Editors' note: The rating on this review has been lowered because of changes in the competitive marketplace.
"The kitchen sink" is a term used loosely when describing a feature set on any product, from cars to countertops, but in the case of the Samsung LN46A750, we're using it in the tightest sense. This 46-inch flat-panel LCD packs more feature punch than any HDTV we've tested yet. 1080p with 120Hz refresh rate? Check. More picture controls than any set on the market outside of LG? Check. Built-in networking that allows RSS-style news and weather feeds, access to networked videos, photos and pictures? Yup. Unique interactive content, courtesy of internal storage and augmentable via downloads, encompassing "Tofu Tortillas," "Basic Reflexology," and "Bye Bye Boowa and Kwala?" Yeah, sure. Of course we'll tack on some accolades regarding picture quality, which is every bit as good as the superb LN52A650, as well as some reservations in the Design department that affect picture perception in some circumstances. On a flagship TV, one big reservation is the price tag--those interactive doodads are not worth the typically $300-600 difference between this model and the LN46A650, in our opinion--which along with said design issues helped earn the 750 series a lower score than its 650 series line mates. Another is the assurance that later in the year, even higher-end sets will hit the market, likely with better LED backlighting than we saw on the 2007 Samsung LN-T4681F. For now, however, the LN46A750 stands secure as king of the feature hill.
Much like the 650 series, the 750 models have a "Touch of Color"--red, in this case--incorporated into the glossy black frame. The effect isn't overwhelming, although again you certainly get the impression that the TV's frame has a reddish tint, which becomes more apparent in brighter rooms. Many people (including us) might object to the red, especially if it doesn't go with the rest of the room's decor, and as of today, Samsung hasn't announced any additional colors. The Touch is best experienced firsthand to see whether you like it; neither the video nor the still pictures really capture it. Compared with the 650 series, however, the 750's red is definitely a bit more subtle.
Aside from color the LN46A750 is a fairly high-tech-looking TV, lacking the soft, rounded curves of the 650 series but including a clear plastic overlay on the frame that adds an extra level of sheen. While most such accents have no effect on perceived picture quality, especially in a dark theater, the Samsung's shiny frame introduces a major design flaw. When we turned down the lights we noticed that any kind of brighter image on the screen caused the extreme edges of the frame to light up correspondingly; the clear plastic of the frame was collecting light from the screen and transmitting it to all four edges. We found the extra light particularly distracting during movement.
Especially compared with thin-bezel sets like the Mitsubishi LN-T46148, Samsung's thicker frame makes this 46-inch set seem a bit bulky. The dimensions and weight for the LN46A750 total 46.1 inches wide by 11.8 inches tall by 30.1 inches deep and 64.8 pounds including the stand, and 46.1 inches wide by 3.9 inches tall by 28 inches deep and 52.7 pounds without it. Surprisingly, the matching glossy black stand does not swivel.
The remote uses a rotating, clickable wheel, similar to an iPod scroll wheel, for menu navigation, as opposed to the standard, four-way directional keys. The wheel would be a cool idea if it was more responsive, but with the brief delay between moving the wheel and seeing the results on the screen, we found ourselves more than a bit annoyed. The rest of the remote's buttons are nice and big and backlit and we liked the dedicated "Tools" button that offered quick access to picture and sound modes, the sleep timer, and the picture-in-picture controls. We didn't like the clicker's glossy black finish, however, which picked up more than its share of dulling fingerprints after a few minutes. Worse, the 750 series' remotes remove the handy "P Size" button in favor of a "Content" key, so you have to navigate into the menu to change aspect ratio. Did we mention being annoyed?
Samsung's new menu system is sleeker than last year's and blessed with big, highly legible text set against transparent backgrounds that occupy almost the whole screen. Getting around is easy; there's helpful explanatory text along the bottom, and we dug the context-sensitive menu that would pop up occasionally to provide more options. Overall, it's one of the best-designed and most-attractive menu systems we've seen on any HDTV, and it really makes setup a breeze--except for the confusing picture mode arrangement (see below). One cool extra reserved for the 750 series is a built-in "product guide" that takes you through the TV's myriad features.
Interactivity is the LN46A750's biggest differentiator over the 650 series, but we'll start with the basics. This set has a 120Hz refresh rate, which allows it to cut down on blur and to affect judder in motion with a video-processing mode, Samsung calls "Auto Motion Plus." Check out David Carnoy's Fully Equipped column for an in-depth discussion of 120Hz, and the performance section of this review for specific details. Like most other LCD and plasma TV models on sale in 2008, the LN46A750 also has a native resolution of 1,920x1,080 (aka 1080p).
