Editors' Note 04/29/2008: The rating on this review has been modified from 8.0 to 7.7 due to changes in the competitive marketplace.
Samsung's LN-T4671F is the third HDTV we've reviewed to incorporate video processing that smooths out judder, or the inherent choppiness and stutter during motion that can show up most noticeably on film-based video. Although we're still ambivalent about its effect on most Hollywood films, we really like how it treats material that includes slow pans and other steady camera movement. No matter what, once you've seen de-judder in action, it changes the way you perceive all kinds of video. Samsung's first attempt at the processing has a mild case of the hiccups, but you can turn it off (provided you have the latest firmware), and in most other areas of picture quality we liked what we saw from the Samsung LN-T4671F.
We described the Samsung LN-T4681F as "ultrasleek," and it would be unfair to not use the same words on the 71F series. In fact, the two look almost identical. The LN-T4671F is also clad entirely in glossy black, accented by the same vertical strips to either side of the panel: one clear and one silvery-gray, contrasting with all of that gloss. On the 71F series, however, the clear strips are mounted on the outside while the gray ones are on the inside; the 81F turns the order of the strips inside-out, comprising the only distinguishing external difference between the two (aside from a discrete logo touting the LED backlight on the 81Fs). The clear strips are cupped slightly to deflect sound from the side-mounted speakers into the room.
The overall appearance of the LN-T4671F, especially considering the rather broad sides of the glossy black frame, is of a very wide HDTV. The wide look is further enhanced by the relatively slim top and bottom edges of the frame. The LN-T4671F measures 48.1 by 29.6 by 12.6 inches and weighs about 72 pounds including the swivel stand; sans stand it measures 48.2 by 27 by 4.4 inches and weighs 61 pounds. In case you're wondering, the 81F series is 0.3 inch wider and, inexplicably, 5 pounds heavier. Maybe those LEDs weigh more.
Once again, Samsung equipped its higher-end LCD with a shiny screen, the same one we moaned about in the 81F and LN-T4665F reviews. While the screen catches the eye on the sales floor and lets you check your teeth, those benefits are outweighed by its distracting reflectivity under normal room lighting.
Samsung's remote is almost the same as last year's model, and we generally found the slender wand easy to operate. Only the keys for volume, channel, and device control (the universal clicker can command four other pieces of gear) are illuminated, but that's better than most TV remotes, which skip backlighting altogether. All of the buttons are nicely separated and differentiated, with the exception of the secondary controls clustered at the clicker's base, which kind of blend together. Although we'd like to see dedicated buttons for each input, cycling between sources is less arduous than usual since the set automatically senses and skips inactive inputs. The menu system is easy to navigate, and we appreciated the text explanations that accompanied the selections.
Like many high-end LCDs this year, the Samsung LN-T4671F offers a 120Hz refresh rate. Simply put, it refreshes the image on the screen twice as quickly as other HDTVs, nearly all of which refresh at 60Hz. While often touted as a way to eliminate the blurring in fast-motion that supposedly plagues LCDs, we found that the main benefit of 120Hz mode is to allow the inclusion of video processing that removes judder. The company calls its processing Auto Motion Plus 120Hz, and it's available in three flavors: Low, Medium, and High. These modes introduce varying degrees of frame interpolation, which in practice makes motion appear progressively smoother from Off to High. If you don't like the smoothing effect of this mode, which we'll describe in detail below, you can always turn it off. Doing so keeps the TV refreshing at 120Hz but preserves the judder.
Other picture adjustments abound on the LN-T4671F. We liked the ability to adjust the three picture modes independently for each input, allowing us to customize each source with three different groups of picture settings. Only Movie mode allows full adjustment, however, so we recommend using it for the most demanding viewing conditions.
In addition to the five presets for color temperature, there's a full set of detailed color temperature controls. Labeled "white balance," they offer both gain and offset adjustments for red, green, and blue, which allows more advanced users to really zero in the set's grayscale. The My Color control, on the other hand, doesn't seem to do much of anything helpful, so we left it in the default positions. The selection of secondary picture controls includes items labeled "black level," which affects shadow detail; dynamic contrast, which adjusts black level on the fly; gamma, which affects the rate of progression from dark to light; and a selection for color gamut, which controls the range of colors the display can reproduce.
