Samsung SP50L7HXX 50in DLP TV Review
- Review Price: £1600.00
To say that Samsung’s SP50L7HXX is one striking looking TV is like saying Princess Diana was a bit popular. It is, in fact, not only the most original TV design ever seen in the rear projection world, but quite probably the most attractive too. And it’s all down to rocket power.
To explain. The SP50L7HXX is, as you can tell from our pictures, basically a huge 50in screen perched on top of a slinky, floorstanding metallic cylinder quite unlike the undercarriages of any other rear projection seen before. And the reason the cylindrical stand is possible is Samsung’s ‘Rocket Engine’ technology, which lets Samsung mount the DLP projector at the SP50L7HXX’s heart completely vertically. Let’s just hope we don’t have to suffer any picture quality compromises as a result of this style-induced innovation.
There is perhaps one flaw with the SP50L7HXX’s design; people who like to stick their DVD players, Sky receivers, games consoles and so on under their TV will doubtless be wondering where to put all this source kit given that there are no shelves on the cylindrical stand. But heck – you can’t really blame Samsung for not wanting to sully the looks of the SP50L7HXX with mere practicalities, right?
Connections on this Samsung are rock solid, including as they do an HDMI jack, a trio of Scarts, component video inputs, and a D-Sub PC jack. The only thing we might ideally have liked to see extra is a second HDMI.
The DLP projector inside the SP50L7HXX employs a Texas Instruments ‘DarkChip’ chipset complete with an HD Ready native resolution of 1,280 x 720 – something which proves the set is using reasonably up to date components, and which explains the pretty respectable claimed contrast ratio of 3000:1. We’ve seen DarkChip DLP chipsets doing some pretty pleasing things in the front projection world, so hopefully we’ll enjoy the same positive results here.
Aside from its HD Ready status, the SP50L7HXX’s most significant feature is probably its DNIe processing engine, a proprietary Samsung system designed to improve the appearance of motion, sharpness/detailing, colours, and black levels. Of course, practically every TV known to man these days claims to have a similar system, so we’ll have to see if the Samsung’s actually delivers anything above the norm.
Another, more unusual trick available via the TV’s attractive onscreen menus is a ‘My Colour Control’ system. This feature lets you tweak the relative levels of the pink, blue and green parts of the image in isolation, so that other elements of the colour tone that you might actually be happy with aren’t negatively affected by your tweaking of the one element. Beyond this there are more straightforward adjustments for the red, green and blue image elements. One thing you surprisingly won’t find, however, is a built-in digital tuner.
It’s apparent pretty much from the off that the SP50L7HXX’s unusual design has not wreaked havoc on the TV’s picture quality. Its pictures are for the most part very good indeed – and even when the odd flaw raises its ugly head, it doesn’t appear to be the Rocket Engine design’s fault.
The first thing that hits you positively about the SP50L7HXX’s pictures is their almost complete freedom from all sorts of video noise. There’s precious little grain, no edge shimmering, no colour noise over fine details, no dot crawl… even the greenish dotting that can affect dark parts of a picture on a DLP TV is better handled than usual.
Partly as a result of this latter fact, the Samsung’s black levels actually look darker than the claimed 3000:1 contrast ratio would suggest – very unusual in an environment where manufacturers routinely produce hopelessly optimistic contrast measurements.
This black level strength helps give pictures a fine sense of three-dimensional depth, as well as playing a part in making colours look as dynamic and vibrant as any we’ve seen from a DLP TV to date.
The strengths described so far are enough in themselves to make the SP50L7HXX a very watchable TV – so if you’re unable to resist the charm of its design and price tag – after all, £1,600 for 50in of HD Ready screen really is very reasonable – you can also rest assured that you won’t have to put up with any rubbish on the picture front.
Yet as we suggested earlier, the SP50L7HXX does have one or two issues you should be aware of. First, with picture settings optimised to keep noise and black levels at their best, the TV’s pictures tend to look a touch soft with both high and standard definition sources.
Second, while watching films via the HDMI connection we occasionally spotted some quite noticeable blocking noise over dark areas. This is actually caused by the TV’s unusually high brightness output bringing out noise from the disc encoding process that’s usually hidden in darkness. You can reduce the impact of this noise considerably – but only by dropping the brightness settings lower than you might feel entirely comfortable with.
Finally, colours sporadically lose a little of the natural toning touch that for much of the time is one of the TV’s strengths. These problematic colour moments tend to be during dark scenes involving shots of people’s faces, as their skin suddenly takes on a slightly sickly pallor.
The speakers dramatically and visibly ranged down each side of the SP50L7HXX don’t sound quite as impressive as they look. They’re powerful enough to ship out an appealingly expansive soundstage, and people’s voices always sound 100 per cent convincing no matter how riotous the audio maelstrom around them. But the set’s audio range doesn’t extend quite far enough at either the bass or treble ends of the spectrum, leaving the mid-range sounding a touch compressed. Also, if you really pump up the volume the speakers can start to distort.
The SP50L7HXX’s picture quality isn’t quite state of the art by today’s standards. But it’s still good enough when combined with the dazzling design and impressively low price tag to make the SP50L7HXX a very desirable package for anyone hunting for huge pictures on a budget.
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We test every TV we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
Score in detail
Image Quality 8
Sound Quality 8