October 21, 2010
| by Robert Archer
Damn, today’s video displays are good.
That’s what I was thinking as I walked out of the Woburn, Mass., offices of electronics distributor AVAD with Electronic House managing editor Arlen Schweiger. We have been privileged to use AVAD’s facilities to make technology comparisons. First we compared plasma vs. LCD 3D TVs, and during this session we pitted edge-lit vs. fully backlit LED (light-emitting diode) LCD sets.
This test was not only fun, but also a bit of an eye-opener as we spent a few hours with branch manager Mark Spector, calibrating, comparing and enjoying two excellent Samsung LED 3D TVs: a 46-inch 8000 Series and a 46-inch 9000 Series television. So were there noticeable differences between the edge-lit LED LCD 9000 Series product and the fully backlit LED LCD 8000 Series television?
Despite a $3,000 price differential, the two series share many of the same features: 1080p resolutions, 240Hz refresh rates, Internet apps, full 3D compatibility, brushed titanium bezel finishes, and auto brightness/dimming based on the room’s light conditions.
It’s not surprising that the backlit 8000 Series would be specified with a higher 8,000,000:1 contrast ratio (the 9000 Series is rated at 6,000,000:1). The 9000 Series has more Internet apps, wireless Internet connection capabilities and DLNA certification, so if it shares a network with a computer that’s DLNA enabled, users can easily access photos, music and video files for playback through the TV.
Because this review ran in our October “green” issue, we were very interested in the energy-efficiency properties of the LED technologies. While Samsung states that the 9000 Series is Energy Star compliant, at press time further details could not be found on the Energy Star website; the 46-inch 8000 Series product, however, checks in on Energy Star as using 92 watts in On mode and 0.1 watt in Sleep mode (for an estimated annual usage of 168.59 kilowatt hours).
The 8000 Series does offer a third screen size option at 65 inches (both lines have 46- and 55-inch screens), as well as Skype Internet phone service.
For those considering mounting their televisions on a wall, the 9000 Series sets are slimmer at 0.3 inches (the 8000 Series are 0.9 inches), and Samsung includes its slimwall mounting hardware to facilitate the 9000 Series’ installation.
To get a basic idea of how the televisions stacked up from a picture standpoint, we proceeded to eliminate as many performance variables as possible. We started by watching both televisions with some HD content from DirecTV. After catching SportsCenter for a few minutes we prepped for our critical viewing by performing some calibrations using the Digital Video Essentials HD Basics Blu-ray disc, because the TVs were essentially right out of the box. First we selected the 8000’s “natural” viewing mode and then adjusted the contrast, black level and color levels.
We also verified the eco “green” auto brightness mode was off (we would test this later), as well as the extraneous video processing functions. After just these simple adjustments, we noticed immediate improvement in picture quality on both televisions, which had been sitting in “Spinal Tap” mode—every control turned up to 11.
Samsung 8000 Series Performance
We popped in the Blu-ray of Pixar’s Cars. The first thing that struck me was how much more under control the calibrated picture looked. Sure, it was still bright and vivid, but the reds and whites didn’t appear to be “clipping.” Next we noticed the tremendous color palette of the opening race scene and the incredible image depth, which looked almost 3D.
Moving on to the Patton Blu-ray, we all agreed that the real-world contrast of the flag George C. Scott stands in front of looked immense thanks to the saturation of the rich red bars against the bright white bars, and the deep hue of the blue box with white stars.
Subtler detail like the emerald green of Patton’s jacket against the brown leather of his gun holster, and white ivory gun handle, revealed spectacular textural resolution and brightness, especially for a 40-year-old movie.
Looking to test the TV’s ability to resolve low light and grayscale detail we tested the opening chase scene in The Matrix, and, forgive the pun, the brightness and grayscale capabilities really shined. The scene contains dimly lit rooms, dark and dank city streets and Trinity in a glossy black leather outfit. With this content the local dimming feature of the backlit 8000 Series really enabled the TV to show shadow detail without washing out the image.
Bob is a dedicated audiophile who has been writing about A/V for Electronic House sister publication CE Pro since 2000.