Editors' note, November 15, 2007 The rating on this review has been lowered from 8.0 to 7.6 due to changes in the competitive marketplace.
The image quality of the best flat-panel LCD HDTVs has improved with every generation, and Samsung's 2007 step-up model, the LN-T4665F, is irrefutable proof. To cut to the chase: it delivers one of the best pictures we've seen yet from any LCD, and it compared well against the best plasmas on the market. Of course there's always some impurity in the ointment, and in this case it's the Samsung's shiny screen, which is the main reason why we didn't give the LN-T4665F our Editors' Choice award (update 06-19-07: We've also published a review of the LN-T4661F, which is very similar to this TV except that its screen is matte). But in the end we, too, liked shiny things, because the Samsung LN-T4665F outperformed other LCDs we've tested--including the latest models from Sony and Sharp--in a demanding, darkened home theater environment.
The Samsung LN-T4665F is quite simply the shiniest TV we ever reviewed. The company's stylists went for pure, glossy black again this year, and for the first time the reflective gloss extends to the screen itself. The glossy frame is very attractive in its own right--we especially liked the rounded corners, smoothed-out planes, the subtly curved bottom edge, and the sleek, transparent speaker-sound deflectors that extend a quarter of an inch beyond the fuselage to either side. We also appreciated the trim swivel base, which allows the panel to be rotated about 20 degrees to either side.
We don't appreciate the glossy screen, however. We assume the company chose a reflective screen coating, as opposed to the matte screens found on most LCDs, to attract attention in the store when the LN-T4665F is lined up next to the millions of other flat-panel sets. Unfortunately, the screen also attracts reflections from bright objects and lights in the room, which can detract from the picture.
Including the stand, the LN-T4665F measures 43.6x12.8x30.2 inches. Without it, the panel measures 43.6x4.1x23.8 inches.
Samsung's remote is almost the same as last year, and we generally found the slender wand easy to operate. Only the keys for volume, channel, and device control (the universal clicker can command four other pieces of gear) are illuminated, but that's better than most TV remotes, which skip backlighting altogether. All of the buttons are nicely separated and differentiated, with the exception of secondary controls clustered at the clicker's base, which kind of blend together. We'd like to see dedicated buttons for each input, but since the set automatically senses and skips inactive inputs, cycling between sources is less arduous than usual.
With a native resolution of 1920x1080 pixels--popularly known as "1080p"--the Samsung LN-T4665F has enough pixels to resolve every detail of 1080i and 1080p HDTV sources, although it falls a bit short in real life (see Performance for more). All other sources, including 720p HDTV, DVD, computer and standard-def, are scaled to fit the pixels.
The LN-T4665F is one of the first TVs with HDMI 1.3-compatible inputs, which have higher bandwidth than the older versions. In itself, that fact doesn't mean much, but the addition does enable the LN-T4665F to offer a menu selection labeled "xvYCC," which refers to a wider color space that supposedly comes closer to human vision's capabilities than the current HDTV color space. Of course you'll need an HDMI 1.3-compatible source (the player and disc, for example), and as far as we know there isn't any xvYCC content available. In other words, we classify xvYCC and HDMI 1.3 inputs--at least as implemented on the LN-T4665F--as "no big deal." The set's spec sheet also mentions 10-bit processing, but when we asked Samsung about it, they said that the panel itself doesn't deliver 10-bit color--just that the processing is capable of it. Extra bit depth can result in less false contouring, among other benefits, but like xvYCC color it requires a 10-bit source and display.
As far as features that actually matter today, the LN-T4665F has an excellent selection of picture controls. It offers three picture modes that are each independent for each input, allowing you to customize each source with three different groups of picture settings. Only Movie mode allows full adjustment, however, so we recommend using it for the most demanding viewing conditions. In addition to the standard brightness and contrast sliders, there's a full-fledged backlight control, which is also independent per input.
In addition to the five presets for color temperature, there's a full set of detailed color temperature controls. Labeled "White Balance," they offer both gain and offset adjustments for red, green, and blue, allowing slightly more-advanced users to really zero in on the set's grayscale. The "My Color" control, on the other hand, doesn't seem to do much of anything, so we left it in the default positions. The selection of secondary picture controls includes items labeled Black Level, which affects shadow detail; Dynamic Contrast, which adjusts black level on the fly; Gamma, which affects the rate of progression from dark to light; and a selection for Color Gamut, which controls the range of colors the display can reproduce. See Performance for more details.
We appreciated the solid range of aspect ratio controls, which include four choices for HD sources. Just Scan is the mode best suited for 1080i and 1080p sources, because it introduces no overscan and displays the image with no scaling. Standard-def sources allow four choices as well, including two zoom modes you can adjust vertically, to see subtitles or obscure tickers, for example. The set also includes a picture-in-picture feature to display two channels or sources at once.
Like more and more 2007 HDTVs, the Samsung LN-T4665F offers three HDMI inputs as opposed to just two. Two are located on the back, while a third can be found in a recessed bay along the panel's left side. The Samsung's commendable connectivity continues with a pair of component-video inputs, an AV input with S-video, two RF inputs for cable and antenna, and a VGA-style RGB input for computers (maximum resolution 1920x1080). That recessed bay on the side offers an additional AV input with S-video, as well as a USB port that can interface with thumbdrives to display photos (JPEG only) and play music (MP3 only).
Simply put, in a darkened room the Samsung LN-T4665F is one of the best-performing LCD-based HDTVs we've tested yet. We specify "darkened" because of its screen's reflective coating, which according to our nonscientific observation reflects even more light than that of a glass plasma screen. It's basically a dark mirror. If you're setting this TV up in a room where you can't totally control the light that hits the screen, we recommend looking for an LCD with a standard matte screen, or a plasma with proven glare-reducing properties, like Panasonic's TH-PX77U series. If ambient light isn't a concern, then the Samsung LN-T4665F offers picture quality that compares favorably with the best plasmas.
We began our evaluation, as usual, by adjusting the Samsung's picture controls for optimum performance in our completely dark home theater. We really appreciated the set's excellent array of adjustments, including the fine-tuning for color temperature. We were able to improve the default Warm2 color temperature preset significantly (see the Geek Box below), although the final grayscale wasn't quite as accurate as we'd like to see. It varied a bit too widely in darker areas, although it was still much closer to the 6599K ideal than most LCDs we've tested. For our complete picture settings, which result in peak light output of about 40 footlamberts, check out our Tips & Tricks section.