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Samsung LNC350 review: Samsung LNC350

Samsung LNC350

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David Katzmaier
David_Katzmaier.jpg

David Katzmaier

Editorial Director -- TVs and streaming

David has reviewed TVs, streaming services, streaming devices and home entertainment gear at CNET since 2002. He is an ISF certified, NIST trained calibrator and developed CNET's TV test procedure himself. Previously David wrote reviews and features for Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as "The Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics."

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2 min read

Comparing the Samsung LNC350 with the Sony KDL-BX300, another entry-level name-brand 720p LCD, we give the Sony the slight nod in picture quality. That said, the Samsung is plenty "good enough" for its price range, and offers one extra the Sony and most other sets at this level lack: a USB port for easy photo display and music playback. For a bedroom-size model without frills like LED backlight or 1080p resolution, the LNC350 series fits the bill nicely.

samsung-ln32c350.png
5.3

Samsung LNC350

The Good

Reproduced slightly deeper black levels than a competing LCD; matte screen works well in bright lighting; handles 1080p/24 sources properly; solid picture adjustment options; USB port for photos and audio.

The Bad

Uneven screen uniformity; dark areas tinged somewhat blue; subpar standard-def processing; just one analog video input.

The Bottom Line

A USB port and decent performance set the small Samsung LNC350 series apart from the entry-level pack.

Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 32-inch LN32C350, but this review also applies to the smaller members of the series. They all have similar specs and should provide similar picture quality.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Models in series (details)
Samsung LN19C350 19 inches
Samsung LN22C350 22 inches
Samsung LN26C350 26 inches
Samsung LN32C350 (reviewed) 32 inches

Design


Samsung's lowest-end model doesn't hide the speakers.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Design highlights
Panel depth 2.6 inches Bezel width 1.7 inches
Single-plane face No Swivel stand No

The Samsung stands taller than the Sony BX300, and although we didn't like its look as much, it does offer a few more curves than the blocky Sony. An accent lip separates the glossy bottom of the frame from the matte speaker bar, and while the oval-base stand looks like a swivel job, it's not. Panel depth is pretty slim, however, and this is one of the lighter non-LEDs you'll find.


The oval stand doesn't swivel.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Remote control and menus
Remote size (LxW) 7.4x1.8 inches Remote screen N/A
Total keys 39 Backlit keys 0
Other IR devices controlled No RF control of TV No
Shortcut menu Yes Onscreen explanations No

While we liked the larger remote on the Sony BX300 series better than that of this Samsung, the latter's stubby clicker is fine for the job. Button layout was clear enough and there were no missing keys, aside from Play/Pause and so on, so the clicker can't control other gear via HDMI-CEC or infrared.

The transparent menu system is excellent, with thoughtfully divided sections and easy access to all functions. We especially appreciated the onscreen menu explanations and the large, clear text for selections. There's a Tools menu for shortcuts to picture and sound modes, as well as the sleep timer.


Samsung's transparent menu system is among our favorites.

Features

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Key TV features
Display technology LCD LED backlight N/A
3D-compatible No 3D glasses included N/A
Screen finish Matte Refresh rate(s) 60Hz
Dejudder (smooth) processing No 1080p/24-compatible Yes
Internet connection No Wireless HDMI/AV connection No

The Samsung outdoes many other entry-level LCDs by including a USB port, which allows it to display digital photos and play music from a connected USB thumbdrive--it can't handle video files, however.

Otherwise the feature set is bare-bones. It has a native resolution of 720p, and at this screen size there's little reason for more pixels, aside from utility as a PC monitor. Its lack of an LED backlight isn't much of a hindrance in our view either; power use for this small TV is relatively minor anyway.


The Samsung can handle USB-based photos and music.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Picture settings
Adjustable picture modes 3 Independent memories per input Yes
Dejudder presets 0 Fine dejudder control N/A
Aspect ratio modes--HD 4 Aspect ratio modes--SD 4
Color temperature presets 4 Fine color temperature control 2 points
Gamma presets 7 Color management system No

As usual Samsung's selection of adjustments is excellent, despite the presence of fewer picture modes than some other makes. There are nearly as many tweaks available on this entry-level model as on the company's higher-end TVs, and as usual we appreciated gamma and the fine color temperature controls most.


Two-point color temperature is common even in entry-level TVs.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Other features
Power saver mode Yes Ambient light sensor No
Picture-in-picture No Onscreen user manual No

While it lacks the array of power-saving options found on the Sony BX300, namely auto-off and sound-only modes, the Samsung does have an Auto power saver option said to monitor the image and adjust the backlight accordingly. There's no ambient light sensor, though.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Connectivity
HDMI inputs 2 back Component video inputs 1 back
Composite video input(s) 1 back (shared) S-video input(s) 0
VGA-style PC input(s) 1 RF input(s) 1
AV output(s) 0 Digital audio output 1 optical
USB port 1 back Ethernet (LAN) port No

A pair of HDMI inputs is standard for this level, and the lack of front- or side-panel jacks isn't unusual either. As we mentioned above, the USB port is the Samsung's claim to fame, and it lacks the second component input and digital output of the Sony BX300. Connecting a composite video device means you can't use the component input, which could be a problem if, for example, you have both a Nintendo Wii and an early, component-only Xbox 360.


