Samsung LN46A550 46-Inch LCD HDTV
At a Glance
This all-around excellent TV is easy to use and a delight to the eyes.
It's hard to find fault with Samsung's LN46A550 ($1700, as of November 4, 2008). This LCD model lacks some of the specs and design of its younger sibling, the Samsung LN46A650, but otherwise it holds its own next to that model.
In our PC World Test Center tests, the LN46A550 excelled with Blu-ray discs. In a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, images looked as though they were coming from a mint 35mm print. Though I thought that some of the images in our tests lost a bit of detail, my fellow judges felt otherwise. This model finished in a statistical tie with the LN46A650 in overall performance, and it remains atop the heap of models we've tested in this size category.
The set's audio quality is fine for talk shows and sitcoms, but it's not suitable for the big sound of movie soundtracks. To handle high-end sound reproduction, you'll want to buy a real surround-sound stereo unit.
The LN46A550 is easy to use. The icon-based on-screen menus are clear and easy to read, and a brief note at the bottom of the screen explains what each item does. A separate Tools button on the remote control acts the same way that Windows' right-click mouse button does, bringing up a handy selection of options appropriate for the current input. Another neat feature: When it turns on a connected device (such as a DVD player), the TV automatically switches the input to that source.
The backlit remote control's large, color-coded buttons give it the look of a child's toy, but they benefit users of all ages. In other respects, though, the remote isn't perfect. Because it lacks a dedicated PiP button, you have to access picture-in-picture through the menus. Also, the aspect ratio button is labeled ‘P.Size'--not the most intuitive designation. And finally, the remote isn't programmable, so you can't use it to operate your DVD player or VCR unless the device uses Samsung's proprietary Anynet technology, which is based on HDMI's Consumer Electronics Control (CEC) channel.
The messy, hard-to-read quick-setup guide could easily intimidate a novice. Meanwhile, the thick bilingual manual (104 pages just for English) explains everything in detail but is wordy and difficult to follow.
You can view pictures and listen to music ported to the LN46A550 through its USB port. Easy-access inputs on the side include HDMI, S-Video, and USB. The set swivels on its stand to support odd-angle viewing and to permit easy access to the back. In fact the set's overall design isdistinctly superior to that of two 47-inch Vizio models that (at the moment) closely trail it in our rankings: the SV470XVT and the VO47LF.
The result is a well-rounded HDTV that does virtually everything you want it to. At its price, it stands out as a clear winner.