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LE32R87BDX Picture Quality

by Colin Tang
7 May 2007

High Definition

With the end of the hugely successful digital terrestrial BBC HD trial, the BBC Trust has decided to apply for a Public Value Test (PVT) to examine the proposal for a permanent high definition (HD) television channel. Using temporary spectrum licensed by Ofcom, a free-to-air HD service has been broadcasting on the DTT platform in the London area to 450 trialist homes since early June 2006. Fortunately, the trial continues on cable and satellite channels for those with the right equipment, allowing us to test new TVs cost effectively. It should extend to some time in November after the PVT process is completed.

At HDTVtest, the wide selection of looping previews and repeating programmes with BBC HD allow us to familiarise ourselves with many scenes that we later refer to as test material. It's not exactly scientific, but it beats the hell out of looking at boring test cards; so I'll do anything to keep my sanity, thank you.

With the LE32R87BDX, I started with the BBC HD logo, looking specifically for the black level depth, contrast with the white text logo and coarse posterization in the fine orange gradient. It passed round one without breaking a sweat, which was impressive given the specs and price point. While the blacks doesn't come near then vaunted Samsung M86 or Panasonic's plasmas, it's still quite decent after careful calibration of backlight and brightness (black level) control. This manifested itself in a few tricky cave scenes from the ground-breaking Planet Earth. It's easy to get immersed in dark cave exploration and to become involved in the team's surreal journey into the darkest corners of the earth when the blacks are produced realistically. There is some loss of shadow detail in the more challenging scenes, but this did not gravely detract from my enjoyment from this amazing production episode.

With bright scenes, the Samsung LE32R87BDXBuy this for £398.99 at Dixons
Use code '5TV' for £21.00 discount
comes into its own. The D65 grayscale and flat gamma tracking at higher intensity signal captures the essence of natural lighting, and therefore overall colour balance. If you are a warm temperature junkie, then I'm preaching to the converted. If you're not, then consider the effect of a bluish cast on critical colour mixes in flesh tones and foliage. An episode of Robin Hood and his merry men in Sherwood Forest should be an excellent showcase of LE32R87BDX strength in this area. My only criticism of the colour pallette comes in the form of mild red push that is evident on the default [Colour] setting at 50. With a bit of careful tweaking you could diminish its effect while holding on to life-like and fulsome colours in your pictures.

Hotel Babylon takes on a new dimension (in picture quality) when it's portrayed in HD. To my eyes, it consistently produces the smoothest pictures, never lacking for detail. With this display, the high quality images are easily reproduced in its best form for your enjoyment. For example, the tastefully designed hotel lobby set with its immaculately turned out staff succeeds in creating the impression of a perfect exterior masking the naughty scandals that goes on every week.

Denise   Child
I only take the photos...don't follow the Joseph series...honest (zoom)
 
One of the more captivating BBC HD images
Apollo   Apollo
Are you guys worried about sitting on this giant firecracker?
 
To infinity and beyond...

I had the opportunity to reacquaint myself with an old sci-fi drama favourite, Apollo 13, on our LE32R87BDX. I was surprised at how good the HD version of the movie looked even on a entry level HDTV. The picture quality is excellent for the aforementioned reasons, but the second part of the film asks serious questions of any TV in their black level and ANSI contrast department. Right from the blast-off scene, we are generally greeted by the great emptiness of space occasionally punctuated by images of the moon, the crew and Apollo spacecraft in jeopardy. To convey the sense of urgency and dread in this unforgiving atmosphere, a TV will need to churn out enough blacks while maintaining image contrast in low light scenes. In this, the Samsung provided a satisfactory answer as much as its price tag will allow, and sometimes even more.

Standard Definition

Gladiator   House of Pain
This is how you make an entrance...zoom
 
Welcome to the House of Pain...
Mask   Charge
I promise to be gentle...
 
Barking orders...

As testing material, I have always felt that Gladiator and perhaps the Lord of The Rings Trilogy was a little biased because of their excellent DVD transfers. But leaving that aside, I am reminded again with the Samsung LE32R87BDXBuy this for £398.99 at Dixons
Use code '5TV' for £21.00 discount
why this show is so good even after so many years. The panel's capabilities is more than adequate for your DVD collection while you bide your time waiting for HD. The crucial battle scenes, mostly fought in bright daylight, once again highlights the TV's respectable greyscale and my recommendation to achieving the D65 standard. Skin on armor don't look out of place and is very believable. The Colosseum sand in the Spaniard's grasp looked real and authentic because the colours are almost spot on.

With some upscaling, the picture is a little sharper and cleaner at the edges, but you are likely to see the more benefit with larger TV sets. I avoided the Movie Plus mode although it did reduce film judder to some extent.

You'll never guess where the ball is looking at the players...

On digital Freeview, the quality of broadcast is so variable that objective assessments are quite difficult. But by virtue of its smaller frame, mediocre programme material is more tolerable and higher bit rate shows can approach the standard of upscaled DVD.

The visibility of mosquito noise and blocking artifacts inherent in digital compression depends largely on your sitting distance with a known TV size. We were quite happy at the results camping at about 8 feet away, but it bears pointing out that detail is always lost sitting farther away and you get a smaller viewable screen area. Both are reasons why large screen and 1080p video resolution is the hottest thing in the market right now.

Motion wise, the R87 performs like a 8ms panel as quoted in its specs. In football, some viewers demand the best resolution possible with moving objects; if this is your number one priority you should probably look elsewhere. Otherwise, the response time should be enough for any other material without significant blurring.

CMO panel

Sticker Service Menu

LE32R87BD C...this a CMO panel? (zoom)

Service menu (zoom)

It looks like I have a CMO panel although I don't know which MVA incarnation is this. What I can tell you is that the viewing angle of the TV exhibits colour washout fairly early on (<100) and takes on a purplish tint on black colours. We managed a 900:1 contrast ratio and so it's black depth doesn't seem to be a handicap.

DNIe

Here's a list of what DNIe does for your picture.

  • 6x density enhancer - This is the scaling algorithm used for conversion of images to the native resolution of the panel. For example, SD (576) and 720p material will need to be upconverted to be displayed on a 1080p native panel. Remember, this process does not add any more detail to the image.
  • Color optimizer - This alters the saturation and white tone of the incoming picture. Should generally be turned off if you want to see the original colours.
  • Detail optimizer - The DNIe claims to sharpen edges without introducing haloing artifacts (overshoot).
  • Contrast enhancer - It employs an S-shape transfer characteristic that gives brighter, higher contrast images.
  • Motion optimizer - DNIe examines up to 70,000 images segments on different frames to reduce loss of detail and motion smearing when subband spatial and motion adaptive temporal noise filter is applied.
  • Image optimizer - Has colour control, dynamic contrast and brightness sensor.

My Colour Control changes the saturation of pink, green, blue and white colours, having subtle effects on skin tones, foliage and skies respectively. Althought not terribly effective, I used the [Pink] control to tame down sunburnt skin on higher [Colour] settings.


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