If LCD TVs are still seen as a luxury item, then Samsung's latest range is the one that's pushing it to the mainstream consumer. This TV's price, typically a mere £950, was unthinkable at the beginning of 2005, making it hugely popular -- you might find it hard to go out and buy the LE32R41BD without a wait of at least a week. The TV's high-definition compatibility and integrated digital tuner appeal to the technophiles, while the modern styling and low price appeal to, well, everyone.
The Samsung LE32R41BD is a tour de force bargain from Samsung, ticking nearly every box on our list of demands while trouncing the competition on price. True, Samsung's picture quality doesn't touch Sharp's peerless efforts, but the TV still offers high-end technology, with DNIe image processing giving particularly colourful images with a good contrast range. There's also high-level connectivity from HDMI, meaning the set will be more than ready for the rigours of Sky HD when it launches. Standard connectivity could be more plentiful, but if you've been putting off buying an LCD TV until they become affordable, your wait is over.
The Samsung LE32R41BD is gorgeous. It may be a budget LCD, but it will look the part even in the most expensive designer pad. It sits quite tall on its stand compared to other LCD TVs, as the large speaker panel is situated below the screen. The pointed design gives the Samsungs an immediate focal point, and we're sure this will become as iconic as the Panasonic's Viera range's famous curved stand. The rest of the frame is finished in black, continuing the understated feel.
Disappointingly, there are no connections on the front or side for easy access -- everything is housed on one small panel on the rear of the TV. The selection is adequate, a case of covering all bases without being extravagant. While Samsung has satisfied all reasonable demands, there's only one of each connector included. So there's one S-video input, one composite input, one set of component inputs, one VGA socket and one of the all-new HDMI digital inputs. There are two Scart inputs, but only one is RGB-compatible. This is our biggest complaint, as Scart is still the standard video connector for games consoles and DVD players. If you're going to upgrade to a component video player then you should be fine, but any users wanting to connect a digibox and a normal DVD player via Scart will have to compromise picture quality on one or the other.
Of course, there are audio inputs to accompany the video terminals, so there are stereo inputs for S-video/composite, a headphone-style input for PC, plus stereo outputs to connect up to a home-cinema system. There's also a service input in case you want to upgrade the television with a firmware upgrade, but more on that later.
The design of the remote control is simplistic and completely different from the TV itself in colour and design. Whereas the TV is mainly a sleek black, the remote is a dull grey and looks like it was designed by a completely different department within Samsung. It's easy to use, though, with the main buttons organised in a methodical manner and advanced features tucked underneath a sliding panel at the bottom. As this is an iDTV (including a digital TV receiver), it incorporates Guide buttons necessary for using the electronic programme guide (EPG). The menu system is also easy to navigate, and you can even name the various AV inputs ('Game' or 'DVD' for example) so that it's easier for people not used to the TV to operate it.