Despite a shiny, reflective screen, the picture quality of the Samsung LN-T4665F makes it a top choice overall.
The image quality of the best flat-panel LCD HDTVs has improved with every generation, and Samsung's 2007 step-up model, the LN-T4665F, is irrefutable proof. To cut to the chase: it delivers one of the best pictures we've seen yet from any LCD, and it compared well against the best plasmas on the market. Of course there's always some impurity in the ointment, and in this case it's the Samsung's shiny screen, which is the main reason why we didn't give the LN-T4665F our Editors' Choice award (update 06-19-07: We've also published a review of the LN-T4661F, which is very similar to this TV except that its screen is matte). But in the end we, too, liked shiny things, because the Samsung LN-T4665F outperformed other LCDs we've tested--including the latest models from Sony and Sharp--in a demanding, darkened home theater environment.
The Samsung LN-T4665F is quite simply the shiniest TV we ever reviewed. The company's stylists went for pure, glossy black again this year, and for the first time the reflective gloss extends to the screen itself. The glossy frame is very attractive in its own right--we especially liked the rounded corners, smoothed-out planes, the subtly curved bottom edge, and the sleek, transparent speaker-sound deflectors that extend a quarter of an inch beyond the fuselage to either side. We also appreciated the trim swivel base, which allows the panel to be rotated about 20 degrees to either side.
We don't appreciate the glossy screen, however. We assume the company chose a reflective screen coating, as opposed to the matte screens found on most LCDs, to attract attention in the store when the LN-T4665F is lined up next to the millions of other flat-panel sets. Unfortunately, the screen also attracts reflections from bright objects and lights in the room, which can detract from the picture.
Including the stand, the LN-T4665F measures 43.6x12.8x30.2 inches. Without it, the panel measures 43.6x4.1x23.8 inches.
Samsung's remote is almost the same as last year, 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 secondary controls clustered at the clicker's base, which kind of blend together. We'd like to see dedicated buttons for each input, but since the set automatically senses and skips inactive inputs, cycling between sources is less arduous than usual.
With a native resolution of 1920x1080 pixels--popularly known as "1080p"--the Samsung LN-T4665F has enough pixels to resolve every detail of 1080i and 1080p HDTV sources, although it falls a bit short in real life (see Performance for more). All other sources, including 720p HDTV, DVD, computer and standard-def, are scaled to fit the pixels.
The LN-T4665F is one of the first TVs with HDMI 1.3-compatible inputs, which have higher bandwidth than the older versions. In itself, that fact doesn't mean much, but the addition does enable the LN-T4665F to offer a menu selection labeled "xvYCC," which refers to a wider color space that supposedly comes closer to human vision's capabilities than the current HDTV color space. Of course you'll need an HDMI 1.3-compatible source (the player and disc, for example), and as far as we know there isn't any xvYCC content available. In other words, we classify xvYCC and HDMI 1.3 inputs--at least as implemented on the LN-T4665F--as "no big deal." The set's spec sheet also mentions 10-bit processing, but when we asked Samsung about it, they said that the panel itself doesn't deliver 10-bit color--just that the processing is capable of it. Extra bit depth can result in less false contouring, among other benefits, but like xvYCC color it requires a 10-bit source and display.
As far as features that actually matter today, the LN-T4665F has an excellent selection of picture controls. It offers three picture modes that are each independent for each input, allowing you 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 standard brightness and contrast sliders, there's a full-fledged backlight control, which is also independent per input.
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, allowing slightly more-advanced users to really zero in on the set's grayscale. The "My Color" control, on the other hand, doesn't seem to do much of anything, 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. See Performance for more details.
We appreciated the solid range of aspect ratio controls, which include four choices for HD sources. Just Scan is the mode best suited for 1080i and 1080p sources, because it introduces no overscan and displays the image with no scaling. 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 set also includes a picture-in-picture feature to display two channels or sources at once.
Like more and more 2007 HDTVs, the Samsung LN-T4665F offers three HDMI inputs as opposed to just two. 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 with a pair of component-video inputs, an AV input with S-video, two RF inputs for cable and antenna, and a VGA-style RGB input for computers (maximum resolution 1920x1080). That recessed bay on the side offers an additional AV input with S-video, as well as a USB port that can interface with thumbdrives to display photos (JPEG only) and play music (MP3 only).
