A stylish, friendly and generally capable set, only let down by an indifferent performance with broadcasts
Decent black levels
Friendly, well-featured and stylish
Conspicuously blocky motion
So-so Freeview performance
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If you’re not full HD these days, you’d better be pretty and if you’re really trying to turn some heads, make sure you’re both.
Samsung’s LE32A588 is surprisingly slinky for a ‘conventional’ LCD television. The sparse frame is decked out sumptuously in piano-black gloss and the edges of the screen surround are subtly rolled, softening the set’s profile.
Full HD panel
That stylishly empty front panel, meanwhile, has been achieved by hiding the speakers around the back and they are mounted in a novel, downward-firing configuration, which, as we’ll see, seems to have a pleasingly positive effect on the sound quality.
Top of an extensive spec sheet is, of course, that 1080p panel. This enables you to display Blu-ray discs and HD broadcasts at maximum resolution and should stop this set going out of date for at least a year or two.
This is fed by no fewer than three HDMI inputs, plus a generous roster of secondary connections and even a USB port for plugging in portable storage devices full of photos and/or audio files.
The Samsung’s absolutely idiot-proof installation system will be a joyous revelation to the sort of person who breaks out in a sweat when confronted with such things as graphic equalisers. You simply switch on, press the ‘okay’ button whenever you’re asked to and you’re done.
It’s so straightforward we’d defy even the most banana-fingered luddites out there to be able to mess up getting the set tuned into both analogue and digital signals, and even have a DVD deck or digibox hooked up within minutes.
The menus are colourful, clear and attractively presented and manage the neat trick of being soothingly accessible and tweak-tastically comprehensive, which should suit the terminally technophobic and hardcore AV pointyheads equally well.
The remote is also a joy to use, with decent-sized keys sensibly distributed and well labelled on a nicely turned unit that sits well in the hand. The only gripe we have with the zapper is a cosmetic one: that shiny black finish might pleasingly echo that of the set, but it picks up fingerprints quicker than Hercule Poirot and soon loses its swanky lustre.
The generally delightful experience thus far will have you eagerly anticipating some seriously classy pictures from the Samsung, and the set just about manages to deliver on that promise.
For a start the colours, tweaked, boosted, cajoled and refined by the company’s enduringly successful DNIe processing system, are among the most effortlessly natural you’ll find this side of plasma.
While bold and vibrant when required, the LE32A558P3F isn’t one of those LCDs that strains every sinew in trying to blind you with its peak whites or bombards your retinae with its super-saturated tones.
The experience is altogether more genteel, with spot-on skin tones and accurately-understated ‘real-world’ hues that draw you subtly right into whatever you’re watching, rather than providing a kind of liquid crystal firework show for you to marvel at.
The foundations for this are laid by some unusually impressive black levels, the Samsung proving able to reach down to the kind of depths that are normally only negotiated by plasma.
Motion judder issues
There are, however, a couple of caveats. Motion, despite all that electronic wizardry, is still pretty crude. ‘Natural’ movement, such as walking, is noticeably jerky and any kind of pan across, say, text, wobbles all over the place. This is a shame, as it jars with the otherwise admirably lifelike performance.
The other minus point is for Freeview performance. The set excels with high-definition or SD video, but terrestrial broadcasts look positively ugly, with smearing, poor edge discipline and a general fuzziness that scuppers fine detail.
Admittedly, this sort of thing is usually the fault of the broadcast rather than the panel, but either way, digital telly blown up to 32in and stretched across all those pixels is disappointingly ham-fisted.
Decent sound quality
The audio, as we touched upon earlier, is more than decent for a set with such a slender profile.
The soundfield is accurate and surprisingly three-dimensional, even without the debatably useful TruSurround technology switched on. There’s more than enough welly for watching television and enough muscle to do all but the most bassheavy movie soundtracks reasonable justice.
Sonics still don’t measure up to a proper surround system, of course, but this is one of the better built-in audio systems you’ll find on a set of this size.
An LCD for the style-conscious
While £750 can no longer be considered cheap for a 32in set, the Samsung has just about enough going for it to convince you that you are getting a reasonable bargain.
When all is said and done, this is an attractive, thoughtfully designed set that should have no problem tempting the more style-conscious consumers to part with their cash.
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