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Samsung LN-T53/54H review: Samsung LN-T53/54H

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Overall the Samsung LN-T3253H produced a very good picture for a 32-inch LCD television. The many picture controls allowed us to hone the picture to our liking and improve it quite a bit, although the default Movie mode wasn't bad at all.

During the setup process we took advantage of the backlight control to reduce the LN-T3253H's light output to a level commensurate with comfortable viewing in a completely dark room, about 40 FTL. We also calibrated the grayscale with the user menu-based white balance controls, which helped to further improve picture accuracy. After setup, we compared the LN-T3253H side by side with a couple of other 32-inch LCDs: Vizio's inexpensive VX32L HDTV and Sharp's significantly more expensive 1080p model, the LC-32GP1U. For our Blu-ray test material we chose 8 Below, a nauseatingly family-friendly yet great-looking Disney flick starring a bunch of dogs, played over the Samsung BD-P1000 at 1080i resolution.

Performance in darker scenes was impressive for an LCD model. The LN-T3253H didn't produce as deep a shade of black as some of the other LCDs we've tested, such as later, larger models from Sharp and Sony, but it beat the Vizio and matched the 32-inch Sharp we had on hand. What we really liked about its dark-scene reproduction was the realistic gamma, which manifested as plenty of detail in shadows without too steep of a rise out of black. For example, in the scene where Jerry Shepard talks to Katie on the ship back to rescue the dogs, the shadowed side of her face appeared realistically dim yet we could still make out details around her eyelids and eyebrows. On the Vizio and the Sharp, by comparison, that area appeared brighter and a bit less realistic. We attribute this difference to the Samsung's adjustable gamma control, which we slid to its lowest setting (-3) to achieve the most CRT-like rise from black into shadow.

The Samsung's grayscale did tend to dip toward blue in the darkest shadows. As a result, Katie's face looked a bit too blue in that scene, more so than on the other two LCD sets, but it wasn't egregious. Colors in brighter areas remained true, however, which made the snow look more realistic, along with areas such as the faces of Jerry and Davis when they're out on the snowpack and inside the well-lit yellow tent. The ability to tweak the grayscale and the Samsung's accurate grayscale really help the colors look more natural. The set's relatively accurate primary colors and excellent color decoding are also big factors in its solid color performance.

We kept an eye our for false contouring artifacts, especially in all the expansive shots of snow and sky, but the Samsung LN-T3253H's image was clean. When we looked closely at snowy skies, we saw a bit more noise than on the other displays, but it wasn't apparent from seating distances of more than about five feet. We also looked hard during fast motion while watching the film and other material, and the Samsung didn't exhibit any notable blurring.

For an LCD, the Samsung LN-T3253H delivered fairly even uniformity across the screen. The biggest issue was the slightly brighter area on the left side, which was barely noticeable in the letterbox bars and more apparent with all-dark screens, such as the black spaces between titles or the night sky. We appreciated the even backlighting in particular during 8 Below's numerous shots containing fields of snow and ice. We also noted that the LN-T3253H maintained a fairly watchable image even when viewed from an extreme angle. When we moved to either side, both the Samsung and the Sharp washed out the darker areas and dimmed the brighter areas somewhat, but they were about equal to each other in this regard and certainly superior to the Vizio, whose image became both more washed-out and discolored from the sides.

Video processing with high-definition sources left a bit to be desired. Like most other HDTVs we've tested so far with the HQV HD DVD, the Samsung LN-T3253H failed to properly deinterlace 1080i signals and preserve all of their resolution. As a result we saw some moire in the stands of the stadium during that disc's real-world test. We looked for the effects with program material and couldn't really see them in this film, however, so it's safe to assume they're subtle.

In terms of standard-definition performance, the Samsung turned in a decent performance when displaying most of the images and test patterns from the HQV DVD. It smoothed out the jagged edges of moving diagonal lines very well, including the difficult stripes in a waving American flag. Details in the grass and the stone bridge were a bit softer than on some sets we've seen, although the LN-T3253H did resolve all of the lines of the disc's color bars pattern. The set's noise reduction options were quite effective without softening the image too much, although the Auto setting didn't clean up the toughest images as well as we'd prefer. Update 04/26/07: When this review first published we indicated that it failed the test for 2:3 pulldown detection, but that is incorrect. It passes the test well, implementing 2:3 processing quickly when Film Mode is set to "On" in the setup menu.

We also hooked up the Samsung's VGA input and tested it as a computer monitor. At 1,360x768 resolution, the image looked crisp with text down to a 10-point font, and according to DisplayMate the Samsung resolved every line of that resolution. The set is also equipped with a Home Theater PC mode that dimmed the image a bit and helped improve the picture to our eyes. Of course you can get the best results by adjusting the TV's standard picture controls, but the HTPC mode does provide a quick option.

Before color temp (20/80) 7525/6544 Average
After color temp 7421/6614K Poor
Before grayscale variation +/- 434K Good
After grayscale variation +/- 164K Average
Color of red (x/y) 0.624/0.321 Average
Color of green 0.270/0.591 Average
Color of blue 0.146/0.057 Good
Overscan 0.5 percent Good
Black-level retention All patterns stable Good
Defeatable edge enhancement No Poor
480i 2:3 pull-down, 24fps Yes Good
1080i video resolution Pass Good
1080i film resolution Fail Poor

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