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Samsung HL-T87S review: Samsung HL-T87S

Samsung HL-T87S

David_Katzmaier.jpg
David Katzmaier
David_Katzmaier.jpg
David Katzmaier Editorial Director -- TVs and streaming

David runs CNET's home entertainment division, where he leads a team that covers TVs, streaming services, streaming devices and home audio. If he doesn't know something about the gear you use to keep yourself entertained at home, it's not worth knowing.

Expertise A 20-year CNET veteran, David has been reviewing TVs since the days of CRT, rear-projection and plasma. Prior to CNET he worked at Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as the Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics. Credentials Although still awaiting his Oscar for Best Picture Reviewer, David does hold certifications from the Imaging Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology on display calibration and evaluation.
11 min read

The Samsung HL-T5687S and its 2007 line-mates represent the least-expensive of the company's LED-powered DLP HDTVs. When we reviewed the HL-S5679W last year, the company's first effort at putting an LED light source in a rear-projection TV, we lauded its lack of rainbow effect but noted its uneven screen uniformity. For better or for worse, the 2007 model has similar characteristics. The HL-T5687S delivers very good picture quality overall, with deeper blacks than its predecessor, relatively accurate color and the ability to put the finest of 1080p details on its 56-inch screen. It also overcomes many of the gripes commonly associated with rear-projection sets, exhibiting solid geometry and a very clean picture, give or take some stationery screen grain and the hot spot itself. But even with imperfect uniformity, the HL-T5687S makes a great bargain alternative to large-screen plasma sets costing hundreds more.

7.6

Samsung HL-T87S

The Good

Excellent primary color accuracy; produces a deep overall shade of black; no rainbow effect compared to other DLPs; comprehensive connectivity with 3 HDMI and one PC input; numerous picture controls; compact, stylish cabinet.

The Bad

Hot spot visible in dark scenes; no user-menu color temperature controls; lacks 2:3 pulldown processing.

The Bottom Line

Although we couldn't quite ignore its uneven screen uniformity, the Samsung HL-T5687S still makes a compelling alternative to flat-screen wallet-busters at this size.

Design
The trend in rear-projection design lately has been to reduce the thickness of the bezel around the screen, at least along the top and sides, to as much of an invisible sliver as possible. While some manufacturers, like JVC and Mitsubishi, do an even better job at bezel shaving than Samsung, the HL-T5687S' top and sides measure a respectably slim three-fourths of an inch from the edge of the cabinet to the screen. Below the screen lies the company's characteristic blank swath of glossy black plastic--nowadays most Samsung sets, this one included, incorporate down-facing slits inside which the speakers are hidden--interrupted only by the logo and the company's standard circular power button and blue accent light, which can be turned off entirely. The overall look is sleek and all glossy black, although a strip of silver lines the bottom of the speaker slit and brings some welcome relief to the blackness.

Samsung touted the slimness of its new DLPs when they were announced at CES, but they certainly can't compete with models like the JVC HD-58S998, for example, on depth. The Samsung HL-T5687S measures 50.4 inches wide by 34.9 inches high by 14 inches deep, and that 14-inch depth is just 1.4 inches less than last year's HL-S5679W. Like most microdisplays, the HL-T5687S is comparatively feathery, weighing in at just 69 pounds.

We generally found the slender remote 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 secondary controls clustered at the clicker's base, which kind of blend together. We'd like to see dedicated buttons for each input, but since the set automatically senses and skips inactive inputs, cycling between sources is less arduous than usual.

Features
The big news with the HL-T5687S is its LED light source, which as far as we know, is unique to the company. Unlike other microdisplays, which use a single bulb to illuminate one or more pixel-filled chips, the HL-T5687S has a set of three LEDs--one each for red, green, and blue--that create the picture by bouncing light off of one DLP chip. The LEDs last longer than standard bulbs--20,000 hours according to Samsung, vs. about 3,000 for bulbs--and provide one other key bonus compared to other DLP rear-projection TVs: immunity to the rainbow effect.

