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Samsung LE52F96BD: Conclusion

by Vincent Teoh
25 September 2007

SUMMARY
Even though its local dimming LED backlight technology is not perfect, Samsung LE52F96BD is capable of delivering unsurpassable true blacks.

PROS
> True blacks (0 cd/m2) possible with [LED SmartLighting]
> Exceptional detail from 1080 source with [Just Scan]
> Accepts 1080p/24 from PS3 – no more telecine judder

CONS
> [LED SmartLighting] causes flare around bright objects
> [LED SmartLighting] causes black level fluctuation

> Shadow detail less defined cf. some other LCDs/ plasmas

Pros

  • [LED SmartLighting] allows for true blacks (0 cd/m2) depending on screen content
  • Exceptional detail from 1080 source with [Just Scan] engaged
  • Accepts 1080p/24 signal from PS3
  • – telecine judder no longer visible
  • Can achieve near-D65 greyscale via white balance adjustment in the user menu
  • Well-specified colour gamut with respectable decoding
  • Negligible motion blurring (as expected for a high-end LCD TV)
  • Above average speakers with reasonable stereo separation and bass extension
  • Ample connectivity: 3 HDMI 1.3 ports, USB input, etc.
  • USB port can be used to view JPEG slideshows, listen to MP3s, and update firmware
  • Settings can be saved independently per input
  • Swivelling stand already attached out of the box
  • Attractive styling
  • User-friendly EPG and ergonomic remote control

Cons

  • Flare around bright text/ objects overlaying a black background*
  • Black level fluctuation due to local dimming technology*
  • Shadow detail less defined compared to some other flat panel HDTVs
  • Image can lack depth and undergo subtle hue shifts at times*
  • Mild vertical bands show up during pans across a lightly saturated uniform background
  • Video processing only average
  • Reflective screen necessitate stringent ambient light control
  • Changing channels and navigating the user menu can be sluggish

* Denotes problems that are caused by [LED SmartLighting] and hence can be removed by turning it off.

Conclusion

This is a tough one to call. On the one hand, the local dimming LED backlight on Samsung LE52F96BD has brought blacks on a flat screen television to an entirely new level. In terms of sheer spectacle (or lack thereof) value, nothing beats witnessing a total absence of light output from a 52-inch flat panel during fade-outs between scenes, or on a blank input. For someone like myself who has become accustomed to the residual glow on plasmas and LCDs alike, this is a truly transcendental experience that has to be seen to be believed.

However, [LED SmartLighting] – which is necessary to achieve this amazing black level of zero cd/m2 – comes at some cost. Because the pixels on the screen far outnumber the dimming zones, black level fluctuation and flare (light bleeding beyond the luminous edges into the black) inevitably take place. Although I personally did not find these artifacts to be overly distracting, owners who have shelled out wads of cash for the Samsung LE52F96BD may be less forgiving. Of course you could disable [LED SmartLighting] to get rid of these artifacts, but you'll have to endure significantly worse blacks... if you are not going to take advantage the local dimming feature why buy the F96?

At the end of the day I guess I'm a sucker for the true 0 cd/m2 blacks that the Samsung LE52F96BD generates as a scene fades out. I contend that this is the most important moment to attenuate light output, because even the slightest hint of glow would become noticeable when a full black screen comes on in a room with minimal ambient light. Sure, due to limitations of the local dimming technology the measured black level actually rises with the amount of bright content on screen, but because our eyes are naturally drawn to these bright highlights, the black areas appear darker than they really are: you won't even realise they are a shade lighter outside of a side-by-side comparison.

Although purists may well be put off by the colour shifts and lack of image depth occurring intermittently courtesy of [LED SmartLighting], the Samsung LE52F96BD delivers enough inkiness, detail, blur-free motion, connectivity, picture control, and sound quality to deserve recommendation as a package.

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