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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Samsung HL-S6188W DLP HDTV

In a rather interesting reversal of fortune, the Samsung and the Sony swapped positions compared with their rankings in last year’s RPTV Face Off. This was really due to one thing: defeatable DNIe.

Samsung’spicture-enhancement” circuitry proved to be last year’s ultimate polarizing factor. Some of our judges liked it; most of them didn’t. Either way, it certainly didn’t make the image look natural. The problem was that you couldn’t disable the DNIe. This year’s model had no such affliction. In fact, in Movie mode, you can’t even enable the DNIe. Without this handicap, the display’s strengths got to shine through.

The Samsung’s most noticeable strength, interestingly, is its color. While every other display in this Face Off (in fact, most displays in general) had oversaturated color points, the HL-S6188W had nearly perfect color points. The result on the screen is an image that looks inherently realistic. This seemed to be the aspect of its performance that pushed it to the top of everyone’s rankings. In fact, every judge commented on the display’s natural look and realistic colors. As it won out over other TVs that had better contrast ratios and much better black levels, the importance of accurate color points seems to be clear.

The Samsung’s processing was very good with both 480i and 1080i material. There were almost no noticeable jagged edges on the Silicon Optix DVD’s flag scene. The Samsung picked up the 3:2 sequence quickly with Gladiator but not at all with the synthetic Silicon Optix test. Like most of the TVs, it couldn’t pick it up at all with 1080i, either. The scaling was pretty good, and most of the judges gave it compliments on its level of detail. The same was true with noise, as in there wasn’t a lot of it.

This set wasn’t without its problems, and one stands out over the others. This TV is way too bright. Don’t dismiss this, as it is a real issue. If you plan to watch this TV in a dark room, it will be extremely fatiguing. If, for example, a night scene transitions to a day scene, you will probably wince and squint your eyes. It’s that bright. With no way to adjust the light output in the user menu, I question the usability of this TV at night, as did several of the judges. It’s too bright. Several other TVs in this Face Off have an adjustable iris to drop the light output when desired. This TV needs a usermenu iris adjustment more than any display we’ve reviewed. Sure, everyone loves a bright display, but this one has gone over the edge. An adjustable iris would also address this TV’s other shortcoming, mediocre blacks.

Yet, the Samsung still won, despite its eye-watering light output. The scaling and deinterlacing (except for 1080i) are good. The colors are nearly perfect, and it tracks D6500 quite well. The contrast ratio is good, although the black level is merely OK. It’s one of the most realistic and natural RPTVs we’ve seen through here, and it’s our clear winner. Just don’t forget to bring some sunglasses.


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