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Samsung HLP-85W review: Samsung HLP-85W

Samsung HLP-85W

Kevin Miller
6 min read
Samsung's most radical-looking DLP offering yet, the HL-P5085W, takes a unique pedestal-style form factor that makes for a supersleek, eye-catching television with a very small footprint. Equipped with a Texas Instruments' HD2+ DLP chip, it not only has the resolution to deliver the HDTV goods, it also performs quite well in a number of other areas. If you want your TV to make a definitive design statement even when turned off and offer a good picture to boot, it's tough to beat this set.

Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.


Samsung HLP-85W

The Good

Groundbreaking pedestal design; video processing includes 2:3 pull-down, accurate color decoding, and grayscale tracking after calibration.

The Bad

Pedestal probably not right for all installations; needs calibration for peak performance; some visible low-level noise; minor vertical pincushion geometry errors.

The Bottom Line

The uniquely designed Samsung HL-P5085W DLP HDTV is capable of producing an excellent picture.
The HL-P5085W will undoubtedly win some industry awards for its sleek, high-tech appearance. The screen itself sits atop a smoothly curved, nondetachable pedestal, which in turn rests on a fetching but fragile glass base. The screen is surrounded by a glossy black border, which also houses speakers to the left and right of the screen. Black grille cloth covers the speakers' round enclosures. On the pedestal below the screen, are touch-sensitive light-up controls, as well as a unique circular display that animates into a smiley face during the 35 or so seconds it takes for the TV bulb to warm up (that's about average warm-up time for a microdisplay TV). Samsung rates the bulb life at 5,000 to 8,000 hours, depending on use, and replacement bulbs cost about $250.

Measuring about 55 inches tall and 54 inches wide by 21 inches deep, the HL-P5085W has a relatively small footprint: its trapezoidal base is 40 inches wide. A potential stumbling block to this design is that to keep the pedestal aesthetic, you'll have to find another place for your components rather than beneath the TV itself. Samsung offers a shelf (model TR85, $500 list) that attaches to the pedestal if you'd rather sacrifice that aesthetic for practicality.

The universal remote and internal GUI (graphical user interface) are the same old Samsung fare from the last couple of years, with no design change. We found the menu system straightforward and easy to navigate. The remote, while fairly well laid out and intuitive seems pretty low-tech next to the television itself; most of this TV's technophile target audience would undoubtedly exchange it for a cooler universal model in a heartbeat.

If the pedestal design isn't a match for your A/V setup, you'll save some money with a standard-looking DLP like the HL-P5063W. Note, however, that it includes a lower-end DLP chip, so image quality won't be the same as on this set.

Like most other DLP sets on the market this year--a notable exception being Samsung's 63W-series sets--the HL-P5085W uses Texas Instruments' HD2+ DLP chip. The chip has a native resolution of 1,280x720, which means it should deliver all of the detail of 720p high-def programming. All other sources, including standard- and high-def video, as well as computer sources, are scaled to fit the available pixels.

Samsung's pedestal HDTV includes neither a built-in HDTV tuner nor a CableCard slot (meaning it's not Digital Cable Ready), so you'll need an external box to watch high-def. Otherwise, its feature list is suitably extensive. Five selectable color temperatures give you choices in the overall hue of the picture and range from the reasonably accurate Warm 2 setting to the extremely blue Cool 2 setting. When you engage Film Mode, you turn on 2:3 pull-down in the video processing. This helps minimize motion artifacts and jaggies with film-based material such as DVD movies and much of prime-time TV, which still originates in film. The unusually flexible setup options let you customize each of the three picture presets for each input, effectively giving you three independent input memories for each source. Two proprietary processing modes, DNIe and MCC, should be left off for the best picture (see Performance for more).

Dual-tuner PIP (picture-in-picture) with split-screen will appeal to those wanting to keep tabs on more than one show at a time. Unfortunately, it doesn't work with the HDMI input, and when component-video or DVI sources are shown in the main window, the secondary window is limited to showing only channels from the TV's internal tuner. Available aspect ratio controls include a scant two choices for high-def and 480p sources (4:3 and Wide), and five, including two scrollable zooms, for standard 480i sources. Audio features include TruSurround XT for 5.1 soundtracks, Mono, Stereo, and SAP.

The connectivity suite on the rear panel (there are no front- or side-panel A/V inputs) is relatively comprehensive, highlighted by a pair of digital inputs, one HDMI and one DVI, as well as two broadband component-video inputs. Also onboard is one VGA-style RGB input; unlike many other microdisplay sets, Samsung's DLPs are designed to work easily as computer displays too. The HL-P5085W can handle up to 1,024x768 computer resolution signals at 60Hz via either VGA or DVI inputs. The rest of the jack pack includes two A/V inputs with both composite and S-Video inputs, one A/V output with composite video only, and two RF inputs and one RF output. This is more than enough connectivity for most sophisticated home-theater rigs.

Samsung also offers the pedestal in a 56-inch screen size, model HL-P5685W.

Like a lot of other TVs, the overall performance of the Samsung HL-P5085W isn't spectacular out of the box. However, if you have it professionally calibrated by someone who knows the set's idiosyncrasies, it can be made to perform extremely well.

Color decoding out of the box leaves a lot to be desired, it accentuates green tones and underaccentuates red, but again can be fixed by a qualified professional. Once calibrated, the grayscale tracking, or variation, is also excellent, resulting in a consistent color of gray from darkest to lightest colors (see the geek box below). The Warm 2 color temperature preset came the closest to the NTSC standard of 6,500K. Black-level performance was also quite good, better than that on Sony's KDF-50WE655, meaning the set can achieve relatively dark blacks. There was some visible low-level noise just above black, a problem we see with just about all DLP sets.

We also tested a couple of the HL-P5085W's proprietary picture modes. The DNIe circuit introduces some edge enhancement and also affects contrast and color saturation. For optimum picture quality, we recommend you turn it off. The MCC (My Color Control) is another gimmicky feature that gives you color choices based on a animated, picture generated from the set. Again, leave it off for the best results.

After doing a thorough calibration of the HL-P5085W, we sat back and watched some scenes from our favorite reference DVDs. Chapter 12 of the Seabiscuit DVD looked awesome, with superb color saturation and natural-looking skin tones. Dark scenes at the beginning of the Alien: Director's Cut DVD were rendered extremely well with relatively deep blacks and only minor visible low-level noise.

As did all 1-chip DLPs we've seen, the Samsung exhibited the rainbow effect. We witnessed brief trails of color in high-contrast areas, such as the white-on-black letters from the intro of the Alien DVD. These effects will be invisible to some people and a bother to others. We also noticed some slight bending of horizontal lines, known as a pincushion effect; we'd normally expect near-perfect geometry on a DLP set.

HDTV material looked great. The combination of an extremely accurate grayscale and good color decoding after calibration yielded realistic yet deeply saturated color. The image also appeared quite sharp, although technically it wasn't capable of reproducing every line from a 720p test pattern on our Accupel signal generator.

Before color temp (20/80) 7,350/7,575K Average
After color temp (20/80) 6,700/6,550K Good
Before grayscale variation ± 922K Average
After grayscale variation ± 86K Good
Overscan 3% Average
Color decoder error: red -15% (0%) Poor
Color decoder error: green +10% (+5 %) Average
DC restoration Gray patterns stable Average
2:3 pull-down, 24fps Y Good
Defeatable edge enhancement N Poor


Samsung HLP-85W

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 7Performance 8