There have been quite a few new HD (High Definition) ready LCD and plasma TVs hitting the streets of late, such as the Samsung LA23R51B, but there's still some question as to whether they should feature built in HD tuners. It's certainly not impossible for manufacturers to include an HD tuner, although given the disparate nature of digital television standards worldwide, it does add a significant figure to the manufacturing costs. Furthermore, there's not a massive amount of HD content on air at the moment, so arguably the cost won't be worth it until the broadcasters start upping the volume of HD programming.
Finally, there's the issue that in the not too distant future it's reasonable to expect most homes will have some kind of PVR (Personal Video Recorder), which will very likely incorporate one, if not two, digital tuners, which will make the HD tuner in the screen redundant.
So even though it seems such a waste to watch analogue television through a beautiful, high resolution HD screen, there are good reasons to not fork out the extra cash for an integrated tuner. It really depends on how desperate you are to watch HD today compared to the capacity of your wallet.
Samsung's new R series of LCD TVs come in a range of sizes up to 101cm, and we've taken a look at the entry level model, which packs a 58cm widescreen. The styling is fairly simple, but slick gloss black, with a reasonably narrow bezel. At the base of the screen is a silver mesh, hiding the 10W stereo speakers. The only features visible on the front are the large power button and the light and remote control sensors.
The base is secured care of four screws, making the screen very stable and rigid, although this comes at the cost of flexibility, with there being no tilt or pivot. Thankfully the viewable angle is wide, with little variation in contrast or brightness even at high angles vertically and horizontally.
One unusual design decision is having all the cables plug straight into the back of the screen horizontally. This means you'll have a slew of cables, including the power cable, sticking straight out, which will make it difficult to place the LA23R51B close to a wall. The screen also has a wall mount option, although you're going to need to do some creative cabling to make it work.
The 58cm widescreen is HD ready, and can pump out a maximum resolution of 1366 x 768. The other specifications are also impressive, with a listed brightness of 500cd/m2 and contrast ratio of 3000:1.
An interesting inclusion is a light sensor at the front of the screen. Ostensibly, this will detect the ambient light in the room and automatically adjust the brightness of the screen to suit. In practice, we didn't find it making any overly noticeable difference, but that could be indicative of its subtle effect. Even placing your finger over the sensor didn't change the brightness by more than a few degrees. In any case, the sensor certainly doesn't detract from the image quality.
Connectivity is well catered for, with dual component video inputs, along with dual composite and stereo audio inputs and an S-Video input. There's also a D-Sub connector for hooking the screen up to your PC, and a PC audio input as well. Finally, there's a stereo audio output if you want to pipe the audio through your sound system.
Unlike some manufacturers specs, which are often closer to hyperbole than fact, the LA23R51B actually lives up to its claims. To test the screen, we first checked out the internal analog tuner, then plugged it in to a DVD player and SD digital tuner. We also hooked it up to a PC and ran it through the gruelling Displaymate test patterns.
From the outset it was clear the LA23R51B delivered a crisp and bright picture. Whites are clean and bright, and black levels are suitably dark, although the screen did have a tendency to be slightly on the dark side overall. Still, a bit of cycling the picture modes through Standard, Dynamic, Movie or the manually adjusting the Custom settings helped. All this can be done through the OSD via the remote control fairly quickly and easily.
Colour response was also good, with bright and clear reds, and smooth greens and blues.
The image is also helped by a good screen coating that blocks most reflections and cuts down on glare.
The only significant problems that came out in the Displaymate tests was some slight but noticeable banding in the fine 256 step greyscale patterns. Even so, this shouldn't cause much impact on general television or DVD viewing.
One specification that isn't published is the response time, and interestingly the LA23R51B did exhibit some slight motion blurring. This is not out of the ordinary with an LCD screen, but it still has some way to go before being as responsive as a CRT.
In terms of audio, it's no surprise the in built stereo speakers are only suitable for basic television watching. If you want proper audio, you should definitely look to a dedicated speaker system. Even so, the volume levels and clarity are reasonable from the built in speakers.