The rating and/or Editors' Choice designation for this product has been altered since the review's original publication. The reason for this is simply the general improvement of technology over time. In order to keep our ratings fair and accurate, it's sometimes necessary to downgrade the ratings of older products relative to those of newer products.
Prices for HD-capable, direct-view TVs are falling fairly rapidly, and Samsung is leading the charge with some modestly priced sets that offer impressive performance. Part of the company's DynaFlat line, the TXM3298HF is a 32-inch, 4:3 (nonwide-screen) HDTV with a nice feature package and sleek styling. The fact that it can be had for less than $1,300--and probably even cheaper online--makes it an excellent value in its category. For testing, we set the TV up in an office, and it immediately attracted the attention of passersby. Overall, this is one handsome TV that can hold its own against Sony's WEGA models. The TXM3298HF sports a sleek, unobtrusive look that should easily integrate into most decors. The outer edge of the set is finished in silver, while the inner bezel surrounding the perfectly flat screen is dark gray.
As for the remote, it's slim, intuitive to use, and universal, which means that it can control a wide variety of cable boxes, VCRs, and DVD players. However, it isn't backlit. This HDTV's connectivity suite, while not ample, is adequate. On the rear panel, you'll find two broadband component-video inputs with stereo audio; two composite-video inputs with stereo audio; one RF antenna/cable input; and a set of monitor outputs, both stereo audio and composite video. There's also a set of side-panel A/V inputs, where the TV's only S-Video input--typically used for connecting a camcorder and/or a game system--can be found.
Picture-enhancing features include selectable color temperatures, the all-important anamorphic squeeze feature for the additional vertical resolution from anamorphic DVDs, and a choice of four different picture modes.
There are a total of five color-temperature settings: Normal, Warm 1, Warm 2, Cool 1, and Cool 2. The warm modes have an overall redder color palette that's closest to accurate, while the normal and cool settings tilt the overall hue of the picture toward blue. All of the picture modes--Dynamic, Standard, Movie, and Custom--have slightly different fixed picture presets. Only Custom allows you to adjust contrast, brightness, color, and so on to your liking.
While the TXM3298HF isn't packed with convenience features, it does offer two-tuner picture-in-picture, an MTS decoder for stereo and bilingual listening, and a headphone jack on the side panel for late-night or private listening. The TV is also equipped with a sleep function and an automatic timer--this set can double as your alarm clock.
For $100 more, you can pick up the wide-screen version of this set, the 30-inch TXM3098WHF. Or you can step down to the $999, 27-inch TXM2798HF, a 4:3 sibling that offers similar performance to this model in a smaller package. For an entry-level-priced, direct-view HDTV, the TXM3298HF has surprisingly pleasing performance, though out-of-the-box results were not great, which is fairly typical. However, after a full ISF calibration, we sat back and ran the set through its paces. For starters, this Samsung does have 3:2 pull-down in the line-doubler, which is key to getting the best picture from film-based NTSC sources, especially when using an interlaced DVD player. We connected Panasonic's DVD-XP30 progressive-scan player via its interlaced output to check the set's line-doubler. Watching chapter 4 of Jurassic Park III, we noticed that the low-flying plane's wings were reproduced pristinely. On a set without 3:2 pull-down, the wings would crawl with squiggly artifacts.
The set's color decoder is also pretty good, although it does exhibit some red push, a tendency to move toward red to compensate for the overly blue color temperature. In fairness to Samsung, this is not uncommon, even in much more expensive direct-view HDTVs.
We were very pleased with the set's ability to be properly calibrated. After connecting the TXM3298HF to the Panasonic player's progressive-scan outputs, we viewed more of Jurassic Park III. Images were reproduced with good detail and rich saturated color. Our biggest complaint is the set's lack of independent memory for each input, which means that you can't optimize the picture for multiple sources without changing the picture levels when you switch inputs. Overall, Samsung's TXM3298HF is an excellent performer, especially when you consider its price.