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Samsung HLA750 review: Samsung HLA750

Samsung HLA750

Kevin Miller

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7 min read

Rear-projection HDTVs, as a category, are on their way out, and DLP-based sets are the only microdisplay choice available, now that all manufacturers of LCD- and LCoS-based rear-projection displays have basically ceased production. Samsung and Mitsubishi are pretty much the only players left in this category--they're the only two manufacturers listed on the Best Buy and Circuit City Web sites under "rear-projection." The way things are going, 2008 or 2009 may be the last year for rear-projection, lasers notwithstanding. As with any technology nearing the end of its lifespan, RPTV is becoming an even better bargain than before, as long as you're aware of its limitations, such as poor off-angle performance compared to plasmas.

8.0

Samsung HLA750

The Good

Excellent screen size-to-price ratio compared to big-screen flat-panels; solid black-level performance; very accurate color, with minor tweaking; plenty of connectivity options.

The Bad

Somewhat expensive for a rear-projection set; as with all rear-projection sets, off-angle performance is poor.

The Bottom Line

Samsung's HL61A750 61-inch rear-projection HDTV delivers excellent overall picture quality, and, compared to flat-panel options, it's a real bargain.

Samsung's HL61A750 is the company's top-of-the-line 61-inch model. It has a really solid feature package, with lots of options focused on optimizing the picture, and generous connectivity to accommodate all your video sources without any issues. Most importantly--at least to this reviewer--it is an excellent performer, with deep blacks and accurate color temperature after just a few tweaks in the user menu. Rear-pros may be a dying breed, but if you're looking to get 61 inches for less than $2,000 (street price), the Samsung HL61A750 is an excellent performer and handily beats the comparable Mitsubishi WD-65735.

Design
If you've seen one big-box microdisplay, you've just about seen them all. This is especially true now that Sony's interestingly styled SXRD rear-projection sets are no longer produced. The Samsung HL61A750 sports a glossy black finish with a very thin bezel surrounding the left, right, and top edges of the screen. Samsung's signature round blue circle still sits directly below the middle of the screen.

While the TV's cabinet is unchanged, the remote has undergone a complete makeover. It has a glossy black finish, and I wasn't a fan of the multicolored buttons. I was disappointed that it is not backlit at all, and the round dial around the Enter button intended to help you navigate the menu is awkward to use; I found myself going to places in the menu I didn't intend to visit. The internal menu system has not changed since last year's DLP models, and is quite intuitive and easy to use.

Features

Like most modern big-screen LCDs, the HL61A750 has a native resolution of 1080p, which works out to 1,920x1,080 pixels. While we often downplay the importance of 1080p resolution at smaller screen sizes, with a 61-inch screen you should be able to see the benefits of 1080p over 720p, albeit at a very close seating distance of 7 feet.

Samsung HL-61A750
You'll want to select Warm 2, as it's the most accurate color temperature.

Three picture modes are available, including Dynamic, Standard, and Movie. I chose Movie, as it produced the best results at the factory presets. The selectable color temperatures are Cool 1, Cool 2, Normal, Warm 1, and Warm 2; we selected Warm 2, as its by far the closest to the broadcast standard color temperature.

Samsung HL-61A750
Dynamic may be the brightest, but Movie mode is the best for an accurate picture in a dark room environment.

The Detailed Settings menu includes several additional adjustments and almost all of them, including Black Adjust, Dynamic Contrast, Edge Enhancement, and xvYCC Color, are best shut off. The LED control adjusts the backlight for the LEDs, and is very useful in optimizing the black level of the set. The lower you set it the better the blacks, but you also decrease light output, so there is a tradeoff.

When in the Movie mode, you will find that many of the settings in the Picture Options menu are grayed out, indicating they are set correctly and should not be changed. I was very pleased to see that Samsung has added a Blue Only mode, which is helpful in getting color and tint set correctly, as a blue filter really isn't accurate enough with these types of displays (check this tip for details). Color Gamut comes set to sRGB, and that is the most accurate setting. This feature changes the primary colors, and sRGB is very close to the HDTV specifications for red, green, and blue. The Normal and Wide modes bring the primaries way beyond where they are meant to be.

(Updated July, 31, 2008) The Samsung's selection of aspect ratio modes is solid, and includes a Just Scan option that displays 1080i and 1080p without scaling. Since this is a rear-projection set it still overscans about 2.5 percent, which obscures the extreme edges of the image--whereas flat-panel sets can typically show the entire image with zero overscan.

Samsung HL-61A750
With three HDMI inputs and two component video inputs, you should be covered for high-def video.

