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Samsunug UNF5000 series review: A good picture with minimal smarts, inputs

The UNF5000 is one of Samsung's few TVs to lack Smart TV features, but if you don't mind that, it represents a solid value.

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David Katzmaier
David_Katzmaier.jpg

David Katzmaier

Editorial Director -- TVs and streaming

David has reviewed TVs, streaming services, streaming devices and home entertainment gear at CNET since 2002. He is an ISF certified, NIST trained calibrator and developed CNET's TV test procedure himself. Previously David wrote reviews and features for Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as "The Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics."

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3 min read

More than a year ago I wrote a popular article that's becoming increasingly irrelevant: "I want my dumb TV." My argument was that Smart TVs make no economic sense because you can get the same or better functionality from an add-on box for cheaper.

Samsung_UNF5000_3565620411.jpg
7.0

Samsunug UNF5000 series

The Good

The affordable <b>Samsung UNF5000</b> LED LCD TV provides solid picture quality with relatively deep black levels and accurate color. Uniform screen; eye-catching design with thin cabinet; decent sound quality.

The Bad

Just two HDMI inputs; evinced the video processing of a 60Hz TV despite "120 CMR" specification; middling remote and stand.

The Bottom Line

Beyond its "dumb" feature set and lack of inputs, the Samsung UNF5000 LED LCD offers plenty of TV for the money.

TVs like Samsung's UNF5000 and UNF5500 series are the reason behind its increasing irrelevance. The major difference between the two is that the F5500 has Samsung's Smart TV suite, and the F5000 does not. Currently, the price differences between the same sizes in each series are $31 (32-inch), $83 (40-inch), $51 (46-inch), and $83 (50-inch). That's not much money when add-on boxes start at $50 for the excellent Roku LT.

With its relatively cheap Smart TV suite Samsung makes it abundantly clear it wants you to get the UNF5500 instead. In case you needed extra incentive to step up, it also has a different, arguably nicer stand, and an extra HDMI input.

On the other hand, if you already own an external device for streaming -- whether a Roku or an Apple TV, a game console or a disc player -- you really don't need Smart TV. If that's the case, you'll probably be happy to note that the F5000, according to Samsung's specifications, will likely offer identical picture quality to its slightly more expensive, significantly smarter brother. That picture is pretty darn good for its class, if not quite at the level of what you see on TVs like the Panasonic E60 and Vizio E series. All told the F5000 is a solid value among dumb TVs, as long as you don't mind its sparse connectivity.

Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 40-inch Samsung UN40F5000, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Models in series (details)
Samsung UN22F5000 22 inches
Samsung UN32F5000 32 inches
Samsung UN40F5000 (reviewed) 40 inches
Samsung UN46F5000 46 inches
Samsung UN50F5000 50 inches

Sarah Tew/CNET

Design
Samsung's well-known minimalist design chops extend even as far down as the UNF5000 series. The frame around the screen is a uniform five-eighths-inch in width and glossy black in color, and the cabinet is nice and thin. The latter is due to the TV's edge-lit LED backlight -- making unnecessary the thicker cabinets imparted by the direct LEDs of sets like the Vizio E series and LG LA6200. The only hint of panache is the angular Samsung logo jutting forward from the bottom like a defiant chin.

Sarah Tew/CNET

One miscue is the stand, which seemed way too large chunky for our 40-inch review sample -- although its proportions might improve on other sizes. I still like it better than the four-legged spider stand found on the F5500 models, but unlike those sets, the F5000 doesn't swivel.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Another downside is the remote, but for a relatively budget-priced TV, it's not terrible. The grid of buttons lacks sufficient differentiation and suffers from clogging -- I'd rather have blank space where the "Media P." and "Sleep" buttons reside, for example -- but in its favor are full backlighting and compact size.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Key TV features
Display technology LCD LED backlight Edge-lit
Screen finish Glossy, matte Remote Standard
Smart TV No Internet connection N/A
3D technology No 3D glasses included N/A
Refresh rate(s) 60Hz Dejudder (smooth) processing No
DLNA-compliant No USB Photo/Music/Video

Features
Since Samsung's Web site claims the F5000 offers "A Clear Motion Rate (CMR) of 120," we forgive you for perhaps thinking it has a 120Hz refresh rate. In fact, this is a 60Hz TV, and behaves exactly as we'd expect a 60Hz TV to behave in our tests. At least Samsung isn't alone among TV makers in creating fake specs like CMR.

As we mentioned, the F5000 lacks the extensive Smart TV suite found on the step-up UNF5500 series; the extent of its brains is that it can play back photo, music, and video files from USB thumb drives. Otherwise the two are identical aside from the F5500's stand and its third HDMI input.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Picture settings: The selection here is, not surprisingly, a bit less extensive than on higher-end Samsungs like the UNF6300 series. Gone are the 10-point grayscale and color management controls, and the fourth adjustable picture preset. Three, along with a simpler two-point grayscale, should be plenty for most users, however. There's also a control labeled LED Clear Motion that enables backlight scanning for very slightly improved motion resolution, at the expense of a dimmer image (see below).

Sarah Tew/CNET

Connectivity: Seriously, Samsung? Just two HDMI ports? If you connect a cable/satellite box and a game console to your UNF5000, there's no room for a Roku or Apple TV, a DVD/Blu-ray player, or any number of other HDMI devices.

If you want to connect more HDMI gear to this TV, a cheap switcher or an HDMI-equipped AV receiver is probably the best solution. The downside, of course, is the extra complexity of switching, a problem in turn best solved by a universal remote.

