In recent years, premium TVs have become "smart", able to play content from your computer and the internet, and even act as a web browser.
But for many people this is a waste. They may not be interested in internet content, or they may already have all that they need through their Blu-ray player, many of which now implement similar features.
If you are such a person, something like the Samsung UA55EH6000 TV may be just what you need.
At AU$1,799 for a 55 inch (119cm) screen, this is a classy looking unit. It is thick by today's standards at nearly 95mm deep, but when you look from the front, all you see is a picture with a border only 19mm wide around it.
The TV has a fairly limited number of connections, though some of them are quite clever. For example, while there are a set of dedicated component video inputs, the "Y" (green coloured) connection within this doubles as a composite video input. The TV detects the format and deals with it accordingly. There are two HDMI inputs and one USB port. Most of the inputs are flat against the rear panel, which could lead to space problems with wall mounting. The USB socket doesn't have this problem.
While not a "smart" TV, the TV does support a Samsung USB Wi-Fi dongle, though it doesn't appear to provide anything at all useful to Australian users.
One final caveat on this relatively low cost TV: it does not support 3D.
Standard variations for Samsung's (and some other brands') picture defaults are warranted after you've run the automatic out-of-the-box setup wizard. Go to the Picture menu and turn the Sharpness control from its horrible 50 down to 0. That eliminates the edginess (caused by "ringing" at colour boundaries) that introduced by this control. If you're watching Blu-ray, hit the "P.SIZE" key on the remote and choose "Screen Fit" instead of the default 16:9. This will eliminate the overscan (increasing the size of the picture by a small percentage so that it overflows the display area).
The other picture defaults were generally quite good, but, if you want to get picky, there was a slight 'cool' bias to the whites in the top 5per cent of the brightness range. That was only noticeable on a test pattern. On program material, it didn't seem at all apparent.
Unlike thinner LCD TVs, this one doesn't employ Edge LEDs, but a grid of LED backlights behind the LCD screen. Although Samsung doesn't mention it, the LED backlights are individually controlled to allow differential illumination in different parts of the screen — which is actually the best LCD technology when it comes to delivering good blacks. And it is clear that this is the system adopted in this TV, with glowing bright spots when demanded by the picture content, while the rest of the screen was left nicely deep. With the room lights switched off, the blacks were even across the screen and quite dark. Switching on the ambient light sensor (System, Eco Solution and then Eco Sensor) allowed the TV to turn its brightness down when operating in a dark room, deepening the blacks to impressively low levels.
To our surprise, like the more expensive models in Samsung's range, this one also implements the Freeview EPG. This is a unified Electronic Program Guide, which includes additional data to show that a program is running over time, but the main feature for TV purposes is that it carries the full EPG data for all the stations, not just whichever one you happen to be watching.
Samsung's regular guide also does this — unusual for TVs — by stopping whatever program that you're watching and then scanning all the TV stations for their regular EPGs, before returning you to the program you were watching in a window in the corner of the screen.
The Freeview EPG uses the MHEG-5 multimedia presentation standard, and this appears to make considerable demands on a CPU. This TV, even with the whole thing fully loaded, took about three seconds to display the EPG once the key was hit, and then another two seconds to scroll each page. The standard EPG was nearly instantaneous.
The Freeview EPG is the default, but you can choose between them in the setup menus.
The USB socket can't be used for recording live TV to an external hard drive, but it does support a good range of multimedia from a USB device, including digital cameras. It played various test WMA, MP3 and even FLAC audio files, but not WAV; it displayed JPEG, but not PNG or BMP photo files, and advancing through them was nicely snappy. Also played were MPEG2, DivX and AVI video files, although the first of these, which had a resolution of 1,440 by 1,080 pixels, were incorrectly displayed in a 4:3 aspect and could not be changed.
Surprisingly, the TV does not support Audio Return Channel, which allows sound from the TV stations you're watching to be fed back down a HDMI cable to a home theatre receiver, the same HDMI cable normally used to deliver video to the TV. Nor did it support the Consumer Electronics Control functions provided in recent versions of HDMI.
Our score was dragged down by the absence of 3D and smart TV functions. However, don't let the latter put you off. The Samsung UA55EH6000 TV offered top-notch 2D performance on a very large screen, and for a reasonable price. Should you need internet "smarts", you can add them for three or four hundred dollars with a suitable Blu-ray player.