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The UE48H5500 excels with Blu-ray. Using its Full HD panel to the extreme, our test disc Gravity was displayed with enough detail to give immense depth. Who needs 3D?
Detail & colour
Close-ups are delivered with skill, with fine detail visible and a finely graded, subtle colour palette. The former is down to a well-used Full HD panel, while the UE48H5500's built-in Wide Color Enhancer Plus circuity comes is doing a fine job, too.
Black levels & noise
To get those cinematic colours – and certainly if you want believable black levels, it's advisable to switch-on the movie mode picture preset and take the brightness down considerably. The latter rids standard definition images of distractingly visible picture noise, and helps keep them well contrasted.
The tricky mixed brightness images in Gravity are handled really well by the UE48H5500, which manages to offer a convincing rendition of the vastness of space alongside brightly lit astronauts and space hardware.
Motion blur & viewing angles
For pondering images and close-ups, the UE48H5500 really shines, but fast-moving fare does cause a little trouble for this 100Hz panel. Even with the LED Clear Motion feature toggled on, when the going gets tough in near-Earth orbit and the debris starts flying, the quick pans and fast-moving action does cause a few blurs and judders. It's never serious, and many viewers won't even notice it.
Sadly, there's no chance to try a cure because Samsung's Motion Plus frame interpolation circuity isn't included in the UE48H5500's spec. Some will cheer its absence, but I think it's a missed opportunity to bring frame interpolation's more fluid images to a new audience.
The other low-point of the UE48H5500 is its restrictive viewing angles; try to watch it from the sides and all you're get is washed-out images devoid of contrast and with rapidly drained, grey-like black levels.
While the UE48H5500 is hardly a bad picture performer, those after a serious AV performer has better head to Samsung's Series 6 tellies such as the UE48H6500.
While the regular picture/sound/settings menus are a breeze to use and navigation is speedy the Smart Hub pages are what the UE48H5500 ought to be judged on. The comprehensive apps page, though bearing an unimaginative grid design, is easy to use, with icons for the most used apps lined-up across the top. That apps page is sandwiched between colourful, dynamic pages including On TV, Movies & TV Shows, Multimedia and Games.
On TV is probably the most interesting, presenting now/next information complete with thumbnail images. This is part of Samsung's S-Recommendation system that monitors what you're watching, though another part of this system is the voice commands, a review of which you'll find here.
Digital file playback comes in three forms; via media software direct from a networked PC, a USB stick inserted into the UE48H5500's side, or from a tablet or smartphone equipped with Samsung's free 'second screen' SmartView 2.0 app.
File compatibility from the first two options is pleasingly exhaustive, while SmartView 2.0 can stream JPEG photos and both MOV and MP4 videos from a mobile device to the UE48H5500. It also ports live TV from the UE48H5500 – about five seconds delayed – but not external sources like Blu-ray.
While its dual 10W speakers do their best, audio on the UE48H5500 is another problem. Treble detail is predictably excellent, without any audible hiss even at high volumes, but there's not enough mid-range or low-end, and consequently music really suffers. Samsung sells soundbars for a reason, though buying one to partner a TV that already measures a pretty substantial 65mm depth might cause problems; considering its depth, the UE48H5500 should have better native speakers.
If you can bag a UE48H5500 for a discount price – say, £500 – it's hard to argue with. The list-price of £629 is ambitious, for sure, but since it appears to be selling for a lot, lot less, I'm confident no-one will feel hard done by once it's set-up.
That said, there are a few reasons why it's cheaper than other Samsung TVs, most notably the more basic panel and a lack of accessories, such as the second Smart Touch remote control and 3D glasses, which are included in the box for all pricier Samsung TVs in 2014. You get what you pay for in terms of looks, but in almost all other areas the UE48H5500 is a veritable bargain.
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Jamie is a freelance tech, travel and space journalist based in the UK. He’s been writing regularly for Techradar since it was launched in 2008 and also writes regularly for Forbes, The Telegraph, the South China Morning Post, Sky & Telescope and the Sky At Night magazine as well as other Future titles T3, Digital Camera World, All About Space and Space.com. He also edits two of his own websites, TravGear.com and WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com that reflect his obsession with travel gear and solar eclipse travel. He is the author of A Stargazing Program For Beginners (Springer, 2015),