Samsung HL-R68W series (2005 1080p DLP) review: Samsung HL-R68W series (2005 1080p DLP)

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The Good Excellent color accuracy after calibration; superb black-level performance; generous connectivity, including 1080p-capable computer input; exhaustive feature package.

The Bad Black level changes on the fly due to permanent implementation of the DNIe circuit; severe edge enhancement in most picture modes; cannot accept 1080p signals via non-PC inputs.

The Bottom Line The Samsung HL-R6768W is a strong contender for the best 1080p HDTV we've reviewed yet, but nondefeatable DNIe processing spoils its chances.

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7.6 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7

Review summary

Samsung's HL-R6768W is among the first models we've reviewed to boast this year's hottest high-end HDTV feature, 1080p resolution, which promises to finally deliver all 2 million-plus pixels of 1080i to your eyeballs. Like most other 1080p big-screens, this Samsung uses DLP technology, which has produced the deepest blacks of any microdisplay projection technology we've tested. The Samsung HL-R6768W is no exception--its blacks are stellar--but numerous other factors contribute to picture quality aside from resolution and black levels. While the 67-inch HL-R6768W, the largest member of the company's 2005 rear-projection HDTV lineup, can produce an excellent image by any standard, it also has a couple of flaws that keep it from earning our highest recommendation. We thought the Samsung HL-R6768W's outward appearance was a bit understated, although the visual separation of the screen from the speakers lends it a high-tech look. Essentially a tabletop design, the HL-R6768W's stereo speakers are located below the screen, keeping the width of the set to a minimum. The bottom portion of the set below the screen is finished in silver, and the rest of the chassis surrounding the colossal 67-inch screen is colored matte black, which increases adjacent-area contrast ratio. Some of the key functions can be accessed with keys located on the right side of the set, and Samsung's distinctive, round power button/indicator sits front and center below the screen.

The TV's overall dimensions are about 62 by 45 by 20 inches (WHD), and it weighs 109 pounds--extremely light for a TV this large. You'll need some kind of stand to get it to eye level, and Samsung naturally makes one that matches, model TR-61X2.

The remote control is universal and therefore capable of operating a wide variety of other makes of A/V components. It's a rather basic, rectangular clicker with no design flare--for a TV this big and expensive, we expected something better. Unfortunately, it lacks any sort of illumination, making use in a darkened room more difficult. A source key on the remote scrolls you through only the inputs that have a source connected to them, which is a real time-saver when switching inputs. The Samsung HL-R6768W's internal menu system is similar to that of all previous Samsung DLP sets, and we found it relatively easy and intuitive to navigate. As we mentioned at the outset, the Samsung HL-R6768W has a native resolution of 1,920x1,080, which should enable it to resolve every pixel of 1080i high-def sources. Like most other 1080p displays on the market, the Samsung uses a Texas Instruments DLP chip. We prefer to think of the chip as a "quasi" 1080p solution, however, because it actually has only 960x1,080 physical pixels. A process called wobulation or smooth picture is used to effectively double the horizontal resolution by making the mirrors on the chip do double duty. In contrast, LCoS-based 1080p HDTVs have chips with all 2 million-plus discrete pixels. Despite having roughly half as many pixels, wobulated chips have the potential to display all 1,920 lines, but as usual, what actually appears on the screen varies across models and manufacturers.

In terms of conveniences, the Samsung HL-R6768W is appropriately loaded. Dual-tuner PIP allows you to watch two programs simultaneously, although not with direct digital cable, over-the-air DTV, or PC sources. You get five choices of aspect ratio with standard-def sources but only two for high-def. Naturally, there's a built-in HDTV tuner, and the TV Guide EPG is on hand to substitute for the cable company's guide if you utilize the Digital Cable Ready CableCard feature.

The Samsung HL-R6768W has fewer picture adjustments than some other high-end HDTVs, but it still allows plenty of control over the image. Four preset picture modes, each of which can be adjusted independently for each input, let you set all inputs and sources for optimal quality in numerous lighting situations. Out of the box, the HL-R6768W's Movie mode offers the best image quality.

