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Samsung LNC630 review: Samsung LNC630

Samsung LNC630

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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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TV makers are pushing LED-based LCD TVs hard, in part because the newfangled backlight scheme allows thinner, more aggressive designs and slightly better energy efficiency. However a larger part, we suspect, has to do with profit margins: TVs with LED backlights generally cost more than those with standard fluorescent, or CCFL, backlights. Samsung sells numerous so-called LED TVs, but the LNC630 series isn't one of them. This midrange LCD uses the standard backlight, doesn't cost a fortune, and yet manages in some ways--chiefly screen uniformity--to produce a better image than the company's edge-lit LED models. It also competes well against the competitors' CCFL sets, with more picture controls and options, in addition to sleeker styling, than just about any of them. All told the midrange Samsung LNC630 series is a tempting target for buyers who don't care about Internet features or LED.

samsung-ln46c630.png
6.6

Samsung LNC630

The Good

Reproduced relatively deep black levels; mostly accurate color in bright areas; solid video processing with proper handling of 1080p/24 sources; matte screen works well in bright lighting (40- and 46-inch models only); numerous picture adjustment options; streams video via USB and DLNA; classy styling.

The Bad

Subpar shadow detail; dark areas tinged somewhat blue; benefits of 120Hz difficult to discern.

The Bottom Line

Solid image quality and features as well as sleek looks make Samsung's mainstream LNC630 LCD an affordable alternative to LED TVs.

Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 46-inch Samsung LN46C630, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series, with one exception: the 55- and 60-inch sizes use a glossy, as opposed to a matte, screen finish. For that reason, the remarks that mention a matte screen do not apply to those sizes. Aside from this difference, all sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality. This review was updated on November 11, 2010, to note this difference.

Models in series (details)
Samsung LN40C630 40 inches
Samsung LN46C630 (reviewed) 46 inches
Samsung LN55C630 55 inches
Samsung LN60C630 60 inches

Design

SAMSUNG LNC630 SERIES
Transparent plastic edges the LNC630's frame.

Design highlights
Panel depth 3.2 inches Bezel width 1.6 inches
Single-plane face No Swivel stand Yes
Other: Transparent stand stalk; flat glass base

Glossy black, transparent edges and touch-sensitive controls mark the LNC630 series as one of the sleekest TVs you'll find at its price point. The panel is supported by Samsung's trademark see-through, swiveling stand column atop a flat, glass base in matching black with transparent edges. We really like the minimalist overall look, and suspect this model will blend into living room decors much better than the company's spider-legged step-up TVs.

SAMSUNG LNC630 SERIES
The transparency continues in the stand stalk.

Remote control and menus
Remote size (LxW) 8.4 x 2 inches Remote screen N/A
Total keys 49 Backlit keys 44
Other IR devices controlled No RF control of TV No
Shortcut menu Yes Onscreen explanations Yes

Samsung's standard 2010 remote is included on the LNC630, complete with backlighting behind nearly every key--a rarity in this class. We don't like the grid layout as much as the better-differentiated keys on last year's remotes, but it's still perfectly functional once you figure out the logical groupings.

Samsung didn't change its basic TV control menus on this model, and that's a good thing. The transparent, blue-highlighted graphics are easy to read and navigate, and response is snappy. Text explanations are present for just about every function.

SAMSUNG LNC630 SERIES
Yes, even the menus are see-through.

Features

Key TV features
Display technology LCD LED backlight N/A
3D compatible No 3D glasses included N/A
Screen finish Matte Refresh rate(s) 120Hz
Dejudder (smooth) processing Yes 1080p/24 compatible Yes
Internet connection No Wireless HDMI/AV connection No
Other: Streams videos, music and photos via DLNA or USB

The LNC630 series is currently Samsung's least expensive LCD to feature 120Hz processing, and though it lacks the Apps of the step-up LNC650 models, and the LED backlights of even high-end Samsungs, it's still well-featured for its price point.

Competing sets in this range lack goodies like Samsung's DLNA capability, which allows media streaming over a home network (we didn't test this feature) thanks to the set's LAN/Ethernet jack--which can also grab firmware updates. Video streaming via USB is also a nice touch to add to the standard music and photo capability. We'd also be remiss if we didn't mention the matte screen, which cuts down on reflections better than the glossy screens on step-up Samsung LCDs.

SAMSUNG LNC630 SERIES
DLNA streaming is a nice touch at this price level.

