The increased demand for widescreen HDTVs has led manufacturers to experiment with and (in some cases) adopt an array of interesting display technologies.
One of these is digital light processing (DLP) projection technology developed by Texas Instruments that’s based on the use of an optical semiconductor – the Digital Micromirror Device (DMD). The DMD is a memory chip overlaid with more than 900,000 microscopic mirrors, each representing one pixel of screen resolution.
This device is at the heart of some high-definition displays in the market today.
One of them is the Samsung’s HL-S6187W HDTV, a 61-inch widescreen DLP TV.
When it comes to displays I’m of the view that size is not the most important consideration. In my book – superior visual, and audio, quality is far more important that a larger display.
So when Samsung send me the HL-S6187W HDTV I did take a hard look at it – literally and figuratively – after I managed to get it out of the box and place it on a table in my family room (quite a cumbersome task – given that it that it weighs 79.4 lbs).
I must say I was quite pleased with what I saw.
While not as slim as some of Samsung’s LCD models, the HL-S6187W was surprisingly streamlined for a TV of its size.
The unit is encased in a glossy black frame and a slanting metallic panel at the base – with the TV controls on the right. Concealed under the panel are the built-in stereo speakers (10 watts x 2).
The TV comes with a range of input ports allowing you to hook it up simultaneously to a range of devices and players. That’s a very useful feature when you have multiple players and are loathe to constantly switch cables between them.
On its rear panel, the HL-S6187W includes following inputs: HDMI (high definition multimedia interface), component, composite, S-Video (two of each). One of the HDMI inputs can also be used as a DVI connection with separate analogue audio inputs. In addition, there are PC video and PC audio inputs.
Side panel ports allow you to connect devices that are used only occasionally – such as a camcorder or a video game. This panel includes another composite input. Also on the side panel is the WiseLink drive, to which you can connect a USB storage device and view photos (jpeg), listen to music (mp3 files) or do both simultaneously.
In my tests I hooked up a Samsung Blu-Ray Player, a Sony DVD player, and my satellite receiver box to the TV’s HDMI, component and S-Video outputs respectively.
I also connected a Palm LifeDrive device to the WiseLink USB input to test the photo display and music quality of mp3 music files piped through this port.
In terms of picture quality, watching the Blu-Ray discs that Samsung sent me on the HL-S6187W was a visual treat (the only drawback was that the Samsung Blu-Ray player took an inordinately long time to load the discs).
I enjoyed the consciously bleak visual style of Underworld Evolution – a Sony Pictures flick starring Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman – with the inky grays, deep blues, purples and silvers. On the 61-inch HLS6187W they displayed with pristine clarity, sans noise or any noticeable inconsistency. (The movie itself, though, was nothing to write home about). The visual style of XXX, the other Sony Pictures title included with the box, thankfully had a broader palette of colours most of which displayed vividly.
I had watched both these movies initially on the Samsung LN-S4041D 40-inch wide HDTV and then on the 61-inch Samsung HLS6187W TV. In both cases, the sound and visual quality were compelling, but it was the HLS6187W – with its 1080p (1080 lines) high-definition display – that offered the best results.
Samsung literature credits its proprietary ‘Cinema Smooth light engine’ for the sharpness of the visuals. The TV uses a 10-bit processing system with a 5-segment color wheel that – according to Samsung – makes for a far better viewing experience than the 3 panel technologies of earlier DLP televisions.
I did not encounter the pixel break up you occasionally get in some high definition displays. Perhaps this had to do with the speed of the DLP chip (the millions of tiny mirrors switch on and off more 15,000 times per second).
Photos and music
Connecting a Palm LifeDrive to the WiseLink USB port on the side panel – and putting the Palm device on Drive mode – allowed me to immediately access my photos and music folders on the HLS6187W.
When viewing the photos, my experience was mixed. Navigation was supremely easy. Clicking on a photos folder provides a thumbnail view of all images in the folder. You can manually navigate to the image you want and press ‘Enter’ on the remote to watch in full screen.
There’s also a ‘slide show’ option – you can select the speed of the show (slow, normal or fast) and whether you want background music during the show. You can also rotate a picture (90, 180, 270 degrees) and zoom in to view an enlarged image. All pretty cool.
The picture quality, though, left much to be desired. The images seemed flat and lacked the sharpness, and vivid colours they had when displayed on desktop monitor (in that case my HP MediaCentre desktop had also retrieved the pictures from the Palm LifeDrive).
Scrolling and selecting mp3 files was also a piece of cake. Using the menu you can select either one specific file or all the files – play, pause or stop the song. The TV’s built in speakers provided superb audio quality, with rich and differentiated sounds.
Size and durability
A 61-inch TV expectedly takes up quite a bit of real estate in your living room (or wherever else you place it). However, the fact that this is DLP projection TV does lighten your load – literally and figuratively.
A DLP light engine is a lot smaller and lighter than traditional big-screen projection TVs. This means that even a 60-inch DLP TV could fit in places where traditional sets won’t.
Certain features inherent to the technology could contribute to this TV outlasting its other non-DLP HDTV counterparts.
The design of the DLP light engine makes it relatively impervious to heat, humidity and vibration. According to Samsung, this means clarity and color accuracy remain consistent and reliable over years of use.
Here’s a statistic provided by the Samsung literature that it’s unlikely any of us are able to actually confirm – anytime soon: Under normal operating conditions, Samsung says, a typical DLP display will provide optimal performance for an estimated 100,000 hours — that’s almost 35 years of watching TV, eight hours a day!