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Samsung HL-T5689S Review

DT Editor's Choice

Highs

  • Excellent picture; Instant On technology; 3 HDMI inputs; slim depth

Rating

Our Score 9.5
User Score 9

Lows

  • Remote control is not well laid out
If you're in the market for a high-definition TV, and who isn't these days, this is a set that is definitely worth considering.

Summary

Last month we received the new Samsung HL-T5689S, which is one of the first 1080p rear projection HDTVs to feature LED illumination powered by Luminus Devices’ PhlatLight technology. Originally, Samsung introduced one model last year, but it was clearly a work in progress. This new model, which is now part of a new family of LED DLPs, shows just how far the technology and illumination have come. While this review focuses specifically on Samsung’s model HL-T5689S, which is a 56-inch model, the findings can spread to both its 50-inch. (HL-T5089S) and 61-inch (HL-T6189S) brethren.

Features and Design

The Samsung HL-T5689S is a 56-inch slim-depth widescreen (16×9)1080p high-definition rear projection TV that features LED illumination instead of the standard UHP or arc lamp. And, because LED illumination is employed, it also eliminates the much-maligned color wheel, which some people find objectionable because it contributes to the so-called “rainbow effect.” This set is also part of Samsung’s new slim line of HD rear projection DLP TVs offering a depth of only 14-inches, which is far slimmer than comparable 56-inch rear projection HDTVs.

The Samsung HL-T54689S boasts a sleek piano black cabinet design that is 3.0 inches less in height and 2.0 inches less in depth and width than the previous Samsung LED DLP. The depth of the cabinets is as low as 13.4 inches (on the 50-inch model), and they are light enough to mount to a wall. Their revolutionary thin bezel allows the sets to fit in spaces that a flat screen TV of an equivalent screen size will not fit into. Additionally, reportedly, the slim cabinet design utilized in large-screen sized sets also consumes less energy than their flat panel counterparts. It utilizes an ultra-thin bezel or frame that provides more screen than many other models. This TV is energy star-rated.

Key features include a screen resolution of 1920 x 1080 @ 60, and include three tuners: ATSC (over-the-air HD), Clear QAM (Cable HD), and NTSC (standard analog TV). Picture image enhancements include Samsung’s proprietary DNIe (Digital Natural Image engine) that helps makes the projected images among the sharpest and clearest available, and the Cinema Smooth light engine that fully utilizes the DLP light engine. Audio is rated at 10-watts per channel and the set features SRS TruSurround XT that will enhance standard audio signals. Although, like all sets of this caliber, it cries out to be attached to a quality audio system for the best possible sound. For this review, we employed Onkyo’s new TX-SR875, which is part of a new breed of A/V Receiver that includes HDMI v 1.3 switching and processing, and Infinity’s impressive Cascade speakers.

Connections include 3 HDMI (on the side), 2 component, 2 S-Video, and 2 composite video. Other inputs/outputs include a PC input, 1 digital optical output, and RS-232C control. A relatively simplified 55-button remote is included. By pressing the light button, the channel up/down and volume up/down light up. Further, the set is Bluetooth-enabled so that you can utilize wireless headphones that include Bluetooth technology.

Samsung HL-T54689S
Image Courtesy of Samsung

This set is also 3D-Ready, which means that through the attachment of an optional small set-top box, it will allow the HL-T5689S to project 3D images for specialized software through 3D glasses. The 3D option was not evaluated for this review, although, to fully realize this option, you’ll also need specialized 3D software. We received a demo at C.E.D.I.A. by TI, and it was pretty cool!

Phlatlight Technology

The focal point of this new breed of DLP HDTV is the use of Luminus Devices’ PhlatLight technology. Luminus’ PhlatLight LED (Light Emitting Diode) technology is setting a new standard in HDTV performance and reliability. This innovative illumination technology is a revolutionary light source that lasts the entire lifetime of the TV (over 60,000 hours) and delivers a consistent picture without fading, saving consumers lamp replacement costs and inconvenience over the life of the set.