Picture settings
Adjustable picture modes 4 Independent memories per input Yes
Dejudder presets 3 Fine dejudder control Yes
Aspect ratio modes -- HD 4 Aspect ratio modes -- SD 4
Color temperature presets 4 Fine color temperature control 10 points
Gamma presets 7 Color management system Yes
Other: New 10-point color temperature system; RGB filters and built-in test patterns

The LNC630 offers basically the same level of control found on flagship Samsung TVs, and that's a significant improvement over many sets at this price. Highlights for tweakers include a new 10-point grayscale system that works pretty well--(albeit not as well as LG's) in addition to a dejudder control system and a color management system that both work better than LG's. Internal test patterns and red, green, and blue color filters also aid would-be calibrators.

SAMSUNG LNC630 SERIES
Full dejudder controls let tweakers control smoothing and blur reduction.

Other features
Power saver mode Yes Ambient light sensor Yes
Picture-in-picture Yes Onscreen user manual No
Other: Basic onscreen "HD connection guide; onscreen troubleshooting; Sound-only option

Not much goes missing here, and picture-in-picture is relatively rare these days. The troubleshooting section is nice but is mostly geared toward easing the job of customer service reps tasked with diagnosing owner problems over the phone. We like the option to turn off the screen manually, leaving just the sound, which cuts power use down to 21 watts.

Connectivity
HDMI inputs 3 back, 1 side Component video inputs 2 back
Composite video input(s) 1 side S-video input(s) 0
VGA-style PC input(s) 1 back RF input(s) 1
AV output(s) 1 audio Digital audio output 1 optical
USB port 2 side Ethernet (LAN) port Yes

The selection here is excellent, with plenty of digital and analog connections for even the most extensive home theaters. The LNC630 actually outdoes the analog input selection of many higher-end Samsung TVs.

SAMSUNG LNC630 SERIES
The back panel leaves no inputs wanting.

SAMSUNG LNC630 SERIES
Two USB ports grace the side panel.

Performance
All told Samsung's LNC630 series performed well even when compared to some more-expensive LED-based models. It delivered deep black levels for a non-local-dimming LCD, sported accurate color and solid video processing, and we liked its matte screen for bright rooms (although the 55- and 60-inch sizes have glossy screens). On the other hand shadow detail was a weak spot, and of course it couldn't match the uniformity of plasma.

TV settings: Samsung LN46C630

Prior to adjustment the LNC630's Movie mode was the best preset, but it wasn't very good. We measured an overly-blue, bright image with dark gamma, especially in near-black areas (2.5 overall versus a 2.2 target). Judicious tweaking brought the whole thing into line well, taming the grayscale quite a bit (although it was still a bit blue, especially near black) and approaching the target gamma nicely (2.27 average, albeit still too dark at the bottom). had success adjusting the color management system to improve color somewhat--although the default Auto setting is already quite accurate.

For our main image quality tests we fired up the Blu-ray of The Blind Side and slid the LNC630 in among a few of its direct competitors as well as more-expensive LED-based LCDs.

Comparison models (details)
Sony KDL-46EX500 46-inch LCD
Vizio E470VL 47-inch LCD
Panasonic TC-P46S2 46-inch plasma
Samsung UN46C6500 46-inch edge-lit LED
Sony KDL-46EX700 46-inch edge-lit LED
Pioneer PRO-111FD (reference) 50-inch plasma

Black level: In this crucial area the Samsung LNC630 fared well compared to others in the lineup, maintaining a similar depth of black as the Panasonic S2 in the darkest scenes, such as the black background behind the credits, and surpassing it in many darker mixed scenes, such as the near-black sky and car silhouette as the family approaches the house in Chapter 5. The LNC630 also got significantly darker than the Vizio and the Sony EX700 in these scenes, and a bit darker than the UNC6500 and the Sony EX500.

The main weakness of the LNC630, however, was its tendency to obscure details in shadows significantly. As the family picks up Michael in Chapter 5, for example, the faces of Leigh Anne and Sean appeared too shaded, and details in Sean's coat and the headrest, for example, disappeared into darkness. The LNC630 was the worst in our lineup in this regard, although the UNC6500 and EX500 were fairly close, with the others visibly more-detailed in shadows.

Color accuracy: The LNC630 performed very well in this category, outdoing the S2 and the Vizio overall and matching the UNC6500--although it was tough to pick a winner between the Samsung and Sony non-LED-based models. Skin tones, seen for example in the close-up of Leigh Anne's face as she takes Michael shopping in Chapter 6, were quite accurate, but side-by-side we noticed a very slight bluish tinge, especially in highlights. The green of the field in Chapter 12 also appeared somewhat too-pale compared to our reference or the Vizio, but again the difference was subtle, and we preferred the C630's look to the dominant green/cyan cast of the Panasonic S2.

