Samsung LN55A950 LCD TV

Nov 27th, 2008 | By

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Samsung LN55A950 LCD TV


Date
: 11/27/08 – 03:35:29 AM

Author
:

Category
: TV


Page 1 : Index

Manufacturer
: Samsung Canada

A few months ago I had the opportunity to review Samsung's LN40A650. This was one of their newer models available and it featured a 40′ panel with just a
Touch of Color
. It was an amazing TV and is solely responsible for rekindling my love for being a couch potato.

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In July of 2008, it was announced that Samsung would replace the Series LED with the launch of the Series 9 LED. This is a second generation product that uses LED SmartLighting Technology. The result is a 1,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio for a crisp full 1080p HD picture. The Touch of Color also returns but in a far more subtle way, this time the touch of color is a charcoal grey. So without spilling too many more details, let's get on with the review!

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Page 2 : Package & Product Overview

When I first received the Samsung LN55A950, I received a marketing sample not quite ready for the retail world. It was literally shipped in a big brown box with nothing more than the TV, remote control, cleaning cloth and cover.

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The TV is well protected with the soft foam lined bag and the size Styrofoam blocks to keep the TV away from the sides of the box. The package weight is 51.3kg so don't attempt to move this TV around alone. The TV and stand measures 1364×882.6×337.8 mm and weighs 42 kg.

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All of the inputs are located on the back and left side of the TV. To the side, for quick access, we have HDMI Input #4, WiseLink USB Input, Composite Input 2, Audio Input (Left & Right Channels) and headphone input. On the back we have a much larger selection of inputs and outputs. From the top and going left to right, Digital Audio Out, PC Audio In, PC VGA In, HDMI In (x3), Composite Audio Out (Left & Right), EX-Link, DVI In for HDMI 2 Composite Audio (Left & Right), two sets of Audio (Left & Right Channels) and HD Component In (YPbPR), LAN, S-Video and ANT In.

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There's definitely a fair number of inputs and outputs, but if you had this as the center of your entertainment system, you'll want to have that kind of flexibility. There's no question that I could see someone using all of those inputs. Personally, I would even like to see a DVI input in addition the VGA for PC.

On the back is also where the product label is fixed to. My TV was manufactured June 2008.

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Looking at the backside from an overview perspective, the TV has two 15W speakers located roughly half way to the top and about 12′ away from the center line.

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The TV is actually so big that you'll need to excuse the living room background. I would suggest giving yourself about 10' of space between your eyes and the TV screen to full enjoy the display. Any closer and you'll need to turn your head just to catch the details off to the side!

Supporting the TV is a large rectangular base plate. It measures 26′x13′ (LxW) and offers no flexibility in terms of display tilt or rotation. The base is made out of glass, much like the rest of the bezel. Be sure to rest the TV on a solid flat footing.

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Display control can be done at the bottom right where the buttons are touch sensitive behind the glass. They won't be used frequently unless your remote control dies. Located below the buttons is a single red LED, about 1mm in diameter. This LED can be used to indicate power is being received but the TV is on standby.

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If you press on any of the touch sensitive buttons, the entire array will light up. Each LED will stay on for a few seconds and then turn off if there is no follow up activity. The TV will respond to the user's interactions with a soft beep.

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When you actually turn on the TV, a white LED will illuminate below the Samsung nameplate and the red LED turns off.

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Page 3 : Features and Specifications

Jumping over Samsung's website, we can visit the LN55A950 product page to get the latest features and specifications.

There are 8 key features that Samsung wants to sell. The first is the 55′ screen, this will just make all your friends envy you but with a current retail price of $5000, it's not exactly something everyone can buy in these harsh economic times. The second feature is the Touch of Color. The Touch of Color is intended to turn the TV into a piece of art. Whether or not you agree is up to you. The next three features are all related to the performance of the display itself. The TV uses LED technology for backlighting, this gives you a 1,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio. Generally we work in the tens of thousands, so this a few factors better. What this means is sharper picture quality, more vibrant colors… enhanced viewing pleasure to sum it up. The Auto Motion Plus 120Hz eliminates blurring giving you a smooth transition from frame to frame. This should give you a clearer picture to enjoy. The last display feature is with the Ultra Clear Panel. Closely related to the 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, the Ultra Clear Panel offers a brighter and clearer picture. Glare from the setting sun will no longer be a reason to get off your couch! Two other features with the Series 9 TV are additions that won't improve your viewing pleasures but are welcome additions. First we have the pre-loaded Content library that provides you with interactive games, artwork, fitness exercises, recipes and more. The second addition is the WiseLink Pro USB Connection. Samsung has once again brought this back so you can play MP3s for a party or view pictures from your digital camera. We'll be covering all of these features in greater depth later in the review. The final feature Samsung tries to sell you is the Energy Star compliant certificate. As we'll see in the specifications, the stand-by power is less than a watt. The total operating power is 320W and while it seems like a lot, if you compared this monitor to a CCFL backlit or a plasma backlit TV, the LN55A950 is a hundred or more watts less. A CCFL will draw just under 400W and a plasma of this size will be in the upper 500s.

