Samsung UE40ES5500 LED LCD TV Review

Benchmark Test Results

Dead pixels None
Screen uniformity Good
Overscanning on HDMI 0% with [Aspect Ratio] set to “Just Scan
Blacker than black Passed
Calibrated black level (black screen) 0 cd/m2 (unrepresentative, lights turn off)
Calibrated black level (ANSI checkerboard) 0.05 cd/m2
Black level retention Auto dimming with full black screen
Primary chromaticity Good
Scaling Good
Video mode deinterlacing Effective jaggies reduction
Film mode deinterlacing Failed 2-2 PAL and 3-2 NTSC cadence tests
Viewing angle Average, image washes out from sides
Motion resolution 300 lines (poor)
Digital noise reduction Defeatable noise reduction
Sharpness Defeatable edge enhancement
Luma/Chroma bandwidth (2D Blu-ray) Full Luma, Chroma horizontally blurred
1080p/24 capability Excellent: no judder
Input lag 16ms compared to lag-free CRT
Full 4:4:4 reproduction (PC) Yes, with “PC” input label

Power Consumption

Default [Standard] mode 70 watts
Calibrated [Movie] mode 57 watts
Standby 1 watt

Picture Quality

Black Level

Samsung have a history of outperforming the LCD competition when it comes to black level depth, thanks to their use of PVA (Patterned Vertical Alignment) mode LCD panels. PVA typically does very well with regards to on-axis contrast performance, but less well with off-axis viewing quality, and motion (especially in darker shades, which have the tendency to smear).

We adjusted the Samsung UE40ES5500 so that a fully white window would measure 120 cd/m2 (a good level of brightness for viewing in a standard environment, and also for consistency with our other HDTV reviews), and found that in this setup, the ES5500′s minimum luminance level was 0.05 cd/m2. Of course, like most LCD TVs these days, the panel will shut off entirely if the UE40ES5500 is fed an entirely black screen, but since this trick is useless for actually watching TV, we measured the black level with our disc player’s pause icon present at the top left of the screen: enough to trick the display into turning the lights back on and reveal its real performance.

Not surprisingly for an LCD with dynamic contrast features defeated, we saw the exact same measurement (0.05 cd/m2) when we measured the black square in the middle of an ANSI contrast chart. This is good performance for an LCD TV, especially at this price point. For comparison, the best black levels on the market in an affordable flat screen come from Panasonic’s ST50 Plasma series, which manages 0.009 cd/m2. With that said, those HDTVs aren’t in the same price range as the UE40ES5500.

Motion Resolution

The Samsung ES5500 doesn’t feature any sort of 100hz/200hz motion interpolation controls, meaning that there’s no way of enhancing the LCD panel’s native performance. LCD does poorly in this area, and sure enough, the 40ES5500 only managed to resolve 300 lines out of 1080 on the horizontally scrolling test chart from the FPD Benchmark Software test disc. Any sort of high motion video material (sporting events, for example) will show motion blur with camera pans. What’s more, in our usual torture test sequences from the FPD Benchmark Software disc, we noticed that the TV exhibits a common trait of PVA-type LCD panels: low-tone smearing. Dark objects, such as the girl’s hair in the “Hammock” test sequence, all left dark-purple smears.

There is one option on the UE40ES5500 that can improve motion, though, and that’s [LED Motion Plus]. Enabling this option doesn’t eradicate motion artefacts, but it does make details within the blurred portions easier to discern. However, it does also dim the picture significantly, so it’ll be a hard sell for most users, especially those watching the television in brighter rooms.

Film content, which runs at a lower frame rate of 24fps (or 25fps on European TV/DVD) is less of a challenge for LCD TVs, and accordingly, motion artefacts weren’t as big an issue with movies. Low-tone smearing was still visible, though, especially during dimly lit scenes, where actors could be momentarily blurred into their dark surroundings.

High Definition

Provided the image is static, the Samsung UE40ES5500 is able to reproduce all of the finest details in a 1080p HD signal. Motion clarity isn’t compromised by unwanted video processing – in fact, we ran our film grain tests on the TV and found that unlike some higher end Samsung models, it doesn’t touch this at all, which is good – but, any sort of subtle motion is blurred by the LCD panel’s own performance limitations which we just mentioned above, meaning the point is moot.

