Direct-view HDTVs are gradually coming down in price, and while Samsung's 30-inch, wide-screen TSL3099WHF is certainly not cheap, it's less expensive than the company's 30-inch model of last year. There's a lot to like here, including a desirable feature set, a comparatively compact design, and good picture quality--once the TV is properly calibrated. But videophiles will be able to spot a few flaws that prevent this set from truly excelling. Direct-view HDTVs are gradually coming down in price, and while Samsung's 30-inch, wide-screen TSL3099WHF is certainly not cheap, it's less expensive than the company's 30-inch model of last year. There's a lot to like here, including a desirable feature set, a comparatively compact design, and good picture quality--once the TV is properly calibrated. But videophiles will be able to spot a few flaws that prevent this set from truly excelling.
Samsung's designers crafted a TV that stands out from the rest of the silver, flat-screen pack. The black TSL3099WHF looks great, with an outset border around the flat tube and just about an inch between the screen's glass and the edge of the case. The best part: this set is only 17 inches deep, a good 4 inches shallower than comparable models. This is one wide-screen TV that's bedroom-sized.
On a more critical note, the remote--with its nonbacklit keys, awkward button arrangement, and annoying flip-up door that hides the important Aspect key--is lackluster. We also felt that the graphical user interface could use improvement, as we found it a little difficult to navigate menus and tweak settings.
Among the TSL3099WHF's cluster of rear-panel connections you'll find two component-video inputs (only one can pull off 480i, but both can do 480p and 1080i), three A/V inputs, and one A/V output. While there's only one S-Video input on the back, you'll find another among the side-panel inputs, which can be used for connecting a camcorder or a video game system.
Loaded and HD-capable
The list of standout features includes picture-in-picture (PIP), which can put two like-sized images side by side, and a sweet-sounding audio system--for a TV, at least--with simulated surround sound and Dolby Pro Logic. Samsung provides four aspect-ratio modes to size the picture to fit the wide screen. Normal mode, used to watch regular TV, puts a 24-inch diagonal image with gray bars on either side in the middle of the wide screen. Zoom mode is ideal for blowing up letterboxed material and removing those pesky black bars. Unfortunately, this set locks into Wide mode when fed 480p material, so a progressive-scan DVD player with aspect-ratio control is highly recommended, unless you don't mind movies in which everybody is short and fat.
However, you'll want to use a progressive-scan DVD player anyway in order to get the best picture out of the TSL3099WHF. That's because the TV's line-doubler, the processor that turns standard 480i material into better-looking 480p, lacks 3:2 pull-down to clean up film-based sources such as DVDs. Such circuitry is an absolute necessity for artifact-free movie reproduction. In fact, when we compared the TV's internal line-doubler to that of theToshiba SD4700 DVD player, the set yielded telltale flaws. In Jurassic Park III, for example, the horizontal siding of a mobile home camped near a dinosaur-bone dig jumped unnaturally.
However, it's important to note that once it's properly adjusted, the TV produced a sharp picture with decent color, though wiithout any adjustment, the color temperature was quite blue. As is the case with most high-end TVs, it's well worth paying a few hundred dollars extra for a professional calibration in order to get the best picture possible. For instance, before calibration, our review sample showed geometric distortions, such as slightly bowed edges along the sides of the picture in Normal mode. Scan-velocity modulation (SVM) was also set too high, causing barely visible rings to form around edges of text and other lines.
With a list price of $2,500, the TSL3099WHF can't exactly be called inexpensive, but you should be able to find it for a few hundred dollars less. That's not bad as far as direct-view HDTVs go, but Samsung faces stiff competition from Philips's upcoming 30-inch 30PW8520 (due out in summer 2002), which carries a list price of $1,999. As we've said, there's plenty here to make the TSL3099WHF worth considering at the right price. Just make sure that you do indeed get the right price.