If you are in the market for a 32inch LCD television with style and excellent image quality, the Samsung LA32R81BDX certainly fits the bill. It isn't perfect but the few problems it has are fairly negligible or are able to be fixed with a little tweaking of the on-screen calibration tools.
We ran tests in high definition and standard definition and tested PC connectivity as well. In each test, the unit performed extremely well. Like previous Samsung models, the colours on the unit were a little red-biased but this time around colour adjustment options have been offered to reduce this problem.
Samsung tends to stick to a theme with all its LCD television products. The R8, like the previous R7 series, has a piano black outer chassis that extends from the bezel through to the rear panel and stand. The only real difference in design is the bottom of the bezel which is now curved and has a neon blue glow. While the result is attractive, we would nonetheless hope to see some bolder changes to the Samsung lineup in the future.
The Samsung LA32R81BDX has a native resolution of 1366x768 and can accept video signals up to 1080i resolution. There are connections on the side and rear of the panel totalling three HDMI, two Component, two Composite, one S-Video and a 15-pin D-Sub analogue port for PC.
To combat motion judder, this television offers an interpolation technology called MoviePlus. By analysing incoming content, it creates new frames in an attempt to smooth out motion. However, it tends to cause problems instead including pixelation and digital artefacts, especially when viewing up-scaled DVD content.
We found black levels to be quite good although a careful balance between contrast, brightness and backlight intensity needs to be found when in standard mode. In Vivid mode the blacks are excellent but the colours are far too overbearing. On a whole, across all picture modes, the level of red in the image was a little excessive but since it could be corrected, this wasn't a problem.
We first tested the high definition capabilities of this unit using the Sony PlayStation 3. To test 1080i and 720p resolutions weviewed the Blu-Ray film Casino Royale and for gaming tests we used Devil May Cry 4. Our first series of tests were performed with MoviePlus turned on, but upon discovering the issues it created we began the testing process again with it turned off.
The film tests looked exceptional, with no pixelation, over-sharpening or contrast aberrations. During the heavier action scenes there was noticeable motion judder but it was on-par with most LCD televisions we have reviewed. The gaming tests looked excellent with no undue pixelation, and only minor motion judder. There was no noted difference between running games at 1080i or 720p, which is a testament to the screen's excellent interpolation.
Using The Matrix on DVD we then tested standard definition playback. The same motion judder was present but it wasn't terribly detrimental to the viewing experience. There was no contrast stepping on skin tones and no over-sharpening on edges. While there was a fair amount of image noise, it was no more than what we have come to expect from viewing DVDs on HD panels.
We also tested PC connectivity at the highest supported resolution of 1280x768. Our "DisplayMate Video Edition" tests were delivered well with no discolouration or pixelation failures. There was some banding during the vertical resolution tests but this is most likely the product of scaling the PC signal to fit the higher native resolution of the panel.
While we found a few problems with this unit, they were all rather minor and don't impact the image quality at all. The LA32R81BDX is an excellent unit which is well suited to both high definition and standard definition playback, while also being suitable for PC users as well.