If you're not bothered about smart TV features or 3D support and just want a TV that doesn't cost the Earth then Samsung's 32EH5000 looks like a good bet. You can pick it up for as little as £270 online, but unlike some budget 32-inch sets it does have a Full HD resolution and a Freeview HD tuner on board.
User interface and EPG
The 32EH5000's menu system lacks the homescreen that's found on Samsung's higher-end models, which isn't surprising as it's also without smart TV features. Nevertheless, its menus still have the same colourful aesthetic as the company's pricier models, with snazzy looking icons and clean white text presented on a light blue background. The menus are easy to find your way around too, so tweaking sound or picture presets is a cinch.
This model also has an excellent programming guide. It's laid out horizontally, with the channel names listed on the left and the upcoming shows displayed on a timeline grid to the right. There's a video window in the top left-hand corner too, so you can keep an eye on the programme you're watching while checking out the guide to see what you might want to catch later. The text used for the programming information is reasonably large, so it's easy to read from a distance even on this TV's relatively small screen.
Naturally there are Now and Next banners that you can call up instead of opening the full guide, and there's also an Info banner to give you information about the current show you're tuned too. One slight annoyance with the Info banner is that it doesn't show you the full summary of the show. Instead, it only displays one line of the summary and you have to press the red button on the remote to open a box showing the full text. On most other sets you can view this information with a single button press, rather than the two you have to use here. Still, it's a slight niggle rather than a major problem.
Design and connections
The 32EH5000 is one of the fattest LED TVs I've ever seen. In fact it looks much more like a traditional LCD display when you take it out of the box, simply because the chassis is so deep -- it extends back from the front of the screen by a full 94mm. It is slimmer at the edges, but overall it's a bulbous set. It feels quite plasticky too, especially the pedestal stand which is fixed and doesn't swivel.
You might think from this description that it's ugly, but actually that's not the case. When it's viewed from the front it's got a relatively slim bezel and also a nice looking angular section at the bottom that funnels down towards the stand.
Samsung seems to be on a bizarre crusade to cut down on the number of HDMI ports it offers on its TVs. This model only has two HDMI ports. On most rival manufacturer's 32-inch TVs you get three. Nevertheless, it does have a full sized Scart socket as well as a set of component inputs. The green phono socket on the component input doubles up as the composite input however, so you can't have both component and composite devices connected at the same time. The optical digital audio output means you can feed audio from the on-board Freeview HD tuner to an external amp though.
There's no Wi-Fi on board, and although there's an Ethernet socket it's not actually used by the TV. That might sound a little strange, but it could be there just so the set confomrs to the Freeview HD specification, which makes an Ethernet socket mandatory on all Freeview HD-branded TVs. There is a single USB port for playing back media files.
This model unfortunately doesn't have Samsung's impressive Smart TV system on board. For that you'll have to step up to the 32EH5300, which costs around £50 more. It also lacks the ability to record from the Freeview HD tuner to USB drives.
The good news is that it does sport a USB port, and you can use this to play back a range of digital media files including photos, music and videos. It supports a reasonably broad range of files types too, as I had no problems playing 720p HD MKV files, as well as various MP4 and Xvid videos.
Playback quality is also first rate and the media player responds quickly to the transport controls. It's also reasonably speedy when you're navigating through folders on larger hard drives.
The 32EH5000's bulky chassis may not be terribly attractive, but it does seem to help this TV out in the sound quality department, as its speakers seem to have more bass on tap than many of Samsung's super-slim TVs. We're not talking 'Miami bass' levels of low-end here, but if you tweak the set's graphical equaliser you can get enough bass for movies and music channels to sound more than acceptable.
Samsung has also included several extra sound processing options, including SRS TruSurround HD and SRS TruDialog. The former spreads out the stereo image to give a wider soundstage, and does a pretty good job, while the latter boosts the apparent clarity of dialogue in the mix. It also works reasonably well, but cancels out any changes you make with the set's graphic equaliser when you turn it on, which is slightly annoying.
Samsung's picture presets are unfortunately quite poor, so if you take this TV out of the box and leave it set on the standard preset you just won't be seeing it at its best. In fact, most of the presets overdrive the TV's panel, as Samsung has cranked up the set's backlight, brightness and colour settings way too much. Out of the presets, the Movie mode is the best, but even this can be improved on by tweaking the picture settings.
Once you've toned down the backlight and tweaked the brightness and colour settings, you'll find that the 32EH5000 really does far outperform other TVs in this price bracket. It puts in a very convincing colour performance for the most part, helping to make open landscapes in movies look particularly rich and lush. Skin tones can be a little wayward at times, but it's nowhere near as bad in this area as most similarly priced screens from lesser-known manufacturers.
Surprisingly for such a modestly priced TV, this model has pretty consistent backlighting across the display and not too much backlight bleed at the edges. This mean that it doesn't suffer from the cloudy blacks that afflict cheap LED screens, and even some expensive ones. Black levels are convincingly deep, and this combined with the TV's impressive contrast performance helps it to handle complex, contrasty scenes in the likes of the Changeling with impressive proficiency for a budget TV standards.
It excels with HD pictures, which look exceptionally sharp and crisp. Perhaps surprisingly though, it doesn't do a bad job with standard-definition channels either. Colours aren't quite as vivid, and contrast is a little bit more compromised when watching standard-definition content, but the TV does a good job of upscaling SD pictures so they don't look overly sharp and noisy, while also avoiding an overly smudged look.
The TV doesn't really have any motion processing to help it cut down on the inherent motion blur that LED screens suffer from. It can manipulate the backlight via its LED Motion Plus setting (which strobes the backlight), but you take a big hit in terms of brightness by using this and it only results in a very marginal improvement in sharpness on moving images. That said, the TV isn't as bad as many budget TVs we've used in terms of motion clarity.
The UE32EH5000 is a great little TV for those who can't be bothered with fancy extras like smart TV features and 3D support. Its chassis may be rather bulbous, but that's not something that you'll notice on a day-to-day basis when you're watching the box. What you will notice is this TV's strong performance in the audio department, as well as its excellent picture quality with both standard-definition and HD channels. I must stress that make the most of this set, you'll have to manually tweak the picture presets to allow it to perform to the best of its ability. All in all, it's a great budget TV that's being offered at a cracking price.