Finlux S9100 (42S9100-T) 3D LED LCD TV Review
Finlux up the style stakes for their latest assault on the old guard
TV reviewSRP: £700.00
IntroductionIt was around the time of the London Olympics that we last saw a TV from re-emerging brand, Finlux, and they’ve clearly not been letting the grass grow under their feet in that time. With a number of new models just hitting the market, the 42S9100T presents us with our first opportunity to check out Finlux’s attempt at 3D as well as the chance to see if progress has been made in other areas. As well as carrying the 3D TV headline, the 9100T is an internet capable model with some potentially interesting content awaiting us. Browsing around some popular online retailers, at the current Finlux Direct price of £699, the 9100T is up against some pretty stiff competition in the shape of the Samsung UE40ES6300, the LG 42LM620T and Panasonic TX-L42ET5B to name a few so it will need to deliver in its key areas to stand a chance of survival. It’s certainly a fancy looking TV but we never judge a book by its cover. Will it be a ‘happy Finnish’? Let’s see.
Design & ConnectionsFinlux have certainly pushed the boat out with the S9100-T in the looks department, even if its design is something of a hybrid of models from two well know Korean manufacturers. The chrome bezel certainly Looks Good and the four-footed stand has clearly taken inspiration by the firm where apple is off the menu in the canteen but since almost all the majors ‘borrow’ ideas from one another, you can’t blame Finlux for competing. Besides which, it is impressive looking and feels nicely engineered with a reassuring weight to the chassis and solid metal stand.
The S-9100T is suitably equipped in the connectivity department sporting 4 HDMI connections, 3 of which are facing outwards from the rear and one very close to the edge. There are also 2 RGB SCART terminals, a D-SUB PC connection, Component and Composite Video connections with accompanying L/R audio jacks, aerial socket and a LAN Port. Unusually, the S8070 provides an output that allows connection of an active sub-woofer and also, on the audio front, there's an S/PDIF digital audio out and completing the connections – and to the side – are two USB inputs and a CAM slot.
Finlux give the user two choices of remote control in the box, both of which are nicely constructed. The first is a conventional handset that’s somewhat reminiscent of the LG form and is similarly well conceived with a good amount of space between buttons. The second controller is more pocket-sized and features pretty much just the basic operations but a good idea for freeing up come coffee table/arm of chair space. Also in the box is a wireless USB dongle – we would have preferred for this to have been built in, but shouldn’t complain – and 8 pairs of 3D Glasses which we’ll discuss later on.
Flat panel, flat sound is generally the way of things and the S9100-T doesn’t particularly buck that trend but it’s by far not the worst example we’ve heard and it’s certainly capable of going to quite loud volumes before distorting. There’s not very much in the way of bass kick but at least there is a subwoofer out, which if you are able to utilise, will make a big difference.
MenusThe Menus are well planned, easy to navigate and extremely responsive to the remote and the black and gold colour scheme is also quite attractive. The Menus are split in to 6 areas – Picture, Sound, Settings, Install and Retune, Channel List and Media Browser. As ever, we’ll concentrate on the main Picture functions particularly as Finlux has made such a good job of making the rest of the menu functions fairly self-explanatory and logically positioned.
The Finlux 42S9100-T offers a choice of 5 Picture Modes – Dynamic, Natural, Movie, Game and Sports – which we’ll measure for accuracy later on in the Test Section area of this review. There are, of course, all the usual ‘front-panel’ controls of Contrast, Brightness and Colour as well as options for Low, Medium, High and Auto for the Backlight intensity. There’s some ECO modes for either switching off the video signal or setting to a low energy mode.
Moving in to the Advanced Picture Settings and we have options for Dynamic Contrast, Colour Temp (Cool/Normal/Warm), Movie Sense, Film Mode, Skin Tone, Colour Shift and RGB Gain. We’ll go in to further detail on almost all of these in subsequent sections but we were very impressed that Finlux provides a split-screen demo of what Movie Sense does – it’s an interpolating feature, for those that hadn’t guessed, intended to improve motion performance.
Of course with Finlux grabbing the 3D nettle there’s options for that in the Picture Menu with 3D Mode (Top/Bottom, Auto, Side by Side), Low Medium and High for the 2D to 3D Conversion, Left/Right swap to reverse the polarity for those experiencing uncomfortable viewing and 3D Depth Sense with a slider that runs from minus to plus 10.
