Monday, September 08, 2008

Samsung LN46A630







Product Page
Support Page/Manual
AVSForum 630 series
AVSForum 650 series (it's a very similar TV)

- I picked one up at fry's for $1600. It was in the paper on sale for $1700 but I talked them down another $100. I hope to get it down to $1500. I have 30 days to price match. It was a good deal just not a mind blowing deal.
UPDATE: The TV went on sale today at Fry's for $100 less so it is $1500 now. I went back and got a price adjustment. Now that's a deal!
UPDATE 2: The TV went on sale again this week for another $50 less. I went back for yet another price adjustment. Final price of the TV was $1450.
- I did quite a bit research. After looking at sony w and z series and comparing them to to the samsung, I still Think Samsung is the better value. I wanted 120hz. I also took a look at the a550 (60hz) and the a650 (too glossy/reflective for me).
- The A630 is actually a pretty new model (only about 1-2 months old) and came out after the A650. It's basically identical to the a650 except it uses a semi-matte screen vs the high gloss screen on the 650. I really wanted a matte screen to reduce glare. This brings down the dynamic contrast rating from 50K to 40K. Also, it loses one HDMI port (down from 4 to 3). The 630 is a bit cheaper too.
- This TV replaced my older samsung lnr409d 40" which moved to the master bedroom. 46" was the largest set that would fit my metal shelf.
- Touch of Color (ToC): You really can't see the red in the frame at all. Whew! I kind of like the thin clear plastic trim around the outside.
- Swivel base
- Colors and black levels look good to me though I'm no videophile.
- Analog SD channels look ok but I think they look a tad better on my sharp 52d64u. Either way I don't watch a lot of analog SD anymore.
- The initial scan for QAM channels takes quite a long time. It seemed to pickup all the channels. One feature I like is the ability to scan and remove weak/scrambled channels. It takes quite a while but it's pretty conservative. It missed one or two but did remove most of the scrambled channels.
- It has ntsc, atsc, and qam tuners built in. Yes, you can actually still pick up your analog cable stations just fine. I didn't get around trying atsc ota yet.
- PIP is pretty limited. It seems it only displays analog channels in the small window. I tried a digital HD QAM channel, and it doesn't work. On the PIP setup screen you can only choose air/cable as your source. There is also a channel list that only has analog ntsc channels. You cannot choose any digital qam or astc channels. Basically, PIP is next to worthless but it doesn't bother me since I never use this feature.
- You get 3 different picture settings (standard, dynamic, movie) each with it's own independent set of settings which is also tied to a specific input. So there is a lot of flexibility to customize your picture settings. In addition there are three pre-canned "entertainment" modes (sports, cinema, game mode - this one reduces input lag) which you can select with the E.Mode button but then you can't modify any of the picture settings.
- Good number of connections including 3Xhdmi (also does fine with dvi->hdmi from a pc 1080p/60), 2XComponent, VGA (which fully supports 1080p/60), composite/svideo, and headphone jack.

- The remote could use a few more buttons. I like the idea of the tools button which brings up a small menu of the most commonly used functions. I just wish there was a dedicated button for switching your picture modes (dynamic, movie, standard). Looking in the harmony database I didn't see a discrete IR code for that function. To get around it I programmed a macro on the harmony to hit tools, down arrow, right arrow, select which works ok. Also, there are discrete codes for power and input selection for harmony which is nice.

- Sound is average. It sounds a bit hollow. Turning on SRS TruSurround XT helps a bit (makes it sound a bit more full). Vocals are pretty clear. You can crank it up plenty loud. Still, I don't plan on ever using it since I have a 5.1 system on this setup.
- I used dead pixel buddy to test. I have an HTPC hooked up over dvi->HDMI @ 1920X1080/60. After a quick scan I didn't notice any dead/stuck pixels. Blacklight looks quite uniform with no banding or flashlight issues.
- perpixAn chase test.
3 pixels/5ms (AMP on Hight)
7 pixels/11 5ms (game mode - amp disabled).
It's pretty amazing how clear moving objects are with AMP on.
- It's definitely not the thinnest TV on the market.

- Tried the popcorn hour (flashed to latest firmware) over hdmi 1080p/60. Played some 1080p content which looked great.
- Has a "Just Scan" mode which is dot by dot with no overscan.

120hz and AMP:
- I don't see judder. I never did with the 60hz TV's and I still don't with this 120hz. 3:2 or 5:5 pulldown I just don't see all that much difference. I think this is a very personal thing and some people are sensitive to it and others like me are not.
- What I do see a big difference in is the Auto Motion Plus (AMP). It's a very dramatic effect where it interpolates frames between the real ones. On 1080p/24 blu-ray content it looks very real like watching a play. Some people think it looks "too real" or "soap opera effect". Personally, I think film shot at 24fps is just an old technology hold over. I would much rather have movies shot at 1080p/60. AMP is very subjective, and everybody's taste will differ. I highly encourage you see it in action before making a decision. Personally, my wife and I like it.
- Keep in mind 120hz and AMP are two completely different things. It's true AMP is only found on 120hz panels but you can turn AMP completely off if it's not to your liking. With AMP off you should still get 5:5 pull down with 1080p/24 signal. 120hz is always on. It's fixed just like the resolution. All AMP does is control how the original frames from the input signal get duplicated/interpreted to get to 120hz.
- So a couple of things I think you have to consider when deciding between 60hz or 120hz panel. 1) Are you sensitive to judder?
2) Do you like the look of motion adaptive algorithms like AMP?
If you answer yes to either of the above questions, and you think the added features are worth around $200 premium then go for 120hz. Otherwise, I think 60hz still looks great.
- 1080p/24 works fine from the PS3. It does take a few seconds when starting a blu-ray disc up. It first tries 1080p/60, then switches to 1080p/24.

