Frank, the local independent technician assigned by Samsung, showed up on Thursday. He first tried to replace the ballast on the TV–a procedure that can be accomplished through the bulb maintenance opening–but that didn’t improve the situation. He then proceeded to open the rear cover. A cordless drill with a long Phillips head bit is the only tool needed to service the HL-P5063W. Inside, there are only two component assemblies, both about the size of toaster ovens: the light engine (which contains the bulb, color wheel, etc.) and the motherboard (which has all the external connectors). The next step was swapping out the light engine, which Frank did. This seemed to fix the problem, so Frank reassembled the back of the unit. It seemed to me that a nice side benefit of this repair would be that replacing the engine necessarily replaces the lamp, ballast, color wheel, projector assembly and every moving part in the television.
Next came the screen. I imagined something a little more sturdy and modular, but in fact the screen is just a flimsy (about a quarter inch thick) laminate of a Fresnel lens (back side) and a polarizing filter (facing the viewer), both plastic. Most of the front parts of the TV simply snap off, and again a few Phillips head screws were removed. It was then a simple matter to lift out the old screen and place the new one. This middle part of the process is a little daunting, I must say, because when the screen is removed it exposes both the large mirror at the back of the case and the projector lens at the bottom, neither of which you want to get the slightest dust or smudge on. There was also a glitch when Frank mistakenly removed the screen’s bottom retaining rail. This part is meant to remain fixed during screen replacement on the Samsung, and when removed several snap clips for the speaker cover fall out. Holding these clips (at least 6 of them) while replacing the rail turned out to be a two-person job.
The unit reassembled, Frank then booted the television, accessed the service menu (I didn’t catch how he did this, but I assumed I could find it online, and I was right [for the brave: Power Off, Mute, 1, 8, 2, Power On]), and did some minimal calibration (I think two settings). He also reset the bulb counter, which stood at about 1600 hours on the original bulb. I find it interesting that the bulb counter resides on the motherboard and not in the engine. This means that a user replacing the bulb has no way to reset or even see the bulb counter without hacking into the service menu–the counter does not reset itself when the bulb is replaced.
We then moved the television back to the entertainment center. I reconnected it and left it running for a few hours with no problems. Unfortunately, later that night, after watching about an hour of television, green pixels began appearing. The situation worsened until almost half the screen was filled with green smears at any given time. I tried power cycling and then hard power cycling, but nothing seemed to improve the situation.
I talked to Frank again Friday morning. He said I most likely got a “bad engine.” He didn’t sound at all surprised. He was out of Samsung engines so he said he would order one and have it Monday or Tuesday. Until then we’ve been getting by. Usually the TV is fine for almost an hour before the pixels really begin to take over, and it’s never been as bad again as the first night.
So overall this is an improvement from where we were last weekend. But the clock is ticking on the Samsung warranty with only about a month left. After that, if there’s a problem, the process starts all over again with Mack, the extended warranty provider.