Even without needing to place a probe on the TV, we could already tell that the Samsung UE-32EH5000′s black level was very, very good. Our subjective impression was subsequently backed up by objective measurements which confirmed that the set is capable of delivering some of the deepest blacks we’ve witnessed on an LCD-based display this year.
Like all Samsung LED TVs we’ve reviewed this year, the UE32EH5000 automatically shuts off its backlight – this is unavoidable regardless of which picture preset is used – when asked to display a full black screen. The auto-dimming can be defeated by presenting even the tiniest amount of non-black content on screen, for example a pause icon. Using this method to prevent the LEDs from being turned off completely, we measured calibrated black level to be 0.035 cd/m2 on a full-field video black scene.
Amazingly, this deep level of blacks was retained even on an ANSI checkerboard pattern: our light meter returned the exact same figure of 0.035 cd/m2 (ok, 0.0351). To put the EH5000′s outstanding black-level performance into perspective, the numbers recorded on the ES8000 and ES7000 – Samsung’s high-end models costing several times more – were 0.05 and 0.056 cd/m2 respectively (the lower the number, the deeper the blacks, and vice versa).
Granted, the Samsung UE32EH5000′s LED bulbs are positioned differently from those on the ES8000/ ES7000: on the former, they are arranged behind the whole LCD screen (albeit without local dimming technology); whereas on the latter the LEDs are mounted along the edges, allowing for a slimmer design. But if adding a few inches to a TV’s waistline can bring about better black levels, then we’ll be the first to sign up to a “Say No To Size Zero” campaign!
Screen & Backlight Uniformity
Distributing the LED lamps evenly across the entire panel at the expense of a thinner chassis seemed to have benefited screen and backlight uniformity as well. Even in a pitch-dark room, there was nary a hint of clouding nor banding visible on predominantly dark content. If we peered really hard, the top and bottom left corners on our 32EH5000 review sample appeared very slightly – and we do mean very slightly – brighter, but that’s getting into nitpicking territory.
The UE32EH5000 is not equipped with any motion-compensated frame interpolation (MCFI) technology, so it’s hardly surprisingly that its motion resolution (as measured using Chapter 31 of the FPD Benchmark Software test disc) was 300, a figure we normally obtain on a vanilla, unassisted LCD panel.
There exists an intriguing feature called [LED Motion Plus] in the [Picture Options] submenu, which appears to be some sort of backlight synchronisation technology. Activating this did not result in any increase in measured motion resolution, but did subjectively enhance the perceived clarity of moving objects. However, because engaging [LED Motion Plus] not only entailed a drop in overall brightness, but also introduced double ghost images (and made them more visible due to the “anti-hold” effect), we do not recommend it for normal viewing.
The SD processing of Samsung HDTVs over the past few years has been among the best we’ve seen on consumer-grade displays, and this holds true even on an entry-level model like the UE32EH5000. All the lines in the SMPTE RP-133 test chart (fed over 576i to the television) were resolved in full without excessive ringing, and jaggies were smoothened very effectively for video-based material.
As long as [Film Mode] was engaged, the Samsung LED LCD TV passed both the 3:2 and 2:2 cadence tests over 480i and 576i respectively, although it was a bit sluggish locking on to the latter. Two [Film Mode] settings are available: “Auto1” and “Auto2“. The first caused the scrolling text overlaid upon film material in mixed edits to exhibit combing artefacts, so we advise using “Auto2” for day-to-day viewing.
By and large, the Samsung UE32EH5000 delivered extremely appealing HD images which belie its modest price tag, underpinned by deep blacks, natural-looking colours (after calibration), and pin-sharp detail (from 1080 source with [Screen Fit] selected) that is untarnished by any superfluous edge enhancement or film grain smoothing.
Where this HDTV can potentially trip up is during predominantly dark scenes. Owing to the aforementioned upward bump in gamma tracking around 10% stimulus, shadow detail can be more difficult to make out, especially if compared to a display with flatter gamma.
Another problem is the screen’s tendency to exhibit trails behind dark objects in motion, a trait common to VA-type LCD panels. In darker footage (for example certain night sequences in The Amazing Spider-Man), these motion trails/ streaks caused the picture to look even more “smeared” and blurry. The issue is no worse than what we’ve witnessed on other VA-based LCDs, but it can be jarring to those who are used to watching IPS LCD, plasma or CRT TVs.
Upon up-close inspection, the EH5000 betrayed a very mild judder when fed with 1080p/24 video signal. But because of the (relatively) small screen size, we didn’t really notice the judder when watching Blu-ray movies from a viewing distance of 4 feet away.
Normally we don’t even bother commenting on the audio quality of most flat-screen HDTVs we review since it’s typically limp and disappointing, but the UE32EH5000′s acoustic performance deserves a paragraph of its own. Its downfiring speakers is capable of outputting substantial bass without muddying the mids and highs, contributing to a full-bodied sound, which we believe is a byproduct of the thicker cabinet design. Another reason to like “fatter” TVs then!
A few years ago, most television manufacturers – led ironically by Samsung – began to put a lot of effort into trimming down the depth of their LED-based LCD TVs, so much so that it became a contest of slenderness instead of image quality. While aesthetically stunning, these impossibly svelte edge LED LCD displays tend to suffer from screen/ backlight uniformity issues due to the inherently uneven distribution of LEDs, and the proximity of the backlight unit to the LCD screen.
Thankfully the Samsung UE32EH5000 bucks this unhealthy trend, preferring to let its picture (and sound) rather than its waistline do the talking. Saddled with a bulging derriere, the TV won’t be in the running for any design award anytime soon, but on the upside you get very impressive black-level performance, screen uniformity and audio quality.
Available to buy for under £300, the 32EH5000 rekindles memories of some outstanding budget offerings from the Korean manufacturer such as 2010′s LE32C530 and 2009′s LE32B450. Although it’s not the equal of other 2012 HDTVs that we’ve deemed “Highly Recommended”, the Samsung EH5000 represents excellent value for money which earns it a spot in this category.
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