The agonizingly slow rollout of high-definition television (HDTV) is finally picking up steam. Samsung's 27-inch, HDTV-ready TSL2795HF is a prime example of that technology trickling down from very large (and expensive) TVs to ordinary sizes. But while this easy-to-use TV has a great picture, we're not convinced that a pricey 27-inch HDTV-ready set makes sense. The agonizingly slow rollout of high-definition television (HDTV) is finally picking up steam. Samsung's 27-inch, HDTV-ready TSL2795HF is a prime example of that technology trickling down from very large (and expensive) TVs to ordinary sizes. But while this easy-to-use TV has a great picture, we're not convinced that a pricey 27-inch HDTV-ready set makes sense.
The Tantus is a handsome-looking, if not imposing, medium-sized television. Significantly heavier than most TVs of its size, its fit and finish are impeccable. Just don't get thrown off by the speakers, which are mounted beside the screen. It makes the set appear broader and gives an optical illusion of a wide-screen TV, although it is a standard 4:3 display. Also impressive are the giant bass ports sprouting from the top, though they're mostly for visual effect as well.
While the TV delivered respectable sound, it still can't compete with a six-piece home-theater speaker system. Hooking up the TV into any home-theater system is easy, thanks to the plethora of ports adorning the Tantus. In addition to a single component-video input, you'll find two composite-video A/V inputs, an S-Video/composite A/V input, and a composite-video monitor output all on the back panel. Press a hidden panel on the left side of the case and out pops a front S-Video A/V input and headphone jack.
The view from afar
If you sit 6 feet back from your PC's monitor, it becomes difficult to read the text on the screen; the same rule applies when you want to see all the fabulous detail in an HDTV picture. Sit too far back and it becomes difficult to see the difference in resolution between standard and high definition. A reasonable rule of thumb is that you should sit at a distance equal to about three or four times the height of the screen. With a 16.5-inch-high screen like the TSL2795HF's, you should be sitting about 5.5 feet away--now what would your mother say if she saw you sitting that close?
Test patterns revealed that the color decoder is not as accurate as the ones found on the Sony and Panasonic HDTV-ready sets we've looked at, although it's not at all visible in program material. When we flashed bright patterns after dim ones, the patterns changed size fairly dramatically--a sign of a slightly anemic power supply. Further tests with the Avia Guide to Home Theater DVD confirmed that problem. Picture geometry and resolution, however, were very good.
The real proof, though, comes when you start watching television broadcasts and movies. In this department, the TSL2795HF delivers in spades. The TV has built-in video processing, which does a good job of sensing film-based sources and appropriately scaling them for the screen. However, you'll get even better results matching this TV with a very good DVD player. To see HDTV, you'll need to get a hold of an HDTV receiver such as Samsung's own SIR-T150. Unfortunately, this set has only one component-video input, so you'll need a home-theater receiver with component-video switching to hook up both of those sources. Overall, it displayed a good picture for local HDTV broadcasts. Just don't expect the same eye-popping level of detail as you'll see in a larger display such as the Marantz PD5010D plasma set.
Samsung also made this TV easy to use. Its well-laid-out remote control has a dedicated button for controlling the aspect ratio of the set. There's even a 16:9 enhanced mode to really get the most out of your anamorphic DVDs and HDTV shows. The cryptically labeled R.Surf button lets you surf away during commercials, and the TV automatically tunes back after a couple of minutes. If you're a die-hard surfer, you can label each channel so that you see CNN rather than 15. However, there's only one custom picture-setting memory. We would have preferred to have several for each input.
Hats off to Samsung for delivering an HDTV-ready, 27-inch TV of this caliber. Its $1,199 list price is well within reason, but should you buy a 27-inch HDTV? For movie buffs irked by interlacing artifacts, this TV is a good solution at a fair price when coupled with a progressive-scan DVD player. Samsung also offers the HD-ready TSL2793HF for $999, though it doesn't have Dolby surround-sound support and the picture-in-picture feature. But if you're searching for the best HDTV experience you can get, it makes sense to invest in a larger TV--perhaps even Samsung's own 32-inch TSL3295HF, which goes for $1,599.