Update Dec 10, 2008: After a subsequent conversation Samsung's representative did provide a bit more information.
"The newer A950 sets feature a slight enhancement to black level performance which improves the already excellent picture quality of the A950. That said, most of the Samsung A950 sets sold in the market now feature this upgrade. Customers who have already purchased an A950 set can find out if their TV is the enhanced version or not by calling 1-800-SAMSUNG (1-800-726-7864). If customers would like to upgrade their A950 TV, a software upgrade will be provided free of charge in the form of a USB stick. This software upgrade, available within 30 days of request, will enable performance similar to that of upgraded A950 TVs."
Unfortunately, we have not been able to get more information out of Samsung on this issue, and the company still has not provided a clear way to distinguish between products that have the update and those that don't. The best advice we can give for A950 owners concerned about the problem is to contact Samsung and try to get a resolution, and comment here about your experiences.
Samsung has updated the A950 series, the company's flagship line of LCD HDTVs, by introducing changes that affect picture quality. In accordance, we have updated our review of the 46-inch
While the change will have a minor impact on picture quality, it probably irks current A950 owners to find out that they don't have the most up-to-date version of the television. Here's the relevant section from the, describing the differences we saw:
To assess the picture quality impact of the changes, we compared our original LN46A950 review sample side-by-side to a new one, and will use the new one in all comparisons involving the A950 going forward. The differences we saw concerned black levels primarily. The company has raised the black level in very dark scenes--those with a very low "average picture level." In those scenes the new model showed improved shadow detail and eliminated some of the worst blooming effects we mention below, while the older model reproduced darker overall black levels--its LEDs appeared to dim more aggressively, while the new ones stayed more illuminated. We didn't notice any differences between the two Samsungs in the vast majority of scenes however, which have higher average picture levels. As a result, we're not modifying the rating for this review.
According to Samsung, all A950 series sets sent to market after September 20, 2008, will feature the upgrade. Of course that means A950 series TVs sent to market before that date, whether still on store shelves or comfortably at home with their new owners, won't have the update.
This is hardly the first time we're aware of Samsung updating one of its HDTV models in the middle of the product's lifespan--see also the LN-T4671F, the LN-T4681F and the PN50A650. Previous updates also involved minor picture-quality improvements that, frankly, were often inspired by findings published in CNET reviews. The changes were usually addressed by downloadable firmware updates, which is an imperfect method compared to , but at least it's something.
Unfortunately, there's no way for owners of current A950s to easily get the upgrade or perform it themselves. According to a contact at Samsung, one could perform a service-menu-level change that would approximate the update, but ideally new hardware, specifically the new "local dimming" board, is required. Intrepid owners who contact Samsung customer support (1-800-SAMSUNG) and persuade the representative that they need the upgrade (hint: claim the set is "defective" and mention a "loss of extreme shadow detail") might be able to get the company to send a tech out with a new board. But that's an even more imperfect method, in our opinion.
Bottom line: Samsung should offer the update, free of charge, to current A950 owners without having to hack into a service menu or navigate the customer service labyrinth.