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LE32R87BDX Lab Tests & Calibration

by Colin Tang
7 May 2007

While Samsung upped the ante on what I term the `second generation' of LCDs with the very accomplished M8X series, I had lower expectations for the smaller, cheaper products in their range. As you know, cost factor is the enemy of quality and so I wasn't really confident that Samsung (or any other manufacturer) could deliver the same goodness at lower price points. Well, in a few words, the LE32R87BDX easily banished the sum of all my fears, for reasons that will be explained later.

The default dynamic mode for Samsung is what'd you expect to find on the showroom floor, lots of noise, bluish whites, roasted complexion, garish colurs blah, blah, blah. But the first hint of a saving grace came when I switched over to the movie mode. The colours were a little too strong for me with some evidence of red push, but the overall image `balance' was there. A balance that can only really be attributed to a well groomed `greyscale', the canvas that your video pictures is painted on. We proceeded to calibration in our usual fashion, but in anticipation of another possible Samsung `breakthrough'.

Torture Test

Dead pixels None
Screen Uniformity Minor backlight bleed
Overscanning on HDMI, Component 2.5 percent (JustScan corrects for HDMI)
Blacker than black Passed
Black level Slightly above average
Black level retention Stable in movie mode
Primary colours Good (red push present)
Scaling Fair
Video mode deinterlacing Fair, limited jaggie reduction
Film mode deinterlacing 3:2 cadence passed
Viewing angle Poor (<100)
Motion blur Slight
Digital noise Hardly any at 8 feet
Sharpness ? Mild residual edge enhancement

Black Level

On a TV with backlight controls, we take great pride in stomping down black level luminance without adversely affecting overall picture brightness. Picture brightness is an important quality, but it is very dependent on ambient light and personal preference. Many of our readers complain about our settings being too dark but that's understandable. We tend to calibrate TVs in the late evening so our values really apply for low lighting situations. For brighter rooms, you can make simple adjustments to black level, backlight and gamma (within limits!) to improve this. Deep blacks are very desirable; it can elevate a TV to a whole new level, affording the `pop' and 3-dimensionality that you'll go crazy over.

After a major overhaul of the backlight brightness, we settled for a respectable black luminance that was better than expected for a 32 inch model at this price. While the quality (not depth) of black never approaches the class-leading M86 series, you won't be disappointed with what's on offer. As usual, we always make sure the TV passes studio blacker-than-black data. I ruled out any floating black level in movie mode ie. dynamic dimming is off.

Greyscale

Gamma
Gamma at ~2.4. The mild distortion at the low end causes marginal shadow detail in dark scenes..

At default 0 gamma setting, the curve closely follows the 2.5 curve. But, like the M86 series, the light output at the lower percentage stimulus is a little lower than expected. Although this gives a higher image contrast, fine shadow detail can become a little obscured. Personally, I take lower blacks over some minor loss of detail, but we may not be in the same boat. I'll make some recommendations on this when the settings are published, detailing the potential trade-offs.

I hope the numbers don't lie but we managed to crack up a ~900:1 contrast ratio for our little Samsung LE32R87BDXBuy this for £398.99 at Dixons
Use code '5TV' for £21.00 discount
. It certainly looks the part when our favourite pictures are handled with almost the same depth as some larger and more expensive TVs.

CCT
CCT graph is dead on...on one axis at least.

It gives us great pleasure to find a CCT line that is very close to 6500K on [Warm 2] setting, because that is what we're getting with the Samsung LE32R87BDXBuy this for £398.99 at Dixons
Use code '5TV' for £21.00 discount
. It normally means less work for us, which is always great news. After a couple of flicks here and there, we hit the D65 home run. For more inquisitive readers, we've included the RGB level tracking and dE graphs.

RGB

It's nice...

Colour

CIE
We preferred the[Auto] colour space...

The [Auto] colourspace gamut is a little smaller than the HD 709 standard, but we chose it because it had the lower error value compared to the [Wide] mode. As you can see, green and yellow is a little undersaturated but you'd be hard pressed to notice this in normal programmes. Although red looks a little under here as well, it is digitally enhanced in the colour decoding realm to give a mild/moderate red push. With only colour and tint controls, you won't be able to dial this out without significantly affecting the hue and strength of other colours. I found my perfect level by religiously studying and comparing skin tones, albeit at the cost of weakening the blue tones a little.

Motion

There's some mild motion smearing with panning shots and fast motion material, consistent with TVs not equipped with the latest scanning backlights or 100/120 Hz motion. It may not be the best choice for football die-hards obsessed with precision movement, but it'll do nicely for everything else. Read my article on motion compensated frame interpolation for the latest buzz in LCD technology.

Detail and Sharpness

Sitting at 8 feet, it is highly doubtful that you are going to pick out any detail loss from downscaling 1080i/p material to 1366x768. At that distance, HD images look every bit as sharp and detailed compared to its bigger cousins. What is does better though is in the SD department. If you didn't know this, SD is really encoded for smaller TVs as most of the flaws are difficult to spot on a smaller frame. Before you go out in droves to buy the latest 32 inch LCDs because of what I have said a minute ago, please bear in mind that the real benefit of HD source is the ability to enjoy wider screen pictures at closer sitting distances; it's the cinema widescreen experience in the comfort of your homes.

For a 1366x768 TV resolution, Justscan will not give you 1:1 mapping with 720p or 1080i resolution. It does, however, reclaim the overscanned portion of the pictures so you're seeing everything on offer. Some scaling is required even when this happens because there is always more (1080) or less (720) pixel information for this panel's resolution.

This is a minor point but with some sharpness test patterns, we found a very slight residual edge enhancement or `halo' with the sharpness setting at zero. This will not impact negatively on your final picture, but I just thought it was worth mentioning.

Viewing Angles

I don't like the viewing angle on this unit, which I think is subjectively below 100 degrees with colour and contrast washout. It's spot on nearer the centre, so if you're hung up about this, there's always the handy swivelling stand that Samsung has kindly included.

Video Artifacts

The Samsung LE32R87BDXBuy this for £398.99 at Dixons
Use code '5TV' for £21.00 discount
is quite successful at hiding SD imperfections despite the standard TV scaling and deinterlacing. It's quite hard to point out the jaggies with video material at where we were sitting, so we didn't bother in the end.

This unit has no problems with 3:2 cadence( Movie Plus on) and mixed edit detection. I noted the lack digital noise, which is always a plus.The Samsung LE32R87BDXBuy this for £398.99 at Dixons
Use code '5TV' for £21.00 discount
can't do a lot with mosquito noise or blocking from poor bit-rate SD source, nor is it expected to. I thought they are less obtrussive than larger screens anyway.

I was a bit apprehensive when I saw the Movie Plus option in the picture menu. Samsung has combined their frame interpolation technology with the 3:2 cadence technology in a single control, which is a little presumptuous. Thankfully the flawed implementation that rocked the M86 series isn't replicated here. The control faithfully retains its settings, so you don't have to grudgingly fiddle with the remote to get things right everytime you change inputs. The Movie Plus mode also creates an `unnatural pseudo fast-forward motion' artifact with 24fps film material which I couldn't stand. However, some users have tolerated it for the judder reduction and smoother motion it emulates. Ahh...choices, choices.


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