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LE52M87BDX Calibration & Benchmark
Colour temperature was not too bad out of the box, with Warm 1 (rather than 2) being the closest to D65 - personally, I would rather have a slightly cool temperature than one that is too warm.
Pre-calibration Warm 1 CCT
Pre-calibration Warm 1 Greyscale
Greyscale & Gamma Calibration
As you have full white balance controls in the user menus, I was able to get this much closer to the ideal D65 temperature. Unfortunately, there was a spike in blue in the midtones that I was unable to eliminate. Normally I would take out some of the blue/red at the lower end to help flatten this out a bit, but there was a very noticeable green tint when the offset values were lowered, particularly with off-axis viewing. Making these adjustments with the Warm 2 or Normal colour temperature had no effect on this spike in blue in the middle.
Gamma tracking was terrible out of the box, with most of the points around 1.8-1.9, leaving the image looking very flat. Fortunately, Samsung has a useful gamma control that can be set from -3 to +3, which let me bring this much closer to the 2.2 ideal. Despite a lot of experimentation with the various settings available, I was not able to cure the significant drop in brightness below 20 IRE. All the shadow detail was still being resolved by the display, but it was very, very dark. I suspect that the super clear panel was the cause of this.
Pre-calibration Warm 1 Gamma
As the gamma control was only a +/- slider, this meant that I was unable to get things looking how I would have liked. You either have a slow transition into blacks in dark scenes (though still much too quick) and a flat looking image in bright ones, or a good amount of contrast, but with dark scenes looking overly dark. Personally, I preferred the latter, as it looked more natural, despite the lack of clarity in dark scenes.
I was pleasantly surprised to see how good the primary colour chromacities were on the LE52M87BD for a Wide Gamut LCD. There are two settings for colour space - Auto and Wide. Wide lets the panel act unrestricted, giving a totally inaccurate image with greens in particular being significantly off target.
"Wide" Colour Space
The "auto" colour space did a good job bringing things close to Rec. 709 for HD though red, and magenta in particular, was quite off target. Unfortunately, I was unable to correct for this, as "my colour control" had little effect, and adjusting tint just shifted the problem from magenta to yellow and cyans. This meant that the set was left with quite a red push, and skintones were unnatural, tending to look orange.
"Auto" Colour Space
Benchmark Test Results
|Screen Uniformity||Severe problems|
|Overscanning on component||2.5% (Just Scan eliminates this with HDMI)|
|Blacker than black||Passed|
|Black level||Excellent for LCD|
|Black level retention||Stable|
|Primary chromaticity||Good, though reds are slightly oversaturated|
|Scaling||Average, causes some ringing|
|Video mode deinterlacing||Average|
|Film mode deinterlacing||3:2 only when Movie Plus is enabled|
|Viewing angle||Poor - image quality shifts noticeably unless you are viewing straight on|
|Motion blur||Normal for 60Hz LCDs|
|Sharpness||Defeatable edge enhancement|
|1080p24 capability (PS3)||Review sample did not support 24Hz via "Automatic" setting, worked when forced|
Clouding & Uniformity
Even with the backlight at its lowest setting, with power saving as high as it could go, clouding was very apparent with the review sample.
Unfortunately, the problems did not finish there. Once the set had been calibrated, I measured the uniformity using the "ANSI Lumens" pattern from my "GetGray" disc, and was shocked to find that the difference between the brightest and dimmest point was 25cd/m2. The third problem relating to uniformity, is viewing angle related, I believe, and only showed up when the panel was actually showing something. (in the example below, a 10 IRE screen) Even when sitting 10ft back (as far as the room allowed) due to the size of the screen, the edges are very noticeably lighter than the middle. This is quite a problem considering the recommended THX viewing distance is just under 6ft.
