Samsung's 32-inch UE32D5000 TV can be picked up online for as little as £400, which is remarkably cheap for an LED-illuminated model from a big-name manufacturer. There are plenty of other features to grab your attention too, including digital media playback via USB or the Ethernet port, and 100Hz motion processing. It sounds too good to be true. Is it?
Despite the set's rock-bottom price tag, Samsung has done a really good job on its menu system. With liberal use of colour, as well as cute and stylish graphics, it looks very welcoming, and it's easy to find your way around.
The electronic programme guide is also first-class. The currently selected channel is shuffled into a video window in the top left-hand corner, while a summary of the currently selected programme is shown to the right of this. Below, you'll find the main EPG view, which is capable of showing programming information for six channels at any one time in a traditional horizontal layout. It's fast to use and, as the fonts are large, you can easily read programme names and information even from quite a distance away.
The set's remote is rather wide for our tastes, and its chunkiness means it doesn't feel quite as comfortable as the remotes that come with most of LG's models. Nevertheless, the buttons are big and chunky and the layout is well considered.
Samsung hasn't added support for its Smart TV platform. This means not only is there no support for apps like Facebook and Twitter, but you also miss out on any video-on-demand services, including BBC iPlayer. If you've got access to iPlayer via a set-top box or something like the PlayStation 3, this may not bother you so much, but it's still a shame it's absent, as it's now supported on some other budget LED sets.
The Ethernet port doesn't go completely unused, however, as Samsung does include support for media streaming. There are two ways to access the media-streaming functions. Firstly, you can press the Smart Hub button on the remote control and then scroll left to the 'my downloads' screen. Here you can choose whether you want to view videos or photos, or just listen to music files, and, once you've selected the media type, you can choose the preferred DNLA server to use from a list. Alternatively, you can press the source button on the remote control and go directly to the available media servers, which are shown at the bottom of the AV inputs list.
The interface for accessing media content is well presented and the media-streaming support is generally quite good. We had no problems playing JPEG photos or listening to MP3 files. The telly also played DivX and Xvid files without any hiccups. It wouldn't play MKV files until we renamed them as AVI files, but, after, that it handled them without any problems.
As well as the Ethernet socket, the TV also has two USB ports. The thinking behind providing two ports is that you'll still have one free for connecting up a hard drive or memory key if you decide to use the set with the optional USB Wi-Fi dongle. These USB ports can also be used for media playback, including music, movies and photos.
As with the media-streaming feature, the set played back a range of file formats via USB, including JPEGs, MP3s and Xvids. Unlike with the Ethernet media-streaming feature, we didn't have to rename MKV files to get them to play. It's odd that this difference exists.
The UE32D5000 is very easy on the eye. It's strikingly slim, at just 30mm deep, and even the bezel around the screen is quite narrow. This black bezel also gives way to a transparent edge that frames the entire screen and looks absolutely gorgeous. Samsung has been using this type of design for a few years now, but, as it still looks very classy, there's little reason to change it. We even love the TV's glass-effect stand. All in all, it's one of the best-looking budget TVs we've come across.
The connections are split between a rear panel and a side panel on the left-hand side of the set. The rear panel is home to the RF input, VGA input, Ethernet port and RGB Scart socket. The latter connection, however, has to be made using a small adaptor cable, which isn't that unusual on slim TVs these days.
The side-mounted panel houses the component sockets, which, again, you have to use with an adaptor able, along with four HDMI inputs. Above these, there are two USB ports and a digital optical output that can be used to feed the audio from the Freeview tuner to an external amp or surround-sound processor.
It's a very comprehensive line-up of connections for a TV in this price range and there's little else that you could need on this type of telly.
The UE32D5000 isn't all that impressive when it comes to audio. Like many slim sets, it houses pretty weedy speakers, rated at just 10W per channel. These drivers are tiny and don't really produce much in the way of bass. Even the mid-range can sound rather thin, especially at lower volumes. On the plus side, the speakers don't have the muffled quality of some slim sets we've comes across recently, so dialogue remains clean and distinct across the volume range.
There are also a fair number of useful audio presets to be found in the sound menu. These include a 'clear voice' setting that boosts the volume of dialogue relative to the rest of the audio. It's especially useful when you've got the TV turned down low at night time.
The set also supports the SRS TruSound HD virtual surround-sound format, which aims to simulate surround sound using the stereo speakers. It's not very convincing, though. It does widen the sound stage slightly, but this tends to come at the expense of the clarity of dialogue in movies and TV shows, so we found it was best to leave it turned off.
Budget sets often suffer from unruly colour tones and muted hues, but the UE32D5000 skilfully manages to avoid both of these pitfalls. Its LED backlighting helps it to deliver colours with enough intensity to create a real impact, so animated fare like Toy Story 2 looks every bit as in your face as it should. Thankfully, though, this TV also manages to keep colours from looking garish. Skin tones have great subtlety and trickier colour hues are neatly rendered.
Standard-definition pictures are also surprisingly well upscaled. The set adds in just the right amount of extra sharpness, without marring the results with smudginess or too much picture noise. The set really excels, though, when fed high-definition signals via one of its HDMI ports, displaying impressive levels of sharpness.
The 100Hz processing helps with motion clarity, so pictures don't look blurry during camera pans in sports matches, for example. Black levels are also very deep by the standards of budget TVs and, thankfully, this doesn't come at the expense of contrast performance.
The telly manages to retain plenty of shadow detail in darker areas of the picture, but the backlight isn't quite as consistent as it could be, and, when you're watching very dark, near-black pictures, you can see some of the backlighting bleeding through. This isn't really noticeable under normal viewing conditions, but it's worth pointing out nonetheless.
The Samsung UE32D500 isn't perfect. The sound quality could be better and the lack of a Freeview HD tuner is disappointing, although the latter may not matter much to you if you're a Virgin or Sky subscriber. On the plus side, the telly looks gorgeous, produces much better pictures than you'd expect at this price, and shines when it comes to digital media playback. If you want a slim TV, but don't have a fortune to spend, it's a great buy.
Edited by Charles Kloet