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Samsung TXN3098WHF review: Samsung TXN3098WHF

Samsung TXN3098WHF

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John Falcone
John_Falcone.jpg

John Falcone

Executive Editor

John P. Falcone is an executive editor at CNET, where he coordinates a group of more than 20 editors and writers based in New York and San Francisco as they cover the latest and greatest products in consumer technology. He's been a CNET editor since 2003.

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4 min read

Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.

6.0

Samsung TXN3098WHF

The Good

Inexpensive wide-screen CRT; dual wideband component inputs; DVI connection.

The Bad

No rear-panel S-Video jacks; no independent input memory; color decoder pushes red; spotty 2:3 pull-down processing.

The Bottom Line

The TXN3098WHF performs decently and lowers the entry point for 30-inch wide-screen HDTVs to less than $1,000.
Review summary
The TXN3098WHF is a slight update to Samsung's 2002 30-inch wide-screen HDTV, the TXM3098WHF. When it comes to video processing and color reproduction, the new version is actually a step down. But it does add a DVI input for state-of-the-art digital connectivity, and with a street price of around $1,000, this Samsung is an attractive deal for anyone interested in an entry-level HDTV.

The TXN3098WHF and its predecessor are equally attractive. On the outside, in fact, they're almost indistinguishable. Within the face's silver edges, a charcoal-gray bezel frames the flat, wide-screen CRT display. The circular power key sits alone on the front of the set, centered below the screen between two front-firing stereo speakers. There are no flip-down doors. Instead, the other controls and a few connections live on the cabinet's sides: six buttons on the right and a set of A/V inputs on the left.

The remote has adequate but not stellar ergonomics. Its keys are neither backlit nor illuminated, and the 12 buttons under the slide-down door include a frequently used input selector. The control can command up to four other home-theater devices (such as a cable box, a VCR, and a DVD player), including those from other manufacturers.

It may not be as large or as sexy as an LCD or plasma flat panel, but the TXN3098WHF can still display 1080i HDTV when connected to an outboard tuner, as well as 480p from a progressive-scan DVD player. And the set's video processor converts regular incoming signals, such as cable and VHS, to progressive-scan format to produce a stabler picture.

In addition to the wide (16:9) and standard (4:3) aspect ratios, you get two zoom levels and a panorama mode, which fills the screen with a 24-inch 4:3 image by stretching its sides but not its center. Choices beyond 16:9 are limited to 480i sources, so you'll need a progressive-scan DVD player with aspect-ratio control to properly display nonanamorphic DVDs. A picture-in-picture mode is also available, but it can toggle between only the composite and RF inputs.

Complementing the TV's five audio presets are a full five-band graphic equalizer and Midnight mode, which moderates excessive disparities between low and high volumes. There's also a built-in subwoofer that you can divert to an external output or, if you're bass-shy, turn off.

On the connectivity front, we were pleased to discover three versatile HD-capable inputs. The two component connections can accept 480i, 480p, and 1080i video. They're a step up from previous Samsung TV hookups with either 480i/480p or 480p/720p/1080i configurations, which frustrate attempts to view signals alternating between 480i and 1080i, such as Xbox output. The single DVI jack has HDCP copy protection, so it's compatible with matching all-digital outs on next-generation DVD players and set-top boxes. Note that the TXN3098WHF cannot accept a 720p HDTV signal at all; HDTV from ESPN or ABC must be converted to 1080i by an external HDTV tuner.

On the other hand, the selection of lower-quality inputs was a disappointment. Two of the three rear-panel A/V jacks also do component-video duty, forcing you to choose between the signal types. Worse, the lone S-Video input is near the TV's left-front edge, so a permanent cable- or satellite-box connection will be distractingly visible. The back panel also features a monitor output and an RF in for antenna or cable hookup.

As expected, the TXN3098WHF's out-of-the-box performance was mediocre. Only the default Warm 2 color temperature came somewhat close to the 6,500K ideal; the grayscale measured 7,084K at the low end and 7,934K at the high end. After calibration, the respective readings changed to 6,400K and 6,590K, and there was relatively little variation throughout the rest of the scale. Unfortunately, Samsung didn't provide individual input memory, so the TV's one custom picture mode must suffice for all inputs.

A pronounced overscan cut off approximately 5 percent of the picture. The reduction affected all four sides; one casualty was the info crawl along the bottom of some cable news channels. Moreover, you can't switch off scan-velocity modulation, so we saw some ringing around text and other edge enhancements, even when we set sharpness to zero. We moderated both problems in the service menu, but that's accessible to only a professional technician, and we don't expect many buyers to spend $350 on calibration.

As you'd expect with a CRT, black levels were excellent, and dark scenes had very nice detail. Resolution was also quite good, and the TV brought through all the detail our DVDs had to offer. On the other hand, the color decoder exhibited a noticeable 25 percent red push. Reducing color saturation gave us acceptable skin tones at the expense of pop.

The set's 2:3 pull-down video processing engaged sporadically and unevenly during both our DVD test scenes: the opening sequence of Star Trek: Insurrection and the Coliseum flyover in Gladiator. To solve that problem, be sure to pair the TXN3098WHF with a capable progressive-scan DVD player. High-definition performance, on the other hand, was more decisive. The CBS and Discovery HD Theater 1080i programming from our Time Warner cable feed looked great, although it was naturally a bit softer than on larger, higher-resolution CRT displays.

Those who don't mind a standard 4:3 screen may prefer the 32-inch Sony KV-32HS510, which is in the TXN3098WHF's price range. The HS510 performs better but offers a smaller (29-inch) wide-screen picture.

6.0

Samsung TXN3098WHF

Score Breakdown

Design 5Features 7Performance 6