Simply put, in a darkened room the Samsung LN-T4665F is one of the best-performing LCD-based HDTVs we've tested yet. We specify "darkened" because of its screen's reflective coating, which according to our nonscientific observation reflects even more light than that of a glass plasma screen. It's basically a dark mirror. If you're setting this TV up in a room where you can't totally control the light that hits the screen, we recommend looking for an LCD with a standard matte screen, or a plasma with proven glare-reducing properties, like Panasonic's TH-PX77U series. If ambient light isn't a concern, then the Samsung LN-T4665F offers picture quality that compares favorably with the best plasmas.
We began our evaluation, as usual, by adjusting the Samsung's picture controls for optimum performance in our completely dark home theater. We really appreciated the set's excellent array of adjustments, including the fine-tuning for color temperature. We were able to improve the default Warm2 color temperature preset significantly (see the Geek Box below), although the final grayscale wasn't quite as accurate as we'd like to see. It varied a bit too widely in darker areas, although it was still much closer to the 6599K ideal than most LCDs we've tested. For our complete picture settings, which result in peak light output of about 40 footlamberts, check out our Tips & Tricks section.
To get an idea of the Samsung's real-world performance, we watched Hulk on HD DVD played from the Toshiba HD-XA2 at 1080i resolution. By way of comparison, we lined the LN-T4665F up next to a trio of like-size flat-panels: the HP LC4776N 1080p LCD, the aforementioned Panasonic TH-50PX77U plasma, and our oft-cited reference display, the Pioneer PRO-FHD1 plasma.
Let's get one thing out of the way now. The only flat-panel LCD sets we've seen that produce a deeper shade of black than the Samsung LN-T4665F are the Sharp LC-52D92U and LC-46D62U, which have other problems of their own. Hulk is a pretty dark film, especially in the beginning, and it served to illustrate the Samsung's black-level performance very well. During the scene when the green monster trashes the office, for example, the darkest shadows, the night sky above the building, and the black paint of the police car were all a bit darker than the other displays. Update 05-22-2007: We originally wrote that the Panasonic beat the Samsung by a hair in terms of procing the deepest black level, but actually the reverse is true. After rea-adjusting the two slightly, the Samsung produced a slightly deeper black level than the Panaosnic, although again the difference would be difficult to discern outside of a side-by-side comparison.
Shadow detail is an area where LCD almost always takes a back seat to plasma, but the LN-T4665F held its own. We set the adjustable gamma control to -3, which preserved all of the detail in shadows and yet provided the shallowest, most realistic rise out of black, meaning that near-black details weren't overly bright. We saw evidence of this when looking closely at the shadowed shape of Hulk as he stands behind the tree outside Jennifer Connelly's cabin; we could barely make out the definition of his muscles in the light, whereas the HP didn't show the same detail and the Panasonic was a bit too bright, with a somewhat unrealistic rise out of black.
Color accuracy on the Samsung was also commendable overall. When Connelly visits Nick Nolte in his shack, for example, the extreme close-ups of her face were rendered quite realistically, and we could see variations in skin coloration from her forehead down to her cheeks and chin. Looking at the Pioneer, our reference for color, revealed slightly less-saturated colors than on the Samsung, but the difference wasn't drastic. Primary colors and color decoding were also quite accurate on the LN-T4665F, and combined with the set's mostly solid grayscale performance they led to the best color we've seen on any flat-panel LCD.
The Samsung also delivered an exceedingly clean image. The twilight sky above Nolte's shack provided a good example -- we saw far more moving motes of noise in those areas than we did on the Panasonic, for example, although the Pioneer was about equal. We complained of false contouring on some Samsung LCDs last year but the LN-T4665F was as good as any other display we've tested in producing smooth gradations between shadows and light.
Screen uniformity was somewhat below that of the best LCDs we've tested, however. The most noticeable issue was the excessive brightness of the left and right sides of the screen compared to the middle, which was most visible in flat fields (45 IRE or lower) especially in the darkest fields. In program material--for example, the shots of Nolte in his shadowy shack--we noticed the edges of the display were a tiny bit brighter than the middle. There were other, irregular and much more subtle brightness variations in dimmer fields, but they weren't as noticeable, even in bright fields like the desert under the speeding helicopters. When seen from off-angle, the Samsung's screen maintained a relatively solid picture, not becoming discolored, and washing out significantly less than other LCDs we've tested. Of course, the darker parts of the Samsung's picture did wash out quite a bit more than those of the plasmas.
