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Samsung LN-R8W review: Samsung LN-R8W

Samsung LN-R8W

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
Samsung issued a press release recently claiming to have sold 1 million 8-series models of LCD TVs, and it's not hard to see why these sets are so popular. Not only are they priced more aggressively than some name-brand LCD TVs, they look darn snazzy to boot. True, Samsung has left out such features as an HDTV tuner and a CableCard slot, but plenty of buyers see these options as unnecessary extras. They are available on some similarly-priced sets, however, like the Sharp LC-32D4U.
The first thing you'll notice about the Samsung 32-inch LN-R3228W is its distinctive all-black coloring. Unlike Sharp, which also has an extensive lineup of LCDs with a range of colors--but mostly silver--Samsung's LCDs are mostly two-tone silver and black. The LN-R3228W stands out with its black speakers and pedestal, although it's otherwise identical to the LN-R328W. The screen is edged with slick glossy black plastic, much like the Sharp LC-32D4U, but the Samsung's speakers are mounted on the bottom and shaped in a wide v formation. As a result, the LN-R3228W is narrower than many LCDs, measuring 31.4 by 25.6 by 9.8 inches. Including the stand, it weighs 39 pounds.
We've said it before and we'll say it again: Samsung's remote is in dire need of an update. The bland gray wand included with the LN-R3228W is easy enough to use, but it lacks a backlight and just doesn't fit with the slick style of the TV itself. We're also annoyed that the important Aspect button hides behind a sliding door and that the remote can't control other types of devices. We like the all-inclusive layout of the LN-R3228W's internal menu system, which covers input selection and has a friendly feel. Speaking of friendly, a strange chime sounds when you start up the TV; happily, you can silence it.
The Samsung LN-R3228W has all the standard TV features covered but, as noted, lacks an ATSC tuner as well as a CableCard slot. To watch high-def on this set, you'll need to connect an external HD receiver, such as a cable or satellite box--not a major issue since most people have cable or satellite anyway. Its features include a picture-in-picture mode, an option to freeze the image, and Samsung's Anynet function to control other Anynet-equipped Samsung gear. We also appreciated that all three aspect-ratio selections, including an adjustable zoom, are available with both HD and standard-def sources.
Connectivity isn't quite as good as that of some competing 32-inch panels, such as Dell's W3201C, but at least it includes a VGA-style computer input (1,360x768 maximum resolution). There's also an HDMI connection--one fewer than we'd like to see--as well as a pair of component-video inputs and two A/V inputs, one of them with S-Video. We would also like to see side-panel inputs on a set in this price range. One nice touch: The LN-R3228W automatically deactivates unconnected jacks, speeding the process of cycling through all the inputs.
The set includes a fair selection of image-affecting features, but there are some glaring omissions. The biggest is Samsung's DNIe processing, which cannot be disabled (see below for more). While Samsung provides four adjustable picture modes, none of them are automatically associated with each input, making for less convenient source-specific setup than true independent input memories. We also missed having an adjustable backlight control, such as those found on Sony and Sharp LCDs, which allows them to achieve darker blacks. Samsung includes a dynamic contrast option and a brightness sensor, which change the picture depending on content and room lighting, respectively. The My Color control didn't seem to do anything useful. We left all of these options turned off for critical viewing.
The Samsung LN-R3228W serves up five color-temperature presets. In our tests, Warm2 came closest to the standard of 6,500K and was fairly close in general for an LCD. We were able to calibrate the set to come even closer (see the geek box for details). Other factors influencing color accuracy included primary colors that came quite close to the HD standard--green was still somewhat limey, though--and color decoding that pushed red quite a bit.
We spun Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith to get an idea of how the Samsung performed as a home-theater display. The void of space behind the star field in the beginning of the picture certainly glowed brighter than on some LCDs we've seen, such as the aforementioned Sharp, which could achieve a much deeper shade of black. We also noticed that the edges of the screen appeared brighter than the middle. Details in the shadows, such as the fuselage on the Droid Army ships and the Jedi fighters as the camera follows them through shade and sunlight, appeared somewhat muddy and indistinct compared to some displays but fairly good for an LCD.
Brighter scenes, as expected, looked better. The shots of the massive city on Coruscant were rendered in splendid detail, and we appreciated the rich red of the carpet at the government building where Anakin's shuttle sets down. The overly ruddy look of his skin and that of pale Senator Palpatine were clear instances of too much red, however.
HDTV via DirecTV looked impressive during an ESPN broadcast of the NCAA Big Ten quarterfinals. Details such as the close-shaven hair on one of the Wisconsin players and the expectant faces of the cheerleaders during a court-wide shot came across very well. We noticed a bit of extra noise and harshness in the image, as well as signs of faint ghosting around text and graphics, which we blame on the set's DNIe processing. Despite turning sharpness all the way to zero, we still saw signs of edge enhancement.
We also checked out a suite of test patterns from the HQV test disc to see how the Samsung's video processing fared when handling standard-def material. In its favor, the LN-R3228W detected film-based material and engaged 2:3 pull-down quite quickly. On the other hand, it evinced more jaggies--or jagged edges on moving diagonal lines--than many processors we've tested, and it introduced some instability in fine detail.
Overall, the Samsung LN-R3228W is a decent if not exceptional performer that offers more features than some budget panels but not as many as step-up models such as the Sharp LC-32D4U -- which costs about the same. Its principal appeal is its slick, compact shape and all-black styling. If you're looking in this size range and want an LCD with an attractive exterior, the Samsung LN-R3228W certainly qualifies. For picture quality and features, however, there are better choices available.
Before color temp (20/80)6,948/7,187KAverage
After color temp6,670/6,569KAverage
Before grayscale variation+/- 681KAverage
After grayscale variation+/- 118KAverage
Color of red (x/y)0.644/0.338Good
Color of green0.264/0.608Average
Color of blue0.146/0.054Good
Overscan4 percentAverage
DC restorationAll patterns stableGood
2:3 pull-down, 24fpsYesGood
Defeatable edge enhancementNoPoor

Samsung LN-R8W

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 6Performance 6