▣ Overview, Design & Connectivity ▣
This is one of Samsung's higher range 2014 series 6 TV's presenting a broad selection of Smart features and Active 3D technology.
In terms of design, this Samsung TV looks very smart - It's slim, featuring a super thin glossy bezel, along with a strong, sturdy and stylish brushed metal "fixed" stand.
There's an extensive set of connections around the sides and back of the TV, including 4x HDMI ports, 3x USB, 1x SCART, Component, Digital Audio (Optical), headphone jack, Audio out and ethernet. Samsung include both a default remote and smart remote with this TV, along with two sets of active 3D glasses and an IR extender. Wifi is also built in.
▣ Picture quality & 3D performance ▣
HD picture quality is outstanding, presenting impressive clarity and deep blacks. The colours were slightly oversaturated out of the box, but this was simple to correct using the picture options and now colours look very natural and accurate. Watching the football did highlight minor backlight uniformity issues, but it generally doesn't impact viewing experience and not unduly noticeable. This is something evident on all LCD/LED panels due to the technology. Response time is also reasonable with only minimal motion blur present. Viewing angles are excellent with only slight colour and contrast loss. I found both Samsung and LG TV's have the best viewing angles, with both of my Sony LED TV's suffering a slight blue hue at 45 degrees and beyond.
I was pleasantly surprise by the TV's sound quality, as there's actually a bit of oomph in the lower sound frequencies, which is scarcely seen in ultra thin TV's of today, so it's refreshing to own a TV where a soundbar isn't that essential. Sound from my LG and Sony is certainly not this good.
Gaming performance seems reasonable, boasting 40ms input lag which should be OK.
Active 3D is a welcome feature on this TV and I'm glad Samsung decided to implement full HD active 3D rather than the lower resolution passive 3D. I've been somewhat spoilt by watching Active 3D movies in my brothers dedicated home cinema, consisting of a Sony VPL-HW40ES Full HD Active 3D projector and 150" Seymour AV acoustically transparent screen, which is amazing. Nonetheless, this TV does an accomplished job at providing a pleasing 3D experience, presenting good picture quality and excellent 3D effects, with good depth. The glasses are light, but not that comfortable and the lenses are a little on the small side, but they're adequate.
▣ Smart TV & media features ▣
Samsung have done an excellent job at designing a fresh, sleek and modern user interface which is intuitive and works well. The bundled smart remote utilizes wii like motion and gesture control along with a small touchpad for simple, fast and accurate navigation through menus. Voice control also offers a unique way to launch content and works reasonably well. Pressing the smart hub button on the remote launches a shortcut bar featuring a selection of most used apps and services, along with access to the main dashboard.
The main dashboard categorizes Apps, Games, Films/TV shows and multimedia into 4 separate pages, with further options on each page. You'll find all of the major catchup TV services here including BBC iPlayer, Demand 5, along with Samsung's exclusive 4OD and ITV player apps. VoD services include Netflix, Wauki, Blinkbox etc., along with the much anticipated Amazon Instant video which works great and features a growing catalogue of movies and TV shows. I was also impressed with the extensive catalogue of kids programs which kept my nephew entertained. There's Peppa Pig, Chuggington, Shaun The Sheep, Fireman Sam, Postman Pat, Hey Arnold, Thomas The Tank Engine, The Shoe People, Paddington Bear, The Trap Door, Morph, pingu and bucket loads more. You'll find popular media and social apps, like Youtube, Facebook, Skype and Twitter etc., along with a variety of other apps and games.
Access to network devices, USB storage and Cloud services is inconspicuously place at the bottom of the multimedia screen, with the majority of page rammed with suggested internet content which I'm not that keen on. I would have prefered network devices to have a bit more prominence as this is the feature I mostly use. My network shares via Twonky media are detected and work fine.
Media support is extensive, with the TV supporting 1080p/30 (30 fps) & 1080p/60 (60fps) video in a wide range of formats (containers) including: avi, mkv (H.264), asf, mp4, 3gp, mov, flv, vro, vob, ps, ts and svaf, with a maximum bit rate of 30 Mbps. Supported Audio Codecs include: AC3, LPCM, ADPCM, AAC, HE-AAC, WMA, DD+, MP3, DTS (core,LBR) and G.711. So far, I've yet to come across anything that fails to play, with all of my MKV movie library playing perfectly. In contrast, My Sony offered very limited playback support and was rather disappointing. LG offers similar compatibility to Samsung and is pretty decent. My only criticism is how thumbnail folder/album art is displayed in landscape, rather than portrait, which results in thumbnails looking stretched and pixelated, which is disappointing. Both LG & Sony display folder/album art much better.
Web browsing can usually be quite a chore on Smart TV's, but Samsung implemented quite a usable browser based on Chrome, which is fairly quick and benefits from the excellent motion and touch control of the smart remote. HTML5 is supported (with a browser score of 453 out of 555, which is slightly better than the 446 out of 555 points that my 2013 LG 42LN575V TV scored), along with Flash Lite, so many video and streaming sites should work OK. It's not a computer replacement, but smart TV's are improving every year.
The EPG is well designed and presents a clear 7 channel/two hour viewing guide, which is easy to use. You can record TV to a connected HDD which works great, but make sure you use a fast HDD and format the drive using the TV. You can only playback recordings on the TV as they are DRM protected.
▣ Smartphone App ▣
Samsung offer the Smart View 2.0 app which is available on both Google Play and Apple App Store. Compatibility seems to be quite flaky here with Samsung only supporting a small selection of smartphones, which is surprising. I use a Galaxy Note 3 which is supposed to be supported and I've attempted to connect to the TV without success. I've tried wired and wireless connections, and two different routers resulting in no TV found. I also tried Wifi Direct, which locates the TV and seemingly connects, but then when trying to proceed within the app, connection is lost. This is very frustrating and disappointing. I've never had such issues with LG and Sony apps before, so I really hope samsung gets to grips and fixes compatibility issues.
▣ Conclusion ▣
I've been impressed by this TV and it performs admirably. Picture quality, sound quality, Smart functionality and 3D mode is definitely amongst the best I've seen on an LED TV, but I seriously hope Samsung can fix their Android app. LG also have some excellent TV's available this year, giving samsung some stiff competition. Sony also have a decent lineup offering superb picture quality, low input lag and an excellent smartphone app, but disappointing media support puts them behind the pack. For an all-round TV, this Samsung is difficult to beat.