Picture quality
I was surprised to discover the F5000 actually delivers substantially deeper black levels than the more expensive UNF6300 series. On the other hand its video processing is pretty disappointing. I certainly consider deep blacks more important than flawless cadence or motion resolution, however, so the F5000 delivers a better picture overall. It's still not quite at the level of the Panasonic E60 or the Vizio E series, but still good enough to earn a 7 in this category.

Click the image at the right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV's picture controls worked during calibration.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Comparison models (details)
Samsung UN55F6300 55-inch LED LCD
Samsung UN46EH6000 46-inch LED LCD
Panasonic TC-LE60 55-inch LED LCD
Vizio E500i-A1 50-inch LED LCD
LG 47LA6200 47-inch LED LCD
Panasonic TC-P50S60 50-inch plasma

Black level: The Samsung F5000 performed well in this category, albeit not quite as well as the Vizio or either of the Panasonics. When I watched some of the darker scenes from "Drive," such as the apartment walk-through at 11:52 and the cityscape soon after, the F5000's shadows, letterbox bars, and other black and near-black scenes looked inkier and more realistic than on the Samsungs and especially the LG.

Details in the shadows were good but not great; most of the sets, including the Vizio and Panasonics, rendered the shade-shrouded furniture in the apartment and the deeply darkened buildings in the overhead with superior visibility. The difference wasn't tremendously large, however, and I don't know if I'd miss those details if the F5000 weren't side by side with the others.

Color accuracy: I have few complaints here, and in person the F5000's colors backed up its superb measurement results. The skin tones of Driver and Irene were accurate and correct-looking, yet well-saturated, especially compared with the LG and, to a lesser extent, the E60 and the EH6000. Yes, there was a slight tinge of ruddiness there, so I'd give the edge to the F6300 or the Vizio in this department, but the F5000 more than held its own. Colorful objects like trees and the jars of food in a grocery store looked vibrant and realistic too. I also appreciated that it didn't show the bluish tint seen in black areas on a lot of other sets.

Video processing: In case you were wondering whether the 120 CMR improves motion resolution to the level of a true 120Hz TV, it doesn't. In our tests the TV could only achieve the 300-odd lines that most 60Hz TVs measure, as opposed to the 600 lines of a typical 120Hz TV like the Panasonic E60.

Engaging the LED Clear Motion setting cut light output by roughly half (typical of backlight scanning in general) but didn't improve that measurement. The test pattern images did look slightly cleaner with that setting engaged, but it wasn't worth the tradeoffs so we left it turned off (see the calibration notes above for more).

Unlike true 120Hz TVs the F5000 was also unable to correctly convey the cadence of film-based 1080p/24 sources. Instead, it introduced the slightly halting stutter of 2:3 pull-down -- a subtle distinction to most viewers, but film buffs will notice.

In addition to my standard test, which revealed the incorrect cadence in the helicopter flyover from "I Am Legend," it also became obvious in the supermarket during "Drive" (15:23) where the camera follows Driver through the aisles. As he rounded the corner, the moving background of filled shelves and freezers took on that stutter perceptibly.

As usual with Samsung, you'll need to select the Auto1 setting under Film Mode if you want correct 1080i deinterlacing of film-based sources; the default Auto 2 failed our test.

In Game mode the Samsung showed a completely respectable input lag measurement of 38.3ms. I tried the trick of renaming the input "PC" but it didn't improve that result.

Uniformity: The F5000 review sample I reviewed had solid dark-field uniformity across the screen, outdoing the LG and the EH6000, but not quite matching the others. Faint brighter clouds were visible on the right-hand side in dark areas. They were subtle enough that they weren't distracting even in very dark scenes, however, so I don't consider them a big deal. The top and bottom edges showed some extra brightness as well, in both bright and dark areas, but again it was quite subtle.

From off-angle the F5000 was nearly identical to the other Samsungs, and about average among its LCD peers, washing out dark areas worse than the Vizio and about as much as the Panasonic, but outdoing the LG. In brighter scenes the LG maintained color fidelity better, however; the Samsung tended to more quickly become bluish/reddish from off-angle.

Bright lighting: Equipped with the same semimatte screen we liked on the F6300, the F5000 has the same excellent bright-room picture. While it didn't deaden reflections quite as well as the Panasonic E60 and Vizio, it handled them better than the LG and especially the Panasonic S60. On the other hand the screen managed to retain its black levels relatively well in a lit room -- if not quite as well as the E60, better than the LG and the even more washed-out-looking Panasonic S60.

Sound quality: The F5000 sounded OK, sans the massive flaws I heard from many of the others, but certainly as good as the F6300. Comparing the two with music, the F5000's bass, timpani, and vocals from Nick Cave's "Red Right Hand" sounded boomier and muddier, with more clarity from the other Samsung. The F5000 outperformed the thin, reedy LG and the rattling bass of the Vizio. The S60 wasn't much better, but did have a thinner albeit more accurate sound. As usual the E60 sounded worst of all. That boominess wasn't an issue during the explosions from the bridge scene in "Mission: Impossible 3," however, and overall the F5000 sounded better than most of the others (aside from the 6300) at conveying the impact with decent punch and clarity. Dialogue from the film also sounded relatively clear.

Geek box: Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.009 Average
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.26 Good
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 0.913 Good
Dark gray error (20%) 0.3 Good
Bright gray error (70%) 0.324 Good
Avg. color error 1.363 Good
Red error 0.966 Good
Green error 0.736 Good
Blue error 3.284 Average
Cyan error 1.136 Good
Magenta error 0.612 Good
Yellow error 1.443 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Fail Poor
1080i Deinterlacing (film) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 300 Poor
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 300 Poor
Input lag (Game mode) 38.3 Good

Samsung UN40F5000 CNET review calibration results

Samsung_UNF5000_3565620411.jpg
7.0

Samsunug UNF5000 series

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 6Performance 7Value 7
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