Samsung 40in. LCD HDTV LN-T4061F

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Product: Samsung LN-T4061F 40" LCD HDTV
Provided By: Samsung Canada
Real-Time Price:

 

Introduction:

So you’ve finally decided to make the change from your current cancer casting TV that may or may not have come off of Noah’s ark.  The problem is what to choose.  There are many different types of TVs that have many different specifications and are the subject of many different reviews and articles and are the subject of countless flamewars.  So why am I sitting here in front of Samsung’s new 40” LCD writing another LCD TV review?  The main reason is that most of the reviews don’t deal a lot with the way that a new TV interacts with your PC.  After all these large LCD TVs are at their heart just large monitors, and what could be better than playing BioShock (DRM and all) on your massive new kick-butt TV.  Or on a much more practical note, with the prevalence of media center PCs rising rapidly in the average consumers home, the PC functionality of a TV is coming under increased scrutiny.   So sit back, relax, and try not to think of LCD vs Plasma, or BlueRay vs HD-DVD while we take a good look at what Samsung’s new 40” LN-T4061F offers to you,  the PC minded consumer.

Feel the thrill and play xbox 360 video game tournaments with your friends online with the high definition LCD TV.
(Promotional)

When the doorbell rang on Thursday morning, I was just a bit miffed.  After all it was fairly early for computer programmer like me to be up (No I will not tell you the time), however when I saw the new 40” TV Fedex brought me, my sour mood just kind of disappeared into thin air.  Unpacking and setup was a breeze, and so very soon the TV was sitting atop my center channel where my previous TV had once rested its considerable bulk.

Plain Shot
Plain Shot

 

I won’t belabor you with a bevy of pictures because 1) My new camera has not arrived, and my current camera isn’t exactly studio quality. 2) Samsung’s pictures are just so much better looking than mine.  I suppose that’s because they have a whole army of marketing people who do this sort of thing for a living.   Plugging the TV into my main media center device was a breeze.  Well it was a breeze on Samsung’s side of things anyways.  I use my modded XBOX running XBMC to playback most of my media files.  It is an absolutely awesome media player for the vast majority of DVDs and other media formats you get off the internet.  It will also upscale its output to 1080i and displays quite nicely on a HDTV. However using the component outputs on the XBOX requires a special cable.  I was not in possession of such a cable and after searching diligently at my local electronic retailers I came to the conclusion that these cables are not sold in retail stores anymore. I knew I could purchase one online but that could take days, so I decided to make one.  Two or three hours and a few solder burns later I had a component cable that worked just fine, and just in case anyone decides to complain, it was even properly shielded. I hooked it up and set the XBOX for 1080i output and sat back to look at the lovely 1080i goodness. 

TV Displaying XBMC
TV Displaying XBMC

 

Details:

Let’s take a moment to look at the specifications for this TV.

TV/Video

  • HD-grade 1920(H) x 1080(V) pixel resolution
  • Widescreen aspect ratio
  • Wide Color Enhancer
  • 10,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio
  • Built-in digital tuner (ATSC/Clear QAM)
  • Fast 8ms response time
  • Picture-in-picture


Audio

  • Watts per channel: 10W x 2
  • SRS TruSurround XT
  • Hidden bottom speakers
  • Sound leveler


Connections

  • 3 HDMI – High Definition Multimedia
  • 2 Component video inputs
  • 2 S-video inputs
  • Side and rear A/V inputs
  • PC input
  • USB 2.0
  • RF antenna inputs
  • HDMI-CEC


Additional Features

  • Swivel  stand


Let’s go through this list and take a look at some of the more interesting things. Firstly if you are thinking that a 10,000:1 contrast ratio sounds a bit high for an LCD panel, you are right.  This refers to the “dynamic” contrast ratio not the true value.  In fact, these days it is getting increasingly difficult to get the actual contrast ratio from the manufacturers.   Everyone has a different methodology for measuring their contrast ratios and they are all trying to get the maximum value out of their numbers.  With a dynamic contrast the TV will dim the backlight if it detects a darker scene. While this sounds fine in theory, in practice I’ve found that this often leads to an excessively dark picture.

The 8ms response time should make this TV fast enough for some gaming.   I’m pretty sure that this TV is an S-IPS panel, but I have not taken it apart to make sure.  We will look at the gaming response later on this review.

The 1920x1080 resolution tells us that this TV is capable of displaying native 1080p video at full resolution.  A lot of the cheaper LCD TVs on the market are only capable of true 720p.


