The Samsung LN46A630 ($1400 as of March 10, 2009) delivers a very good picture on its 46-inch screen, and it accompanies that picture with equally good sound. It's pretty easy to use for the most part, too, but it stumbles in a few places where its designers should have known better.
In our tests, the LN46A630 performed well overall, displaying a good but not exceptional picture. The skin tones in a clip from the sitcom According to Jim--a 720p video sample--looked a bit soft, though the image quality was superb. On the other hand, in a panning shot from chapter 7 of Mission Impossible III (at 1080p), a highly detailed brick wall showed serious distortion. Other judges noted noise in a shirt pattern, ghosting around a face, and a green cast to one scene.
Though the LN46A630 is easy to use for the most part, it has some shortcomings. For instance, if the TV displays a standard-definition program stretched out to fill the screen, and you'd prefer that it be pillarboxed to 4 by 3, you have to go four levels deep into the main menu to make what should be a simple change. Similarly, while the TV does offer picture-in-picture, activating this feature requires you to dig around in the main menu--and when you get there, the option is likely to be grayed out; PiP works under such limited conditions that it's hardly worth having.
The menus are big, readable, and attractive--and they explain things well. Navigating the main menu can occasionally be confusing, but a smaller, simpler Tools menu gives you access to frequently used options.
The remote is big but well-balanced, and the most frequently used buttons are well placed. And this remote does backlighting right: Press the glow-in-the-dark light bulb button, and all of the buttons on the remote light up. Since the labels are printed on the buttons themselves, they are easy to read in the dark. Unfortunately, the remote isn't programmable. And I wish that Samsung had found room for Aspect Ratio and Picture-in-Picture buttons.
The speakers provided excellent virtual surround sound. In a scene from The Phantom of the Opera, the LN46A630 managed the transition from quiet dialog to a loud organ blast quite well, conveying much of the intended power--a sign of strong dynamic range. At full volume, the audio sounded strained; of course, to get optimum audio, you'll need to invest ina separate sound system.
Plug a flash drive or external hard drive ontaining your JPEG photos into the LN46A630's USB drive, and you'll be able to watch a slideshow on the big screen. You can also play MP3 audi files stored on USB media.
The LN46A630 is an above-average HDTV with impressive image quality, though some unexpectedly rough edges mar this otherwise strong offering. If you can afford the extra $300 or so, this 46-inch-diagonal model is well worth the jump from such 42-inch sets as the Honeywell Altura MLX, the Philips 42PFL7403D/F7, and the Sharp LC-42D85U.
This story, "Samsung LN46A630 46-inch HDTV" was originally published by PCWorld.