Hands on: Samsung Serif TV (2019) review

Standing proud in model homes

What is a hands on review?

Early Verdict

Want your living room to look as if it’s been ripped from the pages of a style magazine? Then you’re going to need a TV that suits the look. Samsung’s 2019 Serif TV fits the bill, but its cost won’t match some of the premium TV feature sets less lavishly styled screens deliver.

For

  • QLED display improvements
  • Unique aesthetic design
  • Smart NFC feature

Against

  • Will carry a significant price premium for the screen size
  • Design might not suit all homes

With its The Frame and Serif TV ranges, Samsung has been looking to find a place not only in the houses of those who care about tech specs, but those who care about interior design too. 

Once again standing tall on its minimalist leg stand, the 2019 Serif TVs deliver in the style stakes and, thanks to the inclusion of key QLED technologies, look set to bring some solid 4K visuals to living rooms too.

Price and availability

This years’ Samsung Serif TVs, each 4K QLED sets, will be available from April 2019 in three different sizes – 55-inch, 49-inch and 43-inch. We’re still waiting to find out how much these 4KTVs cost, but given the design-led approach and pricing of earlier models, we’d be surprised to see these sell for any price that didn’t end in at least three zeroes.

Design

With the Serif TV range, Samsung’s looking to court those less interested in top-spec home cinema features, but more invested in interior design – the folks who read Wallpaper and Monocle as well as TechRadar (we hope!). It’s an industrial design-first look, one where as much care has gone into how the screen will immerse itself with its environment as it will immerse the viewer in cinematic spectacle.

The screen’s aesthetic design therefore has been created in collaboration with Paris design gurus Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, who are renowned for their furniture design.

Though the screen can sit on an AV stand or cabinet, that’d be missing one of its key design points – the four metal feet of its bespoke stand, designed specifically for the Serif TV. These metal legs make it appear to stand like an artists’ easel, and will open up the screen to be placed in rooms where a traditional AV cabinet might domineer. 

The Serif TVs bezel itself is part of its charm too – the top edge is wide enough to act as a shelf, letting you place trinkets or photos frames along the top, further letting the screen meld in among your other possessions. It’s here you’ll find a feature unique to the Serif TV design too – an NFC hotspot. Tap your NFC-enabled smartphone on the Serif TV and you’ll be able to use its larger speakers to playback audio over Bluetooth. It’s a neat trick that we’d like to see integrated in more TVs, or at least soundbars. 

Keeping mess to a minimum, the Serif TV also makes use of Samsung’s One Connect box. This lets a single transparent cable snake away from the TV to a remote connectivity box that houses USB, power and HDMI ports. With it, the minimal design stylings of the Serif TV go unobstructed, with the rear of the TV hiding all connections behind a fabric-covered panel.

Picture quality

Now being ranged in a more significant 55-inch size, the 4K image quality of the Serif range is more important than ever. And, thanks to the inclusion this year of Samsung’s very-fine-indeed QLED technology, the Serif TVs for 2019 are looking for more lovely than they have in previous years. 

The inclusion of QLED technology is great news for colors, which will look far richer and wider in scope on the new Serif, and also for HDR footage. QLED screens have a peak brightness of 4,000 nits, meaning that, in bright scenes, light sources glow with a real-world intensity, while dark scenes can retain detail in shadowy corners without being washed out by other light sources on show.

The Serif TV also makes use of Samsung’s clever Ambient Mode, furthering its style-conscious credentials. The display is capable of scanning its immediate surroundings and, when it goes into standby mode, display a pattern of color to match, letting the screen slip unassumingly into the background. The screens can also be used to display at-a-glance information: weather, time and appointment details. So the Serif can prove attractive and useful even if it’s not playing back an all-time Netflix great.

Smart features

What’s a smart TV without voice control these days? A pretty dumb one, that’s what, and Samsung isn’t looking to be accused of not keeping up with the latest in home automation controls.

Like the rest of the Samsung TV range for 2019, it’ll have support for Bixby voice control. This is Samsung’s answer to Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant, and lets its users speak to their televisions in order to control not only what’s going on onscreen, but also different appliances and features installed in their smart homes too.

For instance, issuing a voice command to the Serif TV could speak to other gadgets and tweak settings like the brightness of connected lighting, or the heat set by a connected thermostat. Bixby is also smart enough to trawl through multiple video content sources on the TV, meaning that you’ll be able to not only set volume levels and channels with your voice, but command the screen to jump to specific shows no matter what streaming platform or terrestrial catch up service they’re hosted on.

Audio

We’ve yet to be able to listen to the Serif television – the demo environment in which we saw it displayed did not have the screens outputting any audio. 

Samsung isn’t pushing the audio capabilities of the Serif TV in any particularly forceful way though, suggesting there’s little special to write home about here – there’s no built-in soundbar, for instance. 

However, Samsung is pumping money into artificial intelligence tech in relation to audio, right across its range of TVs. This means its screens are capable of analyzing their surroundings and tuning their output accordingly, as well as intelligently adapting their output based on what’s being viewed at the time. So a talk show or film would prioritize clear dialogue, while an action film or sports event would ramp up the bass and let ambient crowd sounds raise slightly. How well this works in practice on the Serif TVs remains to be seen, but they’ve got a little more girth than your usual flatscreen TV, which makes us hopeful that they’ll be able to output sound a little beefier than the competition.

Early verdict

Like The Frame TV for 2019, the Serif is a lovely-looking screen that’s as much about its industrial design as it is about its standard picture quality.

With its leggy stand and shelf top frame, there are few other TVs like it on the market, and sets up the Serif for design-conscious living rooms where AV cabinets take a back seat to hygge design. Look elsewhere for top-flight home cinema features, but the Serif is looking like a smart choice for the interior designer in your life. 

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.