Samsung LN40A650 1080p HDTV with InfoLink

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Product: Samsung LN40A650 1080p LCD HDTV
Provided By: Samsung Canada
Price:

 

Introduction:

The quest for the perfect TV has been around about as long as "rabbit ears" and while technology has changed, the desire to have your TV look good, perform good and offer some nice features has stayed the same.  Today we have the LN40A650 TV from Samsung on the bench and give this 40" FullHD 1080p unit a test drive.  This is an LCD TV that appears to be backlit by CCFL's and offers a dynamic contrast ratio of 50,000:1.  It has a very wide viewing angle and a 4ms response time to boot.  What sets this apart - other than the "Touch of Color" is the presence of an Ethernet port and the ability of the TV to display RSS feeds such as news, weather and stocks.  While a 40" TV is probably considered small by quite a few people in this day and age, it is a perfect size if you have a smaller room and want other things to be the focus of your entertainment.

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Before we really begin let's take a quick refresher course on LCD TV technology.  A flat panel LCD is really a type of projector although not really recognizable in the traditional form.   To generate the image that you see from your couch, fluorescent tubes have been used to shine light through a Liquid Crystal Display (LCD).  The LCD panel is used to filter the light that reaches your eyes.  Think of it in a very basic sense as a bunch of shutters that open and close.  Using a fluorescent tube produce the light is a very rough approach and it results in a lot of wasted light as well as a lot of light bleeding through when you want a black color.  With that being said, let's jump on in.

Boxed Up
Boxed Up
Covered Up
Covered Up

 

Due to the much slimmer design of the TV over earlier units, the box that the LN40A650 comes in is actually quite slim and is easily managed by a person with gorilla arms.  The overall weight of the unit is much less than my own 40" unit that features a heavy metal stand, aluminum bezel and more.  The Samsung feels like a feather-weight in comparison.  Although packaging was a bit light, the TV arrived in good shape - thanks to Fedex and our local Sears.

Unveiled
Unveiled

 

 

Features & Specs:

Before we get too in depth with technical details, let’s take a quick look at the published specifications for this TV. Keep in mind that these numbers are produced under ideal circumstances and are not always indicative of real world performance.

Introducing a truly unique HDTV - the SAMSUNG LN40A650 incorporates a stylish new look with exclusive Touch of Color™. Searching for technology that will make your life easier? The new InfoLink RSS feature gives you instant access to news, weather, and sports information at the push of a button. And Auto Motion Plus 120Hz™ delivers smooth motion action scenes that will blow you away. Satisfy your craving for the latest in HD technology with the SAMSUNG LN40A650 flat screen LCD TV.

touch of color
Make a statement with SAMSUNG’s new Touch of Color™ design. It features a hint of amber color naturally blended into the traditional piano black frame. Transforming our already stylish flat screenTVs into a work of art, it truly is unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

auto motion plus 120Hz
Your action-packed sports and movies have never looked this real. Auto Motion Plus 120Hz technology virtually eliminates any motion blur and creates smooth transitions between frames. What’s the secret? Auto Motion Plus calculates the image between frames and inserts it, creating a non-repetitive transition from one to the next. The result is a clearer picture you have to see to believe.

4ms response
With just a push of a button you can access news, weather, sports and stock information. The InfoLink™ RSS feature gathers up-to-the-minute content from USA Today and displays it on your screen. Now you can always stay connected while watching TV anywhere in your home.

50,000:1 contrast ratio
Contrast and brightness levels achieve new heights in this LCD TV. Watch movies and shows come to life with enhanced details in very dark or bright scenes. Enjoy a more realistic, sharper picture quality that’s sure to catch your eye.

ultra clear panel
With SAMSUNG's ultra clear panel colors are more vibrant than ever before. The brighter, clearer picture will definitely amaze you. Tired of annoying glare getting in the way of your movie-watching? Our ultra clear panel technology enhances contrast and reduces reflection so you can enjoy an overall outstanding viewing experience.

ENERGY STAR compliant
By being ENERGY STAR compliant you are assured that your SAMSUNG model is helping the environment by using less energy while saving you money. ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy promoting energy efficiency.

