capsule review

Samsung LN-T5281F LCD HDTV

At a Glance
  • Samsung LN-T5281F

    TechHive Rating

    LED backlighting technology for excellent high-definition performance, but its standard-definition needs improvement.

The Samsung LN-T5281F, a 52-inch LCD HDTV, has a host of cutting-edge features that may help justify its high price ($4500).

The LN-T5281F yielded mixed performance results in high-definition videos. Pixelation was minimal in background scenes dominated by curtains and in wooden cabinets with a pronounced grain. The physical features of two men conversing in a talk show seemed well-defined. Skin tones looked natural, though not as good as on the Sony Bravia KDL-52XBR or the Vizio GV52LF. Brightness and contrast were above average. This Samsung showed lots of detail in dark areas, particularly in a difficult Lord of the Rings: Return of the King segment, though color quality in that movie was poor. The set fared less well with standard-definition video. A baseball game segment showed subpar color and pronounced pixelation.

The LN-T5281F uses LED backlighting. When this feature is active, the set can turn off areas of the panel that are supposed to be dark, thereby achieving deeper blacks than are possible with a regular fluorescent backlight. A demonstration setting in the TV's on-screen menu shows the feature's effect by applying it to half the screen and leaving the other half at current TV settings. The result is a clear improvement over standard HD image quality settings. The vendor left this feature switched off by default (which are the settings we use to test all TVs), and that may explain the less-than-stellar HD performance.

Presets in the on-screen display include ones that enhance contrast and saturation (Dynamic and Movie modes). A setting called DNIe (Digital Natural Image engine) is supposed to combine noise reduction and contrast enhancement to make images sharper and clearer. In the White Balance section, you'll find RGB gain and offset settings for fine-tuning color temperature. The My Color Control menu reveals Individual color settings for pink, green, blue, and white.

The LN-T5281F's speakers performed well, though I found the lows somewhat disappointing. For example, in a Blu-ray version of Phantom of the Opera, the orchestra accompanying the opera singer lacked the fullness and richness it achieved in such speakers as the Pioneer Kuro PDP-5010FD's. The LN-T5281F offers a plethora of inputs--three HDMI, two sets of component, and two composite. A USB port on the side of the TV is supposed to accommodate a USB flash-card reader, but I couldn't get it to recognize my Lexar card reader. When I used a Lexar 4GB USB thumb drive, however, the LN-T5281F had no trouble indexing my photos or playing MP3 files from the drive.

The TV's remote is black, as are most of its buttons--though some are colored, and a few are backlit. The buttons are smaller than those on most remotes we've tested, but they're easy to read and use, and they're organized logically. The TV itself has a narrow glossy bezel (though not as thin as the Mitsubishi's LT-52244's, for example). A blue LED power indicator in the shape of a thin arc occupies the middle of the bezel above the stand, sandwiched between two touch-sensitive chrome strips for turning the power on and off.

Anyone looking for an LCD HDTV with advanced features should consider the Samsung LN-T5281F a prime candidate. But for higher overall TV performance and a more affordable price, Samsung's own 50-inch FP-T5084 is a better deal.

This story, "Samsung LN-T5281F LCD HDTV" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • TechHive Rating

    LED backlighting technology for excellent high-definition performance, but its standard-definition needs improvement.

    Pros

    • Enhanced color controls
    • Picture in picture

    Cons

    • Disappointing speakers
    • USB reader didn't work in test
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