The HL-T5689S is illuminated using a single PhlatLight PT120 chipset, which was specifically designed and optimized for use with the Texas Instruments xHD5 1080p DLP chipset. The PhlatLight PT120 is a three-color system that includes a red, green and blue LED. Each LED is a single, large area monolithic chip that can sustain extremely high power and fast pulsing. The PT120’s red, green and blue LEDs combine to produce pure, accurate sequential colored light and cycle at 2.9 KHz, 48 times faster than traditional television frame rates, creating a smooth, stable color and superior motion quality. The red, green and blue LEDs in the PT120 chipset combine to produce more than 1,500 white lumens under normal operating conditions, which is enough brightness to illuminate rear projection TVs up to 62 inches with a single RGB chipset. This new Samsung model also offers a contrast ratio of 10,000:1.

The PhlatLight PT120 projection chipset provides the following benefits: a wider color gamut (RED 625 nm, GREEN 525 nm, and BLUE 462 nm typical dominant wavelengths) that exceeds the NTSC standards; instant turn-on; mercury-free, RoHS compliant environmentally-friendly technology; fast switching properties that enable electronic control of color points and light intensity on a frame by frame basis; and reliability with median lifetimes greater than 60,000 hours. PhlatLight provides uniform brightness over the entire LED surface, high light extraction efficiency, and can direct more light to individual areas of the screen.

Testing and Use

In evaluating the Samsung HL-T5689S there were two primary high-definition sources employed: Dish Network’s new set-top box ViP722 HD DVR (480p, 720p & 1080i) and Samsung’s BD-P1200 Blu-ray Disc player (1080p). All connections to the video sources were accomplished via Tributaries new Series 9 HDMI cables that easily carry HDMI v. 1.3 signals.

Since our DishNetwork ViP 722 satellite box also includes an ATSC tuner, we were able to toggle back and forth between Cable HD, Satellite HD, and Over-the-Air HD signals quickly. So, we were also able to easily able compare ATSC vs. QAM vs. Satellite signals. We thought that the ASTC signals looked slightly cleaner and robust from our roof antenna than they did from either Cable HD or satellite HD signals. That said, however, both cable and satellite provided us with all of our local channels in HD. So, it’s a tradeoff.

Certainly, the HL-T5689S produced high definition images from our EchoStar Satellite HD set-top box via an HDMI connection in an exemplary manner. Certain HD channels do stand out, however, including: HDNet, DiscoveryHD Theater, HBO-HD, StrarzHD, and Showtime-HD. Colors are vibrant, life-like and quite natural looking. Watching original programming like Weeds or Brotherhood (shot in HD), for example, on Showtime makes it very apparent that you are watching HD as the program source as it has a more film-like appearance in HD than SD. This is especially true for DiscoveryHD Theater. Insects, and all of nature, never looked so realistic. Of course, sporting events in HD are the “crème de la crème” of HD images, as they need to be seen to be fully appreciated. For example, you can easily count the blades of grass or Astro Turf from football games or discern the rubble on asphalt on NBC-HD’s NASCAR racing. Unbelievable! Standard definition NTSC signals looked as good as they could get at 480p from EchoStar esp. the SciFi Channel’s Doctor Who or BBC’s Torchwood. Of course, re-runs of these shows in HD on Universal’s HD channel look nothing short of spectacular! The colors displayed on the HL-T5689S were truly vibrant, bright and very life-life giving you the impression that you are part of the action. Amazing!

