A far from perfect start to short-neck CRT technology for Samsung
Impressive price for new tech
Poor image geometry
Loss of focus at screen edge
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Just when you thought nothing new could be done with CRT technology, along comes Samsung's WS-32Z306VB to prove there's life in the old dog yet. You see, thanks to new 'short-neck' tube technology (dubbed 'SlimFit'by Samsung), the 32Z306VB is much narrower than standard CRT TVs; 399mm deep compared to, say, 572mm for the Sony KD-32DC11U.
What's more, a significant portion of that 399mm is only accounted for by a small central section of the rear panel, leaving Samsung free to sweep the set's sides back steeply in a way that really emphasises just how little TV you've got compared with a standard CRT hulk. Sweet.
At heart, the technology behind short-neck CRT design is very simple.The slimmer look is achieved by reducing the neck of the CRT's vacuum envelope - the only down side effect being the need for wider dot pitches (and therefore reduced definition) at the tube's edges.
For such a groundbreaking set, this Samsung's connectivity is rather old-school: just two Scarts, an RF jack and the usual front AV suspects.
Still, before getting too upset, think about the 32Z306VB's almost shockingly cheap price. With some manufacturers talking figures well in excess of a grand for their first shortneck CRT TVs, Samsung's debutante has somehow hit the high street for just £500. Blimey.
In spite of its cheapness, the 32Z306VBXX employs 100Hz processing on its pictures - though this is pretty much where the interesting features end.
So let's cut to the chase: does shortneck technology work? Well, on this Samsung's evidence, no, it doesn't.
The demands of the tube's design cause three fundamental problems for the 32Z306VB. First, the picture's geometry is all over the place - there's a big upward bulge to bottom centre, and the top and bottom corners bend down like the mouth of a scolded child.
Also, any part of the picture in a corner of the screen loses definition and a little brightness due to the wider pixel pitch there. Finally, a couple of the corners suffer quite clearly with RGB convergence issues, visible as leaking red lines.
That's not the end of the bad news, either.The picture's black levels don't seem especially good, with some dark hues adopting a blue-grey hue. And the 100Hz processing caused some quite overt smearing with some of our DVDs.
It's not all bad. The general colour tone (except for shadows) is very good, with potent saturations and natural skin hues. Also the picture is quite sharp and detailed away from the troublesome edges.
Sonically, the 32Z306VB impresses,managing a fairly extended frequency range without 'phutting' under bass duress or succumbing to harshness with shrill trebles. Voices sound reasonably clear, too, if a little boxy, and the soundstage spreads pleasingly wide.
The 32Z306VB really is a huge disappointment. Far from the rebirth of CRT, the UK's first short-neck tube TV shows this new technology could be a white elephant. Let's hope future models prove us wrong
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