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There isn't much that can truly be called attractive about any 65-inch RPTV, and the HCL652W is no different from its competition in this regard. The set is mostly screen, and the cabinet is finished in the industry-standard dark-gray plastic. The front-panel A/V inputs and the autoconvergence button hide behind a door that electronically slides down at the touch of a button, which is pretty slick. It's a shame that Samsung didn't bring that same cool factor to the universal remote, which is serviceable but a bit awkward in its layout. The remote unfortunately also lacks backlit keys. In addition, we weren't thrilled with the set's internal menu system--it's a little funky and could be more user-friendly.
Making the right connections
Connectivity on the HCL652W is quite comprehensive. There are two component-video inputs: one for 480i or 480p, the other for either 480p or 1080i. You also get one S-Video input, two composite-video inputs with stereo audio on the rear panel, one set of monitor outputs with composite video only, two RF inputs, and one RF output. Plus, as with many sets, there's a full array of A/V inputs with S-Video on the front panel for camcorder or video game hookup.
We were also pretty impressed with the feature package. There are several picture-mode and color-temperature settings from which to choose. You also have multiple aspect ratios at your disposal--normal, wide (anamorphic), two different zoom modes, and a panoramic setting that elongates the edges of 4:3 images in an attempt to make them appear wide-screen.
Other notable features include Samsung's PerfectFocus autoconvergence, which worked fairly well on our review sample; a nine-point manual convergence; and a dual-tuner picture-in-picture feature with a side-by-side picture mode. It's also worth mentioning that the HCL652W's audio system is pretty strong. The set comes equipped with a Dolby Pro Logic decoder, 45 watts of amp power, and left-/right-surround and center-channel audio outputs. If you don't have an A/V receiver, you can work off of the TV's internal circuitry.
Progressive-scan DVD player a must
We did a full-blown ISF calibration on the HCL652W. Of course, color temperature--even in the warm setting--was way off, but the end result was a nearly perfect grayscale.
We used an Integra DPS-7.2 interlaced DVD player for the evaluation and were disappointed to discover that the HCL652W's internal line-doubler lacks the all-important 3:2 pull-down circuitry that's necessary to minimize artifacts on film-based DVDs. This means that it's an absolute must to use a progressive-scan DVD player with the HCL652W.
The color decoder is fairly poor, exhibiting serious red push (where the red part of color spectrum is a bit stronger and tints the picture), but we were able to correct that in the service menu--not to be confused with the user menu--and greatly improve the color decoder's performance. After calibration, scenes from the Jurassic Park III DVD looked crisp with good overall color rendition, but they did exhibit visible stair-stepping and motion artifacts. Unfortunately, we did not have any source material with which to evaluate the HCL652W's HDTV performance. It's safe to say, though, that if this set were properly tweaked, HDTV would look outstanding.
In the final analysis, the $3,999 HCL652W has its strengths: myriad features, plenty of connectivity options, and great audio performance. However, its picture quality doesn't quite match that of competing sets such as Toshiba's similarly priced , which has an excellent color decoder and 3:2 pull-down in the line-doubler. If you do manage to find this Samsung significantly discounted and decide to pick it up, just remember: You'll be a lot more satisfied if you mate it with a progressive-scan DVD player and get it professionally calibrated.