Other picture-enhancing features include Film mode, which engages 2:3 pull-down for film-based material such as standard-definition prime-time TV from cable or antenna sources. The My Color feature is basically useless as it won't allow you to adjust color with external test patterns but rather with an internally generated picture from the TV. There's also a wide variety of preset color temperatures, with Warm II coming extremely close to the standard. Finally, we discovered a DNIe Demo mode that supposedly shows off the advantages of Samsung's DNIe processing. See our Performance section for details, but suffice it to say that we'd prefer an Off switch instead of the demo mode.

The connection options on the Samsung HL-R6768W are quite ample, even for the most sophisticated home-theater systems. Two HDMI inputs are the most important connections for today's digital video sources. In addition, the set has two component-video inputs, two A/V inputs with S-Video, one 15-pin VGA input for PC hookup, two FireWire ports, two RF inputs, a CableCard slot, and an RS-232 control port for programming purposes. Finally, there is an optical digital audio output for routing off-air digital audio signals to an external surround-sound processor.

Like most 1080p HDTVs on the market, the Samsung HL-R6768W cannot actually accept a 1080p sources (more info). It can, however, accept 1080p via its VGA input, which is a major boon for people who use home-theater PCs and want to achieve full 1,920x1,080 resolution. The Samsung HL-R6768W does some things extremely well, but its unusual black-level shift is a major performance flaw. After calibration, we found that the set's black level, or brightness of "black," changed when switching inputs or picture modes and even when chapter-skipping forward and backward on DVD movies. The fluctuation was clearly visible on both DVD and HDTV sources, not just on test pattern material. We believe it's caused by the DNIe circuit, which last year was defeatable in the user menu and now can't switched off at all. The set also doesn't pass information that's darker than "black," which hinders its overall contrast ratio. Incidentally, DNIe also introduces severe edge enhancement in all but the Movie mode.

Overall, this fluctuation really hurts the Samsung's otherwise solid performance when displaying darker scenes. Accurate black level is one of the most important aspects of picture performance for shadow detail in dark scenes, overall contrast ratio, and color saturation. Since it is virtually impossible to keep black level constant on this set, its performance is seriously flawed. If Samsung had left the DNIe defeatable and fixed the floating black-level issue, this set would have received an Editors' Choice award.

(Editor's note: After this review was published, we and others have discovered ways to eliminate the fluctuation in black level and the additional edge enhancement described above. Unfortunately, controls to do so are not available in the user-accessible menu, and instead require accessing a hidden service menu. While instructions for doing so are widely available--here, for example--we strongly recommend employing a professional technician to implement the change as part of a full calibration. Trying to do it yourself can result in permanent damage to the set.)

Color accuracy on the Samsung HL-R6768W is its strongest performance characteristic. In fact, once properly calibrated, this HDTV has the most accurate color of any set we have ever reviewed. The main reason for this is that, during the calibration process, we could actually input the correct coordinates for the primary and secondary colors, and they would come out almost perfect. Thus, reds, greens, and blues are extremely accurate, and thanks to a nearly flawless grayscale, skin tones are also extremely natural-looking. Color decoding was good, with only a hint of red push.

After a thorough calibration, we spun up our black-level torture-test DVD Alien: The Director's Cut. Blacks in the opening scenes were deep, rich, and reasonably clean with little visible low-level noise and artifacts. We did see the low-level noise known as dithering, but this is common to all DLPs, and you won't see it if you are seated at the proper distance from the screen, about two screen widths away. Bright scenes from the awesome Superbit version of the Vertical Limit DVD showed off the set's superb color saturation and detail.

Resolution is a mixed bag, as the Samsung HL-R6768W didn't actually deliver all 1,920 lines of horizontal resolution. However, unlike many HDTVs, the Samsung does process HD accurately, retaining the resolution in the signal. HD from our DirecTV HD satellite feed looked good with excellent color saturation and very natural-looking skin tones. Deep reds and greens looked almost like wet paint, they were so saturated. HDTV, despite the slightly lower than perfect resolution, still looked extremely sharp.

Before color temp (20/80)6,700/6,775KGood
After color temp (20/80)6,300/6,650KGood
Before grayscale variation+/- 164KGood
After grayscale variation+/- 75KGood
Color of red (x/y)0.637/0.339Good
Color of green0.305/0.596Good
Color of blue0.155/0.69Average
Overscan2.5 percentGood
DC restorationNo stable patternPoor
2:3 pull-down, 24fpsYesGood
Defeatable edge enhancementYesGood

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