Here are the 8 features we just discussed:

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The full specifications of the TV:

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There's nothing in the feature that stands out as a problem, many of the key features have already been discussed. It's worth pointing out that TV has a viewing angle of 178/178 to maximize everyone's viewing pleasure. The maximum resolution is 1920×1080 with a response time of 4ms. I'm going to love playing videos and games on this TV!

Once again I would have liked to see two TV tuners (ANT In). On February 17th 2009, analog signals are being disconnected in the USA and switched over to HD. This will increase the number of Over-The-Air HD channels available and I can switch between basic cable to OTA HD with the remote if there were 2 tuners. The addition will increase the cost of the TV but for the original price it would be a small increment worth including in the next Samsung Series.


Page 4 : Installation and Setup

Installation is incredibly simple with the LN55A950. The TV is ready to go right out of the box. With a friend, lift the TV out and position it to its finally resting place. After plugging in the power cord and a couple of inputs, you're ready to enjoy the 55′ behemoth.

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The first thing you'll want to do with the TV is to run the auto setup or jump into the manual setup so you get the most out of your TV. I don't want to bore you to death with every single feature on the TV and how they work as that would take a couple of pages to go through. Instead, I highly recommend you visit Samsung's website and download the PDF linked here. You can also download the quick start guide here. I'll only show you a few pictures of the main menu and then we'll jump into the TV's performance.

Picture Mode

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Sounds Mode

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Channel

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Setup

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Application

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Input

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I don't want to repeat too much as the setup is pretty similar to the LN40A650 I reviewed a few months ago. Check out the Installation & Setup to see some of the submenus.

If you have multiple inputs connected, you can switch between them with the remote control. The AnyNet feature also allows you to control other AnyNet enabled devices with the one remote control. In the example below, I am controlling my Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-Ray player with the Series 9 remote.

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Page 5 : Remote Control & TV Features

The Series 9 remote control is very similar to ones in the past. The body doesn't appear to have changed between the Series 6 and Series 9. The ergonomic curve is still there and the layout of the keys has not changed.

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I did notice that they removed the PIP button and replaced it with a button to launch the pre-loaded content. All the other buttons have not moved or changed. The remote still comes with a light feature which is extremely sensitive. The slightest nudge would cause all the keys to glow a soft orange. This is very handy at night if you don't know where the remote is. Slightly nudge where you think it might be and it'll light up. Don't forget that with each nudge you use a tiny bit of power.

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One qualm I had with the remote control is the location of the enter button. I can be impatient at times and I don't like waiting a few seconds before the TV automatically changes channel. Instead, I like to key in the channel I want to go to and hit the enter button. However, the enter button is located in the middle of the control wheel – too far for most hands to reach. I would like to see a second enter button closer to the key pad for the impatient few like me! I should also point out that the spin dial has an odd level of sensitivity, sometimes it jumps to or three positions when I just want it to move down by one level but sometimes it doesn't move at all. I recommend going back to the four button design: up, down, left and right.

If you press the content button on the remote control, the Content Library opens and can browse different galleries, recipes, play a few games, entertain children or view fitness activities.

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While this is handy for some users, it seems more like a great opportunity for Samsung to show off the power of its TV. Each content option has pictures that have a wide range of colors and contrast.

Art Work

content content content content

Cooking

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Games

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Fitness

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WiseLink Pro is back and I really enjoyed this feature with the Series 6 TV. By plugging in a USB drive, you can share your favourite trip photos with friends with background music of your choice.