The HL-T5679S has the same single 1080p (1,920x1,080) native resolution DLP chip that's used in other many rear-projection HDTVs, such as Samsung's own HL-T5676S. That level of native resolution is enough to resolve every detail of 1080 resolution HDTV sources. As usual, all other sources, whether they be from HDTV, standard TV, DVD, or computer, are scaled to fit the native resolution. (Update 07-20-2007) It's also worth noting that these DLPs scan at 120Hz, which with LCD-based sets is said to clean up motion blur. DLP TVs, however, don't typically suffer from motion blur -- and indeed, we didn't notice any improvement in picture quality that we could attribute to the increased scan rate. However, the 120Hz rate does allow these DLPs to integrate 3D compatibility (see below).


The main Picture menu contains plenty of adjustments...

Compared to Samsung's line of flat-panel HDTVs, including the HP-T5064 plasma and the LN-T4665F LCD, the HL-T5687S doesn't offer quite the same range of picture controls. We especially missed the ability to adjust color temperature beyond the five presets and the limited "white balance" slider in the user menu (see Performance for details). Samsung includes three picture presets that are each independent per input, although only the Movie preset allows full control over every picture adjustment option.


...while the Detailed Settings menu has even more.

Those options include a choice of three color gamuts (sRGB came closest to the HDTV standard in our tests); a three-position noise reduction control; Samsung's DNIe function that we left off for high-quality sources because it introduced edge enhancement, and the welcome ability to adjust the position of the image in all four directions, moving it up to see subtitles, for example, or down to obscure tickers. In addition to the aforementioned slider for white balance, the Detailed Settings menu (available only in Movie mode) continues with adjustments for gamma; a Black Enhancer that we left off to preserve shadow detail; a Dynamic Contrast control that we left off because it adjusts contrast on the fly, an Edge Enhancement control that we left off; and a My Color control with sliders to adjust the intensity of various colors. We left them in the default positions because the control didn't seem to have much of an effect, and color decoding and primary colors were generally quite accurate anyway.

In the Setup menu Samsung hides a couple of picture-specific settings, starting with a Film Mode that (ineffectively, it turns out--see below) engaged 2:3 pulldown detection. The Color Weakness control is said to compensate for the "user's color weakness," but for normal users, we suppose, this option shouldn't engaged. There's also a Game mode with picture settings supposedly designed for Adventure, Sports and Standard games, all of which are designed to minimize lag between the controller and the on-screen action. Similarly, the home theater PC mode offers picture settings said to be optimized for computers. We didn't test either of them.

We appreciated the solid range 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 displays the image with no scaling, although like all rear-projection sets, the HL-T5687S did exhibit some overscan even in the Just Scan mode. Standard-def sources allow four choices as well, including two zoom modes you can adjust vertically, to see subtitles or obscure tickers, for example. The set also includes a picture-in-picture feature to display two channels or sources at once.

In a laudable effort to ease installation hassles, Samsung mounted the HL-T5687S' entire array of connections on the right side, as opposed to the rear. The array, headed up by three HDMI inputs, provides plenty of connections for even the most tricked-out home theater. There are also two component-video inputs; a VGA-style PC input (1,024x768 recommended resolution), two AV inputs with composite video and S-Video; two RF-style inputs for cable and antenna; an AV output with composite video; an optical digital audio output for audio from the ATSC tuner; a "Wiselink" USB port for displaying JPEG digital photos and playing MP3 files via the TV; and an RS-232 port for custom control systems like Crestron and AMX.


Samsung moved the entire input bay to the side of the television.

(Update 07-20-07) If you could actually read the words on the above image, you'd see that the topmost S-Video-lookin' port is enticingly labeled "3D Synch Out." These sets, and all 2007 Samsung DLPs along with DLPs from some other makers, including Mitsubishi, can display computer content in 3D. You'll need to purchase special software along with third-party kits, which consist of special glasses and an IR emitter, to utilize this feature. The software costs $50 and the kit around $100, and you can get more details here. We'll update this section when we find out more or get a chance to test the system.