There are ample AV connections located in the rear right side of the HL61A750. The most important connections are the three HDMI inputs. Plus, there are two component video inputs for any analog HD devices you have. For standard-definition analog video, there is a single S-Video input and two composite video inputs. A PC-style VGA input is also included, as well as a digital optical audio output, too.

Performance
This is where the Samsung excels compared to the competition. Color fidelity is exceedingly accurate, requiring only user menu tweaks that don't need professional calibration to access. The primary colors and the grayscale could still stand to be improved a bit, and can be with full-blown professional calibration, but the out-of-the-box performance is still impressive in this regard. And most importantly, blacks can be made to surpass the old microdisplay black-level champs--the Sony SXRD sets, like the Sony KDL-55A3000--by proper manipulation of the LED Control feature. You can check out my full picture settings for more info.

Black level: Blacks are quite compelling on the HL61A750. If you turn down the backlight, using the LED Control feature, you can really get good, deep, inky blacks out of this set--but you need to do it carefully, as light output suffers if you go too low. I settled on just above Minimum and cranked the Contrast to 90, and got an acceptably bright picture with excellent black level performance. For example, at the very end of Chapter three of I Am Legend on Blu-ray, when Will Smith is locking down his house, the screen goes completely black, and the Samsung produced a convincing dark black field with little or no noise. It then goes back in time with Will and his family driving through NYC at night, which also showed off the excellent shadow-detail capability of the set.

I also looked at some of the outer space shots from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the Samsung clearly bested the previous referenced TVs for black in microdisplays, the Sony KDS-55A3000 and the Mitsubishi WD-65735. Chapter six is a good high-contrast scene, with both good dark blacks from space juxtaposed against bright whites from a space ship and a planet; displaying these scenes, the Samsung was a definitely notch above the rest.

Color accuracy: As I said earlier, the overall color accuracy of the HL61A750 is exceptional, provided you set it up properly. Grayscale tracking in the Warm 2 color temperature setting is close to the broadcast standard. Primary and secondary color points are quite close to the HDTV specification, and the color decoding is spot on. All of these things combine to give the Samsung the ability to deliver incredibly accurate color, and this is extremely impressive with high-resolution HD sources, like Blu-ray.

HD programming from CNET's DirecTV HD satellite system looked pretty darn good. HDNET, in particular, was crisp, with excellent color reproduction and exceptionally natural-looking skin tone rendition. Outdoor scenes from I Am Legend looked exceptional and natural, especially when compared with the Mitsubishi WD65735. The Sony KDS-55A3000 stood up to the Samsung a lot better than the Mitsubishi in this regard, but the Samsung still outperformed it.

Video processing: Video processing on the HL61A750 is quite good for a consumer HDTV. It passed both the Video and Film Resolution Loss tests on the Silicon Optix HQV Blu-ray test disc, which means it de-interlaces 1080i HD material, correctly preserving all the resolution in the signal. Processing was clean, as evidenced by the quiet nature of blacks.

Uniformity: White field uniformity is exceptional on this set, which is common for DLPs. A good scene for testing this is the very beginning of Chapter Five of The Italian Job, where they are all celebrating in the Alps. There is a long pan of snow-covered mountains, and the Samsung reproduced this scene flawlessly, with no color splotching whatsoever.

Standard definition: (Updated July, 31, 2008) The HL61A750 did well in our standard-definition tests. It passed the 2:3 pulldown test as long as we left the Film Mode in Auto as opposed to the default Off. It also passed most of the other HQV tests, displaying the full resolution of DVDs and handling video-based jaggies tests with ease.

PC: The HL61750 isn't an ideal PC display, because, as we mentioned before, even in Just Scan mode there is some overscan, which will obscure parts of the screen. Aside from that, we found text to be clear and crisp, although resolution tests from DisplayMate indicated that it wasn't delivering all full horizontal resolution.

How we test TVs

TEST RESULT SCORE
Before color temp (20/80) 6510/6760 Good
After color temp N/A  
Before grayscale variation +/- 209 Good
After grayscale variation N/A  
Color of red (x/y) 0.635/0.331 Good
Color of green 0.294/0.603 Good
Color of blue 0.149/0.059 Good
Overscan 2.5% Good
Black-level retention All patterns stable Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Y Good
480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps Pass Good
1080i video resolution Pass Good
1080i film resolution Pass Good

Samsung HL61A750 Picture settings
Default Calibrated Power Save
Picture on (watts) 171.24 83.38 N/A
Picture on (watts/sq. inch) 0.11 0.05 N/A
Standby (watts) 0.83 0.83 N/A
Cost per year $53.52 $26.32 N/A
Score (considering size) Good
Score (overall) Good
*Cost per year based on 2007 average U.S. residential electricity cost of 10.6 cents per kw/hr at 8 hours on/16 hours off per day.

8.0

Samsung HLA750

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8
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