In dark areas the LNC630 showed the same kind of bluish cast seen on many LCDs, but it was more tolerable than the green of the S2 and the significantly more extreme blue of the Vizio and the Sony EX700.

Video processing: The LNC630 series has most of the same processing options found on higher-end Samsungs, and when it comes to dejudder it offers more adjustability than the competition. Its three dejudder presets--Clear, Standard and Smooth--join a Custom setting under the Auto Motion Plus (AMP) menu. Engaging any of the three presets introduces the characteristic smoothing effect, as well as some artifacts, so we preferred the freedom of Custom. That mode, which includes both a Blur Reduction and a Judder Reduction setting, lets you tweak both parameters to your liking. We prefer minimal dejudder, but having the option to dial in as much or as little as you like is very welcome, and worked much better than we saw on LG's custom system, for example.

In the AMP menu at Custom with Judder Reduction at 0 and Blur reduction at 10, the LNC630 handles 1080p/24 sources well, without even the minor smoothing we saw on the UNC6500. Our test of "I Am Legend," using the helicopter flyover of the Intrepid from Chapter 7, exhibited the proper cadence of film and no smoothing. With AMP set to Clear or Off, the set seemed to be treating the image with 2:3 pull-down, showing the slightly stuttering cadence seen on 60Hz models (Clear looked smoother than Off, however). The other AMP settings introduced more smoothing/dejudder.

In our motion resolution tests the LNC630 scored between 600 and 700 lines--good for a 120Hz LCD--with Auto Motion Plus engaged. Turning it off dropped the result down to between 300-400 lines, and reducing the Custom Judder Reduction setting to less than 1 out the result somewhere between these two numbers. As usual with such tests, we had a difficult time detecting any real-world differences in blurring between any of the settings.

As with some previous Samsungs the LNC630 needs to be in Auto 1 film mode to pass the 1080i video deinterlacing test, for what it's worth.

Uniformity: The LNC630's standard CCFL backlight beat the edge-lit LED backlights of in our comparison at maintaining an even image across the screen. In very dark scenes we saw no trace of the amorphous brighter areas, brighter edges or banding we saw on the Samsung UNC6500. The LNC630's edges were slightly brighter than the middle, but not to the extent of the Sony KDL-EX700. We did notice a minor bright spot in the lower-left corner of the LNC630's screen however, which showed up in the black bars alongside the Theismann footage in Chapter 1, for example--the Vizio and Sony non-LED LCDs lacked any such flaw.

From off-angle the LNC630 was pretty good for an LCD, maintaining black level fidelity better than the Vizio and not introducing as much blue as the LED-based models, although it still washed out and became discolored, especially from more extreme angles in darker scenes. By way of comparison, the Panasonic S2 plasmas was essentially perfect in both off-angle performance and screen uniformity.

Bright lighting: Unlike higher-end Samsung TVs, the 40- and 46-inch sizes of the LNC630 have a matte screen, which serves well in bright rooms where lights, windows, and bright objects cause reflections. Such objects appeared dimmer and much less distinct, and thus less distracting, than they did on the glossy UNC6500, for example. The LNC630 also trounced the lowly Panasonic S2 at maintaining black-level fidelity under the lights. Overall it turned in the same very good performance as the similarly matte Sonys and Vizio in this category. Since we didn't test the glossy-screened 55- and 60-inch models, we can't directly report on their performance, but we assume they'll exhibit the same kind of bright-room performance we saw on other glossy-screened Samsungs, like the UNC6500 (see that review for details).

Standard-definition: With standard-def sources the LNC630 performed well. It delivered every line of the DVD format and details were relatively sharp. Jaggies in moving lines were kept to a minimum, and noise reduction functioned well, including the Auto settings. In Auto 1 and Auto 2 film modes the set engaged 2:3 pull-down effectively.

PC: The Samsung LNC630 aced our PC tests, as expected from an LCD TV. It delivered every line of 1,020x1,080 resolution via both VGA and HDMI, with sharp text and minimal edge enhancement.

TEST RESULT SCORE
Before color temp (20/80) 7560/7212 Poor
After color temp 6570/6589 Good
Before grayscale variation 1052 Poor
After grayscale variation 116 Average
Color of red (x/y) 0.6331/0.3236 Good
Color of green 0.2937/0.5857 Good
Color of blue 0.1488/0.0522 Good
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 LNC630 series, but we did test the 46-inch model. For more information, refer to the review of the LN46C630.

How we test TVs.

samsung-ln46c630.png
6.6

Samsung LNC630

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 6Performance 6