Samsung is among the leaders in flat-panel computer monitors, and it's making a big push to topple Sharp in the flat-panel LCD TV market, too. The LT-P326W is a significant threat to Sharp's industry-leading LC-32GD4U, and although its image quality isn't quite as good, it offers a wider connectivity suite and slicker styling. If price is your first concern, you'll probably be happier with a no-name 32-inch set such as the Olevia LT32HV or the Kreisen KR-320T. This Samsung strikes a happy price medium between those sets and the Sharp, although we do wish it cost a couple hundred dollars less.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.We really liked the looks of this 32-inch panel. A glossy black frame surrounds the screen, adding to the perceived contrast of the image and lending a touch of class. Below the frame is a perforated silver panel that conceals the speakers. Viewed from above, the Samsung is subtly arced, a shape that's reinforced by the arcing silver table stand (included). Samsung also offers an optional bracket if you want to wall-mount the 34-by-23-by-5-inch (WHD) panel. (Due to this set's shape, the majority of third-party aftermarket mounts aren't compatible with it.)
Samsung includes its standard smallish gray remote, which is devoid of any illumination and includes an LCD that indicates only which of four devices it's controlling. The menu system is fairly straightforward and helpfully includes selections for input choice as part of the main menu.Samsung threw in a couple of extras to try to set the LT-P326W apart from the pack. The AnyNet system allows the set to control other AnyNet-equipped Samsung gear via an onscreen interface. Since this is the first year the company has offered the feature, it's not all that useful. The front-panel light sensor is about as ineffectual; it senses the light levels in the room and adjusts the picture accordingly, but for best results, we recommend that you leave it off (see Performance for more).
More impressive, on the other hand, is the set's excellent connectivity section. Around back, you'll find both a DVI and an HDMI input, as well as a standard VGA input for computers, making this one of the most computer-friendly LCDs on the market. You also get two component-video inputs, one A/V input with S-Video, an A/V output with composite video, and an antenna input. For some reason, Samsung stuck the headphone jack on the back panel and neglected to include convenient front- or side-panel inputs.
On other fronts, the LT-P326W is a fairly standard 32-inch LCD. Its native resolution of 1,280x768 is enough to fully resolve 720p high-def; everything else, including 1080i HDTV, standard TV, progressive-scan DVD, and computer signals, is converted to fit those pixels.
With standard-def sources, the Samsung allows a choice of five aspect-ratio selections, including two horizontally adjustable zooms. The choice is almost as broad with high-def; only the Panorama mode, which stretches the sides more than the middle, is disabled with 720p and 1080i sources. The set offers three color-temperature presets, three global picture presets, and one custom mode, which includes independent input memories.This 32-inch Samsung produces good-quality images for a flat-panel LCD, but it's not up to the level of Sharp's sets yet. Out of the box, the Movie preset and Warm color-temperature setting resulted in a fairly accurate home-theater picture. We calibrated the set and achieved a more accurate picture, naturally, but we couldn't compensate for the greenish darker areas completely. The rest of the grayscale was reasonably consistent (see the geek box for more).
We tried out the LCD's proprietary image gadgetry and came away unimpressed. The DNIe processing introduced visible video noise and edge enhancement. My Color Control lets you boost and cut pink, blue, and green using an internal image of a model superimposed over a golf course. But it works only when DNIe is engaged. Dynamic Contrast also required DNIe to be engaged, and it further increased video noise. So for critical viewing, we decided to turn off all of these extra features, as well as that brightness sensor.
The Spider-Man 2 DVD looked good on the Samsung, with plenty of detail and little visible noise. However, the set's color decoding errors quickly became apparent when we compared Peter Parker's face on the Samsung to his face on our reference Sony KD-34XBR960, a direct-view tube TV. On the Samsung, his skin appeared too flush and tan as he faced down his pizza delivery boss, while on the Sony, his skin tone appeared more natural.
The Samsung was able to get slightly darker overall than the Philips 32PF9996 we compared it to, with inkier letterbox bars and deeper shadows. But its shadow detail wasn't quite as good as that of the Philips. As Peter climbs the stairs to his run-down apartment, we could make out the lapels of his jacket on the Philips; on the Samsung, they were lost in shadow. Naturally, the Sony tube delivered superior shadow detail and black levels compared to either LCD.
As expected, HDTV via our DirecTV feed had even better detail and looked more saturated. We watched a little of Sunrise Earth on Discovery HD and noticed immediately that the Samsung did a good job of keeping video noise to a minimum. In one shot of a foggy morning in the Grand Tetons, the Dell W3000 and the Philips 32-inch LCD both introduced significantly more snowy interference in the trees.
The Samsung delivered very good resolution in 1080i mode compared to the Philips; conversely, its 720p picture via component video looked a bit softer. As with most such sets, the Samsung delivered a slightly sharper picture via its digital inputs than via component video. Strangely, however, the DVI input looked even sharper with high-def than did the HDMI input, while the difference between component and HDMI wasn't as great. As a result, we'd recommend using the DVI input for high-def.
|Before color temp (20/80)||7,010/6,308K||Good|
|After color temp (20/80)||6,420/6,261K||Average|
|Before grayscale variation||+/-276K||Good|
|After grayscale variation||+/-162K||Average|
|Color decoder error: red||+10%||Average|
|Color decoder error: green||-20%||Poor|
|DC restoration||All patterns stable||Good|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Y||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Y||Good|