Samsung Plasma TV Review

 

 

Model: Samsung SP-R4232 Plasma TV
Description: 42-inch Plasma television, Widescreen 16:9 Format
Resolution: 852 X 480 EDTV

Includes: Remote control, integrated NTSC and ATSC HDTV Tuner
Built-in speakers (30W total output) and tabletop stand

Color: Silver frame with black trim around screen

Reviewer: Charles La Rosa
Date: May 2005

INTRODUCTION

Samsung was founded in 1938 as a fish and fruit exporter on the Korean peninsula. Today Samsung has grown into a massive, multi-industry company and is a respected manufacturer of consumer electronics around the globe. By delivering lower-cost products that exceeded the quality of no-name manufactures but don't live up to the high-standards of first-tier manufacturers like Sony and Panasonic, Samsung has carved out significant market especially through sales in department stores and consumer electronics mega-stores. The Samsung SP-R4232 42-inch Plasma TV, though well designed and packed with a jaw-dropping array of inputs, comes up short in picture quality, a must have characteristic for a 42-inch plasma television.

Samsung has been manufacturing plasma glass and plasma TVs since 1999 and the SP-R4232 is a 5th generation plasma. Unpack the plasma from its box and you might think you have accidentally picked up a Panasonic Viera TV. The design consists of a black glass frame that protrudes slightly over a strip of bottom-mounted silver speakers just like Viera screens. Volume, input, menu, and channel controls are located along the sides. The only button on the front of the television is a large center-mounted power button with a ring around it that glows bright blue when the unit is in standby mode and flashes when receiving a remote control signal.



The Samsung Plasma TV doesn't quite live up to expectations

PICTURE QUALITY: 84/100

The Samsung SP-R4232 has EDTV resolution but its picture quality would suggest it has even less. Watching a DVD signal over component inputs we were unable to obtain a precise picture. The SR-R4232's 852x480 image didn't come close to matching the clarity we've seen on Panasonic's line of EDTV Plasma Displays. While watching The Fast and the Furious, skin detail was noticeably absent, giving characters a mannequin-like uniform complexion. Since The Fast and the Furious was not the cinematographic accomplishment of the decade, we checked the movie on a Panasonic TH-42PD50U and found that the DVD really did contain skin detail and the Samsung was truly lacking. During the many fast-action scenes the Samsung SP-R4232 couldn't keep pace. Artifacts distracted from the movie.

Color, at the default dynamic setting was artificially red. The standard setting was slightly less vivid and the movie setting delivered a fairly realistic picture. Starting from the movie setting and turning down the color setting resulted with much truer picture. Users can individually tweak the red, green, blue, yellow, pink, and white levels in addition to selecting from the standard picture settings.

The SP-R4232 LCD TV includes an always-on proprietary (to all Samsung models) video pre-processor, DNIe (Samsung Digital Natural Image Engine). This television's biggest fluff feature, DNIe Demo, allows users to view a split screen where half the screen is DNIe processed and half is not. An analogous feature would be a button on the dash of your car that allowed you to revert to Model-T performance while driving. All plasma TVs have a color processing technology built in to stretch color, sharpen the picture, improve clarity. Whether Samsungs DNIe is better than say, Sony's WEGA color engine is the question - not whether or not the plasma actually has a color-processing feature. It's a, "duping the public" feature.

Darks were very good, as should be expected from a plasma display, and bright scenes displayed well too. Samsung specs this unit's contrast ratio at an unrealistic and not-so-modest 10,000:1. We measured the contrast ratio of this unit at 1675:1 - quite a difference, but then contrast is measured in many different ways and with varying formulas. Creating unrealistic and ridiculous contrast ratio specs for the sake of being the top does nothing for the quality of the product. How does contOutside of a 160 degree viewing angle the picture blurred as the image became visible both at the plasma pixel source and reflecting on the glass. Anti-glare technology was excellent all around.

The Samsung SP-R4232 has four aspect ratio settings: 16:9, panorama, zoom 1, and zoom 2. 16:9 is the native setting for wide-screen sources and panorama stretches 4:3 sources and frames the image with gray bars. Zooms 1 and 2 both apply a vertical stretch to 16:9 sources and result in visible distortion.


OTHER CONSIDERATIONS: 94/100


The Samsung SP-R4232 Plasma Television comes chock-a-block full of inputs, an excellent menu system, has decent sound, a fatally flawed instruction manual, and sub-par remote control.

Using the Samsung SP-R4232, one has to wonder if one of the product designers didn't have an affinity for 80s-era video games. When the television is turned on a cheesy sound plays that is reminiscent of the melody we heard at the beginning of a PacMan game; turning off the TV sounds like you ran your PacMan straight into a ghost. The TV's remote control looks like a cross between an original Nintendo controller and a cash register barcode scanner: cheap plastic and buttons by modern standards and an oversized infrared window. Animated icons that look like they came straight out of an Atari mar an otherwise excellent menu system. If you're thinking of buying this plasma TV, and you like the 80's as much as the SP-R4232's user-interface designer did, keep some Perrier in your living room in case the 330-watt TV pumps out too much heat. Having a pair of Oakley sunglasses on hand should give you the thermonuclear protection you need when the 1,500 cd/m2 plasma cranks out bright scenes.

You can plug just about anything but your toaster into the Samsung SP-R4232 Plasma TV. The TV comes with plenty of inputs: two sets of component jacks, composite s-video and RCA jacks, cable and antenna coaxial jacks, a VGA jack, and a HDMI jack for digital sources. There's even a built in cable card and ATSC tuner - though you can't actually watch native HDTV on this EDTV display, at least you can tune into the channels. Digital audio out, via coaxial and optical, and analog audio out are also included. The only thing missing is a DVI jack, but, since you can run most DVI sources through a DVI to HDMI cable to keep a pure-digital signal, this isn't an oversight.

The menu, with the exception of its distracting animated icons, is top notch on the SP-R4232. Controls are easily navigable, the menu font is readable from any distance, and you can control the transparency of the menu on top of the picture. Onscreen display information (like the mute indicator) moves by a few pixels every few seconds to prevent screen burn.

Sound is delivered via four speakers and each channel gets 15 watts of power. A 5-band equalizer adjusts individual frequencies or users can select from preset modes: standard, music, movie, and speech. Before tweaking their bass or treble though, users will want to navigate to the second page of the sound menu to deactivate the annoying startup and shutdown melody. The TrueSurround XT setting provides virtual surround sound and an Auto Volume mode can equalize volume across channels. The fluorescent bulb and electronics are inaudible more than a foot from the plasma TV.

A versatile picture-in-picture system allows for multiple placements and screen splits of two sources. The manual, which lacks an index, requires a bit of hunting and pecking finding what you're looking for.

With its stand attached the TV has a footprint about 42 inches wide and 13 inches deep. The Samsung SP-R4232 plasma television stands just less than 31 inches tall and weighs 88.4 lbs.


VALUE: 85/100


With a big box house price of about $2,300 (Internet street price lower) the Samsung SP-R4232 is at the bottom tier of decent manufacturers price-wise. It does not compare favorably to a couple of top name Japanese manufacturers with value in mind. Picture quality is not this plasma TVs strong suit though Samsung has made many improvements. The TV's complete feature set, massive array of inputs, and stylish case make it a tempting purchase for the price nevertheless. Value-wise the Samsung SP-R4232 plasma deserves a rating in the middle of the pack of today's offerings.

OVERALL RATING (with Picture double-weighted): 86/100





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