We appreciated the solid collection of aspect-ratio controls, which include four choices for HD sources. Just Scan is our favorite because it introduces no overscan and does not scale 1080i or 1080p sources, preserving the dot-by-dot match to the TV's native pixels. Standard-def sources allow four choices as well, including two zoom modes you can adjust vertically to see subtitles or obscure tickers, for example. The Samsung also has a picture-in-picture function that allows it to display two programs at once.
The setup menu controls, among other items, are the energy-saving function of the LN-T4671F. You can choose from four different Energy Saver modes, which limit peak light output (backlight intensity) to conserve power. In past Samsung LCDs, we've had to use Energy Saver modes to get the best black-level performance, but in the case of this TV, we achieved black levels without having to futz with Energy Saver. See the Juice Box below for complete details on the LN-T4671F's energy usage.
Like many 2007 HDTVs, the Samsung LN-T4671F offers three HDMI inputs, as opposed to just two, and all are HDMI 1.3-compatible, for what that's worth. Two are located on the back, while a third can be found in a recessed bay along the panel's left side. The Samsung's commendable connectivity continues by including a pair of component-video inputs; an AV input with S-Video and composite video; two RF inputs for cable and antenna; and a VGA-style RGB input for computers. That recessed bay offers an additional AV input with S-Video and composite video, a headphone jack, and a USB port that can interface with thumb drives to display photos (JPEG only) and play music (MP3 only).
The overall picture quality of the LN-T4671F places it squarely among the better LCDs we've tested this year, and it scored well in both black-level performance and color accuracy. We did encounter more issues with its judder-busting processing than we saw on the Sony KDL-46XBR4. Unfortunately, your mileage may vary depending on which firmware version your 71F employs.
Setup: We began our review, as always, by adjusting the TV's user-menu controls for viewing in our completely dark theater. These adjustments included attenuating light output to a comfortable 40 footlambert (ftl) and calibrating the grayscale to closer to the broadcast standard of 6,500K. It may be mildly interesting to some readers that our review sample's Warm1 color temperature preset came closer to the standard than Warm2, which was a bit too red. A few tweaks to the user-menu grayscale controls brought the color temperature somewhat closer overall, although we couldn't quite eliminate the faint bluish tinge from the very darkest areas. For our full user-menu settings, click here or check out Tips & Tricks above.
For comparison purposes, we lined the LN-T4671F up next to a few other competing HDTVs we had on hand, including the company's own LED-powered LN-T4681F and Sony's 120Hz KDL-46XBR4, both high-end LCDs, as well as a few plasmas, namely the Samsung FP-T5084, and the Pioneer PDP-5080HD and PRO-FHD1. We started our viewing session with Blood Diamond on HD DVD at 1080i resolution played on our trusty Toshiba HD-XA2.
Black levels and color: The depth of black produced by the latest LCDs such as the Samsung 81F and the Sony has raised the black bar, and while the LN-T4671F delivered deep blacks compared to most LCDs we've tested, it couldn't quite compete with those two. In dark scenes, such as the opening of the film with the African continent traced against a black background, or the shot of Djimon Hounsou lighting a lamp, the darkest areas of the LN-T4671F's screen appeared lighter than those of the other TVs we had on hand (with the exception of the PRO-FHD1 and the FP-T5084). It was still quite dark, however, especially for an LCD, and we appreciated the relatively solid detail in shadows, although again, shadowy areas, such as Honsou's hand and the folds in his ear, didn't appear quite as distinct as the three black-level champs.
Our biggest issue with the Samsung's black-level performance was its tendency to get a bit bluer in darker areas, whereas the other sets stayed relatively true. Black backgrounds such as the intro has a slight bluish cast, and skin tones in dark areas looked somewhat less realistic. When Jennifer Connelly dances with Leonardo DiCaprio at the outdoor bar, for example, her face and the lighter highlight on her cheek appeared a bit bluer than we'd like to see. Her face looked a lot more natural when the strobing lights came up, however, and in general the Samsung's color looked very good. We especially appreciated the accurate primaries, from the blue of the river to the red of the clay earth. Yes, compared to the other Samsungs and the PRO-FDH1, the 71F's greens did look very slightly too blue, but the difference was very difficult to see outside of direct side-by-side comparison, and certainly wasn't distracting.
Video processing: Like the Sony and the Toshiba 52LX177 we reviewed earlier, the LN-T4671F's 120Hz mode includes de-judder processing, which is designed to smooth out motion in pans, camera movement, and pretty much every other species of moving image. We found this smoothing effect most noticeable in film-based material, such as Hollywood movies and prime-time sitcoms and dramas, and basically impossible to discern with video-based material such as sporting events and reality TV.