Samsung's new Super Clear Panel is both a blessing and a curse. With moderate to bright levels of ambient light in the room, as long as nothing is shining on the screen directly, the image has a richness and depth to it that few other displays have with bright scenes, and will certainly stand out amongst the rest in a shop environment. With darker scenes though, you will be looking at yourself, due to all the reflections you get.
If you can strike the right balance between ambient light and settings on the display, you can have a very good image without reflections being too much of a problem. Once the lights go out and you are viewing in a totally dark room though, the effect disappears, and you can see that it's still an LCD where black levels are average at best.
Samsung continues to impress at the rate it is improving LCD technology, and its new Super Clear panel is by far the most impressive I have seen to date with very dark blacks for LCD.
Unfortunately, these black levels come at the expense of shadow details. Now, the details are still there, but anything in the lower 20% of brightness just gets swallowed up by these blacks. With the gamma set to -2 though, the transition isn't too bad, and unless you were familiar with the source material, or have another display for reference, it might not bother you.
Due to the superb black levels, this has by far the highest contrast ratio of any LCD I have seen to date, measuring a staggering on/off ratio of 1689:1 in the centre of the screen when peak whites were set to 30fL. Due to the uniformity of the panel, however, this was not the same across the screen, with it going as low as 1400:1 or so in one spot - though this is still far ahead of what most other LCDs are capable of.
Colour reproduction is quite varied at times with the LE52M87BDX - at times it can look wonderfully vivid and realistic, particularly in bright scenes and with HD content. Due to magentas not having enough blue in them, skintones can tend to look a little bit orange and reds in general tend to be a bit oversaturated. Lowering the colour control to the point where reds look good leaves the rest of the image a bit too undersaturated, however.
Generally things look nice though. It may not be perfectly natural, or good enough for people that are very critical about colour reproduction (such as myself) but if you're just looking for a bright vivid picture, you'll be happy.
Bugs and Other Issues
The LE52M87 I was supplied with had quite an old firmware, as it was a review sample, and as such, it suffered from various problems that have now been fixed. Unlike Philips displays that will let you update them via the card reader, you will have to have a visit from a Samsung engineer.
Ideally, a television would not have any problems in the first place, but it seems quite common for Samsung displays, and as such, I feel they should provide an easy way for the end-user to update their display without having to get an engineer sent out.
The "Movie Plus" Bug: As this set has an older firmware, it still had the movie plus bug where it would enable itself automatically for various reasons. (having the aspect ratio change, for one) This is Samsung's motion interpolation, and personally I feel it does a very poor job, making things look like they were shot on a DV cam, rather than being a film, and introducing a lot of artefacts. This has been fixed in newer firmwares.
Just Scan: Similar to the movie plus bug, Just Scan would intermittently disable itself, going back to having 2.5% overscan. I believe this has also been corrected.
EDID Incorrectly Programmed: The EDID on early televisions (such as our review sample) did not report that the television was capable of 1080p24 via HDMI. This means that anything that used the EDID to enable 1080p24 (such as the PS3 prior to the 1.90 firmware update) would not enable it. If you forced 1080p24 it still works, however. Newer sets have this fixed, and an engineer can reflash the EDID for your HDMI ports if necessary.
Freeview Stuttering: This is a significant bug with the M87, and at the time of writing, I don't believe it has been fixed yet. At random, the Freeview tuner will drop frames, stuttering very badly at times. This leaves the internal tuner completely unwatchable, in my opinion. This does not appear to be related to signal strength at all.
RGB: Another problem I have found with the set, is that it does not appear to handle RGB very well at all, and I suspect that it might even be converting to S-Video internally, and doing a bad job of it. There were some very noticeable Y/C delay issues, with green/magenta separation at the edges of objects. There also seemed to be some faint "interference" resembling "hum bars" scrolling up the screen on large blocks of colour.
To my surprise, switching to S-Video improved the image quite drastically. Most of the Y/C delay problems disappeared, and despite things being a little softer with minor colour bleeding, overall the image was better for it.
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