Samsung UE32D5000 LED LCD TV Review

Black Level

Samsung have been the leaders in LCD black level for many years now, and more recently, their LED-based LCDs have also featured the same exceptionally deep blacks that were once only available on traditional CCFL-backlit LCD TVs.

With a fully black (or almost fully black) screen, the Samsung UE32D5000 dims its LED light output – subtly – and reaches down to 0.028 cd/m2. The “native”, unassisted black level of the panel, though, is revealed by the ANSI checkerboard test, which puts both pitch black and bright white boxes on screen. Here, the black patch in the middle measured 0.046 cd/m2, which is a good result, and roughly in line with what we were expecting.

Motion Resolution

Before doing any calibration work on the UE32D5000, we first of all pulled out our FPD Benchmark Test disc to assess the TV’s motion options (actually, its single motion option). Despite not being fitted with any 100hz/200hz motion processing circuitry, the Samsung D5000 does still feature the [LED Motion Plus] control, which introduces backlight (okay, side-light) scanning, which theoretically will reduce the motion blur effect caused by the way the human eye interacts with an LCD panel. There are some down-sides associated with it, though. Firstly, it dims the picture. This isn’t a problem in our view, because even dimmed, the 32D5000 produced enough light for our viewing environment (although viewers in very bright rooms may beg to differ). More objectionably, it produced visible flicker with very bright images.

We compared the on and off settings with the test sequences from the FPD Benchmark Disc (which we routinely use for assessing the motion quality of flat-screen HDTV displays), as well as with the synthetic scrolling test pattern. We found that although turning the [LED Motion Plus] control on didn’t net us any quantifiable increase in motion resolution, it did make the blurred portions look slightly more detailed. Or, put another way, it didn’t reduce the length of trails left by moving objects on the panel, but it did create a little bit more visible detail inside the trailed areas. As a result, we chose to make use of this feature, although owners who need to pump out every last nit of light the UE32D5000 is capable of producing (or who are sensitive to flicker) may prefer to leave it off.

In any case, the Samsung D5000 LED TV produced 300 distinct lines of resolution out of a possible 1080 during motion, a fairly low number which is typical for LCD panels operating without 100hz/200hz motion interpolation systems.

Standard Definition

The UE32D5000 performed fairly well with standard-definition material. High motion video camera content (the example we always give is televised sports) was handled well, with almost no diagonal jaggies making their way to the screen. As with other 2011 Samsung HDTVs using the MStar video processing chip, the D5000 also instantly detected film material inside a PAL TV signal and deinterlaced it accordingly, retaining full vertical detail. Ironically, Samsung’s more expensive models (which use a Samsung video processing chip) have been failing in this area recently.

Lastly, the Samsung UE32D5000 handled scaling well, cleanly reproducing every row and column of a standard-def video signal and resizing it to fit the Full HD panel with essentially no unwanted ringing. We did, however, notice some jaggedness when watching Digital TV broadcasts via the UE32D5000′s own internal tuner, with the most obvious example being the headline text (or the logo graphic) on the Sky News channel. This is in contrast to the more expensive Samsung displays, which feature the most jaggy-free scaling out of any manufacturer’s efforts.

High Definition

1080p Blu-ray Disc material looked great on the Samsung UE32D5000 – we had a look at Super 8 on the small screen and other than the usual LCD limitations, which require the viewer to sit exactly face-on (not from the sides) to see a high quality image, we had very few complaints. After being used to Plasma televisions, the slight unevenness of light distribution which is common to side-lit LED TVs was visible if we looked for it, but not annoying to the extent that it has been on some larger LED LCD TVs.

Outside of this, the UE32D5000 gets most things right. Before calibration, the red tint to the image was visible, but afterwards, we had absolutely no complaints with the realism of the on-screen images in real-world usage. When comparing to a display with reference-quality colour reproduction, we did notice that the 32D5000′s blues were slightly undersaturated and more purplish than would be ideal, but the inaccuracy was fairly small. There was absolutely no judder added by the HDTV to the 24p film images, nor was there any unwanted motion processing. Blacks were deep and involving (provided we were sitting dead-centre), and we didn’t have any complaints with motion, since the relatively low frame rate of film (24fps) doesn’t pose any huge challenge for LCD. Lastly, Samsung’s penchant for blurring film grain textures is in the past, and the Samsung D5000 reproduced every last pixel of detail from the disc without changes. There’s still the option to use Digital Noise Reduction in the TV menus if you choose, though.

When we compared the Samsung UE32D5000 alongside a comparatively priced Plasma television (a Panasonic S30) which was also here for review, we noticed that the former displayed some contouring/banding in areas where the latter did not. This, coupled with some static dither patterns we noticed in very dark areas, makes us wonder if the UE-32D5000 is using a lower precision video processor than the more advanced Samsung models (and indeed, than the display we compared it to). In any case, the effect was rarely noticeable, and at this price point, we can’t complain too much.

In the past, many have questioned the need for 1080p resolution on 32″ and smaller panels. Most of this questioning has stopped now that 1080p is affordable, however, and we’re glad to see this number of pixels on this small a screen. True, the difference between 1080p and 768p panels won’t be visible from a few feet away, but with a smaller screen such as this, we’d guess that more people will be sitting close, and will be able to appreciate all of the detail.

Console Gaming

As we’ve come to expect from the less processing-heavy HDTVs, the Samsung UE32D5000 performed wonderfully in terms of responsiveness, meaning that it should delight gamers. We measured the lag as averaging at around 16ms, which is not even a single frame’s delay. This was achieved without the use of “Game Mode”, in fact, as has been the case on previous entry-level Samsung displays, the “Game Mode” on the D5000 is just a marketing feature – selecting it doesn’t adjust the video processing beyond enforcing some non-standard white balance settings, and it doesn’t bring about any improvement in responsiveness. We simply used our calibrated “Movie” mode in this case.

Also, for the videophile gamers (or computer users), the UE-32D5000 can reproduce a 4:4:4 input signal with full colour resolution if the signal is input into the HDMI1 socket with the input labelled as “PC”.

Conclusion

There’s a lot to like about the Samsung UE32D5000, and at the current asking price of around £400, it presents decent value for money (although we begrudge the lack of Freeview HD/DVB-T2 tuner). The only real negatives relate to the use of non-MCFI assisted LED LCD display technology: fast motion video content will reveal motion blur, and the light distribution across the screen surface is slightly inconsistent, which is the price you pay for such a slim panel. It’s also a shame that the out-of-the-box picture was overly reddish, because we can’t imagine many entry-level televisions will be given the full calibration treatment.

However, if you’re looking for a smaller screen HDTV with great aesthetics, low power consumption, good black levels, excellent video game responsiveness, and potentially excellent picture quality with HD sources, then the UE32D5000 is a fairly solid choice.

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