Samsung LN46A650 46-Inch LCD HDTV
At a Glance
The Samsung LN46A650 delivers great image quality and is packed with features.
Samsung's LN46A650 ($1800 as of November 4, 2008--$100 more than its older sibling, the LN46A550, but significantly less than two other competing 46-inch sets, the Sharp Aquos LC-46D64U and the Panasonic TH-46PZ800U) is a joy to use from the moment you turn it on for the first time. That's when a wizard asks you to pick a language and inquires whether you'll be using the TV at home or in a store. Then it searches for channels and you're ready to go.
The long, backlit remote contains a large, easy-to-hit Menu button. Pressing it summons a legible, well-organized menu that doesn't obscure the picture as you navigate through its options. Most settings that you change often are also on the shorter menu that comes up when you press the Tools button. And the menu that pops up when you press the Source button lists all of the TV's many inputs, but with the active ones (those currently sending a signal to the TV) at the top and highlighted.
Despite being extremely usable, this model has its annoyances. I had to turn off the special Entertainment setting (found on the setup menu) before I could change the sound mode. And though the LN46A650 has picture-in-picture, its remote lacks a PIP button to make viewing two inputs at once more convenient. But the programmable remote doesn't lack much else. It has buttons for changing the set's picture mode and the aspect ratio, and for turning on closed captioning; and it has an iPod-like jog wheel rather than a circle of arrow buttons, as on most remotes.
In our PC World Test Center evaluation, judges gave the LN46A650 an average score for image quality--a step below that of the 47-inch Vizio VO47LF. This model's 120-Hz technology is meant to help with fast motion and panning, but two jurors noticed pixelation and garbling in scrolling text. Meanwhile, I noticed that the Vatican's brick wall in our Mission: Impossible III Blu-ray test vibrated enough to make me think I was watching an interlaced clip.
The LN46A650 packs an array of features. The side-mounted USB port supports playing back music and photos from any USB storage device. At the rear you'll find an ethernet port for use with Samsung's InfoLink RSS service, which delivers news, weather, sports, and financial information from USA Today to the television.
The LN46A650 is a fine HDTV. Its stellar design and ease of use make it just the thing for viewers who appreciate both form and function.