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Samsung LN55A950D1F 55-inch LED-backlight LCD A950 HDTV Review

Samsung LN55A950D1F 55-inch LED-backlight LCD A950 HDTV Review - PCSTATS
Abstract: Samsung's new A950 series of LCD HDTVs has been designed to be the next step in image fidelity for liquid crystal display technology. These home theatre HD TVs use Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) that can selectively illuminate sections of the screen at a time.
 90% Rating:   
Filed under: Home Theatre Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: Samsung Sep 22 2009   Max Page  
Home > Reviews > Home Theatre > Samsung LN55A850D1F

Viewing and Listening Experience

The Samsung LN55A950 has a pair of integrated 15W speakers that are a step up from the 10W speakers that have shipped on previous Samsung LCD HDTVs. While the 10W speakers found on the Samsung 6 series and 8 series were suitable for watching broadcast television, when it came to music or movies the overall sound was tinny, with no real bass to speak of. Moving from 10W to 15W doesn't seem like it would make a big change, but Samsung has also re-designed the speakers for their 9 series of televisions, taking advantage of the LN55A950's wider profile to fit in a larger speaker and sub-woofer assembly.

The result is a night and day difference in sound quality. The additional bass makes a big difference during the explosions, roars and crunches that make action scenes so exciting, and the additional frequency range brings makes it easier to pick out individual instruments when music is playing. The sound is good enough that you could very well get away without a home-theatre speaker setup.

Viewing Experience: LED backlighting make a difference?

The Samsung LN55A950 uses an active LED matrix as a backlight. LED backlighting works by dividing the TV into an array into small zones which can be switched off where dark images are shown, selectively dimming the LEDs.

The Samsung LN55A950 has overall viewing angles of 178º/178º, so its overall brightness and colour remain visible even when viewed from the sides. The screen has a glossy reflective coating, which can cause some glare in well-lit rooms.

This is also what gives the Samsung LN55A950 its unbelievable 2,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio. LED backlighting can also reduce motion blur and illumination smearing by cycling individual rows of LEDs at speeds of 1/8th of a second, creating a sharper, clearer image.

Unlike traditional CCFL backlighting, LED backlighting can be dimmed locally or turned off altogether when it's not needed. This eliminates the light leakage and 'panel glow' that CCFL backlighting produces, so that LED backlit displays can have black levels that are dramatically darker, approaching pure black

Of course being the kind of gadget nerds we are over here at PCSTATS, we can't let any new tech pass through our labs untested. As soon as the Samsung LN55A950 came into our offices it was placed on the test bench.

To compare the viewing experience on the Samsung LN55A950, we pit it directly against its older brother, the Samsung LN52A850. The 52-inch 8-series television uses a Cold Cathode Flourescent Lamp (CCFL) backlight, like most other LCD televisions on the market. We placed the two HDTVs side by side, and hooked them both up to a home theatre PC via HDMI.

We set the HTPC to output 1920x1080 resolution at 60hz and 32bit colour, adjusted both HDTVs to equal brightness and contrast levels, and dimmed the lights. PCSTATS benchmarking started with PassMark Monitor test, a monitor calibration and testing suite designed to stress the performance of screens and highlight the differences between different displays. Initial tests confirmed that the black levels on the Samsung LN55A950 television were indeed far deeper than that of the Samsung LN52A850.

Both Samsung HDTVs were placed side by side so the camera could capture both displays in a single frame. The black levels of the 9-series television are indistinguishable from the black bezel surrounding the screen.

The Samsung 8-series television's CCFL backlight showed visible illumination in areas that were supposed to be black. The backlight was capable of dark greys, which under normal lighting look like black. However once the lights are dimmed the contrast between what the screen displays as black and the actual black of the LN52A850's bezel becomes obvious.

The LN55A950's LED local dimming produces black levels so deep that in a dark room it's nearly impossible to differentiate between the darkness of the screen and the black bezel around it. This makes the viewing experience noticeably more immersive, since there's less to break the illusion and remind you that you're staring at a screen. There do appear to be some quirks to LED backlighting as you can see in the picture below.

The white strips at the top and bottom of the screens are Passmark's on-screen display for the dot convergence test.

This is Passmark's dot convergence test, and it shows how the CCFL and LED screens function very clearly. The dot test convergence pattern spaces dots about one inch apart in a grid, spaced evenly with large black columns in between them. Typically it's used to test color imperfections and misalignment with older CRT monitors.

Both sides of this closeup have been zoomed in from the previous picture, so both HDTVS have been captured at the same exposure. Notice how on the 9-series HDTV the dots fade away the further they get from the bright menu bars, while the 8-series has consistent lighting from edge to edge.

However in this case the 8-series CCFL shows the dots lit up evenly across the surface of the television, with each column of dots clearly visible from top to bottom. The Samsung LN55A950's 9-series locally-dimmed LED backlight can't quite accommodate this type of picture, because the dots are not grouped together in large bright areas. The white dots that are closer to the menu bars on the top and bottom of the screen get a bright white illumination while the dots that are further to the extremes of the screen are generally dimmer. Whatever algorithm Samsung uses to determine when the LED backlights should be turned on is unable to cope with this test pattern, so the predominant black takes precedence over the individual points of light.

More on this right after the jump, this time with high definition video clips...

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Contents of Article: Samsung LN55A850D1F
 Pg 1.  Samsung LN55A950D1F 55-inch LED-backlight LCD A950 HDTV Review
 Pg 2.  Samsung A950 External Design
 Pg 3.  Media Inputs and Outputs
 Pg 4.  — Viewing and Listening Experience
 Pg 5.  Comparing LED and CCFL Backlights Continued

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