 

Specs

 

Of all of these specifications the 50,000:1 Dynamic Contrast ratio is the most interesting.  You will notice that this number is far greater than the typical 10,000:1 or 5,000:1 contrast ratio that is typical of other LCD TVs.  The other specifications are fairly normal and there is nothing else that is particularly noteworthy.


Setup & Installation:

Setup and installation of the TV into my living room was pretty simple.  There are a ton of inputs on this TV and you shouldn't have any issues finding places to hook up your hear.  There is a total of four HDMI inputs, two component inputs, a standard VGA (PC) input as well as an old-school S-Video/Composite video input as well.  I almost forgot to mention the TV Antenna/Tuner.  Samsung has also included a port for this WiseLink line of products.  Outputs include standard stereo audio out as well as a Digital Optical output.  All in all, you could hook up 8 different devices to your TV if you utilize all of the ports.  You may also spot a LAN port in the picture below on the left.

Main Rear Inputs
Main Rear Inputs
More Ports
More Ports

 

While we're on the subject of hooking things up and cables, I highly recommend that you check out monoprice.com if you haven't already.  Independent tests show that their HDMI cables - of any length - have identical quality to overpriced cables such as the monster, and it can save you $500 easily.  It is important to note that if you are hooking up a computer from a DVI port, you'll need to use HDMI 2, and the appropriate audio cables to make things work seamlessly.  Other than that, it's pretty much a no-brainer.

 


 

TV Menus:

Although the TV picture and audio seem to work very good out of the box, there are a lot of settings that allow you to tweak, mess, and possibly degrade your picture quality.  Samsung has included several pre-defined settings that control both audio and video settings.  For example, "Sports" mode boosts the saturation and brightness while "Cinema" drops the color to a more neutral tone and the brightness dims for a better viewing experience in a darkened room.

 Picture Menu
Picture Menu
 Sound Menu
Sound Menu
Channel Menu
Channel Menu
     
 Setup Menu
Setup Menu
Input Menu
Input Menu
 Application Menu
Application Menu

 

One of the more interesting applications is the InfoLink feature.  This allows you to display certain RSS feeds on your TV without being hooked to a computer.  USA Today, Weather and Stocks are available with a simple push of a button on the remote.

 InfoLink Setup
InfoLink Setup
 InfoLink News & Stocks
InfoLink News & Stocks
InfoLink Weather
InfoLink Weather

 

On the next page we'll calibrate the color on this TV and do some proper testing.


 

Testing:

Testing is always the hardest part about a TV review.  Image quality can be such a subjective experience and I usually like to operate with cold hard facts in hand. Most of these tests are subjective however there are a few quantitative tests mixed in.  Just like with our LCD reviews, we have incorporated a bit of hardware that allows us to test contrast ratio, color accuracy and lighting uniformity.  If you want more details on how we test LCD panels and TV, please check our article here.

Spyder 3

First up we used the Spyder 3 Colorimeter to measure color accuracy when plugged into a PC.  I used this system to play back some Blu-Ray and HD-DVD movies as well as gaming, web-surfing and more.  Initially, the color seemed a little bright/saturated and the colorimeter tells the story better than I can.



 Target
Target
Uncalibrated
Uncalibrated
   
 Correction
Correction
 Calibrated
Calibrated

 

As you can see in the images above, the color was very "boosted" by factory default and required a pretty impressive color calibration in order to bring the TV into a proper calibrated state.  Oddly enough, once viewing the TV for a couple of weeks uncalibrated, once it was calibrated the color looked much more subdued and dull.  That is why some TVs in the store look much better than the others beside them - some are boosted to look brighter and more colorful, when actually the color is unrealistic.  To the average consumer however, the brighter one is usually the one they take home.

When it comes to lighting uniformity, we use a luminance meter in a darkened room and take measurements at the LCDs default settings.  Usually brightness is set to 50%, and for contrast ratio tests, we use  the maximum contrast ratio available.  Take a look at how evenly (or unevenly) the backlight is on this TV.

