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Samsung updates DLPs, reinvents the wheel

Samsung updates DLPs, reinvents the wheel

DLP HDTV heavy-hitter Samsung announced four new big-screen rear-projection units earlier today and, in terms of potential image-quality improvement, the coolest is the HL-S5679W. This 56-inch single-chip 1080p-resolution DLP an entirely new light engine that ditches the tried-and-true color wheel/lamp system for a trio of LEDs (the "wobulated" DLP chip hasn't changed, however). The result is elimination of the rainbow effect that causes some viewers of DLP TVs to see brief trails of color in certain circumstances. The LED light source also has other benefits, according to Samsung, including the ability to let the TV display a wider color gamut; longer life before needing replacement (20,000 hours vs. 3,000 to 6,000 hours for a typical DLP bulb); and much shorter time to turn on--7 seconds--than typical bulb-based HDTVs.

We spoke to Samsung's rep about the new TV, and he informed us that the company would only be producing a 56-inch model this year. He had no information about pricing on replacement LED light sources, but we assume they'll cost more than today's $300-to-$500 bulbs--but then again, 20,000 hours is a really long time. He also claimed that the new engine can produce brighter images than the current lamps--a surprise to us, since we'd heard that LED-powered front projectors, for example, were dimmer than their bulb-powered counterparts.

We were also surprised, especially given the price difference between standard flat-panel LCDs and their new LED-backlit equivalents, that the price tag for HL-S5679W isn't terribly exorbitant at $4,199 list (available in April). Hopefully Samsung will see fit to send us a review sample sooner than November--the month we finally were able to review the company's 2005 HL-R6768W. No, we're not bitter.

Aside from its LED light engine, the HL-S5679W shares a similar feature set with the company's 2006 seventh-generation 1080p DLPs announced at the show. The 50-inch HL-S5087W ($2,899 list), the 56-inch HL-S5678W ($3,199), and the 61-inch HL-S687W ($3,599) will all be available in April. Major features include dual 1080p-compatible HDMI inputs and CableCard. They also feature a Game Mode said to provide enhanced response time and improved dark-area performance, but we'll take those claims with a big grain of salt. We expect to hear about more DLP models from Samsung soon, to replace the company's 2005 rear-projection lineup.