Samsung UE37D5000 £600
3rd Aug 2011 | 14:55
Super-slim TV with edge LED backlighting, but no Freeview HD
Samsung UE37D5000: Overview
The Samsung UE37D5000 is one of best value flatscreen TVs available, despite a few surprising holes in the spec sheet.
Fitted with a full HD panel and plenty of HDMI inputs it may be, but there's no Freeview HD tuner. With the digital switchover having long since swept aside analogue broadcasting in large swathes of the country, it's a huge risk to sell a TV to the masses that doesn't have the hardware to fetch the likes of BBC One HD, ITV HD and BBC HD.
However, we're presuming that this gap in the UE37D5000's spec is deliberate. After all, subscribers to Virgin and Sky both need flat tellies (and at this price, there's none flatter than the UE37D5000), but obviously don't want to pay for duplicated hardware.
With Samsung's range of TVs that use LED backlighting growing by the year, the UE37D5000 – together with its siblings, the 22-inch UE22D5000, 27-inch UE27D5000, 32-inch UE32D5000, 40-inch UE40D5000 and 46-inch UE46D5000 – finds itself sandwiched between various models that are identical save for a few minor details.
But it's a close call between this set and the D5530 Series just above it in Samsung's arsenal; those screens are also fitted with LED backlighting and 100Hz scanning, with the 32-inch UE32D5520, 37-inch UE37D5520, 40-inch Samsung UE40D5520 and 46-inch UE46D5520 all including the brand's expanded Smart TV Apps – including 3D content – as well as a Freeview HD tuner.
Below the D5000 Series is the – wait for it – D4000 Series, a two-strong range that removes 100Hz scanning and offers just a sole USB slot. The 32-inch UE32D4000 has four HDMI inputs, but the 19-inch UE19D4000 has just three. Everything else below these sets in the Samsung line-up are built around more basic, and cheaper, CCFL-backlit LCD panels, the likes of which have been around for yonks.
Looks-wise, the UE37D5000 is a cracker. At a mere 29mm in depth it's one of the slimmest around, and is sure to catch the eye of anyone impressed by the biscuit thickness of Samsung's much more expensive LED sets.
We're not huge fans of the 'looking glass' tube that connects the UE37D5000 to its desktop stand and aren't all that impressed by its build quality, either. In fact, the whole TV seems a little unsteady and, supported by a couple of tiny screws, it's not difficult to see why. Anyone with kids ought to bear this potential fragility in mind, though wall-mounters won't have anything to worry about.
Elsewhere the UE37D5000's bezel, while wider than Samsung's higher-end sets, measures just an inch and is rimmed by a couple of millimetres of yet more transparent plastic. Still, it's better looking than gloss black, a finish that's quickly becoming indicative of budget TVs.
Samsung UE37D5000: Features
Hi-def is purely an add-on for the UE37D5000. As such, it's equipped with four HDMI inputs, so hooking-up a plethora of HD gear poses no problem.
Elsewhere on the UE37D5000's rear are a few clues that things have had to change radically in order to achieve that 29mm depth. In the box is a Scart adaptor, and also a meatier version that combines inputs for component video with a set of stereo analogue jacks. In normal operation neither of these adaptors should get heavy use, though anyone planning on attaching an Xbox360 via component might find the extra cables an unsightly mess beneath a wall-hung TV.
Unusually, all the in and outputs are stored on the right-hand side of the screen. The side houses two USB slots (one can take a hard-disk drive, but both are placed rather too high up), four HDMI, a digital optical audio output and that socket that combines component video with stereo audio inputs. The undercarriage takes care of RF aerial, 15-pin VGA for PC, Ethernet LAN, a slimmed-down Scart socket, a headphones jack and composite video.
If you do need to place the TV away from a broadband router then Samsung makes an optional USB dongle – the WIS09ABGNX WiFi Link Stick.
That will take-up one of the USB slots, which can accept iPods and cameras via USB cables, as well as thumb drives full of files. The UE37D5000 can also stream media from a networked PC using DLNA AllShare, something we'll come on to later, though Samsung has rested its Smart Hub interface and app store on this mid-range set.
In terms of picture quality, the UE37D5000's Hyper Real Engine suite of picture processing has more in its arsenal than most in this price category. The edge LED backlight arranges its lights around the sides of the panel to fire across it. This system isn't as dynamic as full (or direct) LED panels, but Samsung has clearly – and rightly, given most consumers' preferences – put slimness at the top of its list. Still, if you're upgrading from an older LCD TV you'll immediately notice that blacks are more convincing and colours more realistic, especially with Blu-ray.
The panel's full HD resolution is joined by 100Hz Clear Motion Rate tech and Samsung's 3D colour stretching Wide Colour Enhancer circuitry. While it's not necessarily there to help improve the picture quality, the UE37D5000 also includes an optional Eco Sensor that auto-calibrates the panel's brightness according to the levels of ambient light in a room.
Samsung UE37D5000: Picture
The UE37D5000 is capable of some slinky, silky pictures far from the extreme brightness of its dynamic mode.
