Design and Connections
This is an area where the Samsung LEC650 proved very strong. The scaling of standard def images was very clean with little to no obvious ringing or artifacting and this was borne out in the tests I threw at it. Cadence detection, the process whereby the television attempts to detect if the material was shot on film and then not deinterlace unnecessarily - thus throwing away resolution and causing jaggies, was flawless with the most common 2:2(PAL) and 2:3(NTSC) cadences. Blu-ray 24p material was also displayed flawlessly when Motion Plus was disabled. I'm not normally a fan of motion interpolation features but Samsung's 'Motion Plus' system does have the advantage of being using configurable. Using the lowest 'Clear' setting - turning the judder reduction right down to zero and the blur reduction to 5, I was able to achieve a result that didn't offend the eye by making everything look like it was shot on a camcorder whilst also reducing the notorious LCD motion blur. There was still some minor artifacting and a little frame skipping but I did find it acceptable with most material.
As a gamer of over 30 years, I like to think I'm in tune with the responsiveness of the panels I use. Before performing any lag testing, with it's inherent difficulties, I like to give the screen a chance with some actual gaming. It didn't take me long to decide something was a amiss, in this department, on the LEC650. Bringing up a golf game with the old fashioned 'power bar' showing, revealed the response to my input was woefully behind and quite the worst I've encountered. Running some tests gave figures ranging between 85 and 103 milliseconds, which is several frames behind the action, whether the game is 30 or 60 frames per second. Anybody venturing online for some multiplayer action would find themselves at some serious disadvantage with the C650 before any network lag came in to play. Given that Samsung didn't see fit to include the 'Game' picture mode in the logical place and instead hid it away in an options menu, I can only conclude this isn't a set they're aiming at the gaming fraternity. To boot, the default image in Game mode is a horribly overblown and oversharpened affair that requires serious adjustment to bring it close to acceptable. Response times were better in Game mode, I got figures ranging between 43 and 60 milliseconds but, still, there are far better TVs out there for this particular pastime.
The Samsung LEC650 proved very respectable here with the following figures obtained after calibration:
- Standby: 1W
- Average: 75W
Perhaps the most irksome 'feature' of the Samsung LEC650, is its propensity to 'smooth' the picture and in the process remove very fine details from the final image. I first noticed this effect whilst viewing an HD FA Cup replay broadcast from Elland Road, Leeds. I was actually side by side testing real world motion performance against a plasma when I noticed the pitch looked different to that displayed on the Panasonic. The plasma showed the grass was actually cut up quite badly whilst the Samsung was smoothing the nuances of the texture. I then back to back tested some Blu-rays in my collection that I knew contained a fair amount of film grain and, sure enough, the LEC650 was removing some of this also. I again checked that the Sharpness setting of 0 was correct, using test patterns and also that the edge enhancement setting was having no effect. Unfortunately, there was nothing that could be done to combat this processing and it's something of a mystery as to why Samsung would have done it. My best guess is that it's to make the LEC650's picture have a differentiator on the shop floor - the image did potray a false sense of clarity and some may like it. It's probably fair to point out it didn't dog all material and did some favours to poor SD content.
- Great Black Levels and Dynamic Range
- Excellent Calibration Controls
- Reference Greyscale Performance
- Superb Video Processing and Scaling
- Freeview HD built-in
- Back-Lit Remote Control
- Robust Media Playback
- Shocking Input Lag for Gamers
- Very Fine Details Robbed from Images
- Reddish Blacks Uncalibrated
- Backlight Bleed in All Corners
- Large Contrast Loss Off-Axis
Samsung C650 (LE32C650) LCD TV Review
Ultimately, the Samsung LEC650 is a very solid perfomer. With one of the best black level and contrast performances, in the LCD market, it's sure to bring plenty of pleasure to all but the most demanding of videophiles and those that don't play video games. It's a well built television that both looks and feels the part with a well presented menu system to match. With truly excellent video processing and scaling engines, the C650 copes admirably with most material you throw at it. Unfortunately there's a baby elephant in the room and that's the fact that the LEC650's processing sees fit to take out very fine details from material, which can be problematic with HD images. It's probably fair to say that most wouldn't notice and the resultant image can portray an illusion of clarity, which - if I were guessing as to why they've seen fit to include such a feature - may give it some advantage on the shop floor.
The included calibration controls are pretty much a pleasure to use but we'd like to see Samsung include individual luminance controls, of at least the primary colours, to make it a truly 3D colour management system. The ability of the panel to fully saturate red would also be an advantage, we hear there's a lot people whose chosen teams play in that colour and they might just notice! This isn't a television I could easily recommend to gamers. All but those in near zombie like states are going to notice that they could just about stick the kettle on whilst waiting for the screen to respond to the input from their controller. Add in the fact that they inexplicably hide the, just about, useable Game mode in an obscure location, and the default image you get from it is non-too-pleasing and I'd almost certainly be sending the discerning gamer in another direction. If you're not a gamer and/or a film fanatic with a very keen eye for detail, then I'd have no hesitation in recommending the Samsung LEC650 to you. If you like a broad range of viewing material with the ocassional Blu-ray, you could certainly do worse.
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