Beyond this caveat, the ES5500 is still capable of some nice high-def images, provided you play by the LCD rule and sit absolutely face-on with the panel (the images turn murkier and greyer from the sides). Overall colour is good, but certain outdoor scenes in particular could suffer from the overly-bright green shade that we mentioned during calibration.

The Artist screenshot

We were also happy to see perfect reproduction of 24fps film content from Blu-ray Disc. Panning shots were delivered without any judder whatsoever, and while we wouldn’t call the motion “cinema quality” due to the inherent blurring, we were still fairly satisfied. As a cheaper display, the UE40ES5500 has no interpolation features whatsoever, so there’s no “soap opera effect” introduce to film motion.

If you’re an expert user who’s very observant to the different types of LCD panel structures, and sit close to the TV (likely if you’re using the display for video games – or even generally since it’s one of the smaller screen sizes available today), then you might notice that the UE40ES5500 doesn’t use the typical RGB stripe subpixel layout. Instead, the subpixels are arranged (or lit) in a way which causes straight edges to appear in a “weaved” pattern. We feel that this does subtly hurt the appearance of highly detailed content on Blu-ray, and certainly do prefer the traditional striped layout found on most flat-panel televisions (including more expensive Samsung LCDs).

The Artist screenshot 2

We did notice some banding (static contouring: where smooth gradients of colour appear stair-stepped) in the Samsung ES5500′s images. Most film-originated material from Blu-ray won’t show this up, because the natural grain in the film acts as a dither which conceals these in-TV issues. However, CG (computer-generated) content will occasionally show banding which isn’t present in the source, suggesting that the UE40ES5500′s video processor doesn’t have a sufficient level of precision (bit depth) to show completely smooth gradients. Be sure you’re using the “Auto” [Colour Space] setting (which is the more accurate of the two, anyway), because the “Native” mode introduces more of this issue.

Standard Definition

SD content is always difficult to write about, since there is very little truly impressive SD material available to consumers (the standard-def video on most DVDs and especially on broadcast TV is many, many times worse than the SD video you’d see in a studio environment).

The Samsung UE40ES5500 does a decent job of avoiding drawing jagged diagonal lines during the deinterlacing process, so markings on a football pitch (to use our favourite example) will look largely smooth and natural. For content shot with film-like motion, the LED TV didn’t do as great a job. In fact, during our tests, the [Film Mode] options did nothing at all, with the ES5500 failing both the PAL 2-2 and even the easier NTSC 3-2 film mode tests.

Lastly, scaling was good, but not outstanding. The Samsung rendered the vertical lines (which check horizontal resolution) in the SMPTE RP133 test chart in a slightly faint way, resulting in SD images that aren’t quite as crisp as the best scalers. With that said, most standard-definition content is low-pass filtered, anyway, so the limitation will only be visible on a handful of carefully mastered SD DVD titles.

Console Gaming

We’ve found that lower-end TVs tend to perform better than higher-end units with more complicated video processing circuitry, and sure enough, we found that the Samsung UE40ES5500 lagged by just 16ms – which didn’t surprise us at all, since, aside from the motion blur, gaming was highly enjoyable on this display. The same excellent performance can be had both in or outside of “Game Mode”, too – in fact, turning on Game Mode on the 40ES5500 did nothing to speed up performance, meaning that the calibrated “Movie” mode can safely be used for gaming, too.

Conclusion

The Samsung UE40ES5500 is a decent budget 40″ LCD-based HDTV, although it doesn’t excel in enough areas to get an all-out recommendation. Overall image quality is a step back compared to what we’ve seen from Series 5 in the past: in particular, we remember that the LE40B550 (three generations before) featured a panel of comparable quality to those found higher up in the range, with less low-tone smearing, and on certain units, a full colour management system with near-perfect accuracy. Perhaps the addition of “Smart TV” features at this price point has forced compromises elsewhere?

The UE40ES5500′s biggest strength is surely its gaming responsiveness. If you can see through the motion blur, you’ll be rewarded with very low input lag from connected games consoles and PCs. In fact, some console users even find that a screen with inherent motion blur helps them better enjoy games with low frame rates (most games on the underpowered current generation consoles only run at 30fps) due to the “smoothed motion” appearance.

We’re not convinced that this is as good as £500 can buy, but if you can accept motion clarity which is low even by LCD standards, then you’ll be rewarded with decent colour accuracy, good contrast performance, and a good selection of web connected features.

Qualified Recommendation

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