Samsung UE32D5000 £450
4th Aug 2011 | 14:40
This 32-inch LED TV delivers superb pictures at an affordable price
Samsung UE32D5000: Overview
Samsung's premium LED TVs are so advanced that they're one malfunction away from taking over the human race. From Smart Hub web content and wireless media streaming to 3D, USB support and HD tuners, the Korean company's high-end sets are packed with flashy features and smart technology that make them more akin to computers than TVs.
But not everyone wants this sort of sophistication. Many people simply want a TV that allows them to watch programmes and play Blu-ray discs without having to do a degree in quantum physics first. That's where the UE32D5000 comes in. This modestly sized LED TV lacks the above bells and whistles but comes in at a very affordable price, making it an ideal second set for the bedroom or kitchen.
It's an edge-lit LED effort from Samsung's midrange 5000 series, which also includes the 27-inch UE27D5000, 37-inch UE37D5000, 40-inch UE40D5000 and the 46-inch UE46D5000.
Design wise it looks a lot classier than its rock-bottom price tag would suggest. The thin black bezel is surrounded by a transparent plastic rim that's more fetching than it sounds, while the table stand also uses transparent plastic for the neck and around the flat base, completing a very sleek and modern look.
What's more, LED technology has allowed Samsung to squeeze the UE32D5000's depth down to a wafer-thin 30mm, which, aside from being a mind-boggling achievement, makes the UE32D5000 perfect for wall mounting. The fact that we were able to lift the TV in its box with one hand is testament to the space-saving efficiency of LED technology (and not to the Herculaneum strength of Techradar's reviewers).
Samsung UE32D5000: Features
Samsung has placed all the connections facing sideways on the rear of the UE32D5000, which again helps when wall mounting.
There's a surprisingly generous selection of sockets too, given the price and amount of space available on the rear – you get no less than four HDMI inputs, component/composite video input (through the supplied minijack adapter cable), 15-pin D-Sub PC input with separate audio input and an RGB Scart input, which again requires an adapter cable due to the slimness of the screen.
You'll also find optical digital audio and headphone outputs, a common interface slot for adding Pay TV channels and two USB ports.
The UE32D5000 doesn't feature built-in Wi-Fi, so if you want a wireless web connection you'll need to fork out for Samsung's optional dongle and connect it to one of those USB ports. If not, there's always the Ethernet port to fall back on.
Wi-Fi is just one of the high-profile features missing from the UE32D5000's spec sheet. Another is Smart Hub, Samsung's latest internet content portal, which is a pity given the excellent range of video, music and social networking sites it provides, but forgivable given the price tag.
But we're in a much less charitable mood over the lack of a Freeview HD tuner, which we thought would be pretty much standard on all flatpanel sets by now. We can't imagine why anyone would want to buy a full HD LED set that's limited to bog-standard standard-definition Freeview, even at this price. Even if you're a Sky HD viewer, it's still good to know your set has built-in HD channels should you ever need them.
And anyone hoping to delve into the third dimension is out of luck. There's no support for 3D, given that the HDMI inputs are all v1.3, but not many budget buyers would expect to get 3D compatibility at this knock-down price.
Anyway, it's not all bad news. The UE32D5000 supports DLNA media streaming, which means you can access music, movies and photos stored on PCs or mobile devices hooked up to your home network. This is undoubtedly a clever feature and the ability to stream videos will be a godsend if you have gigabytes' worth of movies and photos sitting dormant on PC hard-drives.
But as an aside, we do question how useful music streaming is on a TV, given the notoriously bad sound quality offered by most flatpanel sets. You can also play media from USB storage devices and external HDDs, with a list of supported formats that includes DivX HD, MP3, WMA, AVI, WMV and JPEG. The UE32D5000 doesn't support external HDD recording though.
As for picture tech, the UE32D5000 is driven by Samsung's Hyper Real Engine, backed up by Clear Motion 100Hz processing to help clean up that old LCD bugbear of motion blur using a combination of the UE32D5000 chipset, panel and backlight. Meanwhile, Wide Colour Enhancer Plus aims to reveal even the subtlest tones.
Samsung UE32D5000: Picture
So the UE32D5000 is easy to use and light on features, but how does it perform? Very well, actually. What strikes you first is the remarkable vibrancy of its images, which really bring out the best in bright, colourful CG-animated movies and day-to-day Freeview fare. It's the sort of brightness level that screams 'watch me' but doesn't make the image seem washed out or pasty.
That's backed up by a wonderfully judged colour palette, which remains realistic at all times and doesn't suffer from any blocky gradation as one tone blends into another. These strengths are obviously at their clearest when playing a hi-def Blu-ray disc, which looks crisper and more detailed than you might have expected from such an affordable TV. The clarity with which it renders fine textures and patterns is masterful, giving images an excellent sense of depth, and that unmistakeable high-definition stamp of quality.
When the light fades, the good work continues. Although this isn't the finest contrast performance we've seen, dark scenes look clearer than expected, shedding light (so to speak) on the most intricate details and background objects. Try playing around with the unusual Shadow Detail adjustment in the Picture menu and there's a subtle improvement in dark scene visibility.
Black objects also convince – the UE32D5000 is capable of producing a believable black tone when called for, free from that misty greyness that can blight LED sets. The only real issue during these dark scenes is that the backlight isn't as uniform as it should be, but that's not something that will greatly distract from your viewing enjoyment.
And fans of sport or gaming will be pleased to know that the UE32D5000's motion processing is smooth, keeping smudgy image lag at bay and maintaining the visibility of small, fast-moving objects. There are hints of pixel shimmering when the camera moves quickly and a slight drop in sharpness, but it does avoid horrible picture break-up and judder – which is a remarkable achievement given that we've seen sets costing twice as much that lose the plot when the picture gets too busy.
