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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Samsung LE32R41BD - LCD TV

With both analogue and digital (Freeview) TV tuners built in, plus a wide range of connectivity options, the Samsung LE32R 41BD is an attractive option, particularly when you can pick it up for less than a grand.

It’s a nice-looking set too, with a snazzy black surround and a V-shaped speaker below the screen. It’s a shame that the effect is spoiled by a flimsy stand. The one that came with our test unit wobbled about all over the place. Many manufacturers supply a device for securing your expensive LCD telly to a tabletop to prevent it falling over, but there was nothing like that here.

Setting up the Samsung set shouldn’t prove terribly complicated, although it was the only set that managed to assign the analogue channels to the wrong channel numbers.

Picture-wise, it isn’t bad at all with high-def material and DVDs. Via component video input, the screen showed up the detail and colour of highdefinition material particularly well. Standard DVD movies, both straight through the RGB Scart and upscaled to 720p or 1080i via the HDMI socket, were excellent. HDMI had the edge, of course. Colours were deeper, and motion smoother. It’s also interesting to note the inclusion of a VGA input, along within analogue audio input for connecting a PC to the screen.

When it came to SD broadcast TV, things weren’t so rosy. On both analogue and digital terrestrial signals the image looked smeared and pixelated, although this is often the case with LCD. The picture is very bright, which is useful for daytime viewing. But it’s tricky to find a decent balance between saturated colours and a washed - outlook. This isn’t helped by the fact that there’s only one custom picture setting, which means that you could find yourself trawling through onscreen menus to alter image settings whenever you change to a different input.

And when you switch between different sources – say from DVD to games console or satellite input – you’ll find that the set is also infuriatingly slow to respond.


Philips 32PF9830 - LCD TV

The Philips 32PF9830’s stylings may not be to everyone’s taste, but the curved edges and glass trim are distinctive and modern-looking. It’s pretty big compared with some of our other candidates, partly due to
the fact that it has a set of fairly high-quality speakers built into it, as well as version 2 of a technology called Ambilight. The latter is described as an ‘ambient backlighting technology’, and something many will wrongly write off as a gimmick. Basically, a set of lamps on the rear of the unit project a soothing glow onto the wall behind it while in use. It’s genuinely easy on the eye and does help to make the image feel larger and more cinematic.

Even if you ignore Ambilight, the 32PF9830 is a cut above the rest for picture quality. With true 1080i HD video via the set’s component input, the picture is astonishingly detailed and accurate, without the slightest trace of motion blur or colour bleed. Our upscaled DVD also looked excellent via HDMI at both 720p and 1080i. Even a standard-definition DVD signal through an RGB Scart looked amazing. The much-vaunted Pixel Plus 2 image processing brings out a lot of detail, although some viewers may prefer the softer picture achieved with Pixel Plus switched off. The version here is actually Pixel Plus 2 HD, designed to enhance both standard and high-definition material.

There are plenty of options to tinker with in the settings, and you’ll need to experiment with these to get the best picture, especially with broadcast TV. If we were to nitpick, we could criticise the absence of a Freeview tuner, and the slightly awkward placement of its rear input sockets. There are, however, loads of useful extras, including a pair of USB ports, a multi-format memory card reader, and even a motorised rotating stand.

So it’s all good news, but the downside is that the Philips set is one of the most expensive in LCD panels around. You’ll be able to pick it up for less than the suggested retail price, but it’s still pricey.

All we can say is you get what you pay for, and the 32PF9830 runs away without Buy It! award.

[via: activehome]

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