Like any 1080p HDTV should, the Samsung handled 1080p sources, both at the standard 60 and the less-common 24 frames per second -- although like most sets it can't change its scan rate, so the benefits of using 1080p/24, if any, will be lost. We also checked the LN-T4665F's ability to resolve a 1080i test pattern from our Sencore VP403, and surprisingly it fell just short (most 1080p LCDs we've seen pass this test with aplomb), although it did resolve every line of the Sencore's 1080p pattern via HDMI. According to on HD DVD and Blu-ray, the Samsung also failed to properly de-interlace 1080i content for display on its 1080p screen. (Update 06-04-2007: For those who want to assure proper de-interlacing of video-based, 1080i/30 material, we found that setting the aspect ratio to "16:9" as opposed to "Just Scan" will cause the Samsung to pass that test). How much do these failings with 1080i matter? Judging from the incredibly sharp image of Hulk, which appeared every bit as detailed as on the Pioneer (which passes all of these tests), not much. Of course, sticklers with access to 1080p content will want to use it with the LN-T4665F.
(Update 6-20-07) Samsung has sent us a firmware update that worked with this set and the LN-T4661F to fix the deinterlacing of video-based, but not film-based, 1080i content and to show every line of a 1080-resolution test pattern. (This update is not reflected in our Geek Box results.) We originally reported here that the firmware update would be available as a download from Samsung's web site. Now we hear from the company that the update may instead only be available to owners who call the Service Center and ask to have it sent. We'll update this section again when we're told more. New TVs equipped with the updated firmware will arrive on store shelves, according to Samsung, by mid- to late July 2007.
We also checked out the Samsung's ability to handle standard-def sources, and the results were mostly mediocre. The set was able to resolve every detail of the DVD format according to the color bars pattern from the HQV disc, but it had trouble smoothing out the jagged edges of rotating diagonal lines, and along the stripes of a waving American flag. The four noise reduction settings did a progressively better job of removing random motes of snowy noise from the disc's low-quality sunsets and shots of skies, but as usual there was a trade-off and details were softened somewhat as we increased NR. The Auto setting didn't really work well to automatically adjust the NR, especially in the "motion-adaptive" scenes with the roller-coaster, so we recommend choosing one of the manual modes when you'd like to fight the noise. The LN-T4665F did engage 2:3 pull-down quickly and accurately.
We also checked out the Samsung's performance as a computer monitor, and like most 1080p flat-panel LCDs, it was very good. Using DisplayMate software via the VGA input--we didn't test compatibility with DVI/HDMI PC sources --the set resolved every line of vertical resolution and nearly every line of horizontal resolution with our video card set to 1920x1080 output. As a result, we detected a slight bit of softness in PC text at font sizes smaller than 10-point, but it certainly wasn't overt. The desktop filled the screen perfectly and overall we think most viewers will be happy with its capabilities as a big computer display.
(Update 5-15-07): Reports about the LN-T4665F's issues with some HDMI devices, namely the Sony PlayStation 3, have surfaced recently, but we experienced no problems with our review sample. We connected a variety of devices to the set via HDMI, including the PS3 (we tried both Blu-ray movies and games), high-def disc players, a DirecTV HR20, a Gefen HDMI distribution amplifier and a Radiient HDMI switch, and didn't experience any issues. We also routed the PS3 and other sources through the amplifier and switcher, and connected those devices to all three of the LN-T4665F's HDMI ports, and in all cases our sample performed as expected.
|Before color temp (20/80)||8401/7365||Poor|
|After color temp||6379/6565||Good|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 1186K||Poor|
|After grayscale variation||+/- 134||Average|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.636/0.328||Good|
|Color of green||0.281/0.608||Good|
|Color of blue||0.148/0.061||Good|
|Black-level retention||All patterns stable||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Y||Good|
|480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps||Pass||Good|
|1080i video resolution||Fail||Poor|
|1080i film resolution||Fail||Poor|
|Samsung LN-T4665F||Picture settings|
|Picture on (watts)||246.89||80.53||108.69|
|Picture on (watts/sq. inch)||0.27||0.09||0.12|
|Cost per year||$75.71||$25.19||$33.74|
|Score (considering size)||Good|