Top critical review
21 people found this helpful
brightness uniformity issues and annoying auto-dimming
on December 27, 2011
I was excited to get this TV for Christmas, but that excitement faded pretty quickly.
-relatively (compared to plasmas) miserly power consumption
-(mostly) aesthetically pleasing (aside from the "touch of color," which is red in this case)
-auto-dimming "feature": Out of the box, this tv seems to have good blacks, but the only way this is achieved is through automatically dimming the backlight when a dark scene is on the screen. This gets pretty annoying with dark movies such as Harry Potter 7. When I tried watching this in a low-light environment, the TV would crank up the brightness significantly during the brighter scenes and dial it way down during the dark ones. The result was that some scenes were painfully bright and others were so dim it was difficult to make out details. This is also a problem with video game consoles and the TV's own menu interface and other interface elements. For example, the PS3's interface is often white text on a dark background -- this tv turns the white text gray due to the dim backlighting in those instances. Star fields in sci and sci-fi are comprised of very dim stars too. The only way to turn this feature off is to switch the video mode to "movie." The trouble with that is if you bought the tv to sometimes play videogames, you can't use the low-latency game mode in conjunction with movie mode, so it will dim and brighten your games when it feels it's appropriate to do so. Also, movie mode makes everything look pretty washed out and greenish compared with the other modes.
-brightness uniformity: Like I mentioned, if you don't want the auto-dimming to annoy you, "movie" mode is essential. In this mode, the backlight seems to stay at whatever level you set it to from the picture settings without fluctuating all over the place. This is also the case when the screen is mostly "black." What I mean is when it's supposed to display dark things, like black bars above and below when the movie is a wider aspect ratio than 16:9 or very dark scenes (like space). What you get, thanks to the edge lighting is what some refer to as light leaks or flashlights around the sides and especially the top corners. If I put an all-black image on screen, there are grayish clouds of light shining through the attempted darkness in addition to the very bright corners. After researching this issue online, it appears that this is common to all edge-lit tvs to some extent, but I guess I'm too picky to not let this defect annoy me.
-interface: The interface is easy enough to navigate, but the options provide no real meaningful explanation of what they do. It's basically trial and error to figure out what the various settings are for. They're written for the types of people who would never bother to drill down the depths of the settings menus to begin with. As a technophile, I somewhat resent the marketing nonsense within.
-media streaming: The tv supports UPnP media streaming, but it doesn't even play AAC-encoded audio files. If you use iTunes, or have ever bought anything on the iTunes music store, you can't play those files on this tv. I tried streaming various videos I had, but none of them worked either. The only media type I had success with was audio encoded in MP3. I didn't bother trying to figure out what video formats it actually would play since this feature is so limited that it's effectively useless to me.
-tech support: I tried contacting Samsung about turning the auto-dimming off and their tech representatives are pretty clueless about their products. We spent 30 minutes trying to upgrade the firmware, when the representative finally realized that the version I had given him at the outset was the current one.
-I really had hoped that LCD tvs were getting better over time and decided to take a gamble upon reading so many favorable reviews on Amazon, but after doing lots of research after-the-fact, I've come to realize the manufacturers don't care about actual picture quality. They only care about making these tvs thinner and brighter because that's what consumers are attracted to in stores. LED tvs were actually better a few years ago when they first came out because there was a matrix of LEDs behind the screen and instead of dimming the entire picture (which is terrible) to compensate for the pitiful black levels of LCD tvs, they were able to dim discrete portions of the screen. This was known as local-dimming. It still wasn't perfect, for the lighting elements were far bigger than the pixels on the screen, so if you had a small bright object (like a star in space), you'd see a bright halo around it but at least the rest of space was black. It was a step in the right direction. These edge-lit sets are a step backwards. I'm planning on sending this tv back and picking up a Panasonic plasma instead (ST30). That tv has more uniform brightness and great blacks without the need for artificially compensating for them by varying the brightness of the entire screen. The only drawback there is that the case and form factor aren't very pretty. The screen is much thicker and the case is very basic and kind of ugly. The only reason I refrained from going that route in the first place, despite knowing the picture quality of plasma is far superior, is because the plasma was a little too wide for my space, but I've decided the better compromise is to angle the screen about 19º to make it fit. If I had the room for it, I'd get the GT30, which is quite a bit prettier.
I hope my experience helps someone make a more informed decision. If I had read the review I just wrote, I would not have purchased this tv.