Performance
The first thing we can say about the HL-T5687S's picture is that we didn't notice the rainbow effect, to which we're particularly sensitive, during our evaluation period. Even in the most likely places, namely high-contrast scenes such as a single light source in a dark background, those telltale color trails were absent. That's great news for those looking for a DLP but wary of 'bows, but there's a helping of less-good news, too: the HL-T5687S, like its LED-powered predecessor, the HL-S5687W, has a noticeable hot spot in the middle of the screen. Aside from the spot, we found plenty to like about this DLP's picture, from primary color accuracy to excellent detail, but the spot keeps it out of the top tier of rear-projection HDTVs.

As usual, we began our evaluation by adjusting the HL-T5687S for best performance in our darkened room. The first step was reducing its prodigious light output, mainly because we find watching a too-bright TV in a very dark room to be fatiguing after awhile. We settled on our standard light level of around 40 ftl, then set about adjusting the user-menu controls. We found that Gamma -2 produced the best results, with a realistic rise out of black and the most accurate curve, and the Warm2 color temperature preset, as usual, came closest to the 6500K standard. Unfortunately the Samsung's grayscale wasn't very linear--becoming greenish red in very dark areas--so we had to sacrifice the brighter areas, making them bluer than we'd like, to keep shadows looking realistic. The set lacks full controls over color temperature, instead providing just a single slider. That's too bad, because we'd love the ability to adjust the darker and lighter areas independently, as we can on many high-end HDTVs (including Samsung's own flat-panel models). For our full user-menu picture settings, click here or check out the Tips & Tricks section above. We did not perform a service-level calibration of the HL-T5687S, although we do believe it would improve the grayscale linearity.

After setup, we lined the Samsung up against a few other big-screen HDTVs we had on hand. We were not able to include any rear-projection sets in our comparison this time around, so we had to make do with a few 50-inch plasmas, namely the Pioneer PRO-FHD1, the LG 50PC5D, and Samsung's own HP-T5064. We chose to watch Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest on Blu-ray via the Samsung BD-P1200 at 1080i resolution.

Overall, the HL-T5687S delivered a solid, deep shade of black, and the letterbox bars and dark areas of the image appeared every bit as inky as the Samsung plasma, and darker than the other two plasmas we had on hand. Unfortunately, the middle of the screen appeared lighter and somewhat redder than the edges, which became especially visible in dark scenes.

We first saw the problem when looking at full-raster test patterns, which fill the screen with fields ranging from black to white. The brighter area in the middle extended horizontally toward the right and left sides of the screen. All rear-projection HDTVs have a so-called "hot spot" in the middle, to a greater or lesser extent, but on the HL-T5687S, the spot appeared larger and relatively brighter, compared to the rest of the screen, than other rear-projection sets we've tested, where the hot spot was rarely intense enough to be distracting. The screen also became discolored in different areas--while the spot stayed true and close to gray/white as we stepped through the brighter raster patterns, the top, bottom and corners of the screen became significantly bluer. Conversely, in completely black patterns and scenes, the spot appeared redder.

The effects of this uneven uniformity weren't difficult to spot in program material. Watching TV, for example, commercials and graphics during SportsCenter that had predominantly black screens scenes exhibited a brighter area in the middle. Extended darker scenes in Pirates, such as when Jack moves through the interior of the ship in Chapter 4, also brought out the hot spot, and it became especially distracting during camera movement, such as when the shot moved down between decks and the spot illuminated and then darkened the shadows.

Color was a more positive story with the HL-T5687S, although as we mentioned, the set's color temperature was bluer than we'd like to see in bright areas, which had a slight negative effect on skin tones. During the wedding scene in the beginning, for example, the close-ups of Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom appeared a bit paler and less realistic than on the Pioneer or the Samsung plasma, although the LG looked even paler still. Color decoding was very accurate, however, and as a result there wasn't too much red or ruddiness in their faces, and other colors were well-balanced. As with last year's LED DLP, the HL-T5687S evinced nearly perfect primary color accuracy, which was evident in the realistic green of the jungle palm trees and the reds of the jackets of the British soldiers, which appeared every bit as lush and vibrant as on the Pioneer.