Of course, watching and listening to movies in standard definition is OK, but to get the real benefits of an HD set you have to watch content in high def and 1080p. While we had initially viewed Samsung’s first BD offering late last Summer (2006), which we found unacceptable, we turned to Samsung’s 2nd generation BDP-1200 that includes Silicon Optix’s Reon chipset as a terrific source for high-definition Blu-ray movies in screen resolutions of 1080p. We have watched numerous Blu-ray movies including Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, X-Men: The Last Stand, Kingdom of Heaven, and UNDERWORLD Evolution to name a few titles. This last title mentioned, however, was chosen because it is especially taxing on a DLP TV because there are so many dark scenes throughout the entire movie. Needless to say, the gradations of gray-to-black made the texture of the film appear very crisp and precise, and different shades of black were easily discernable.

Other more recent titles that were watched include: Disney/Pixar’s Cars, Disney/Pixar’s Ratatouille, Surf’s Up, and Walt Disney’s Meet The Robinsons that showed nothing short of spectacular animation reaching levels not even seen in most theaters. Recent live action titles included Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, The Day After Tomorrow, Casio Royale, and the 30th Anniversary Ultimate Edition of CLOSE ENCOUTNERS of the Third Kind. This is one of the first titles to include both Dolby TrueHD5.1 and DTS-HD Master Audio5.1, and, we have to say that Sony Pictures did a heck of job on the visuals and audio, which were off the scale. Of course, standard definition DVD fare also looked exceptional when played back on the BDP-1200 such as live music concert from Celtic Woman – A New Journey or EaglesHell Freezes Over, for example, and The Abyss – Special Edition.

Samsung HL-T5689S
Image Courtesy of Samsung

Test grids from Digital Video Essentials and Silicon Optix’s HQV Benchmark Ver.1 for Blu-ray certainly confirmed what our eyes were telling me with regards to image clarity. The Silicon Optix disc adds various tests including those for “jaggies.” Essentially, “jaggies” are produced if a display cannot properly lock onto an image, and the image blurs slightly. Good examples are how the viewing stands look as a speeding race car drives by or the American flag blows in the breeze. We happy to report that the Samsung HL-T5689S passed with flying colors. Color bars, for example, were in perfect alignment with no coloring bleeding between colors. As well, the lines between colors were straight and true with no jagged edges either. Grayscale transformed itself from light to dark seamlessly. Test patterns clearly re-affirmed image clarity with image resolution! The bottom line: in each and every case, the Samsung HL-T5689S produced sparkling HD signals that were bright, clear, and robust.

Conclusion

As an official second-generation LED DLP HDTV, we are extremely pleased with the image quality produced by Samsung’s HL-T5689S. LED illumination is the way of the future, and is now being included in flat-panel TVs as well. The PhlatLight chipset from Luminus Devices does a heck of a job in producing very bright images – better than most stand-alone lamps. And the fact that you never have to change a bulb is certainly a plus. Now, instead of waiting for the set to warm up as in other DLP TVs, the PhlatLight chipset allows for “instant on,” which is as it should be – just like it was with those “old-fashioned” CRTs. And, once on, the images from all sources are extremely pleasing on the eye.

The displayed HD images from satellite (EchoStar), cable, and over-the-air broadcasts (via antenna) appear quite natural and life-like. Contrast and brightness is outstanding! 1080p images from Samsung’s Blu-ray player looked exceptional as well. Until something better comes along, this set is right up there with some of our all-time favorite HDTVs. The fact that it doesn’t have a color wheel or UHP lamp means that the images will never get dim nor will there be any rainbow effect. Also, if you want that big screen experience, you don’t need a flat-panel set unless you plan on hanging it on the wall. This set fills the bill quite nicely. At a depth of only 14-inches, it sits nicely on any TV base that is an excellent place to put all of your components anyway. And, at a price of $2,695 USD (list), this set is a bargain. If you’re in the market for a high-definition TV, and who isn’t these days, this is a set that is definitely worth considering.

Pros:

• 1080p DLP High-Output Light Engine with BrillantColor
• PhlatLight Technology
• Instant On
• 3 HDMI v. 1.3 inputs (side for easy attachment of HDMI-enabled devices)
• RS-232C
• Slim depth cabinetry

Cons:

• Not well laid out remote with only 4 illuminated keys.