Samsung's flatscreens sure are pretty and the aesthetic sense of the Korean manufacturer's designers didn't fail them when they made this beautiful 32in LCD. One of the innovations on the 32R74BD are its hidden speakers: they are almost invisible with a thin slot under the screen betraying their presence.
There isn't much else innovative about this LCD. The primary sockets are limited to an HDMI and two Scarts, despite other flatscreens that cost less giving more. There's an optical audio output though, which will be useful if Freeview starts broadcasting 5.1 surround sound. A common interface (CI) backs up the digital tuner, giving the option of subscribing to Top Up TV.
The biggest disappointment occurred in our Test Lab. Before we laid our hands on this review model we were told it would accept 1080p high-definition video. As this set costs just over a grand, you might appreciate our excitement over this. But our tests showed that this Samsung will only accept 720p or 1080i video. This isn't a big downside, but it would have future-proofed the LE-32R74BD.
We were happier when we realised this TV uses Samsung's Digital Natural Image engine - DNIe. This version has been tweaked, as the picture quality was better than Samsung's previous R41 TVs.
The real boost DNIe provides is with black levels. Dark areas look genuinely black, not grey, but retain the subtle details that give these scenes with impact and colours with wide contrast range. Colours are also improved: difficult tones, such as skin and plants, look natural while staying vibrant. And that's with standard- definition footage.
Nightwatch upsampled to 1080i was just as impressive. Fine detail was on show, with even stronger blacks and colours. Things aren't perfect - skin tones do turn waxy at times, and there is some motion lag with standard-definition footage. And, weirdly, using the HDMI gives the worst black levels.
The hidden speakers are this TV's biggest weakness. The soundstage is muted, lacking any dynamism.
This TV looks great, with smashing pictures. Audio may be poor, but for £1,050 you get a picture equivalent to more expensive flatpanels, which frees up some cash for a decent speaker system.