During Blood Diamond, our overall impression, as we also noted in the Sony and Toshiba reviews, is that engaging de-judder has the effect of making the film appear more like video and less like film. Taking out that stuttering effect definitely smoothed out motion and in some scenes, especially slow pans that tended to accentuate judder, the effect wasn't unwelcome. In other scenes it simply looked strange to our eyes, especially when the processing suddenly "locked in" during movement. We saw this issue, for example, during a zoom into a trellis bridge, where the motion suddenly and unnaturally went from juddery to smooth.
For some other film-based material, such as the flyover helicopter shots and slow pans in the nature documentary Planet Earth, we found the smooth version displayed by the Samsung and the Sony entirely preferable to what we saw on the other TVs. The processing lent realism and clarity to the motion and made the juddery, normal version, especially in side-by-side comparison, seem distracting and unnatural.
Having three different grades of de-judder allowed us to gauge the difference, and in general we preferred watching Blood Diamond in Low or Off mode as opposed to Medium or High. While the latter two made pans and whole-camera movement almost comically smooth, an effect some viewers may like, they did introduce significant artifacts. We compared a sequence in all three modes where DiCaprio and Hounsou scamper through town dodging bullets, and at one point, when the camera circles the two heroes, we saw obvious ghost-like outlines around their bodies, which were basically invisible in Low and Off. Of course, the great thing about having different options is being able to choose, and some viewers may be willing to endure artifacts for more smoothness.
While the Samsung in Low and the Sony in Standard produced about the same level of smoothness with comparatively few unnatural artifacts, the Samsung evinced another issue we didn't see on the Sony. Occasionally, during our rewinding and fast-forwarding--and once without any us doing anything--the action on the TV would begin stuttering significantly. This effect was a great deal choppier and more unwelcome than mere film judder, and became very distracting when it happened. We never experienced it in Off mode, but it came up more than once in the other modes.
The de-judder processing also introduced another artifact we noticed, particularly during sporting events. Watching a college football game between West Virginia and Louisville, for example, we saw what looked like blurring and elongation of the ball during a long, 55-yard pass (which was intercepted). The artifact was most noticeable in High mode and became less so in the modes with less processing, although we were still able to consistently discern between Off and Low on that particular pass play. We didn't notice any similar artifact on the Sony, even when it was set to High mode. We didn't find the artifact egregious and it certainly was uncommon in that game; we watched the majority of that game, and it didn't pop up as noticeably again. Update 11-16-07: When this review first posted we indicated that we watched a hockey match and only noticed the artifact once in a period, but that was with a standard-def match (HDNet was blacked-out that week in NYC). When we watched high-def match on HDNet this week, between the Ducks and the Kings, it popped up more often; about 15 verifiable times in a 20-minute period with the mode set on High. The artifact again seemed only to appear on certain relatively long shots that went fast but not too fast, and was much less-noticeable in Medium and lower modes. Given the presence of this artifact, we recommend that avid sports fans who want de-judder should either avoid this set or simply turn off the processing. We preferred to watch sporting events with the processing off anyway since, as we mentioned, we couldn't discern much smoothing with sports--not a surprise since sports are captured on video at a frame rate higher than that of film. We've also heard reports from readers that Samsung 71F sets with different firmware may behave differently from the sample we reviewed; click here for further details.
Aside from de-judder, one other supposed benefit of 120Hz is its ability to accept 24-frame, film-based content without having to perform any 2:3 pull-down. To check out whether the LN-T4671F's 120Hz mode provided any improvement in this regard, we turned the Motion Plus processing off--which removes de-judder but preserves the 120Hz scan rate--and set our Samsung BD-P1200 Blu-ray player to 1080p/24 mode (it's worth noting that you can't take advantage of 120Hz's ability to ditch 2:3 pull-down unless you feed the TV native 24-frame content, of which 1080p/24 Blu-ray and HD DVD players are the principal current source).
Compared to the Sony, whose Smooth Motion processing we also turned off, the Samsung looked slightly choppier in some medium-speed pans, such as the one over the Congress of American Indians audience in Chapter 18, although the difference was most-noticeable in handheld shots, such as when the camera moved over the wounded on the beach in Chapter 10. (For what it's worth, despite the differences we observed, both company's engineers claim that their sets perform the ideal 5:5 conversion, simply multiplying every frame; 5x24 equals 120). The smoothing effect of the Sony wasn't nearly as overt as its (or the Samsung's) de-judder modes, however, and in general we feel most people will have a hard time discerning the benefit of 5:5 conversion compared to the standard 2:3 pull-down used by all other non-120Hz HDTVs. But if you're looking for a good reason to set your player to 1080p/24 mode, the Sony provides it while the Samsung, at least in our observations, does not.
