Superb with high-def, but a merely average performer with other sources
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Along with Sharp, Samsung has been pushing the boundaries of LCD for the last few years, and has promised us some HD-ready giants later this year to match Sharp's 45in model. Until then, however, there's this HD-ready 32in LCD. Let's see how it fills the gap.
It certainly does more than just occupy space, and looks every bit as futuristic as high-definition TV itself. Sitting astride an arched table stand is a silver chassis that holds the now 'en vogue' glossy black frame around the screen. Samsung designers have been hard at work, and the overall effect is quite stunning.
The combination of a 1,280 x 768 panel resolution and an HDMI input make the LW32A33W officially HD-ready. As if that wasn't enough, there's also a non-HDCP or PC compatible DVI input, analogue HD-capable (not from Sky) component video inputs and two Scarts (one of which is RGB) - although three would have been nice. There's also a subwoofer line out, three stereo audio inputs, an S-video input, composite video input, PC input, aerial input and a jack for headphones.
A fairly clever roster, then, although the real brains of the LW32A33W come in the form of its DNIe (Digital Natural Image) engine. This picture processing gubbins does increase detail and contrast beyond our expectations, but it's perhaps too clever for its own good.
With all but the most pristine-looking of DVDs - and particularly with broadcast footage - pictures from this Samsung can look a little noisy. Basically, minor artefacts in average-quality footage are too cruelly exposed. This problem with lower-quality sources applies to the LW32A33W's other picture tweaking options, too. They include a contrast booster, low noise amplification for TV, brightness sensor and individual pink, green and blue adjusting.
First, let's look at digital TV pictures via RGB Scart. Edges with this material looked exact, and colours vivid, while pictures seemed to have a lot of depth. It's a different story with the analogue tuner, which contains much more noise and a great deal more smearing over motion, suggesting a merely average response time.
Switching to our test DVD, Dot the I, also caused this set to struggle. Here it's contrast and colour that showed up flaws, both during the dingy scenes in Barnaby's house at the mid-point, and earlier when Carmen is being followed by a 'stranger' - deep blacks and realistic skin colours were missing.
Still, we've no complaints about the Sammy's high-def performance. Fed an HD diet via component video the set produced bright, crisp and colourful images, with little of the dot crawl common to HD on some sets.
The LW32A33W's bottom-mounted speakers packed quite a punch with our test DVD in SRS TruSurround XT mode, with enough bass to bulk-up a dramatic scene as well as a smooth mid-range and the treble to pluck the detail from a soundtrack.
Despite an overall watchable image - and a particular skill with high-definition - this set's issues with contrast and noise can't be overlooked. The picture processing technology varies in its effect depending on the source, and seems biased towards HD at the expense of lower-quality sources - which in our opinion is taking things a little too far.
Similarly changeable colour reproduction - great on HD, not-so-hot on analogue - is enough to convince us that the LW32A33W falls short here. Until HD is the norm (some way off yet!) you need a set that does the lot, and this isn't it.
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