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.
Samsung's 30-inch Tantus TXM3098WHF offers very good performance, a comprehensive feature package, and handsome styling. At less than $1,400, it's also a serious bargain. If you thought that a wide-screen HDTV was out of your price range, this midsized set will make you think again. The TXM3098WHF is good-looking enough to hold its own against any wide-screen tube TV out there. The outer edge of the set is finished in silver, with a charcoal-gray bezel surrounding the perfectly flat screen. The remote is fairly well designed and easy to use and can control many other brands of DVD players, VCRs, and cable boxes. Unfortunately, it's not backlit, but you can't have everything in a budget HDTV. Like any HDTV-ready set, the 3098 requires a separate set-top HDTV receiver to tune high-definition broadcasts, which it displays in the 1080i format. For standard-definition NTSC sources including TV, nonprogressive scan DVD, VHS, and so on, the set uses a line-doubler to up-convert the incoming video to progressive-scan 480p for a more stable, film-like picture. You also get five selectable color temperatures and four picture modes with different presets, as well as a best-of-breed 3D-YC comb filter for composite and RF video sources such as VHS tapes and cable TV.
Dual-tuner picture-in-picture with a split-screen function heads the list of convenience features. There's also a 20-watt internal amplifier for the left and right speakers, as well as a 25-watt powered subwoofer built into the rear of the set for bass.
This set's connectivity suite, while not totally comprehensive, is adequate for modest home-theater setups. On the rear panel, you'll find two HDTV-compatible, component-video inputs with stereo audio; two composite-video inputs with stereo audio; one RF antenna/cable input; and a set of monitor outputs for stereo audio and composite video. The major problem is that the back panel doesn't have S-Video inputs, so you'll have to use the side input to connect S-Video sources such as satellite TV or S-VHS. We were impressed by the 3098's performance, especially considering its price. Factory picture presets were typically dismal; contrast was set much too high, and the set had an extremely blue color temperature, even in the warmest setting. However, a full ISF calibration improved performance dramatically and produced a very accurate picture.
We used a Panasonic DVD-XP30 DVD player via its interlaced, component-video output to test the 3098's internal line-doubler. This Samsung's 3:2 pull-down processing--which eliminates artifacts caused by the different frame rates between film-based material (DVD movies) and video playback--functioned well. In chapter 4 of Jurassic Park III, the wings of the plane flying over the island were pristine, with no crawling, jaggy artifacts.
After adjusting the picture parameters with test patterns from an HDTV-signal generator, we used a Sencore HDTV hard drive to evaluate the high-definition picture. The recorded 1080i NFL footage popped off the screen with incredible realism and deeply saturated color. The color decoder in the 3098, while not perfect, is better than many on the market. It exhibits only a small amount of red push, which is a tendency to accentuate red to compensate for an overly blue color temperature.
The 3098's biggest drawback is that only a single Custom memory slot saves the changes that you make to picture parameters--contrast, brightness, and so on. This makes it impossible to optimize the set for a variety of sources such as DVD, HDTV, and satellite without having to change the picture settings when you switch inputs.