Editor's note: The motion distortion observed in our earlier testing was diagnosed as a faulty power cord problem. The review performance details have been upgraded to reflect the results of new testing.
If you had a deep sense of dÃƒÂ©jÃƒÂ vu after setting your sights on this 32-incher, we reckon you are familiar with Samsung's trademark black-and-silver styling for both its plasma and LCD range. Make no mistake, this proven design is by no means dated, retaining its unwavering charm with a classy and minimalist appeal.
It took us sometime to hunt down the stealthy speaker array. (Click to enlarge)
The 19.2kg TV came with a detachable table-top stand with wall mount capability via an optional kit. The relative lack of ventilation vents on its rear panel allow a near flushed wall installation but at the expense of cooling efficiency -- our review unit ran hot but survived our grueling test nonetheless.
We have seen better Samsung remotes compared with the one offered by the LA32M51B. Dressed in boring grey in the all-too-familiar candy-bar form factor, it looks awkward beside the sleek and stylish panel. Nevertheless, the remote is comfortable to hold and easy to operate, thanks to a set of well-organised buttons.
Fairing much better in our opinion is the TV's intuitive user menu. Here you can find all the necessary A/V options for customising the LCD panel and onboard speakers. There is even an advanced pink-green-blue setting dubbed "My Color Control", to satisfy hardcore tweakers for fine-tuning colour balance.
At the heart of this 32-inch (81 cm) TV is a High Definition-ready 1,366 x 768-pixel LCD panel which packs some impressive figures with an amazingly high 3,000:1 contrast ratio and a fast 8ms response time. On the other hand, brightness and viewing angle are on a more down-to-earth scale with 500cd/m2 and 170-degree, respectively.
Like most of the new-generation TVs, the LA32M51B is outfitted with its proprietary DNIe image enhancement engine equipped with automatic contrast and brightness adjustment. The latter is made possible with a built-in light sensor situated next to the remote control sensor. In tests conducted in our week-long review, the TV responded favourably in different lighting conditions but was way too sensitive to our likings.
To complement the sophisticated video processing, Samsung has thrown in the SRS TruSurround XT sound enhancer and a five-band graphics equaliser to beef up audio reproduction. For audiophiles, there is also an option to disable the onboard speakers without resorting to the mute button, if you want to reroute audio to a high-end sound system.
All the A/V sockets are neatly laid out on the rear panel. (Click to enlarge)
The Samsung is no slouch when it comes to connectivity. On its back, are two pairs of component-video sockets, a VGA input for PC interface and an all-digital HDMI terminal. This is on top of the usual spread of composite A/V and S-video jacks which are also conveniently located by the side of the chassis for occasional hookup with camcorders and digicams.
The high contrast worked wonders in resolving shadow details which was near perfect with Avia's greyscale test pattern. Performing equally well was the accurate colour decoder as with the flawless geometry and convergence control. Sharpness, however, yielded mixed impressions with defined outlines in Avia animations and soft contours in some film-based content. We also observed strong blacks and whites in most clips, especially for the superbly rendered space shuttle in the NASA Montage from Digital Video Essentials.
Viewing off-the-air broadcasts on the LA32M51B was an enjoyable experience. The image displayed onscreen was clear and relatively ghost-free even with sports programs where panning shots of players were a common sight.
To test the sharpness of computer fonts, we hooked up an XGA (1,024 x 768) laptop to the PC input via a Monster Cable high-resolution monitor interface cable. To our surprise, text turned out softer than expected. Nevertheless, the problem should be resolved if you own a rare 1,360 x 768-pixel-capable graphics chip which complies with Samsung's recommended input resolution.
Our skepticism on the narrow speaker arrays was verified during our audio testing with its bass-shy performance. On a more positive note, audio belted out by the tiny speakers was crisp and clean. Imaging was also top-notch when we enabled TruSurround's Stereo mode which beat the flat 3D mono mode hands down.