The delivery man carried this set up to my front door in one hand and with a spring in his step, demonstrating how flatscreen technology has advanced. I'd just come close to busting a gut moving its predecessor, also a 32inch flatscreen but weighing around four times as much and a lot bigger, out of the way.
Unpacking, assembly on its stand and setup couldn't have been simpler or quicker. Everything was ready and working within ten minutes.
There was only one thing I needed to alter in the default settings. The default video mode, though labelled "normal" looks more to me like "chocolate box pretty". It may appeal to folk who like to boost the saturation of their snapshots to "enhance" the colours, but I went for a less garish option. I suspect that some of the reviewers here who don't like the greens may be reacting to this over-lush default setting. But tweakers and twiddlers take note: Samsung remind you that this is a bottom-of-the-range model by restricting access to video and audio adjustments, and even if you go in via the service menu, you'll find the corresponding options greyed out. You get to choose between five preset options for picture and sound, and that's it.
That done, I sat down to enjoy viewing, marvelling at what superb value for money this set is, now that the price has fallen so low. I think you'd have to go way higher in the price range to find a set with better picture quality. I can't say whether it would meet the motion-rendering demands of soccer or tennis fans, or video console gamers, but in all the various videos I've viewed I've seen not the slightest sign of motion blurring, smearing or juddering. It also has best sound I've heard, both in terms of power and frequency range, in a budget-price receiver relying on internal speakers alone. But as ever, people who want truly high quality sound will want to add some external equipment, whether it's a soundbar fed via the optical digital out and/or hdmi sockets, or the cheaper compromise of a subwoofer and satellite speaker set designed for PCs plugged into the headphone jack.
It's very noticeable, though, that there is a lot of confusion and misinformation about this particular model. I'll spend the rest of this review trying answer three questions that people keep asking but which so far don't seem to have been given satisfactory answers.
1. Does this set receive the four HD channels currently free-to-air in the UK? YES. Perfectly and with no special measures (apart from the viewer selecting the correct channel numbers for the HD services, of course). So... why does the Amazon description above imply that it doesn't, and why do Samsung UK support, if you phone them, emphatically confirm that it doesn't and say you need a more expensive model for HD TV off-air? The answer is the marketing policy of the company the owns the Freeview trademark. They insist that to be labelled and sold with the "Freeview HD" designation, sets must not only receive the HD channels, but also fulfil other technical conditions, including a considerable degree of Internet connectivity (of which more in my next answer). But if you take the common-sense view that "receiving all UK HD terrestrial channels" means, er... "receiving all UK HD terrestial channels", then these sets can do that just fine, in exactly the same way that sets officially labelled "Freeview HD" do. But if Amazon, or even Samsung themselves, claimed these sets were Freeview HD compatible, Freeview's lawyers would jump on them. So we get the silly situation where in effect sellers are obliged to describe these items misleadingly to avoid legal trouble (of the major sellers, only Richer Sounds seems to put honesty before legality in this matter).
2. Does the ethernet port on these models allow you (a) access any Internet video content or websites or (b) to access media on your home LAN, either on DNLA servers or via ordinary file shares? NO TO BOTH QUESTIONS. That's why they can't legally be described as Freeview HD compatible. I put that answer in big shout capitals, because many people understandably find it difficult to believe. These sets have a working ethernet port, and are able to get an IP address and gateway from your router and send and receive packets over the Internet via that router. But their network capabilities have been severely nobbled so that the only connection allowed is to a specific Samsung server, and the only material that can be fetched from that server is text data. The documents suggest that the TV's firmware can also be updated via this connection, but currently even that's not the case. To update the firmware, you have to download it on to another machine from Samsung's website, transfer the image to a USB stick and install it from there.
But, more important for home users, it's not only Internet connections that are disabled on this so-called network port. Despite statements elswhere, you cannot access any other machines on your LAN by any means via this port (although perhaps hackers who have made warranty-voiding modifications to the firmware can). I have read claims that if you run Samsung's own proprietary variant of a DNLA server on a PC on your LAN, you can access media from that PC. That is simply not true with this specific set. Anyone who knows much about TVs like this, which run an embedded customised version of Linux, will be aware that they would be fully capable of playing audio and video streamed across a LAN with no additional hardware, and little or no additional software either. But Samsung apparently want to keep something back to promote sales of their more expensive models, and it's in this area that this policy bites. So I can't yet dispose of my little WD HDTV box which now feeds this new set with media from my LAN server across our home network.
3. Can media on anything other than a USB stick be accessed via the USB socket? Now here's a real mystery. The documentation, and all the information on those suppliers sites that address this topic, says explicitly and emphatically "no". Supposedly, only USB stick devices are supported. But, at least on the currently shipping models like mine, that's not true. I have tried two USB-powered portable drives so far, a fairly old WD 256GB model and a more recent 1TB Samsung pocket drive, both formatted with NTFS. With both drives, there is no problem at all (except maybe for a certain sluggishness browsing the filesystem on the 1 TB device). The TV recognises the drives (though it claims to think they're USB sticks and displays a corresponding icon). It can access arbitrary levels of directory on them and play media (including captured 1080i HDTV transport streams as well as videos in avi, mkv and mp4 containers covering a wide range of video and audio codecs) faultlessly. I just can't understand why Samsung hide what could be a major selling point in this way. Maybe they're worried about users plugging in drives with excessive current drain and zapping the USB port, but in that case, surely an "at your own risk" warning in the documents, along with the built in fail-safe current limiters of modern USB ports would be enough to cover Samsung's backs while not keeping this feature such a secret? In my case, if I didn't have the WD network player to get my media content from my LAN servers to this TV, I could get round that by having a large-capacity portable USB hard disk normally plugged into a LAN server and using that as a media store, then just unplugging it from the server and transferring it to the TV to access the content there as and when needed.
In case anybody's wondering, you CAN'T, however, plug a USB-powered DVD drive into the set's USB port and play a disk from that. But that's not surprising, given that DVD drives have significantly different interface requirements from USB and hard disk drives. Nor can you record programmes received on the TV on to external storage via the USB connection. Again, that's a facility Samsung reserve to higher-priced models.
Some people may also find the presence of only two hdmi sockets a limitation (though that's shared with several other recent, more expensive, Samsung models). Alongside those there's a single Scart (wired to accept component video) and RCA sockets for component video and two channel audio in, plus a digital audio out and a standard earphone socket. There is no VGA input. Anyone wanting to connect up a computer that lacks an hdmi outlet will need a suitable adapter, but they are readily available.
Some people may wonder why I've opted for 5 stars, given the shortcomings I've described above. I did think about deducting a star, but then I reflected that this is a truly bargain-price piece of kit with excellent build quality and stylish appearance, and it does its basic job superbly. It's a pity that Samsung felt it necessary to differentiate it from more expensive products by, in effect, sabotaging the hardware's instrinsic ability to do things that those more expensive products do, but I guess that's business. All things considered, I couldn't be more happy with my purchase.
WARNING. I see that for one reason or another, reviews of quite different Samsung models are being posted here, some of them with different feature sets from the model these reviews are meant to apply to. So I have to stress that everything I say applies only to the model in the heading of this review, i.e. the UE32EH5000 (with firmware as of October 2012)