080i video resolution||Fail||Poor|
|1080i film resolution||Fail||Poor|
|Samsung LN-T4661F||Picture settings|
|Picture on (watts)||245.63||113.52||111.31|
|Picture on (watts/sq. inch)||0.27||0.13||0.13|
|Cost per year||$75.07||$34.95||$34.28|
|Score (considering size)||Good|