Sunday, October 29, 2006

Samsung HL-R5067W calibration

The Samsung DLP rear-projection TVs are in the product category of "well-kept" secret. Why? Because they have the greatest potential for truly stunning picture quality. Even the HLR series which I'm writing about today, which has the fewest adjustments of all Samsung DLPs, will blow away nearly every other TV I've worked on when properly calibrated. This is a 720p model which is now discontinued. It has 2 component and 1 HDMI input. Picture out of the box is fair from a color standpoint. Banding and macroblocking are evident in both dark scenes and fine-gradient images like sky and hazy mountains. A few tweaks in the user menu will improve black and white levels immensly. The default contrast is set to mega-torch mode. A 100 IRE full-screen actually hurts the eyes.

As with all Samsung TVs, you have to go right to the service menu to perform your adjustments. The reason is all user menu settings are reset to defaults when you do this. Fortunately, everything you need is in there. I begin with the CCA menu. First a warning, don't try this at home! To use the CCA properly requires the use of a colorimeter to set the baseline for the light engine. Simply changing the target values will not adjust the color accurately. I worked in a totally darkened room to be sure of accurate measurements. After setting the baseline, I worked the targets until primaries and secondaries were nearly dead-on spec. Only red wouldn't quite hit the bullseye. I suspect I am being limited by the actual color wheel segment colors. After engaging WB_Spread to send the settings to all inputs, I moved on to grayscale. This is set for each input in the DNIe menu. Since the color management is so good, I barely needed any adjustment here. When I finished, I was within 100k of D65 from 20 to 100 IRE, superb performance. I only wish this display had an iris. I couldn't get a gamma better than 2.1. The curve tracks almost perfectly though with a slight rise from 20 to 60 IRE. Once service menu adjustments are complete, I exited to the user menu and made the final tweaks to black level, white level and sharpness. Since only color saturation was available, I increased that to compensate for the undersaturation of the red primary.

With calibration complete, I noticed an interesting phenomenon. Many people have complained that with the HLR series, you can't defeat the DNIe. To see if its effects were still degrading the picture, I turned on the demo mode. Surprise, surprise, both sides look the same! This is with sharpness set to 40 on the DVD input and 20 on the cable TV input. It seems that fixing the color inaccuracies and getting the gamma closer to 2.2 eliminates the negative effects of DNIe.

Based my experience to date, I would recommend a Samsung DLP over other rear-pro sets. With an ISF calibration, it simply won't be beat. As long as you aren't one of the 1% of people that see the rainbow effect, you won't be disappointed with a DLP and ISF calibration. Even with the wildly varying quality of standard-def content, the picture is simply incredible. With hi-def or a good DVD, you will be amazed. I can't wait to get my hands on one of the newer Samsung 1080p sets!