Samsung UE32D5000

We’ve really only one niggle about Samsung’s latest value-busting effort. The very latest features are missing from this Series 5 set; 3D, Smart TV and Samsung’s Apps have all been slashed to get this super-slim 32-inch LED-backlit LCD TV down to a palatable price, but neither of these zeitgeist features are going to bother most people. No, what’s really annoying about the UE32D5000 is its lack of Freeview HD.

Without the likes of BBC One HD and ITV HD, the UE32D5000 doesn't often reach the image highs it’s quite clearly capable of, and, besides, with so many other surprising features onboard, we’d half expected the “moon on a stick” - including Freeview HD. Alas, there’s only a bog standard DVB-T tuner on board, though the 8-day electronic programme guide is far better than on most brands’ rival efforts (LG excepted, in our opinion). 

Design and connectivity

Far from unexpected on any Samsung telly these days is a cutting edge design, and in that regard the UE32D5000 is no different. The Crystal design so beloved of Samsung’s sculptors continues here, though the UE32D5000’s transparent frame edge is all its own. The usual glass-effect - though off-puttingly plasticky on close inspection - desktop stand neck is also included, while this TV’s 30mm-slim depth is exceptional at this entry-level position of the market.

So too is connectivity, with four HDMIs pretty much unsurpassed for £350. Two is still standard at this price, three rare - and four only found on Samsung and, again, LG’s low-end efforts. Elsewhere are a PC input, Component video (using an adaptor, which helps create the slim design), a Scart (ditto), a headphones jack and a couple of USB slots, alongside a wired Ethernet LAN slot that’s usually only on TVs of this low spec when a Freeview HD tuner is included. Here it’s employed as a conduit for fetching files from a networked PC using DLNA - something Samsung calls AllShare - and though we’d not expect to see online content hubs at this price (Samsung’s is called Smart TV), its appearance really would make this TV exceptional.

Although any networking is likely to be performed by that wired Ethernet, Samsung’s WIS09ABGNX WiFi Link Stick is available online for around £40 for plugging-in to one of the UE32D5000’s dual USB slots (one of which can hook-up to a HDD).

At least its USB slots are impressively well specified. As well as being able to display JPEG photos, we managed to get a plethora of video (MPEG-1/2/4, AVC HD, WMV, ASF, AVI, MKV, VOB, TS, H.264 and VC-1 all worked) and music (MP3, WMA and AAC) to play from an external HDD drive hooked-up via USB. Sadly there’s no option to format a USB thumb drive or external HDD and use it to pause, rewind or even record digital TV programmes, but we wouldn’t normally expect that on a TV of this status. Having said that, the ability to record to USB is a hugely attractive feature and is arguably of more use to most people than DLNA streaming or file support for esoteric file formats; this unashamedly mainstream TV could be even more so.

Besides, DLNA streaming isn't nearly as clever despite the simple Smart Hub shortcut on the remote that creates a joined-up “media” interface onscreen; as well as the link to a PC on the same networking frequently dropping out at the crucial moment, we couldn't get any high-def MKV files to even be detected.

Performance

This is one bright young thing. The default setting is scorch-yer-eyes-out bright, but once toned down the UE32D5000 is a competent picture performer across the board. Perhaps this set really is designed for those already with a separate HD set-top box - perhaps a Virgin Media TiVo or Sky HD box - since its 1920 x 1080 pixel screen proved incredibly detailed with Blu-ray in our tests. Backed-up with some reasonably solid and nuanced colours, and with above average standard-def upscaling, the UE32D5000 is starting to look like a bargain.

While it’s not exactly a case of “Blur-ray”, we did notice some motion blur during our tests disc. That 100Hz option takes the edge from that particular problem cleanly and without any side effects, though nothing can prevent its so-so contrast, which leads to indistinct dark areas of images and pure blacks that don’t quote convince. That’s still true of all LED-backlight screens, and we’re happy to give the UE32D5000 more brownie points than most for its classy all-round performance.

Verdict

Back to basics goes Samsung on this mainstream 32-incher that’s among the best-looking TVs ever made. As such it’s an effort that’s sure to be more popular - and ultimately, more important - than its bells-and-whistles 3DTVs. With some semblance of modernity on board in the form of (stuttering) DLNA networking and file playback from USB, Samsung has put excellent usability and some decent Edge LED-backed pictures at the forefront of a low-priced package. We hate its lack of Freeview HD channels, but Virgin/Sky subscribers will welcome the chance to save a few quid. Exciting and cutting-edge this is not, but terrific value it certainly is.