FeaturesSince we last looked in on Finlux’s online portal nothing much has changed and we were hoping to see a little more progress here. Compared to the established players, the Finlux online Smart portfolio is a little bit limited but, to be fair, there’s a decent selection of the ‘old guard’ with BBC iPlayer and YouTube for Video on Demand (VoD) and Facebook and Twitter apps for social networking junkies. There are also a couple of internet radio stations, the Twin Match game and Picassa to keep you occupied.
Whilst the S9100-T does allow for DLNA streaming as a client, we really struggled to get it to look lower than one folder in to our file structure on our Windows 7 PC, which is something we’ve encountered before and usually an indication the processor isn’t really up to the job. Unfortunately we couldn’t get MKV files to play either by streaming or via USB, which will be disappointing for some and general file support, especially for video, is lacking against some of the competition. The ability to record from the in-built tuner is present, when connected to a USB storage device, and the lay-out of the recordings options is very easy to follow. The fact that the tuner is Freeview HD capable is an obvious bonus.
Test ResultsIt was a close run thing between Cinema and Natural as to which presented the most accurate picture, with Cinema just having slightly better colours. It would be better if either defaulted to the Warm Colour Temp, rather than Normal, as simply making that alteration brought a great deal more neutrality to the greyscale. It’s still a long way out and the green tinge is noticeable but it is better than before. Colour accuracy is far closer to the Rec.709 standard with little else we can do without a Colour Management System. If – and it’s a big if – the White Balance (labelled RGB Gain) controls work, it should bring some fringe benefit to colour performance.
We’ve pointed out, in the past, that Vestel’s engineers needed to work on the RGB Gain controls to stop them directly interfering with colour luminance and, by jove, they’ve gone and fixed it. The controls are still extremely coarse so we had to settle for very good rather than excellent but the improvements to the picture are extremely noticeable and highly worthwhile. Delta Errors are almost all down below the perceptible limit of 3, with the exception of 100% stimulus which carries a tad too much blue. In practice such an error is practically impossible to spot.
Getting the greyscale very near correct did improve the hue accuracy of the secondary colours and with a small tweak on the global Colour slider, we were able to get things looking very good. Colour tracking through a range of saturation points was also quite impressive with just a slightly dull blue of any significance.
It seems like the Vestel engineers not only looked at the White Balance controls but also addressed the slightly sketchy handling of 1080p24, at least to some extent, and it’s now far smoother than previously. We did notice the odd frame skipping but it was never enough to truly distract and distinctly more watchable than with the old processing engine. More evidence that some work has gone in to improving the picture processing came by virtue of the S9100-T being able to detect the PAL 2:2 cadence, where the Finlux TVs wouldn’t in the past. In a total reversal, the NTSC 2:3 cadence is now not picked up on but PAL is more important to us here. Scaling performance is quite good, too, with only just a hint of ringing to 576i pictures. Video deinterlacing is a little less impressive with some quite noticeable break up of fine lines and detail in motion.
Contrast and Black Level
With the Finlux S-9100T sporting passive 3D technology there’s no doubt it’s using an LG IPS panel. Deep black levels and large dynamic range are not a trait of these panels and so it should come as no surprise to see the 9100-T struggle to topple the 1000:1 milestone for contrast ratio. It got close, averaging a black level of 0.12cd/m2 against peak white of 109 cd/m2, on our ANSI checkerboard pattern but topped out at 920:1 (ish). We could have pushed the panel much brighter and seen a commensurate increase in contrast but we try and standardise a peak white of 120 cd/m2 on a full raster to keep the playing field level. We’ll give an extra mark for the black levels owing to an excellent level of screen uniformity and an effective filter that combats ambient light well.
The Finlux S9100-T is most assuredly not a TV for gamers. With input lag routinely measuring between 115 and 120 milliseconds, that’s a long old wait before your actions on the controller are reflected on screen. Game mode is clearly nothing more than a token, feature list ticksheet item as it does nothing to reduce latency.
The following measurements were taken with a full screen 50% white pattern:
Out-of-the-Box – Dynamic Mode: 88W
Calibrated – Cinema Mode: 60.2W
3D Cinema Mode: 90W
Picture Quality - 2DOnce tuned to our liking, or approaching that, the Finlux S9100-T managed to produce images that were very pleasing. We ran through a number of our favourite Blu-ray discs – The Dark Knight, No Country for Old Men, Titanic & Tangled – and the excellent colour tracking really shone through. Motion handling with Blu-rays was competent enough, although there is the odd frame skip that can momentarily distract. Thanks to the IPS panel, the accuracy of the colour palette was barely diminished when moving away from the centre of the screen, although black levels took a bit more of a hit and erred toward blue from front-on.
