If you can afford it, a 30- to 32-inch LCD makes for the perfect bedroom set: not so big that it dominates the room but not so small that it's hard to view from the comfortable confines of your bed. From that angle, there's a lot to like about Samsung's 32-inch LTN325W direct-view LCD TV, an attractive set that offers a solid feature package and retails for around $3,000. In terms of image quality, however, this Samsung won't measure up to a direct-view tube HDTV--or to better plasmas--when watching DVDs and HDTV. Our main nitpicks concern how well the set displays blacks and the primary colors of red and green. You're less likely to notice these flaws in a brighter room or with regular cable and satellite TV material, but they do make the LTN325W difficult to recommend for critical viewers. The LTN325W is sleek, slender, and quite minimalist in appearance. The silver outer frame is surrounded by a dark-gray border that hugs the screen on all four sides. This overall look is reminiscent of the company's DLP RPTV TVs, such as the , only much smaller in its footprint.
Measuring 3.5 inches deep, the LTN325W will hang nicely on a wall. Most folks will opt to use the included stand, however. Samsung also throws in a matching set of detachable speakers that you can leave off if you don't need them.
The remote is a compact universal model with a rudimentary LCD of its own, to indicate which device it's currently controlling. None of the keys are illuminated. The buttons are fairly well laid out and intuitive to use, as is the TV's internal menu system. The Samsung LTN325W sports a generous feature package, starting with its 1,280x768 native-resolution LCD element. That means it can display every detail of 720p HDTV and, like all fixed-pixel displays, it converts incoming material to fit the available pixels. You'll need an external tuner to watch HDTV. There's also 2:3 pull-down in the video processing and a best-of-breed 3D YC digital comb filter for composite-video sources.
On the convenience side, you'll find dual-tuner PIP, which will appeal to sports fans wanting to keep tabs on more than one game at a time. The DNIE (Digital Natural Image Enhancement) feature is actually a nasty vertical edge-enhancement circuit that we recommend you shut off. Samsung includes a choice of four aspect ratios, such as a panorama mode that stretches the sides more than the center.
The LTN325W's included audio features are impressive. It actually has onboard Dolby Digital 5.1 surround decoding, a subwoofer output, coaxial and optical digital audio outputs, and speaker outputs for a center channel and surround-sound speakers. All five speakers are driven by a 10-watt-per-channel internal amplifier.
Compared to the competition, this panel's jack pack is amply endowed. We counted two wideband component-video inputs with stereo audio, one DVI input with HDCP copy protection, two S-Video inputs with stereo audio, three composite-video inputs all with stereo audio, two VGA-style 15-pin inputs for computer hookup, and an RF antenna input. As we expected, the LTN325W was garishly overdriven out of the box. The image was extremely bright, and color temperature ranged from 12,700 Kelvins on the bottom end to 15,500 at the top. Taming this extremely blue reading took some doing, but the results weren't bad. When we were done with calibration, both ends of the grayscale measured almost exactly the NTSC standard of 6,500 Kelvins. As far as direct-view LCD panels go, the LTN325W does an excellent job of tracking a grayscale once calibrated, unlike most of its competition.
The Samsung LTN3265W's color decoder was quite good, lacking any detectable red push (a tendency to exaggerate reds in proportion to other colors). Unfortunately, the primary colors of green and especially red looked noticeably inaccurate. Red had a distinctly orange cast, as evidenced by the American flag blowing in the wind in the beginning of the Shuttle Launch sequence on Digital Video Essentials. We also noticed a greener cast to people's faces.
The 2:3 pull-down in the panel's video processor worked well with film-based DVD material. Black-level performance, on the other hand, leaves a lot to be desired. Visible low-level noise and false contouring artifacts were a major distraction when viewing dark material. The opening sequence of Alien is a good torture test for a display such as this, and the LTN325W didn't fare too well. What should be pristine black space with stars was really dark gray with dancing pixels and snowy-looking video noise in dark areas. LCD panels are very similar to plasma panels in their susceptibility to these artifacts, and both also tend to look much better with bright material. The LTN325W was no exception.
Next, we watched HDTV via DVI from our Zenith DTV520HD DirecTV receiver. As we've seen on some other flat displays, DVI looked far brighter than component-video connections. We ended up turning contrast way down relative to the component-video input in order to get the same light output. Again, bright scenes looked pretty good with the exception of the wacky color, and dark material had the same issues with artifacts and video noise.
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