2D Brightness
2D Brightness

 


 3D Brightness
3D Brightness

While it may not look like very good lighting uniformity, the reality is that there are a couple of spots that are 25% dimmer than the brightest spot.  This cannot be observed with the naked eye though and that is why we measure with our meter.  We want to see how even it really is.  While 25% variation seems pretty extreme, we've seen a lot worse results on other TVs and LCDs.  This ends up about in the middle of the pack.

When we checked the contrast ratio, we tested several different scenarios such as dynamic contrast, bright backlight, low backlight and settled on a standard "normal" setting on the TV.  This actually produced the highest contrast ratio - 1560:1.  It falls far short of the 50,000:1 Samsung rates it, but it is one of the highest ratios I've seen as the black levels on this TV are very black at default settings.  The brightest "black" spot measured a mere 0.8 Lux.


Viewing Angle:

While some panels - both in LCD monitors and TVs have issues keeping color uniform when viewing from different angles, the viewing angle on the LN40A650 claims to be a nice broad 178° both horizontal and vertical.  While many other displays I've used do indeed produce some sort of picture at these angles, the quality of the image is less that ideal - much less.  Take a look below at the viewing angle shots from a frame from the Transformers movie.

Front
Front
Angle Up
Angle Up
   
Side Angle Med
Side Angle Med
 Sharp Angle
Sharp Angle

 

As you can see by checking out the images above, the viewing angle stays pretty consistent until it gets pretty extreme.  At roughly 110° the picture starts to wash out.  It's quite a ways from the 178° (keep in mind that 180° is straight sideways), but overall it has very nice good zone.  I had no issues watching TV from any seat in my living room.

 

Gaming: 

The gaming “tests” are always the most fun part of these reviews and this is a great TV to be gaming on.  My TV is the heart of our home entertainment system and I have a lot of movies cached on a NAS.  I also use the computer to play some games such as Devil May Cry 4, Call of Duty 4 and even Lego Indiana Jones.  I had no problems gaming on this TV with Dynamic Contrast turned on or off.  There were also no visible signs of ghosting or image distortion.  The 4ms response time seems fast enough to keep everything playable and smooth.


 

PC Connectivity:

As I mentioned previously, I use this TV hooked up to my PC primarily for entertainment, but also do a bit of web-surfing, Flickr browsing another other HTPC related tasks.  With a nice broadband connection you can easily stream video from sites such as Hulu.  It's nice to be able to do all of these things from the comfort of your recliner. 

HTPC Setup
HTPC Setup

 

Even though this unit has a nice high native resolution of 1920x1080, I still noticed that text on the PC was kind of fuzzy.  It didn't look any better through the VGA or HDMI 2 (DVI) port either.  It's not bad by all means, but it wasn't as crisp as I'd hoped.  Of course as you lower resolution, this only gets worse.

Text Edges
Text Edges

 

 

Conclusion:

While a 40" TV may seem small for some people these days, I find that it is a great size and fits into most rooms without any issues.  The LN40A650 has a nice feature set, tons of inputs and very good picture quality.  As is the case with many TVs, the colors are boosted from the factory giving the TV an incredible first impression.  Once it was calibrated correctly, it performed even better - albeit a little less dazzling.

The four HDMI ports on this TV assures that you will be able to hook up your favorite components and be able to play all of that HDCP protected content without issues.  The inclusion of a LAN port and RSS capable InfoLink makes this even more useful.  You no longer have to switch to your computer for quick stock quotes, new headlines or weather.  It's built in and works very well.

One of my major disappointments with this unit is the lengthy time it takes to turn on.  While that may not seems like much of an issue to pick at, the truth is that it takes a full 15 seconds for any picture to display once you've hit the power button.  My other LCD TV is ready to go in about 5 seconds in comparison.

Pros:

  • 120Hz Auto Motion Plus
  • Good contrast ratio - thanks to good blacks
  • Lots of inputs
  • Vivid picture and good sound

 

Cons:

  • Slow power on sequence
  • Color boosted to unrealistic levels by default
  • Computer connected text is a bit fuzzy

 

 BCCRating

 

I'd like to thank Samsung Canada for sending out this TV for us to review.  I enjoyed watching some great playoff hockey on this unit and will be sad to see it go.  If you have any questions or comments, please post them in the forum at the "Comments" link below.