Last year Samsung was kind enough to rollout a family of LEDs that, while varied in numerous sizes and prices, did little to make them attainable for all except the better off videophiles; saying they cost a fortune is almost an understatement as they did include all the trimmings available to conveniently justify the premium. The current recession hasn’t deterred them from bringing out a full line of edge-lit displays, enticing people to upgrade to their mesmerizing slick designs, remarkable performance, and energy-efficiency to match. Thankfully, the series has expanded to those with less capable (or just tighter) pocketbooks, as the lower-end 32″ UN32C4000PD makes due with all the stylistic and functional essentials you’d expect from a LED HTV, including much of the style and gloss befitting the Samsung brand.
Stylistically, the UN32C4000PD measures 30.5″ x 19.4″ (without its stand), and just 1.2″ at its thickest point – one of the LEDs biggest selling points. The front is obviously where you’ll spend most of your time and the minimalistic design of the panel doesn’t disappoint, with its black casing showing a subtle hint of red at the bottom lip along with a outer transparent edge that guarantees that even if the television is off there’s plenty to admire. The pedestal follows the transparent theme with an oval “touch of color” stand to complete the refined look; overall its an elegant solution that’s certainly a step above most in terms of finesse, even if the stand doesn’t swivel.
For a television of its caliber it offers fairly standard connectivity features as far as digital components are concerned. The current necessities are accounted for with four HDMI inputs vertically mounted on the side with Digital Out, PC audio, and a single USB port which provides immediate access to movie, picture, and music files (a nice feature for those who don’t media stream their content). VGA and RF inputs are located on the bottom, and a component/audio input rounds out the options. Most would never know it at first, but the single component-video input pulls double-duty for composite (yellow/white/red) cables if you still use those devices, although this comes with a caveat; you’ll have to constantly switch between your digital and analog signals every time, unless you want to pony up for an external switcher somewhere down the line.
Despite its comparatively smaller size the performance on this set was good, even if some imperfections kept it from being the best in its class. While you shouldn’t expect the absolutely accuracy and detailing that comes with most higher-end or perfectly calibrated displays, I was really surprised at just how well Samsung’s relatively lower-priced display kept up with everything I tested. Color accuracy is definitely of it’s best points, as primary colors popped (when properly configured), with the backlight not taking too much of the saturation away even when under the most extreme simulated natural lighting.
Uniformity in neutrals such as grayscale or black/white contrasts did suffer slightly because of the LED backlights fluctuating depending on what was onscreen. This unfortunately isn’t so much of a mistake as much as it is means of compensation to help deliver the deepest blacks, and the variations would sometimes output opposite results, with bright scenes darker and darker scenes noticeably brighter (especially in some edges on the screen). In all fairness, these issues probably won’t be much of a problem unless you’re really looking to find fault in the overall presentation, and most people will be perfectly fine with how well the various blacks and shadow details are displayed.
HD-equipped gaming consoles like the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 looked great when connected properly (via HDMI), with sharp details like fonts and edges faithfully rendered with little artifacting to speak of. Even content designed for 1080p (some games, Blu-rays) managed to look gorgeous, which is great as most media outputs 1360×766 (720p/60Hz) resolutions, which will have those uniformed crying foul, but the lack of true 1080p is, ultimately, irrelevant for a screen this size. Standard and enhanced-definition also get bumped up and remained more solid than most with graphic jaggies being removed for the clearest picture possible and noise reduction thoroughly cleaned up. Don’t expect true HD from this pseudo-upscaling effort, but it’s good enough for people watching standard-definition content or playing Nintendo’s Wii console.
There’s not much to speak of when it comes to its relatively meager sound system, which is to be expected of a display like this, although its not bad. Samsung usually does a good job with adding decent sound to their sets, and they promise SRS HD sound (through the speakers on the bottom) here, although 10 Watts x 2 of power means you’ll probably want to pick up an external solution if you’re craving realistic explosions and better bass performance.
With style and substance to match (least of which is its lower-end pricing), Samsung’s 32″ 720p LED HDTV would make a fine starting point to anyone looking to join the LED revolution. Its astoundingly more affordable than last year’s models, but still a bit higher than many would hope for; it won’t break the bank entirely but you’re going to be paying around $200 more at most if selective price comparison is a priority. Some technical issues muddy the waters, mainly with a backlighting system that thinks it knows best, and a somewhat lackluster approach to legacy (i.e. standard-definition) devices, but most probably won’t mind as they’ll be getting an ultra-thin display that looks and performs great. Overall, this Samsung definitely shows promise, but I suggest finding it on sale before you take the plunge into this next generation LCD.