The picture quality of the LND550 wasn't up to the high standards of Samsung's LND630 series, but it was still quite good for an entry-level TV. Black levels, shadow detail, and uniformity are strengths, while color accuracy and video processing are weak points compared with the field. All told we still like the Sony BX420 better by a nose, but they both received the same score of 6 in this category.
The Movie mode delivered the most accurate picture prior to calibration, although it was worse than on most Samsungs we've seen--too blue, too bright, and with inaccurate gamma that made everything look darker. Afterward the TV measured much better, albeit still uneven and with a bluish tinge in some areas. Again, advanced picture controls, particularly a color management system, would go a long way.
For image quality tests we used the comparison lineup below and checked out "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1."
|Sony KDL-40BX420||40-inch LCD|
|Insignia NS-42E859A11||42-inch LED-based LCD|
|LG 47LV5500||46-inch LED-based LCD|
|Panasonic TC-P50ST30||50-inch plasma|
Black level: Like that of its big brother, the D630, the black-level performance of the D550 was among the best in our lineup. It outdid that of both LGs as well as the Vizio and Insignia by quite a bit, beat the Sony by a nose, tied the Samsung D630 and fell short of the plasma, especially in perceived contrast ratio (aka "pop"). As a result, dark sequences, such as Voldemort's banquet hall in Chapter 2, appeared relatively realistic and punchy on the D550.
We also appreciated the TV's realistic shadow detail, which made areas like Snape's robe and the shadows as he ascends the stairs (4:29) look better than on any of the other sets aside from the plasma.
Color accuracy: Here's where the D550 fell short of most of the others. The first thing we noticed was that dark areas and shadows, and even the gray bricks of the castle in scenes like the above, looked entirely too blue. In brighter scenes skin tones, like the faces of the good guys in Chapter 3 (12:16), looked paler and bluer than on many of the other sets and colors lacked the rich saturation we saw on the D630 and the Sony. Thanks to superior accuracy, the Vizio and the LG looked better than the D550 as well, despite appearing more washed out.
Video processing: When fed a 1080p/24 source, the LND550 failed to preserve the proper cadence, instead seeming to "catch" every second or so during the pan over the Intrepid from "I Am Legend." We disabled 1080p/24 on our Blu-ray player and the catch was replaced by the characteristic hitching stutter of 2:3 pull-down, an effect we preferred to the "catch." That's why we'd recommend disabling 1080p/24 on your Blu-ray player if you own this TV.
As with some previous Samsungs the LND550 needs to be in Auto 1 film mode to pass the 1080i video deinterlacing test, for what it's worth.
Uniformity: The two Samsung non-LEDs performed about the same in this area--very good overall. In dark scenes we saw no indications of the brighter corners and/or edges we saw on the edge-lit LED LV5500 and Insignia, or the Sony BX420 CCFL TV, for that matter. It wasn't up to plasma standards when we looked closely at test patterns, of course, but obvious flaws in screen uniformity--the kind that show up in program material--were absent.
When viewing from off-angle, the screen of the LND550 washed out black and dark areas to about the same extent as most of the CCFL models. The Vizio and the LEDs were worse in this regard, however, as expected. The plasma trounced them all.
Bright lighting: The Samsung's matte screen serves it well in bright rooms where lights, windows and bright objects cause reflections. Such objects appeared dimmer and much less distinct, and thus less distracting, then they did on the Panasonic plasma, for example, and black levels were also preserved better. The rest of the sets in the lineup also have matte screens, and in general they all performed equally well in this category.
PC: While it handled the full 1,920x1,080 resolution via its VGA input, the LND550 wasn't as good as the LG or Vizio in this department. We detected minor interference and softness in high-res test patterns--imperfect, but still better than the Sony overall.
Power consumption: The Samsung LN40D550 is slightly less efficient than its competitors to the tune of about $1 per year.
|Black luminance (0%)||0.0044||Good|
|Near-black x/y (5%)||0.2771/0.2914||Poor|
|Dark gray x/y (20%)||0.3114/0.3276||Good|
|Bright gray x/y (70%)||0.3118/0.3275||Good|
|Before avg. color temp.||6701||Average|
|After avg. color temp.||6582||Good|
|Red lum. error (de94_L)||1.03||Good|
|Green lum. error (de94_L)||2.6983||Average|
|Blue lum. error (de94_L)||10.6034||Poor|
|Cyan hue x/y||0.2201/0.335||Good|
|Magenta hue x/y||0.3313/0.1489||Average|
|Yellow hue x/y||0.4073/0.4896||Poor|
|1080p/24 Cadence (IAL)||Fail||Poor|
|1080i De-interlacing (film)||Pass||Good|
|Motion resolution (max)||300||Poor|
|Motion resolution (dejudder off)||n/a||n/a|
|PC input resolution (VGA)||1,920x1,080||Poor|
|Samsung LN40D550||Picture settings|
|Picture on (watts)||91.818||83.4||32.646|
|Picture on (watts/sq. inch)||0.12||0.13||0.05|
|Cost per year||$20.19||$18.34||$7.21|
|Score (considering size)||Average|