Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Samsung LN32A550 LCD Calibration

I continue to be impressed with Samsung’s line of LCD TVs. Ranging in size from 22 to 52 inches, there is a panel to fit any imaginable viewing situation. The LN32A550 is one of a very few 32 inch panels that have a 1080p native resolution. It also includes a myriad of calibration controls normally only found in flagship displays. There is a color management system, grayscale, gamma control and the usual host of defeatable enhancements.

I used the Movie picture mode for all inputs. This turns off all enhancements by default and sets a correct Rec 709 color space for HD signals. I recommend using all hi-def sources with this TV as the components will likely do a better job of scaling. A quality upconverting DVD like the Oppo line and a hi-def cable or satellite box set to 1080i are the best devices to use. De-interlacing of 1080i is good. I could see no difference in zone plate patterns when an Oppo 980 did the deinterlacing versus the TV doing it.

Calibration was a breeze as all controls are available in the user menu. Drilling down from the front page, there are many options in the Detailed Settings and Picture Options menus. My favorite feature is the Blue Only mode. This shuts off the Red and Green primaries allowing you to set color and tint accurately with a color bar pattern. It took me all of a minute to achieve almost perfect decoding on all HDMI inputs. Component inputs were not tested. Brightness and Contrast were set with ease. This is where it’s important to turn off enhancements like Dynamic Contrast and Black Adjust. These controls change levels as the picture changes and can produce many unwanted effects like floating blacks and color shifts in brighter scenes. Edge Enhancement should also be turned off. Surprisingly though, the Digital Noise Reduction feature works very well on the Auto setting. I used images from the HQV test disc to verify that noise was indeed reduced without softening the picture. Sharpness was set to 0 as well. Grayscale tracking was typical for an LCD but I was able to dial it to within 150k of D65. Gamma was 2.5 at the default setting. Lowering it one click brought it to 2.2. Interestingly, the gamma setting flattened the grayscale a bit, smoothing a dip at 60 IRE.

I was very happy with the final result. The image was punchy and color was spot-on. I couldn’t achieve a plasma-class black level but my minimum reading of .04fl was quite good. Perceived contrast was quite high as the 100 IRE field and window patterns measured over 80fl! I was able to max the Contrast control without crushing or causing a color shift. As this TV was in a mid to high light level room, these settings were appropriate. In a darker setting, one could turn down the Backlight to achieve better blacks. Real world on/off contrast was 2000:1 and ANSI was about 1600:1 - all in all, an excellent display and an attractive one too. The base and bezel are finished in a high-gloss piano black, very sexy! I highly recommend this TV. LCDs are appropriate in a room where lighting conditions are less controlled and there are hotspot reflections. The anti-glare properties of the screen are superior to plasma as is the overall light output. Given the image quality and large list of calibration controls, I’d rate Samsung LCD TVs as among the best in class.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the view!


Matthew said...

Hey i've been searching the internet for the right calibrations for the ln32A550, i read your review but is there a way you can tell me the exact calibrations you used.

Chris Eberle said...

These TVs are very easy to set up. Use the Movie mode and leave all settings at their defaults. Go into the Picture Options menu and set the Film Mode to Auto. That will get you as close to accurate as possible without instruments or a pro calibration. Thanks for your comment and enjoy the view!

Anonymous said...

Your review was great. Thank you. Do you recommend using component cables over HDMI cables for 1080p images with this tv?

Chris Eberle said...

I recommend HDMI for all sources with this TV. Like most 1080p displays, high-resolution patterns do resolve better over the Samsung's HDMI input than over component. Component is fine if you don't have a choice but HDMI is better if you do.

Stephen S said...

When you clicked down on gamma - did you go to minus 1 or plus 1

Chris Eberle said...

I set the Gamma at +1. Raising the control lowers the gamma number. In this case it went from 2.51 to 2.26.