Put into Movie mode and properly calibrated (we ignored typical Samsung features such as black tone enhancer and various noise-suppression tools but tweaked the gamma) the UE37D5000 is capable of serious highs with Blu-ray.
That innate brightness and wide contrast combine to lend colour some bold, well saturated tones, while remaining natural on our Blu-ray test disc The Tourist.
Black levels are good, nothing more; night on Venice's canals, nooks and alleyways seem a distinctly blue affair, though it's worth experimenting with the backlight level (accessed through the picture menu) to reduce that. At times, the UE37D5000 gets closer to pure black than it's any right to at this price, though the panel's brightness isn't completely uniform.
Horizontal camera pans are smooth enough and during fast action, such as the chase across the Venetian roofs in The Tourist, there's a touch of blur and loss of detail. It's never serious. More troubling are vertical camera pans, which leave a nasty stepped visual that are uncomfortable to watch.
Meanwhile, the many close-ups of Angelina Jolie in the movie are rendered with some flair that's miles from Freeview, though the UE37D5000 proves itself a pretty versatile set by producing clean digital TV images. Soft, yes, but clean.
Samsung UE37D5000: Sound, value and ease of use
Audio is astonishingly poor. There's plenty of detail – a blast of orchestral music from CDs receives tremendously nuanced treatment – but a complete lack of low frequency is to the overall sound's huge detriment. The various modes, including a choice between Music, Movie, Amplify and Clear Voice, don't do much to help.
If the UE37D5000 had a DVB-T2 tuner for Freeview HD, it would be the steal of the century. It hasn't, but a combination of excellent hi-def images, clean upscaled standard-definition, decent media support from USB and a network, an excellent EPG and 100Hz add up to an ultra-competitive package.
Ease of use
It may lack apps, but the UE37D5000 does a reasonable job with digital media. Those after obscure file playback should head for a media streamer, though the basics are covered well enough here; insert a USB stick and a grid of files is presented, with a thumbnail for each – though a grab or still from each file never materialises.
In our test we managed to get AVC HD, MKV, MOV, AVI, MP4, MPEG and WMV files to play in rudimentary manner – though don't expect niceties like subtitles, chapter skipping, or a choice of audio – this is a relatively basic codec support system.
It's even more rudimentary when on a network. Connected to an iMac using TwonkyMedia we managed to get the same files to play, though not MKV. Given its current popularity, this is a real shame – as is the set's inability to use a hard-disk drive as simple PVR. This rules out at a stroke pause and rewind live TV features and is more evidence that the UE37D5000 is aimed at cable or satellite TV subscribers.
Meanwhile, music in MP3, WMA and AAC formats works across both USB and networks.
Despite lacking hi-def channels, the seven-day electronic programme guide for Freeview is excellent. Showing six channels and two hours of TV schedules in one view, its mixture of nuanced graphics and colour brings it alive, as does a thumbnail of the programme playing underneath, blessedly with audio, too.
The only complaints are that the EPG takes a second or two to appear upon pressing the remote's 'guide' button, and the whole page evaporates if not used for 20 seconds or so.
The remote itself is standard issue Samsung fare that's not changed in yonks; slightly chunky, curved, and of reasonably good build and design. Buttons are large and important keys obvious and well labelled. Not much need, then, for a smartphone app, but one does exist.
With the UE37D5000 on a Wi-Fi network, we downloaded the simply named 'Samsung Remote' from Apple's app store. It wasn't supposed to work with this TV – the remote informed us that only D5500 models and above are compatible – but we had few problems linking-up and operating the UE37D5000.
Trouble is, the gesture screen is way too wild to navigate the EPG (it's tricky to hover over a specific programme without wobbling away), though there are some nice touches – a representation of the remote switches to show the directional keys if, say, you select the 'source' list. All very logical, though we've seen far simpler apps for TVs that do more than just replicate a physical remote.
Despite that haul of pros and few cons, it's the UE37D5000's slim design that will help it see off much of its competition and for many this TV will represent a solid bargain.
Samsung UE37D5000: Verdict
Firmly in Samsung's Series 5 TVs for 2011 and already discounted to below the £500 mark, value seeps from every pore of this 37-inch Edge ED set. Who cares about 3D, Smart TV or Freeview HD?
Its great value pictures are studded with blacks, contrast, natural but punchy colours, and some anti-blur tech that, for the most part, works well. Its media capabilities and classy Freeview EPG impress and although a slight annoyance to some, the lack of Freeview HD means a better value set for those who either aren't interested in hi-def, or who have a Virgin HD/TiVo or Sky HD box.
The lack of a DVB-T2 tuner for fetching Freeview HD channels does seem a shame, as does the absence of Samsung's Smart Hub platform and associated apps – with BBC iPlayer being the biggest draw. The set's incapable of streaming MKV files over a network despite being able to play them from a USB drive, while audio is simply terrible.
A great value LED backlit LCD TV that deserves to sell in droves. Freeview HD, 3D, Smart Hub apps and decent audio are missing, but this 37-incher has enough about it to be the ideal living room TV; good looks, a slim profile, and versatile picture quality – and it's capable of delivering extraordinary pictures from Blu-ray.
Follow TechRadar Reviews on Twitter: http://twitter.com/techradarreview