Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission.Reviews ethics statement | How we test TVs
The Samsung TXM2796HF is a flat-screen, direct-view television that straddles the analog and digital worlds. Its 27-inch tube takes the standard 4:3 shape, but its digital technology enables it to display progressive-scan (480p) and high-definition (1080i) video formats. Best of all, this Samsung is priced only a couple hundred dollars more than high-end analog 27-inch sets. It makes a good choice for a high-quality bedroom set or a second TV, especially when paired with a progressive-scan DVD player. Just don't expect the kind of performance that a larger HDTV can deliver.
The Samsung TXM2796HF is a good-looking set, with a dark, charcoal-gray finish and speakers built in to the left and the right of the screen. The front panel offers controls for the menu, the volume, and the channels, while the front A/V inputs--including those for S-Video--have been moved to the left side of the chassis. This arrangement may keep connection cables out of the way but could prove annoying to access if you intend to stick this TV in a tight cabinet.
Black and somewhat bulky, the well-laid-out universal remote lacks illumination. Samsung boasts about its plug-and-play setup and easy menu system, but we thought that the reinvented menu was a disaster--it requires way too much thinking.
What separates this set from its analog brethren is the processing that converts standard analog video signals (480 interlaced) into the 480p progressive-scan format. The TXM2796HF can also display 1080 interlaced--an HDTV format--if the set is fed that signal from a separate HDTV receiver, satellite, or cable box.
Samsung includes a three-line comb filter for improving composite-video sources, as well as selectable scan-velocity modulation and digital noise reduction. A vertical-compression feature allows the 4:3 tube to display the full resolution of anamorphic, 16:9, wide-screen images. The image can be viewed in Normal, Zoom 1, Zoom 2, or Wide modes; the latter has up/down controls to position a wide-screen movie to your liking.
There are four picture modes: Movie, Dynamic, Standard, and Custom. Unfortunately, there's no independent memory for matching inputs to custom picture adjustments. The only way to modify the picture is via the single Custom memory slot. In an unusual twist, Samsung includes five different color-temperature settings: Warm 1, Warm 2, Cool 1, Cool 2, and Normal.
The two side speakers are driven by 10 watts each--a fairly large amount of power for a 27-inch set--and the TXM2796HF sounds decent. Samsung's audio-listening modes include Standard, Movie, Music, Speech, and Custom, depending on what you are watching or your listening preferences.
The TXM2796HF's jack pack offers four composite-video inputs, one of which is on the set's side; one S-Video input on the side; one RF input; and two wideband component inputs for connection to progressive-scan DVD players or HDTV receivers. The most glaring miscue is the lack of an S-Video input on the rear panel. First off, we need to note that high-resolution, wide-screen material--such as progressive-scan DVD and 1080i HDTV--looks best on big-screen TVs, where you can really appreciate the detail. Since this 4:3 Samsung places letterbox bars above and below the wide-screen image, the active picture area measures about only 25 inches diagonal. If you're looking for a larger image, check out Samsung's 32-inch TXM3298HF or its widescreen brother, the 30-inch TXM3098WHF.
We examined the set in Movie mode and found the Warm 1 setting to be closest to the industry standard for color temperature. Interestingly, Warm 2 is nearly ideal for watching black-and-white movies, which require an even lower temperature setting than do color images.
The all-important color decoder was exactly as we've come to expect from most manufacturers: it exaggerates the red spectrum and gives the yellows an orange tint. Grayscale set up fairly well, however, and the set delivers plenty of light output without distortion.
We looked at the Insomnia DVD for reference. One of the greatest benefits of digital technology is the clarity and detail produced when the signal is good. With this DVD, the TXM2796HF looked very sharp. There was a lot of detail in the image, from expanses of water to gray, rocky landscapes to green trees to Al Pacino's black, leather jacket. Blacks were very deep and rich but maintained good clarity. The color decoder, however, gives everyone rosy cheeks; it may be cold in Alaska, but no blush for tired Al, please. We had to back down on the color setting slightly, putting it below the point that our test patterns had shown was optimal.
When films are transferred to video, unsightly artifacts can be introduced into the image during playback. Many current TVs offer 3:2 pull-down circuitry to clean up these artifacts, but this Samsung does not. The opening scene of Star Trek: Insurrection has an overview of a small town by a river, including overturned canoes and the ridges along the edges of rooftops. With 3:2 pull-down, the edges of these objects are clean and sharp. With the Samsung, however, they were alive with artifacts, which appear as a pixelated banding that changes as the camera moves. As a result, we highly recommend you pair this TV with a solid progressive-scan DVD player.