Speaking of 1080p, the LN-T4671F fully resolved every detail of the format according to test patterns, and images looked as sharp as we saw on the other displays (including the non-1080p Pioneer). Update 11-19-07: When this review first posted, we indicated that the TV could not properly de-interlace 1080i film-based material. That was a mistake; upon further testing, the Samsung 71F passed the 1080i film resolution test from HQV, our benchmark for 1080i de-interlacing, with Film mode engaged (although the 81F still failed). The Geek Box has been updated accordingly. We also checked out the ticker on ESPN to look for evidence of 120Hz's ability to combat motion blur, and indeed, the 71F appeared a bit sharper in this regard than the 81F.
Other performance considerations: The LN-T4671F includes the shiny screen found on other models of the company's LCDs, and we're not its biggest fans. As usual, we found that the screen showed brighter reflections of in-room objects than did the other sets (including glass-screened plasmas), outlining the light wood of our coffee table, the white of our t-shirt, and even the pale, pasty complexion of our face, among other things. The shiny screen is less of an issue if you have the lights turned low, naturally, but if you have a room where you cannot control ambient light--for example, the TV sits facing a window behind the couch--then the LN-T4671F's screen might be a deal-breaker.
The LN-T4671F's screen was not perfectly uniform across its surface, but it was better than most LCDs we've reviewed. In very dark scenes, such as the all-black intro to the film, we noticed that the edges appeared a bit brighter than the middle--about on the same level as the Sony's and the Samsung 81F's. In very bright fields, the upper corners and the right side also appeared a hair darker. We don't consider either of these issues particularly distracting, and overall we commend the set's screen uniformity.
When seen from off-angle, the LN-T4671F was relatively good for an LCD, although not quite as impressive as the Sony. In dark scenes, the image washed out more, and we noticed that from extreme angles the darker areas took on a reddish tinge. On the other hand the 71F's off-angle performance was more forgiving than that of the 81F, and most viewers will find it perfectly fine from one seat to either side of the sweet spot in the middle of the couch. As always, it's worth noting that the plasmas in the room exhibited perfect uniformity and off-angle viewing characteristics.
We performed our standard suite of standard-definition tests on the LN-T4671F, and it performed about average, although it bears repeating that if the original source has a resolution other than 480i (such as many high-def cable and satellite boxes, which can internally convert standard, 480i sources to higher resolution), then these test results don't apply. While the set resolved every line of the DVD, the grass and stone bridge of the Detail test looked a bit softer than on the Sony and the Pioneer. The Samsung did poorly on the jaggies tests, doing little to smooth out the edges of diagonal lines or the stripes in the waving American flag. Engaging noise reduction certainly cleaned up some of the worst shots of skies and sunsets, although it was difficult to discern much difference between the three levels of NR. The set engaged 2:3 pull-down quickly and effectively, cleaning up the moire in the grandstand behind the race car.
As a PC monitor connected via the HDMI input, the LN-T4671F performed perfectly, as have most flat-panel LCD HDTVs we've reviewed. It resolved every detail of a 1,920x1,080 resolution source, according to DisplayMate, text looked as sharp and crisp as we'd expect, and there was no overscan. When we connected a PC via the RGB-style PC input the results were a bit less impressive. The set failed to resolve every detail of horizontal resolution and images appeared very slightly softer, although still perfectly acceptable.
|Before color temp (20/80)||6,378/6,377||Good|
|After color temp||6,608/6,482||Good|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 144K||Good|
|After grayscale variation||+/- 130K||Average|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.64/0.325||Good|
|Color of green||0.271/0.597||Average|
|Color of blue||0.145/0.051||Average|
|Black-level retention||All patterns stable||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Yes||Good|
|480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps||Yes||Good|
|1080i video resolution||Pass||Good|
|1080i film resolution||Pass||Good|
|Samsung LN-T4671F||Picture settings|
|Picture on (watts)||296||147.4||135.13|
|Picture on (watts/sq. inch)||0.33||0.16||0.15|
|Cost per year||$90.73||$45.60||$41.87|
|Score (considering size)||Poor|