As we mentioned in the Test Results, scaling of standard definition signals was fairly accomplished and with stable detection of the PAL standard definition film cadences, to boot, the kids' DVD collections were handled with sympathy. Sports lovers might want to consider using the milder form of Finlux’s motion interpolating ‘Movie Sense’ processing although the trade-off of some artefacting around edges for slightly perceptually improved clarity in motion is a close call.
The S9100-T isn’t one you’d want to watch in a darkened room, dynamic range is fairly limited but black levels attain satisfactory status by virtue of a complete lack of clouding. Screen uniformity, in general, was good although we could see some of the panel array, behind the pictures – together with a touch of ‘dirty screen effect’ on fast pans with bright colours (and white) but instances were fairly fleeting and rare. Overall the Finux S9100-T brought more to the table than it took away and some minor alterations to the processing has brought dividends in some key areas. Good job engineers!
Picture Quality - 3DThis reviewer makes no apologies for his preference for passive 3D technology. Try walking a mile in my shoes after sitting through 3 hours of a 3D presentation in active shutter eyewear. You wouldn’t get very far before falling over. Speaking of eyewear, Finlux provides 8 sets in the box with the S9100-T, which should be enough for most, and they are very good. In particular the lack of tint is most impressive and the fact they don’t block too much of the screen's light output is also a plus. For spectacle wearers the lenses could perhaps do with being a touch larger but we couldn’t fully confirm that, for obvious reasons.
With said 3D specs donned, we returned to some of our tried and trusted 3D discs as well as some side by side material recorded from the BBC. We’re very pleased to report the S9100-T lived up to the promise of the LG panel, delivering excellent depth and pop-out, where required, on Titanic and Avatar as well as accurate colours and decent motion performance. The colours did need a tweak in the Picture Menu and there is a certain jerkiness top motion with 3D Blu-ray, on occasion, but generally we found the presentation to be excellent with barely any crosstalk in evidence. Happy Feet 2 – our favourite crosstalk torture test – has rarely looked so
- Contemporary design
- Great 3D
- Accurate colours, post calibration
- Great viewing angles
- Excellent uniformity
- Good price
- Dynamic range is limited
- Some slight skips with Blu-ray
- Gaming lag is atrocious
Finlux S9100 (42S9100-T) 3D LED LCD TV Review
It’s obvious where Finlux has looked for design ideas with the S 9100-T but who could blame them, particularly when even the big boys aren’t above a bit of mimicry. Besides which, they’ve managed to pull it off well and the 9100 looks very stylish as well as feeling well put together. We certainly can’t accuse Finlux of skimping on the accessories front, either, as included in the box are a wireless dongle, 8 pairs of 3D glasses and two remote controls; one of which is a pocket-sized basic model with the other of more conventional dimensions and functionality. Both get the job done and feel well conceived. The same could be said for the Finlux Menu systems, that are bright, snappy and easy to navigate.
Finlux haven’t made a great deal of progress with their online content but the two most popular Video on Demand services – BBC iPlayer and YouTube – both feature as well as Twitter, Facebook and Picasa. Media playback support isn’t the strongest and streaming seems hampered by a lack of processing grunt as the S9100 struggled to cope with even moderately sized file structures from a PC. Improvements in the calibration controls, albeit modest ones, meant we were able to extract pleasingly accurate colours from the Finlux and there’s also been a modification to the handling of 1080p24 content, meaning Blu-rays playback more faithfully than in previous generations. Elsewhere the handling of standard definition content is also good, with creditable scaling and commendable film cadence detection. Whilst it’s good to see the improvements in picture processing, Finlux/Vestel needs to look in to how they shut some of it down to make the Game mode more than a feature to stick on the spec sheet. Input lag was abominable and we’d advise gamers to look elsewhere.
The Finlux S9100-T is capable of producing reasonably convincing black levels, mainly down to the fact we could detect very little in the way of uneven screen uniformity. Shadow detail isn’t great and dynamic range is mediocre but colours hold up well off-axis and motion handling is reasonable. It’s with 3D content that the Finlux truly shines, producing bright, punchy and engaging images that are virtually crosstalk free and extremely comfortable to watch. We did notice some judder with 3D Blu-ray but nothing to seriously distract.
By virtue of its blend of style, value and pleasing picture performance, the Finlux S9100-T deserves to go on the must see list of any passive 3D fan. It’s not a watch-with-the-lights-off kind of TV and it’s one to avoid for gamers, but as well as its extremely pleasing colour palette there’s excellent screen uniformity and generous viewing angles to sweeten the deal, making it an AVForums Recommended Award Winner.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £700.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level6
3D Picture Quality7
Ease Of Use7
Value for Money7
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