What We Think
|A stylish TV at an affordable price, but it's better for watching talk shows in daylight than movies in the dark.|
LCD technology is something TV makers want you to take seriously, and to prove they're not kidding, they've packed it into just about every type of set, including front-projection, rear-projection, and flat-panel models. Of those three, it's the last kind that's really heating up - 40-inch and larger flat-panel LCDs are finally starting to give plasma TVs some competition. With more than 15 new models and a new factory dedicated to the category, Samsung is bullish on LCD. The 40-inch LN-R408D ($2,600) is one of its largest, so we decided to take a look.
Even when not mounted on the wall, your flat-panel TV is bound to be a conversation piece, so it's got to look good. With a glossy black frame that flares into a triangle at the bottom and includes a thin silver grille over the speakers, the LN-R408D has that angle well-covered. A large, disc-shaped power button is centered below the screen, while other controls like volume, channel, menu navigation, and source select are on the side. A silver-toned, nonswiveling base is included. The one important thing missing is a front- or side-panel A/V input for a camcorder or game console, and I'd also have liked to see a memory-card or USB input for viewing digital photos.
Around back, the Samsung offers a good selection of inputs, including HDMI, component-video, and VGA-style PC connections. Strangely, a minijack audio output for headphone listening is also located here - nice thought, but talk about inconvenient! Samsung's remote control isn't backlit, but finding the button you want in a dark room won't be a problem thanks to its simple, clear layout. To switch inputs, just tap the Source button - the TV automatically ignores unused inputs, quickening the process. And to select Display Modes, open the slide-down door at the bottom and hit the P.Size button. The options include 16:9, 4:3, Panorama, Zoom 1, and Zoom 2 for standard programs, just 16:9 and 4:3 for HDTV.
SETUP The Samsung's Plug and Play option (found in the Setup menu) eases you through channel setup once you connect an antenna or cable line. After I plugged in my RadioShack antenna and selected the Air and Start options, the Samsung quickly found all the digital broadcasts in my area. I used the onscreen digital signal-strength meter to fine-tune antenna placement for the strongest reception. One outstanding thing about this TV is its electronic program guide (EPG), which pulls data from digital channels and presents it onscreen in a well-organized grid with program titles and descriptions spanning 12 hours ahead. I actually found the Samsung's EPG preferable to the one provided by my cable company.
Setting up the Samsung's picture wasn't nearly as trouble-free. A Custom picture preset is available for each input along with three additional presets - all of them can be modified and stored with your changes. However, when I selected the Warm 2 Color Tone preset - the one that delivered the most natural-looking overall color of the four choices - darker parts of the picture still had a strong greenish tint that I couldn't remove with any user controls. The set's My Color Control user menu also wasn't much help in removing a reddish skin cast - an effect that showed up regardless of which Color Tone preset I selected. The green tint disappeared only after I calibrated the set with the service-menu controls, though the red cast could only be tamed by turning down the color control, which slightly desaturated other colors as well.
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