As with all rear-projection sets we've tested, the HL-T5687S evinced some visible stationary screen grain, which became noticeable mostly on white fields such as the overcast sky above the island, and was again exacerbated by camera movement. The grain appears as extremely tiny dots, and it becomes easy to ignore after watching for awhile. Again, like all rear-projection sets, the picture lost a good deal of intensity when we moved off-angle to either side or up or down, especially compared to plasma. Geometry was good, although we did notice slight bowing on horizontal lines across the screen, such as the letterbox bar along the top, but it wasn't severe enough to cause a distraction. Vertical lines, such as the edges of the bars to either side of 4:3 programming, appeared quite straight, with only very minor bowing along the extreme bottom edge. Focus appeared slightly softer than we'd like to see, but that didn't translate to any softness during program material.

Speaking of detail, the Samsung HL-T5687S looked every bit as sharp as the 1080p Pioneer plasma and, frankly, as the lower-resolution Samsung and LG plasmas next to it. Fine details in that spectacular-looking disc, from the tiny droplets of water on Knightley's rain-sprinkled face to the texture of the rocks in the jungle to the braids and clumps in Jack's hair, looked sharp and realistic on the big screen. According to our HD signal generator, the HL-T5687S did resolve every line of resolution from the 1080i test pattern, although it failed (like most HDTVs we've tested) to properly deinterlace film-based 1080i material. We didn't notice any ill effects of improper 1080i deinterlacing during Pirates, so as usual, we qualify it as "no big deal." And in case you're keeping track, the HL-T5687S also accepts 1080p in both 60- and 24-frame-per-second varieties.

To test standard-def sources, we slid the HQV DVD into our DVD player and set it to 480i resolution via component video. The HL-T5687S turned in a relatively disappointing performance for a high-end HDTV. Yes, every line of the DVD format was accounted for, but we did see some minor flicker in the color bar pattern, and the finest lines appeared somewhat softer than we'd like to see. Details in the stonework of the bridge and the grass were also somewhat soft, and nothing we could change in the picture controls helped much. In its favor, the Samsung removed jagged edges from moving diagonal lines, like the stripes of a waving American flag, quite well. We also appreciated the noise reduction controls, which cleaned up the low-quality shots of sunsets and skies nicely. Surprisingly, the HL-T5687S failed HQV's test for 2:3 pulldown detection, introducing a moire effect into the grandstands behind the racing car. We checked our trusty intro from Star Trek: Insurrection and saw similar effects, with jagged edges on the bottom of the upturned boats and moving lines in some of the difficult rooftops. All in all, we definitely recommend using a progressive-scan or upconverting DVD player with this TV and setting your HDTV source to "="" rel="follow">upconvert standard-def programs to HD resolutions internally.

We tested the HL-T5687S with both analog and digital PC sources, and it performed quite well, although not quite as impressively as many flat-panel displays we've tested. The set accepted a 1,920x1,080 resolution signal via HDMI from our DVI-equipped PC, and according to DisplayMate, it resolved every line of the format in both the horizontal and vertical dimensions. Text looked crisp. Our only problem with this resolution, and it's a big one, is that the edges of the desktop are overscanned significantly, so the taskbar along the bottom, for example, almost disappears. We used the TV's position control to expose as much of the bottom and left sides as possible, but of course, that obscured a lot of the top and right sides. The best solution would be to use a video card that can adjust for overscan while not changing resolution. Otherwise you'll have to step down to 1,366x768 or lower to see the entire desktop. When we tried connecting via VGA, the TV appeared to max out at just 1,024x768, which jibes with the information in the manual.

TEST RESULT SCORE
Before color temp (20/80) 7074/6782K Good
After color temp 6484/7779K Poor
Before grayscale variation +/- 283K Good
After grayscale variation +/- 1151K Poor
Color of red (x/y) 0.644/0.330 Good
Color of green 0.299/0.604 Good
Color of blue 0.150/0.054 Good
Overscan 3% Average
Black-level retention All patterns stable Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Y Good
480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps N Poor
1080i video resolution Pass Good
1080i film resolution Fail Poor

Samsung HL-T5687S Picture settings
Default Calibrated Power Save
Picture on (watts) 154.78 158.11 N/A
Picture on (watts/sq. inch) 0.12 0.12 N/A
Standby (watts) 0.73 0.73 N/A
Cost per year $47.45 $48.46 N/A
Score (considering size) Good
Score (overall) Good

7.6

Samsung HL-T87S

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 7
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