Orthogonal Thought | Random musings from the creator of Cooking For Engineers and Lead Architect of Fanpop





Review of Samsung LN46A550P3F

Posted 25 August, 2008 at 11:50pm by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Television)

Fry's Electronics just had a the Samsung LN46A550 (46-in. LCD 1080p HDTV) for $400 off. We've been using my in-laws' television for the last few years and because of their upcoming move, I've been keeping an eye on the television market. I was planning on purchasing the Vizio VO47LF from Costco for $1199, but when the Samsung TV came up at $1299, I decided to take a look at it. Shortly after running a few tests and comparing specs, I purchased the Samsung and took it home. Here's my rundown of the Samsung LN46A550 HDTV.

I use an HD DVR (the one Comcast supplies) as my primary means of watching television. I also pretty much only watch HD content. In addition, I have a Playstation 3, DVD (a cheap one that plays just about everything including DVDs that my PS3 doesn't seem to want to play), and a computer that I want hooked up. I used to have a VCR and a second DVR hooked up to the previous television, but haven't used them in so long that I don't think I'll hook it up. For audio, I connect everything through a Dolby Digital and DTS enabled surround sound receiver.

Image Quality - the image quality is quite good. The specifications state 30000:1 dynamic contrast ratio and I couldn't find any specs showing the native panel contrast ratio. Given the panel size (46-in.) and the stated dynamic contrast ratio at 30,000:1, I suspect it is a "standard" 2500:1 contrast panel. Having no other panel to compare against side-by-side or a tool to test contrast, I can only state that the contrast seems excellent with a great deal of shadow detail.

Back Inputs

HDMI - The TV has two HDMI 1.3 inputs in the back. The first one is a "normal" HDMI port while the second comes with an additional two RCA audio inputs (Left and Right for stereo) coupled with HDMI Port #2 (if you connect a DVI device to the second HDMI port via an adapter).

Component - 2 component (YPrPb) inputs are also provided with two more stereo audio inputs coupled with them.

PC Port - A VGA input (D-sub 15 male) with an 1/8-in. stereo phone (TRS connector) jack.

Antenna In - An F-connector for an antenna, analog cable, or digital cable.

Back Outputs

Ex-Link - Used to control a wall mount bracket that can have it's position adjusted. I didn't wall mount (and probably wouldn't have bought anything fancy enough to do that).

Audio - A set of stereo RCA plugs provide audio outputs.

Optical Digital Audio - A TOSLINK digital audio connection is available in the back. This is probably the most promising feature of the TV's audio capabilities and could have been one of the best features of the TV (but, alas, it's poorly implemented). The optical output provides 5.1 sound when then TV's tuner is set to an HDTV station, but only 2-channel stereo when using HDMI. If it passed through all the audio channels on the HDMI, then this would be really cool - the audio receiver would not need to be switched to different inputs when the TV's source is changed. Unfortunately, with the way it's implemented, I basically lose surround sound unless I connect the external device to the receiver and control it separately.

Side Inputs (on left side of TV)

HDMI - One HDMI 1.3 input on the side.

USB - A USB connector can be used to view photos or play audio from a USB storage device. (I haven't tried this yet)

AV IN 2 - an S-Video connector or RCA can be used with stereo RCA connections

Side Output

Headphone - 1/8-in. phone jack (TRS)


Dynamic Contrast - This is a nice feature as it enhances the image being displayed - but I can't stand it since the relative brightness of elements on the screen changes based on the content. That means the menu/controls of my DVR change brightness based on what's being displayed. The contrast increase is pretty much faked and I prefer to watch my movies, play games, and use my living room computer with the least amount of automatic visual adjustments.

Picture In Picture - I was hoping to get a monitor with PIP capabilities, but I knew going into the Samsung this wasn't going to be the case. I'm hoping that a future (affordable) TV will let me PIP with multiple HDTV inputs (so I can see the DVR at the same time as either the computer or PS3 so I can watch something while monitoring progress). The PIP on the Samsung is pretty much laughable, and I think they know it (there isn't an easy way to turn on PIP - you have to go to Tools, scroll down to PIP, then select to turn it on, and go throuhg this whole menu to change channels - other TVs have dedicated buttons). The PIP doesn't support digital TV stations (only analog) so it's future value is probably going to be even less than it's current value. In addition, you can only use the PIP for analog TV stations from the tuner - no component, HDMI, or composite video can be put in the subpicture. For users like me who are connected to digital cable, this makes the PIP close to useless.

HDMI - Having several devices already, I would have preferred an additional HDMI port in the back of the panel.

No Overscan Mode - Called Just Scan by Samsung, the TV can display all the scan lines for any HDMI input. The TV doesn't remember the setting by input however, the scan mode that was last used is remembered. It does keep a separate memory for the last scan used on standard definition content as well as high def tuner content. That means you can set the HDMI to Just Scan, HD content on tuner to 16:9, and SD content on tuner to 4:3. Not too bad, but I'd prefer that it would be able to remember by input (PS3 is always just scan, etc.).

Environment Light - There's a white light at the bottom of the TV under the Samsung logo. Thankfully, this can be turned off via the TV's menus. (Menu - Setup - External Settings - Light Effect - Off)

TV Speakers Off - You can turn off the TV's speakers. This is useful if you're using HDMI cables with a surround sound receiver since the TV will play audio simultaneously with your speaker system. You can turn the volume all the way down as another solution. Muting won't work because there's an on screen message that stays on screen telling you the TV is muted. The only problem with this is that when you switch to the TV's built in tuner, you have to go through menus to turn the speakers back on (Menu - Sound - TV Speaker - On) if you haven't routed the TV's sound back to your receiver (which you'd have to switch to TV mode if you did actually route the sound back).

Color Adjustment - The TV actually has a lot of color and brightness settings including the standard brightness, contrast, color and tint as well as gamma, white balance, flesh tone adjustment. I run color calibrated monitors for my PCs, but I haven't found the need to calibrate my TV sets. The base settings were a bit bright (I turned down the backlight by several settings before I was comfortable) and pretty much left all the other settings on default (turning off dynamic contras, sharpness, digital NR, and black adjust). The image is a bit cool for my environment, but setting it to a warmer color temperature (which requires you to actually change the picture mode from "Standard" (which only allows normal and cool temperatures) to "Movie" mode) seems to be too warm (yellow) for my lighting conditions.

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