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Samsung HLN-7W review: Samsung HLN-7W

Samsung HLN-7W

David Katzmaier Editorial Director -- Personal Tech
David reviews TVs and leads the Personal Tech team at CNET, covering mobile, software, computing, streaming and home entertainment. We provide helpful, expert reviews, advice and videos on what gadget or service to buy and how to get the most out of it.
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.
David Katzmaier
5 min read
Review summary
As the smallest Samsung DLP television, the HLN437W appeals to the rare tech head who has enough money for a plasma but prefers the higher resolution and the robustness of a DLP. With a diagonal screen size of 43 inches, the Samsung invites direct comparison to 42-inch plasma TVs, and its compact size, compared to other rear-projection sets, is a real draw. But at a list price of $3,699, this TV is expensive. Its value becomes questionable when you consider that 42-inch plasmas cost as much or even less. One thing isn't in doubt, however: the HLN437W offers one of the most complete feature sets and compelling nonflat designs available in an HDTV today. Other models in Samsung's line of DLPs include the 61-inch HLN617W, the 56-inch HLN567W, the 50-inch HLN5065W and HLN507W, the 46-inch HLN467W and the 43-inch HLN4365W. They all offer nearly identical feature sets, and their performance will be similar to the HLN437W's. While the HLN437W lacks the ultrathin, almost nonexistent bezel surrounding the screen of its larger 46-inch HLN467W and 56-inch HLN567W cousins, it's still one of the best-looking rear-projection designs we've come across in a long time. The display's angled, slate-gray frame is a mere 1 inch wide--equivalent to the border of most plasmas--so except for its bottom 6 inches or so, the TV's face is seemingly all screen. Buttons for power, menu access, and input selection are mounted on the right-hand side, along with a set of A/V inputs.
One of the Samsung HLN437W's major claims to fame is its compact dimensions: 40.5 by 29.75 by 15.75 inches. Such a shallow depth and a weight of only 68 pounds make placement a breeze. To ensure viewing at the optimal eye level, you'll want this set atop a table or a bench.
The medium-size, nonbacklit remote is comfortable and easy to use, but it just doesn't seem high-end enough for such an expensive TV.
Like most DLP TVs, the HLN437W takes a while to display a picture after a cold start. On average, the delay was around 20 seconds, which is about half the time we waited with Gateway's rear-projection TV. The HLN437W uses Texas Instruments' HD2 DLP chip. It has a native resolution of 1,280x720 pixels, exactly matching 720p high-definition television. The set converts 1080i HDTV, 480p progressive-scan DVD, and all other video and TV sources to fit the chip's resolution. Naturally, you'll need an external HDTV tuner to watch HDTV programs.
Fine-tuners will dig each input's ability to remember its own settings for contrast, brightness, and so on. You get four picture-in-picture (PIP) views, two of which have side-by-side same-size windows. The PIP feature works fine with standard sources, but you can't display 480p, HDTV, or computer images in the second window. Along with the Normal (4:3) and Wide (16:9) aspect ratios, you get Panorama, which stretches the sides of a scene but leaves its center intact, and two Zoom settings, which crop the top and the bottom. They all work with regular sources and progressive-scan DVD, but only Normal and Wide are active during high-def programs.
The HNL437W has lots of inputs, but their configuration can be annoying. Two of the component-video connections take 480p, 720p, and 1080i sources, and a third accepts 480i and 480p, but none are truly wideband. If you plug in your Xbox, for example, you'll see blank screens in the setup menu because no single input can handle the Xbox's both standard- and high-def signals.
The DVI jack has HDCP copy protection, so it can connect to next-generation HDTV receivers and DVD players. Also on tap are a standard VGA-style computer input, a pair of A/V ins with S-Video, and an A/V monitor output. For antenna hookup, you get two RF ins and one out. The HLN437W weathered our series of tests to earn a good overall score. The set still can't reproduce detail in dark scenes or deliver spot-on color like CRT-based models can, but CRT rear projectors don't provide this Samsung's razor-sharp, extremely bright picture when the lights are on. The image remained consistent at wide viewing angles but darkened when we sat too far above or below the screen.
The HLN437W came closest to the NTSC color-temperature standard of 6,500K when we selected the Movie picture mode and the Warm 2 preset. Our initial grayscale measurements were fairly blue: 8,032K at the low end and 9,045K at the high end. Calibration results were excellent; the respective numbers improved to 6,518K and 6,500K. The HLN437W's color decoder tends to overaccentuate reds; we compensated by reducing color, but that workaround took some punch out of highly colorful scenes.
Next, we played DVDs on a Denon DVD-2900. The darker material in The Hulk looked more impressive than it did on most other non-tube-based TVs we've seen. For example, in the scene where Betty first encounters the Hulk outside her cabin, her hair had a fairly good level of detail. On the other hand, even the darkest shadows weren't quite black, and when we sat closer than six feet from the screen, we noticed video noise, which in dark areas appeared as clouds of tiny blue dots.
The rainbow effect, a problem common in single-chip DLP TVs, appeared primarily when brighter objects were set against dark backgrounds. In one scene, for instance, Betty shines her flashlight on the Hulk, and the beam left a trail of color that lasted for a split second.
We must say in the HLN437W's favor that the TV delivered breathtaking clarity during lighter scenes. As we watched the Hulk hop across the desert, we could make out every band of rusty color and each cleft and bump in the rocks. And when we hooked up the V Bravo D1 player via its DVI jack and set output to 720p, the image looked a bit cleaner and sharper. The HLN437W has excellent video processing, anchored by Faroudja/Sage's DCDi system. We saw better inverse 2:3 pull-down detection and fewer jagged edges in video-based material than we did with the Denon.
As expected, HDTV looked phenomenal. We checked out the NASA footage on the 720p D-VHS version of Digital Video Essentials, and the clarity and the detail of the Earth seen from orbit came through unscathed. We recommend that you set your HDTV source to 720p to take advantage of the HLN437W's native resolution.

Samsung HLN-7W

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 7