A Look at the Inputs: 

This TV also carries a pretty hefty array of inputs for whatever you choose to plug into.  Of special interest to us are the 3 HDMI inputs and the PC input.  You can also choose to connect your HD equipment with the component inputs, but if you are connecting a home theatre PC you will probably be using HDMI or the PC input.  The PC input they are talking about is simply a VGA connector.  The manual has a list of all the modes it supports.

Inputs
Inputs


The USB ports on a TV are somewhat of an oddity until you discover that you can plug a flash drive into the TV.  This TV can view pictures and play your music directly off of your flash drive.  I tried it and it proved to be pretty  cool. This might not be relevant for those of you that already have a full fledged PC connected to the TV, but for your technologically impaired parents it could be very useful.  I know that some of you are recoiling at the thought of playing music back through the somewhat limiting TV speakers.   You can connect the TV back through your home theatre receiver and play the music back through there, problem solved.

 Flash Card
Flash Card


Construction:

Sticker On Back As is usual for Samsung, the quality of the unit is very good.  The aesthetic appearance is just about perfect.  The black bezel is thin but not too thin and is coated in a glossy finish.  The front is devoid of any controls except one large power button.  The speakers are hidden behind the bezel, because lets face it, anyone buying this high end of a TV is more than likely going to have a nice sound system to go along with it.  The remote was laid out very logically and even had a nice backlight button.

I do have one caveat about the construction though.  Samsung has been known recently for switching the LCD panels around in the models they sell.  As you can see from picture of the back sticker, this is an “S” model.  The things that you read about this TV in the rest of this review are applicable to the “S” model but they may not be true if you get a different panel.   Hopefully the day is coming soon when all Samsung models will meet the same quality control standards.

 

Testing:

Testing a TV can be a somewhat subjective experience, so bear with me as I outline what things I liked and what I disliked about this TV.  I try to be as objective as possible when testing products, and this time around BCCHardware has acquired some new technology that will help by providing some unbiased technological tests.

IMAGE Quality and Color reproduction

I used this TV quite heavily for the month that I had it.  To help with the testing I acquired an HDDVD drive which I plugged into my computer.  Watching Serenity and Planet Earth in HD really showed off the prowess of this 40” LCD.  I thought that the color reproduction was excellent and I didn’t notice any ghosting in any of the fast action scenes.   BCCHardware has acquired a Spyder colorimeter for taking technical color measurements on the displays that we test.  However, I was unable to use it on this TV for several reasons.  Firstly, I acquired the device a little too late to become adequately familiar with it. Also most TVs – and the Samsung is no exception – have a lot of nonstandard color adjustments, such as movie modes, and different color schemes, so it wouldn’t be fair to pit it against a colorimeter.

I’m sure that in a perfect world everything that we watched on an HDTV would be coming from an HD source.  In real life that is far from the case.  I used my modded XBOX to playback a wide variety of movie types on this TV.  The image scaler performed quite admirably when compared against the stellar image scaling of the XBOX.  Even with a fairly low quality DIVX source, the picture was still acceptable though far from perfect, and I was very satisfied with the quality of an up scaled DVD movie.

There are a few issues I have with the image quality on this TV and most of them stem from the use of the Dynamic Contrast setting.  I found that when enabled it tended to create large “deep black” areas where there should have been more grayish shadows. As I used this TV I found myself defaulting it back to the “Standard” contrast mode more and more.  The other thing that I noticed was that even with noise reduction enabled there was still a fairly large amount of film noise in some HD movies.  I know that this is really a problem with the movie and not the TV, however the noise reduction feature of this TV is supposed to take care of some of that, but I didn’t really notice a difference when it was turned on.


Testing (continued): 

Brightness Uniformity:

The backlighting on this TV is fairly standard.  Here at BCCHardware we have acquired a light meter so that we can take a more unbiased look at things like this.  So without further ado here is the result from the samples we took from this TV.


Lighting Uniformity - Profile Chart
Lighting Uniformity - Profile Chart
 
Lighting Uniformity - Top Chart
Lighting Uniformity Top Chart


Let me point out that the graph looks much scarier than it actually is real life.  While I was able to notice a dimming of this TV towards the edges the rest of the screen was quite uniform and exhibited very little backlight bleeding to the naked eye.  I will be greatly interested in seeing how much difference LED backlighting makes in evening out this graph in future reviews.

 

Viewing Angle:

This is an important area where TVs  generally differ dramatically from your average computer monitor.  A TV that is sitting in your living room needs to be able to be viewed from a larger range of angles than a computer monitor that you typically sit right in front of.  Today’s typical computer monitors use a technology called TN in their panels, and if you try to view a TN monitor from the side the colors will be drastically different than those you see when sitting head on.  S-IPS offers a much better viewing angle although it has to sacrifice some response time to do so.  I found the range of viewing angles very acceptable on this TV.  Even when sitting quite a ways to the side, the colors were still fairly true.  I have included some images that illustrate this.  Please ignore the poor image quality as I have a new camera coming this month.