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The final feature is InfoLink, also making a return from previous Series. InfoLink requires a network connection but once you're on you have access to news, weather and stocks courtesy of Yahoo. I noticed two changes with InfoLink from previous version, one I like and one I'm not too fond of. Starting with the positive, InfoLink now has Canadian weather available. The negative is that you can't create a favourite list of stocks, only view the overall market.

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I've connected the LN55A950 to my computer and BD-P1500, so let's see some more pictures of the TV in action.


Page 6 : Display Performance

To thoroughly test out the LN55A950, I sat myself in front of the TV for hours upon hours. Yup, I have a really tough job here! I tested out several different inputs: Over the Air digital TV via the ATSC Tuner, my regular non-digital cable TV, input from my PC via HDMI and HDMI from the Blu-Ray player.

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The display is simply amazing. Whether you're watching a movie in HD or some TV shows broadcast in HD, you will not be disappointed. The colors are indeed brighter and clearer, even compared to the A650 which I thought was a great TV. When considering a purchase of this magnitude, it's absolutely imperative that you judge all reviews with a grain of salt. There's really no way for you to tell whether or not the TV is worth
your
investment by a few pictures. Do yourself a favour and visit your local brick and mortar store and stand in front of the TV for twenty minutes. Find the remote and play with the settings. If you can't do that or would like to narrow your choices, let me show you a handful of pictures of the TV in action!

I'll start with the viewing angle. The A950 claims to have a 178/178 viewing angle and its true that you can almost be parallel with the TV and still make out the details. However, I noticed that at the very extreme angles, the colors are slightly washed out. However, viewing the TV at a regular angle reveals the TV is capable of very accurate color reproduction. You can make out the dust getting kicked up by the horses in The Mummy or the embers from a fireworks show.

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The TV offers four pre-programmed viewing modes (Off, Sports, Cinema & Game). You can of course vary the brightness and contrast ratio yourself to suit your needs. It would actually be nice if you could save your own settings as favourites to call up in the future.

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Catching some HD TV with over-the-air antenna, here's what I saw:

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I watched a bit of The Mummy on Blu-Ray:

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As I mentioned before, the TV is able to pick up the finest details of the dustiest scenes.

Surfing the internet from my PC is no problem on this 55′ screen. Text is as clear as ever and colors look far better on the 55A950 than on my Samsung 245BW.

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Games are even far more fun. I mentioned that playing a real time strategy game on my HD4850X2 with four 24′ LCDs would be fun, well a single 55′ is just as good! With first person shooters, heads are the size of dinner plates. The Auto Motion Plus 120Hz technology eliminates ghosting problems and you're guaranteed smooth game play, up to what your video card can handle.

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I already showed that still pictures turn out amazing on the LN55A950, but I'll reinforce that fact with even more pictures.

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In my eyes, the picture quality is simply amazing. However, according to a blog post from CNET, Samsung has initiated hardware changes to the A950 model. Units built after Sept 20, 2008 have a hardware upgrade to further improve the picture quality: black levels in very dark scenes have been raised, shadow details have improved and blooming effects have been eliminated. These are minor modifications but it's impossible to tell whether or not store inventory will be the new A950 or the old. However, CNET also reports that the changes are pretty subtle and did not revise the final product score after the tested out an updated model. In my opinion, don't think about it and you'll still be one happy customer.


Page 7 : Conclusion

I've held onto the Samsung LN55A950 for over 2 months and every second I sit down in front of it, I'm blown away by its performance. I'll end up re-watching some show or movie in HD and notice details that I missed before. Samsung has certainly impressed me and if you had this sitting as the center of your entertainment system, you'd be impressed too.

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You feel as if you're right in front of the action with the 1,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, Ultra Clear Panel and Auto Motion Plus. Some may say the Touch Of Color makes the TV a piece of art, but I disagree. It's what the A950 does that makes it a piece of art, not how it looks turned off.

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I've seen some changes between the Samsung LCD TV Series and I'm sure more will come. The LN55A950 is certainly not for everyone as it holds a high price tag, but those who want the best shouldn't settle for anything less. Imagine the nothing less than the best, imagine the A950 in your home.

Advantages

  • Amazing picture quality (brightness, contrast, color)

  • LED SmartLighting Technology reduces power consumption and improves picture quality
  • Ridiculously large picture
  • InfoLink works in Canada
  • Sleek, simple, sexy

Disadvantages

  • Comes at a premium price

Overclockers Online would like to thank Samsung for making this review possible.

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