Editors' Note 10-07-07: The rating this review has been modified from 7.9 to 7.6 because of changes in the competitive marketplace, including the introduction of models with 120Hz processing.
The LN-T4661F is Samsung's least-expensive 46-inch flat-panel LCD with 1080p native resolution for the 2007 model year. We recently reviewed another 46-inch 1080p LCD HDTV from Samsung, model LN-T4665F, so you may be wondering why we chose to review this one so soon afterward. The answer is shine. We complained about the 65F's shiny screen because it reflected lots of ambient light, acting more like a mirror than any TV screen we'd seen yet. The 61F's screen has the standard matte finish, which really cuts down on glare. But between the two, we did feel the LN-T4665F offered slightly better picture quality despite the shine (more on that below), making it a better choice for real home theater buffs and others with a lot of control over room lighting. On the other hand, the LN-T4661F should satisfy people who just can't stomach glare, and its picture quality, feature set and exterior design are still a cut above most LCDs on the market.
We really liked the futuristic look of the Samsung LN-T4661F. While both Samsung LCDs, along with most other HDTVs from all kinds of manufacturers lately, are clad entirely in glossy black, the LN-T4661F has a few different styling cues of its own. The speakers hide on the bottom, as opposed to the sides, and sound is deflected into the room by a narrow lip that runs along the bottom of the frame. The swivel base, which allows the panel to move about 20 degrees to either side, is oval instead of rectangular. And fans of the company's prominent circular power button will be thrilled to see it's back in full effect here.
Including the stand, the LN-T4665H measures 43.6 inches wide by 30.2 inches high by 12.8 inches deep. Without it, the panel measures 43.6 inches wide by 23.8 inches high by 4.1 inches deep.
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 the secondary controls clustered at the clicker's base, which kind of blend together. We'd like to see dedicated buttons for each input, although since the set automatically senses and skips inactive inputs, cycling between sources is less arduous than usual.
Readers of the LN-T4665F review will experience some deja vu when reading the below because the two reviews' Features sections, like the two TVs' feature sets, are basically identical.
With a native resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels, popularly known as "1080p," the Samsung LN-T4661F 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-T4661F includes HDMI 1.3-compatible inputs, which have higher bandwidth than the older versions. In itself that doesn't mean much, but it does enable the LN-T4661F 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-T4661F, as "no big deal." The set's spec sheet also mentions 10-bit processing, but when we asked Samsung, they said that the panel itself doesn't deliver 10-bit color--just that the processing is capable of it. Extra bit depth can allow less false contouring, among other issues, but again, it requires a 10-bit source and display.
Segueing to features that actually matter, the LN-T4661F 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, contrast, etc., 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, which allows slightly more advanced users to really zero in 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.
We appreciated the solid selection 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.
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.