Interactive capabilities: New for 2008, both the 750 and 650 series include an Ethernet port, which lets the TVs access the Internet to display news, stock ticker information, and local weather. The company's implementation of Internet access isn't as extensive as that of the Panasonic TH-50PZ850U, for example (described here), but it's still pretty cool. We liked the easy-to-read font in normal and large sizes, as well as the intuitive controls. USA Today provides the newsfeed, which can sit in the corner of the screen like a ticker, or be expanded to let you read numerous top stories in a variety of topics. One annoying quirk was that we couldn't remove the Setup screen easily--hitting "return," as the manual suggested, merely turned off the whole service. Also, we'd really appreciate if the port allowed the TV to access firmware updates, but according to Samsung that's not in the cards. A USB-to-Wi-Fi dongle that lets the TV connect to a wireless network (model WIS-08BGX, $34.99) is also available.
The 750 series also adds a suite of limited interactive content functions. The TV comes preloaded with a hodgepodge of a few simple games, recipes, a slide show of high-def art with music (the highlight of the preload pack, complements of GalleryPlayer), a children's section (games, stories, choppily animated sing-alongs) and a fitness section with stretching and massage instruction. The content consists of still images and text in the form of Shockwave files that can be painfully slow to navigate, and we doubt many 750 owners will use it extensively. An unfortunate exception would be Dora-addled rugrats repeating the sing-alongs ad nauseam.
More content can be downloaded from Samsung's Web site, transferred to a USB thumbdrive and played back via the built-in USB port. When we tried doing so, we were frustrated by the scant instructions in the manual. First off, we didn't need the special number the manual mentioned as necessary for download. Second, the instructions forgot to mention that we had to unpack the files ourselves with the included Korean-language installer on the PC before they can be used--a process many users will find frustrating. When we finally got the content (a yoga instruction and another picture gallery) to load, it worked as well as can be expected, although again navigation was poky.
The TV can also reach out to your home network and play back photos, videos and music stored on networked computers. You'll need to install special software, included with the TV, onto your PC, and of course leave the PC on. Alternately, you can copy said files onto a USB thumbdrive and play them directly on the TV.
While this feature seems pretty cool, it's not as good as similar functionality built into a PS3 or an Xbox 360, let alone that of a dedicated network media streamer like Apple TV. Despite being billed as DLNA-compliant, the TV won't play nice with DLNA server software like Windows Media Player 11 or TVersity (both of which we tested), so you're stuck with the included proprietary software. Samsung's software is basic and lacks both preference menus for transcoding and compression and the ability to alter the file hierarchy. It also takes a long time to scan your PC for media, but once it's set up, the system works well. We were able to play back DivX, Xvid, H.264, and MPEG2 video files; as well as the audio formats MP3, AC3, PCM, ADPCM, and AAC. It also let us browse JPEG picture files and, surprisingly, played back raw Video_TS files ripped from DVDs (although it wouldn't recognize ISO files). Unfortunately we missed some functionality, such as fast-forward and an adequate selection of aspect ratio controls, when playing back video files. We'd like the home network stuff a lot better if it worked with other software, but this is a decent start if you don't have access to another server solution. (Interactivity testing, sans yoga, performed by Matthew Panton).
Picture controls: The LN46A750 has three adjustable picture modes that are each independent per input. That's great, but in addition there are three more picture presets, called "Entertainment Modes," that cannot be adjusted and are accessible via a separate key on the remote and the Setup menu. This arrangement is unnecessarily confusing on a TV with so many settings anyway; we'd prefer to have all of the picture modes, both adjustable and nonadjustable, be accessible together from a single key on the remote and one area of the Picture menu. Also, if you're in Entertainment mode, you're prevented from making picture adjustments, or even selecting one of the adjustable picture modes, until you actively cancel an Entertainment mode by navigating to the Setup menu (which the onscreen instructions suggest) or toggling the mode to "Off" using the remote. That's an awkward hitch in an otherwise smooth menu design.
Other picture controls include five color temperature presets along with the capability to fine-tune color using the white balance menu; three varieties of noise reduction, including an automatic setting; a film mode to engage 2:3 pull-down (it also works with 1080i sources); a seven-position gamma control that affects the TV's progression from dark to light; a dynamic contrast control that adjusts the picture on the fly; a "black adjust" control that affects shadow detail; and a new color space control that lets you tweak the Samsung's color gamut.
You can choose from four aspect ratio modes for HD sources, two of which let you move the whole image across the screen horizontally and vertically. As we'd expect from a 1080p TV, one of those modes, called Just Scan, lets the LN46A750 scale 1080i and 1080p sources directly to the panel's pixels with no overscan--the best option unless you see interference along the edge of the screen, as can be the case with some channels or programs. There are also four modes available with standard-definition sources.