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Samsung LND550 review: Samsung LND550

Samsung LND550

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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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3 min read

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6.2

Samsung LND550

The Good

The inexpensive <b>Samsung LND550 series</b> evinced good performance for an entry-level non-LED-TV, with deep black levels and ample shadow detail. Its screen was quite uniform, and the matte finish is a boon in bright rooms. Its styling is among the best in its class and its feature set includes media file support and excellent connectivity.

The Bad

Color accuracy on the LND550 series was worse than most of its entry-level competition. Unlike some 60Hz LCDs we've tested, it didn't handle 1080p/24 cadence properly.

The Bottom Line

The Samsung LND550's mix of features, style and picture quality stands tall among the tough entry-level LCD TV crowd.

To judge from the LND630 we checked out earlier and the LND550 reviewed here, Samsung's low-end LCDs are pretty dang good. These non-LED-based models managed deeper black levels than like-priced competitors, and largely avoid the uniformity problems associated with those razor-thin LED-based sets--while costing hundreds less. The LND550 falls short of the color accuracy of its step-up brother, and we still prefer the entry-level Sony BX420's picture by a nose, but the LND550's superior styling, media file support and input bay make it a compelling alternative in the budget TV space.

Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 40-inch Samsung LN40D550, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Models in series (details)
Samsung LN32D550 32 inches
Samsung LN37D550 37 inches
Samsung LN40D550 (reviewed) 40 inches
Samsung LN46D550 46 inches

Design


A transparent edge helps even this entry-level Samsung stay classy.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Design highlights
Panel depth 3.2 inches Bezel width 2 inches
Single-plane face No Swivel stand Yes

Samsung lets its signature design touch, a transparent edge around the glossy black bezel, trickle down from more expensive models to the LND550. That, along with touch-sensitive controls, a swivel stand and a bezel that's the same width on all four sides, helps propel this TV to the front ranks of entry-level LCD design. The understated, low-profile Sony BX420 provides the D550's closest competition, but we still like the Samsung's look better.


The stand swivels and the glossy skin reflects.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Remote control and menus
Remote size (LxW) 9.5 x 2 inches QWERTY keyboardNo
Illuminated keys No IR device control No
Menu item explanations Yes Onscreen manual Yes

Unlike the step-up D630, the D550 has Samsung's older remote that feels dated in comparison. It's missing illumination and feels too long and cluttered, but we did appreciate the well-differentiated buttons.

Samsung's menu system is somewhat schizophrenic on this TV--the main menu page uses the old transparent design from the last two years, while the submenus that appear afterward use the 2011 opaque, rounded-edge design. We like both designs better than the alternatives from Sony, LG and Vizio, for what it's worth.


An onscreen manual is a nice perk at this price.

Features

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Key TV features
Display technology LCD LED backlight N/A
3D technology N/A 3D glasses included N/A
Screen finish Matte Internet connection No
Refresh rate(s) 60Hz Dejudder (smooth) processing No
DLNA compliant Photo/Music/Video USB Photo/Music/Video

The big spec sheet difference between the LND630 and the LND550 is refresh rate; this set lacks 120Hz processing and the associated dejudder (smoothing) options.

Unlike other entry-level TVs, however, it does support streaming of media files from a home networked computer or other device via DLNA, as well as USB. Its Ethernet port can also download firmware updates if necessary.


There's a network connection for streaming files via DLNA.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Picture settings
Adjustable picture modes 4 Fine dejudder control N/A
Color temperature presets 4 Fine color temperature control No
Gamma presets 7 Color management system No

Unlike LG, Samsung decided to reserve its ultra-advanced picture tweaks--namely 10-point grayscale and color management--for step-up models like the LND630. The LND550's selection is still very good however, highlighted by a gamma control and 2-point grayscale.


A two-point grayscale marks the extent of the advanced settings.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Connectivity
HDMI inputs 1 back, 3 side Component video inputs 2 back (shared)
Composite video input(s) 2 back (shared) VGA-style PC input(s) 1
USB port 2 side Ethernet (LAN) port Yes

The LND550 is best-in-class connection-wise, with all the HD video connections you could want as well as plenty of ports (USB and Ethernet) for media streaming. The composite and component ports share jacks, however, so you'll have to choose one or the other.


Connectivity is a major strength of the LND550.

Performance
The picture quality of the LND550 wasn't up to the high standards of Samsung's LND630 series, but it was still quite good for an entry-level TV. Black levels, shadow detail, and uniformity are strengths, while color accuracy and video processing are weak points compared with the field. All told we still like the Sony BX420 better by a nose, but they both received the same score of 6 in this category.