Head on
Head on
 From The Side
From The Side
   
 From The Top
From The Top
 From The Bottom
From The Bottom

 

Gaming:

Personally this is my favorite part of any monitor/TV review, and so I have done my best to evaluate this TV’s gaming performance from as many perspectives as possible.

•    Gears of War (XBOX 360)
•    Far Cry (PC)
•    Bio Shock (PC)
•    Supreme Commander (PC)


In all of my tests I only encountered a few problems.  Far Cry had a small amount of ghosting in it but not enough to detract significantly from the gameplay.  The other thing that I noticed - especially when playing PC games – is that some games are pretty much unplayable with “Dynamic Contrast” turned on.  I’ve included some pictures that illustrate this when playing Far Cry.  However when “Standard” contrast is turned back on, the game becomes quite beautiful.  Other than these few issues, gameplay was spectacular.   40” worth of HD Gears of War is quite something to behold.

Contrast Mode Select
Contrast Mode Select

 

 Gaming Standard
Gaming Standard
 Gaming Dynamic
Gaming Dynamic

 


PC Connectivity:

I must admit that my main objective with this TV was to hook it up to my PC and get a super big monitor.   So it wasn’t too long after I acquired this gargantuan unit that I dragged my PC out of the office, and much to my wife’s consternation proceeded to position it in our living room.  My work PC while being a fairly satisfactory gaming machine is by no means a quiet or unobtrusive unit.  However she very graciously accepted this temporary change so that you the reader could get the facts about how this TV performs as a monitor.   To get started I purchased a DVI to HDMI cable from my local computer store and plugged it directly into the TV.  This seemed to work fine at first until I discovered that the TV was over scanning the image and so the edges of my desktop and my taskbar were not visible.  I used the NVIDIA desktop size utility to correct that but discovered that by doing so I was just reducing the resolution I was sending to the TV.  The result was that text viewed on the TV appeared distorted and the image quality was just sub-par.  I discovered some time later that you can flip through the size modes provided by the TV and select the “Just Scan” option.

 Screen Modes
Screen Modes


What this does is simply map a 1:1 pixel ratio on the TV.  This means that everything you send will be visible.  This is a very handy feature as most TVs over scan and some of them do not provide a method of correcting that for the PC.  What I do wish was that this feature was a little more documented in the manual as I didn’t find any mention of it in the section dealing on PC hookups.  After figuring this minor annoyance out, things worked fine.  However I can’t give it a perfect score due to several significant issues that I noticed.

  1. Yellow TextEven at native resolution the text has some funny discoloration problems.  This only becomes more visible at lower resolutions.  I’ve included an image that shows some of what I’m talking about.   I should note that this problem really only seemed to occur when using the DVI as an input.  When you plug your PC into the VGA connector the text is much more readable.

  2. Even though this TV provides a VGA connection that has better quality than the DVI connector - at least for text - there are several reasons not to use it.  a) You can’t send a HDCP signal through a VGA cable, so if you are trying to playback HDCP protected content then the VGA port won’t service your needs.  b) The VGA port has a limited set of resolutions that it can accept.  In fact, the only widescreen resolution that it takes is 1920x1080.  The rest of the resolutions are standard 4:3 modes.  If all you are doing is watching TV and Movies then this will work fine for you because your PC will upscale the content very nicely to 1920x1080.  However if you are trying to run a game you will run into problems. There are very few rigs out there that can run a modern game at 1920x1080 with decent eye candy.   Even my 7950GX2 was having problems at that resolution.

 

After all is said and done you are probably better off plugging into the DVI connector.  The text issues are minor and unless you happen to be using this unit for word processing you will probably not notice them.

 

Conclusion:

This is a very good high end TV that should satisfy most high end consumers.  The construction and the aesthetics are almost perfect.  The picture quality was very good.  In fact it was even good enough for most high end gaming.  There are a lot of input choices so that you shouldn’t be unplugging any of your devices, and the “Just Scan” option is an excellent –if not poorly documented – feature for PC users.

This unit is not without a few flaws.  Poor text rendering from the DVI port coupled with limited set of resolution choices for the VGA port make this unit unsuitable for a role of rendering text primarily.  Also the “Dynamic Contrast” ratio option doesn’t work in a lot of situations.  Perhaps having this as the default contrast mode is a little premature as it needs a bit more work in my opinion.

BCCRating

As usual I would like to thank Samsung for sending us this unit.  I will be sorry to see it go after enjoying the 40” goodness for a brief period of time.

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