Standard-definition pictures look impressive too, showing the usual signs of MPEG blocking in places, but slick upscaling combined with that superb brightness and colour handling, make them look generally smooth and vibrant. While watching BBC One, ITV One and Channel 4 we couldn't suppress our disappointment that there wasn't an HD equivalent to flip over to, given how used we've got to the extra sparkling detail that Freeview HD channels can bring.
Samsung UE32D5000: Sound, value and ease of use
The UE32D5000's impossibly slim dimensions make you wonder how it manages to make a sound at all, but it does – and then some. The built-in 20W speakers produce an undeniably thin, boxed-in sound but it can go surprisingly loud, and does so without fatiguing the ears. It doesn't really get to the heart of movies, but it does a fine job with Freeview programmes that rely heavily on speech.
If you're not happy with the audio out of the box you can greatly improve its dynamism by having a play with the various sound modes on board, which include Music, Movie, Clear Voice and Amplify presets, as well as SRS TruSurround HD, SRS TruDialog and even an equaliser that lets you alter specific frequencies.
The UE32D5000 may not be packed with smart features like Samsung's premium sets, but the surprisingly high quality of its pictures, coupled with some enticing tricks like DLNA networking and USB media playback, still make the UE32D5000 feel like exceptionally good value for around £400.
Its greatest crime however, is a lack of a Freeview HD tuner. With that, we could have had an even bigger bargain on our hands.
Ease of use
Your first port of call for most functions is the main menu, confusingly labelled as 'Hub' and 'Smart' on the relevant remote button. This is a snazzy, user-friendly screen, boasting gorgeous full colour icon graphics that dance around when highlighted alongside legible lists that float above them.
It's broken down into Watch TV (which is where you'll find the Freeview-related stuff like the EPG and Channel List), Source (input selection), and My Downloads (where you can access Videos, Photos or music from connected devices). This menu responds quickly to remote commands, keeping frustration at bay.
Hit the separate Menu key on the remote and up pops the setup screen. This is the classic Samsung setup menu, using a row of animated icons down the side and a list on the left that changes when you move from icon to icon, and what's also pleasing is that you get a brief explanation at the bottom of the screen when you highlight any option.
This covers all your key settings – super-simple network setup, sound and channel tuning – plus the Picture menu offers a surprisingly detailed list of adjustments besides the usual stuff like backlight, contrast, brightness, colour and so forth.
There's a group of noise reduction modes and colour tone settings, plus adjustments for Flesh Tone, White Balance, Colour Space, Gamma, Shadow Detail, Dynamic Contrast, Black Tone and LED Motion Plus. It's great to see that you don't have to compromise on picture flexibility just because you're on a tight budget.
Elsewhere, the Freeview EPG is a decent effort, managing to squeeze in all of the relevant info (including a live TV box) without seeming overly cluttered. The programme grid shows six channels at a time and you can make out the names of most programmes, plus the synopsis is always on show at the top of the screen, removing the need for another unnecessary button press.
Colour-coded options along the bottom let you skip days easily. The onscreen programme banner is equally impressive, going into a pleasing amount of detail and allowing you to look ahead in the schedules on any channel.
We also had little trouble using the DLNA functionality, once the set found the content stored on our laptop. The menus are laid out with an eye for simplicity and logic, using large letters and thumbnails. The only downer is the few seconds' delay when moving between each menu screen. We also streamed music to the UE32D5000 using Windows Play To, and it worked a treat. The only sign of insubordination was its refusal to play an AVCHD file over the network.
Another handy feature is the E-Manual, which adds to the general sense of user-friendliness. It explains all of the key features in detail, and will be a godsend for people whose homes are like a Bermuda Triangle for paper manuals.
Finally, a word about the remote. It is a breeze to operate aside from the misleading main menu button. What we like most is the size and feel of the buttons, which are big, chunky and rubbery – just like Panasonic's excellent zappers, which are clearly the inspiration for this design.
Samsung UE32D5000: Verdict
If you want to be bombarded by brainy network-based functions and other cutting-edge tricks currently en vogue in the AV market then the UE32D5000 is not the set for you. If you want a TV with Freeview HD, then again give this set a miss.
But if you want a stylish, easy-to-use TV that delivers superb pictures with Blu-ray and Freeview, then the very likeable UE32D5000 is well worth investigating.
The UE32D5000's pictures are remarkably vibrant, natural and detailed, making Blu-ray discs look more dazzling than you'd expect on a small screen at this price.
It's typically stylish for a Samsung set too, and features-wise the inclusion of USB ports and DLNA media streaming are welcome at this price, particularly given how well they work. The attractive onscreen menu design and intuitive remote make it extremely easy to use.
The UE32D5000's inclusion of a standard Freeview tuner over an HD one is a blunder in our book, and could deter a great number of people who expect HD channels as standard when investing in a new TV.
Although decent, the UE32D5000's black level don't hit the heights of the best LED sets and although its price puts the absence of Smart Hub into context, we're inevitably disappointed that it's not here.
The UE32D5000's status as a showpiece living-room TV is undermined by the lack of features, such as 3D, Smart Hub, Wi-Fi and Freeview HD, but if you want to bring full HD into the kitchen or bedroom – where HD pictures and fancy functions might not be as essential – then the UE32D5000 is a terrific choice, particularly at such a knock-down price.
Throw dashing looks, DLNA, a top-notch operating system, and excellent picture quality into the mix and life looks even rosier for this cracking 32-inch set.
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