The Movie mode delivered the most accurate picture prior to calibration, although it was worse than on most Samsungs we've seen--too blue, too bright, and with inaccurate gamma that made everything look darker. Afterward the TV measured much better, albeit still uneven and with a bluish tinge in some areas. Again, advanced picture controls, particularly a color management system, would go a long way.

For image quality tests we used the comparison lineup below and checked out "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1."

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Connectivity
Sony KDL-40BX420 40-inch LCD
Vizio E342D0VX 42-inch LCD
LG 42LK450 42-inch LCD
Samsung LN46D630 46-inch LCD
Insignia NS-42E859A11 42-inch LED-based LCD
LG 47LV5500 46-inch LED-based LCD
Panasonic TC-P50ST30 50-inch plasma

Black level: Like that of its big brother, the D630, the black-level performance of the D550 was among the best in our lineup. It outdid that of both LGs as well as the Vizio and Insignia by quite a bit, beat the Sony by a nose, tied the Samsung D630 and fell short of the plasma, especially in perceived contrast ratio (aka "pop"). As a result, dark sequences, such as Voldemort's banquet hall in Chapter 2, appeared relatively realistic and punchy on the D550.

We also appreciated the TV's realistic shadow detail, which made areas like Snape's robe and the shadows as he ascends the stairs (4:29) look better than on any of the other sets aside from the plasma.

Color accuracy: Here's where the D550 fell short of most of the others. The first thing we noticed was that dark areas and shadows, and even the gray bricks of the castle in scenes like the above, looked entirely too blue. In brighter scenes skin tones, like the faces of the good guys in Chapter 3 (12:16), looked paler and bluer than on many of the other sets and colors lacked the rich saturation we saw on the D630 and the Sony. Thanks to superior accuracy, the Vizio and the LG looked better than the D550 as well, despite appearing more washed out.

Video processing: When fed a 1080p/24 source, the LND550 failed to preserve the proper cadence, instead seeming to "catch" every second or so during the pan over the Intrepid from "I Am Legend." We disabled 1080p/24 on our Blu-ray player and the catch was replaced by the characteristic hitching stutter of 2:3 pull-down, an effect we preferred to the "catch." That's why we'd recommend disabling 1080p/24 on your Blu-ray player if you own this TV.

As with some previous Samsungs the LND550 needs to be in Auto 1 film mode to pass the 1080i video deinterlacing test, for what it's worth.

Uniformity: The two Samsung non-LEDs performed about the same in this area--very good overall. In dark scenes we saw no indications of the brighter corners and/or edges we saw on the edge-lit LED LV5500 and Insignia, or the Sony BX420 CCFL TV, for that matter. It wasn't up to plasma standards when we looked closely at test patterns, of course, but obvious flaws in screen uniformity--the kind that show up in program material--were absent.

When viewing from off-angle, the screen of the LND550 washed out black and dark areas to about the same extent as most of the CCFL models. The Vizio and the LEDs were worse in this regard, however, as expected. The plasma trounced them all.

Bright lighting: The Samsung's matte screen serves it well in bright rooms where lights, windows and bright objects cause reflections. Such objects appeared dimmer and much less distinct, and thus less distracting, then they did on the Panasonic plasma, for example, and black levels were also preserved better. The rest of the sets in the lineup also have matte screens, and in general they all performed equally well in this category.

PC: While it handled the full 1,920x1,080 resolution via its VGA input, the LND550 wasn't as good as the LG or Vizio in this department. We detected minor interference and softness in high-res test patterns--imperfect, but still better than the Sony overall.

Power consumption: We did not test the power consumption of this size in the Samsung LND550 series, but we did test the 40-inch model. For more information, refer to the review of the Samsung LN40D550.

Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.0044 Good
Avg. gamma 2.1926 Good
Near-black x/y (5%) 0.2771/0.2914 Poor
Dark gray x/y (20%) 0.3114/0.3276 Good
Bright gray x/y (70%) 0.3118/0.3275 Good
Before avg. color temp. 6701 Average
After avg. color temp. 6582 Good
Red lum. error (de94_L) 1.03 Good
Green lum. error (de94_L) 2.6983 Average
Blue lum. error (de94_L) 10.6034 Poor
Cyan hue x/y 0.2201/0.335 Good
Magenta hue x/y 0.3313/0.1489 Average
Yellow hue x/y 0.4073/0.4896 Poor
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Fail Poor
1080i De-interlacing (film) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 300 Poor
Motion resolution (dejudder off) n/a n/a
PC input resolution (VGA) 1,920x1,080 Poor

Samsung LN40D550 CNET review calibration results

(Read more about how we test TVs.)

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6.2

Samsung LND550

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 6Performance 6
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