The good: USB input for photos. The bad: No side-panel bay; sparse analog selection.

Performance
The Samsung delivers solid picture quality for a TV in its range, trading punches with the Sony BX300 admirably--although between the two we'd give the edge to the Sony, mainly because of its superior screen uniformity (although the edge is slim enough that both scored the same 5 in this subcategory). We can't speculate as to how the LNC350 compares with less expensive, no-name models, unfortunately, but on its own merits it's a fine entry-level TV.

TV settings: Samsung LN32C350

As with higher-end Samsung TVs, the LNC350's Movie mode provided the best initial picture quality, although it still showed a bluish grayscale, its average gamma was a bit dark (2.34), and light output was a bit high at 50 ftl. Our calibration improved the grayscale somewhat, albeit not enough for our liking, and brought gamma within spitting distance of a 2.2 target and light output to our nominal 40 ftl. For our image quality tests we checked out "I Am Legend" on Blu-ray.

In our comparison we looked at the similar 32-inch Sony KDL-32BX300, as well as the larger Samsung LN46C630, to represent non-LED-based LCD TVs. We also employed our reference Pioneer PRO-111FD.

Black level: We don't expect much out of inexpensive LCDs in this area, so we weren't surprised by the relatively bright shade of black the Samsung delivered in darker scenes. When Neville closes up his apartment in Chapter 3 and 4, for example, the shadows and fades to black were lighter than on the Samsung LNC630, albeit a bit darker than on the Sony BX300. On the other hand, details in shadows were solid, showing up better than on the C630 in areas like his pants and gun as he curls up in the bathtub.

Color accuracy: Although neither smaller TV could touch the Samsung C630 in this area, the, skin tones on the Samsung were pretty good, albeit not as close to our reference as the Sony BX300. We chalk up the difference to the C350's more erratic grayscale, especially in the midtones where it veered into blue, as well as to a less accurate primary color of red. On the other hand, the C350 didn't tinge black and near-black areas with as much blue as the Sony, although they still looked less true than we saw on the C630.

Video processing: We were surprised when this little TV handled 1080p/24 sources properly, delivering the proper cadence in our test with the helicopter flyover from Chapter 7. Motion resolution matched what we'd expect for a 60Hz TV, coming in between 300 and 400 lines. The set did properly deinterlace 1080i film and video-based content.

We also noticed that unlike the Sony, the Samsung looked a bit soft in resolution patterns at 720p and 1080p (both appeared about the same at 1080i, however). The difference was tough to spot with HD program material, but it's still worth noting.

Uniformity: The main issue we saw on the Samsung was excessive brightness in all four corners of the screen. It showed up noticeably, for example, in the letterbox bars above and below the image, and really affected our enjoyment of the picture. It's worth noting that these issues can vary from sample to sample.

Off-angle the image washed out more quickly than on the larger Samsung, and about the same as the Sony, but it wasn't terrible for an entry-level LCD.

Bright lighting: Like most low-buck LCDs, the LN32C350 performed very well in bright lighting thanks to its matte screen, reducing the visibility of reflections and preserving black levels relatively well. It matched the Sony BX300 in this area.

Standard definition: The Samsung did not perform as well as the Sony with standard-def sources (note that said processing is irrelevant for most HD cable and satellite hookups, however, since the box, not the TV itself, handles the processing). It delivered every line of the DVD format, but the image looked relatively soft at times, for example in the bricks of the bridge in the Details test. Since the noise reduction tests showed less noise than the Sony even with NR supposedly turned off, we suspect that the Samsung employs a hard filter that cuts off some fine detail. In its favor the C350 kept jaggies in moving lines to a minimum, but fell down again when the film mode failed to engage 2:3 pull-down effectively.

PC: With both VGA and HDMI PC sources the TV did well, resolving every line of 1,360x768 with minimal edge enhancement and no overscan. Of course a 1080p TV could provide more detail, but given the set's native resolution PC performance was fine.

TEST RESULT SCORE
Before color temp (20/80) 6,563/6,514 Good
After color temp 6,497/6,447 Good
Before grayscale variation 356 Average
After grayscale variation 191 Average
Color of red (x/y) 0.629/0.34 Average
Color of green 0.274/0.607 Average
Color of blue 0.148/0.049 Average
Overscan 0.0% Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Y Good
480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps Pass Good
1080i video resolution Pass Good
1080i film resolution Pass Good

Power consumption: We did not test the power consumption of this size in the Samsung LNC350 series, but we did test the 32-inch model. For more information, refer to the review of the Samsung LN32C350.

How we test TVs.

samsung-ln32c350.png
5.3

Samsung LNC350

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 5Performance 5
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