No one likes an ugly TV, even if it’s the most technologically advanced around. Samsung knows this and had made sure its latest LCD TV is as stunning turned-off as it is switched-on. Add a ridiculously low price tag and the deal is sealed.
Be careful though – Samsung’s 6 Series "black rose" design isn’t for everyone. Injected into the screen's primarily gloss black plastic surround is a heady red tint, which lends it an unusual glow. It’s hard to say what interior design it would gel with, but at least it’s a step forward from the usual black box.
Not that the LE32A656 is just about "the look". Inside its rosy bezel is the essential tech, including Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution. While it’s true that very few people have 1080p high-def sources, and even fewer will notice the benefit at this small size, it’s still important: the days of the HD-ready TV are numbered and within a few years almost all high-def content will be in 1080p.
Aside from future-proofing for fun, there’s some great here-and-now features. Four HDMI inputs is fabulous return for relatively small bean, and will hoover up all your HDMI-connected kit in one go. What’s more, one of the HDMIs happens to be on the TV’s side for easy access. The side panel also houses slots for S-video, composite video, headphones slot, analogue audio left/right and a USB slot that Samsung calls "WiseLink".
Sadly, the LE32A656 isn’t able to play video files stored on a memory stick, but it can play slideshows of JPEG photos and play MP3. Also back there is a slot for adding viewing cards for subscription-only Freeview channels.
With the rear housing a PC input (of the D-sub 15-pin variety), a couple of Scarts, an optical audio output (for connecting to an amplifier) and a component video input, the LE32A656 has got all the bases covered.
Ditto the picture quality, which almost completely overcomes two of LCD technology’s main weaknesses. All LCD TVs are good with colour, but the LE32A656 uses its Digital Natural Image engine to create a super-wide colour palette that’s full of fine gradation and subtle shades. It backs up its quite brilliant colours by producing deep and inky blacks that are rare to find on a LCD TV. It helps bolster the colours no-end and creates a picture that’s both natural and has a lot of depth.
Using something called Movie Plus processing, the LE32A656 also succeeds in banishing blur. So often a problem even on high-end LCD TVs, fast moving scenes from movies and games pose little problem for this screen.
Freeview is relatively clean and well presented, which helps us warm further to the LE32A656. In fact, the only nasty thing we can think of saying about this particular "black rose" is that its remote control is horrible, and its speakers could be better. A huge shiny black plastic nightmare to look at it may be, but it’s actually a cinch to use and well-weighted. The speakers, meanwhile, are fine for everyday TV fare, but struggle with anything more complicated.
Kudos to Samsung’s brave team of designers for thinking outside of the box, literally. As an idea, a red-tinted TV is terrifically bad in theory, but it does work in practice. The cynical might argue that a touch of rose diverts your attention from the fact that the LE32A656 is insubstantial and plasticky in design. But with so much top tech inside and out of the LE32A656, we’ll live with that.