- On the htpc I opened up solitaire with the window sized about 80% of the screen and moved it around rapidly with AMP on High. I noticed no artifacts.

Gaming and Input Lag
- For a more detailed test on Input Lag visit here:
http://blog.arogan.com/2008/09/lcd-hdtv-input-lag-tests.html
- Some people are really sensitive to it and some aren't. I can usually feel it especially in arcade like games like geometry wars or super stardust HD but not so much in FPS.
- In normal mode Super Stardust HD felt a bit sluggish. Turning on game mode I can definitely feel a difference. Controls just feel snappier. Either way input lag doesn't seem that bad and is more than acceptable.
- I tried Super Stardust HD, MGS 4, and Uncharted on the PS3 over HDMI. I thought they all played fine on standard mode. What was interesting was the effect of AMP. Try panning around slowly in uncharted with AMP on and off (or try the split screen demo mode). It's pretty dramatic how it clears up the entire picture while panning. With AMP off the whole scene just blurs a bit. It does take a few milliseconds before AMP kicks in though. Switch directions in panning and for the first few frames you'll see no interpreted frames, and then it will kick in. In Game Mode it's pretty obvious AMP is disabled.
- I tried Geometry Wars 2, Call of Duty 4, Halo 3, Gears of War, and Soul Calibur IV on xbox 360 over VGA. I felt VGA looked just a tad softer (more noticeable at the dashboard than in game) than HDMI but still more than acceptable. I figure input lag over vga should be similar to game mode. I had no problems with hitting the active reload on Gears of War. Geometry Wars 2 felt pretty good with just a hint of sluggishness in the controls.
- game mode locks down everything except picture size, digital NR, and film mode and has these settings:
backlight: 7
contrast: 95
brightness: 45
sharpness: 50
color: 50
ting (G/r): g50/r50
dnie: off
hdmi black level: normal

Normal (movie) mode vs Game Mode


- The other way to reduce input lag is to use HDMI 2 and rename the input to "PC" which also disables several settings but not as many as game mode. If you clear the input name your previous settings will be restored.
disabled settings:
sharpness: 50
color: 50
tint: g50/r50
black adjust: off
color space: auto
flesh tone: 0
edge enhancement: off
digital NR: off
dnie: off
hdmi black level: normal
film mode: off

- 4ms response time so no ghosting or smearing.
- With game mode on I feel even some of the more input lag sensitive gamers will be fine with this TV. Overall I'm satisfied with it's gaming performance.

WiseLink:
- There is a USB port for playing jpeg and mp3's from usb media. It's also used for flashing new firmware.
- I inserted a small compact SD Reader with a 512mb SD card along with a few folders of mp3's and jpeg's. The TV recognized the usb device when I inserted it.
- It works ok, and you can browse by folder not just ID3 tag information (though it's a bit sluggish). I don't see myself using this feature a lot.




Settings:
I started with these:
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?p=14199748#post14199748
and also looked over these:
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1056155
From there I tweaked a few things (I like it a bit brighter because there is a big window in the room). I'm still playing around with these a bit so they might change.

picture:
mode: movie
backlight: 4 or 5 (I think I like 5 for movies and 4 for tv shows).
contrast: 100
brightness: 44
sharpness: 10
color: 52
tint: g50/r50

detailed settings:
black adjust: off
dynamic contrast: off
gamma: +3
color space: custom
flesh tone: 0
edge enhancement: off
xvYCC: off

Color Space:
Red
R = 30
G = 0
B = 1
Green
R = 26
G = 46
B = 0
Blue
R = 9
G = 0
B = 41
Cyan
R = 30
G = 47
B = 56
Magenta
R = 38
G = 0
B = 58
Yellow
R = 60
G = 48
B = 0

White Balance:
Offset
R: 28
G: 25
B: 21
Gain
R: 25
G: 25
B: 29

Picture Options:
Color Tone: Warm1
Size: Just Scan
Digital NR: Low
DNIe: off
HDMI Black Level: Normal
Film Mode: off
blue only mode: off
Auto Motion Plus 120hz: Medium (also playing around with High)

Pictures:
PS3 Blu-Ray 1080p/24 over HDMI:



PS3 Gaming over HDMI:


XBOX 360 over VGA:


Highly Recommended: Great picture, pretty good value, good response rate, acceptable input lag especially in game mode though I wish it would let you change the picture settings in that mode, 1080p support over vga, lots of picture settings, 120hz, AMP, usb port for mp3/jpg and firmware upgrades, reflections/glare isn't that bad.

UPDATE: 9/26/08
The TV is now on sale at Fry's for $1500 which is a great deal. I went back and got a price adjustment ($100 back).

UPDATE: 10/06/08
The TV dropped yet another $50. I did another price adjustment. Final price of the TV is $1450.

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