The UE40D6530 is extremely well appointed for the price. It has a Freeview HD tuner for subscription-free hi-def from the BBC, ITV and C4; is 3D ready; can stream media across your network and has the keys to the door of Samsung's Smart TV portal. The latter is probably its most significant asset.
Samsung's Smart Hub portal has mushroomed since its launch earlier this year. The brand's fast growing app store has been modeled on the mobile phone app experience and enables you to augment your screen with an astonishing array of extra functions.
Not only is it overflowing with causal games and timewasters (Yoga Helper, anyone?), it offers plenty of VOD in the shape of YouTube, LoveFilm, Daily Motion, BBC iPlayer and Acetrax. Its newest arrival is Explore 3D, which offers free 3D movies and trailers. You can also Skype video call if you plug in a webcam (Samsung sells the CY-STC1100 for £129).
Naturally, there are apps for popular social media sites Facebook and Twitter (they're grouped under a Social TV umbrella, as well as solo via the apps dashboard), however the user experience here is curiously antisocial.
To use them, you have to create a Samsung account first (rather than just log in as you would on a PC) and text entry via a faux phone keypad is painfully clunky. Those that can be bothered to log on will discover that neither the Facebook nor the Twitter app has been integrated into the viewing experience particularly well.
Conversely, Smart Hub has the best implementation of a web browser yet seen on a TV. Based on the WebKit rendering engine, which powers Safari and Chrome, it has support for Flash and also maintains a live TV window, so you can watch and surf at the same time.
Media streaming across your network is also supported, but it's only partially successful. Samsung seems to believe that the PC should be the repository of your audio visual files, and the UE40D6530's Allshare media streaming function is based on that assumption.
However, if you prefer to keep your audio visual files on a network attached storage (NAS) device, then its limitations rapidly become evident. The UE40D6530 is very dependant on the media server it talks to. In a side-by-side shootout with Panasonic's 2011 Viera Connect TVs, using the same network, NAS and miscellaneous file collection, the UE40D6530 came out very much second best.
While it played AVIs and MOVs, it failed with MKV wrapped content and MP3 metadata got lost twixt NAS and screen. Thankfully, when asked to play the same content from a USB there were no file incompatibility issues.
Interestingly, the UE40D6530 discovered Panasonic's new DNLA-compliant DMR-BWT700T on our test network, but while it could see recordings on the hard-disk drive it couldn't play them.
The UE40D6530 is also able to record from an external PVR drive. Take any external drive, hook it up and let the UE40D6530 format it. Once formatted, contents of the drive can only be read by the host TV. You can now record TV shows from the TV Guide just as you would on a dedicated PVR.
Obviously, the system has its limitations – as there's only one tuner you can't record one channel while watching another, but as a simple, basic recorder this feature holds considerable appeal.