These days, you can get a great HDTV at a great price if you don’t need top-end features including 3D. (And who really needs 3D these days?) Samsung’s F5500 series is proof of that. There’s no 3D support, and the set is decidedly mid level, but it offers an impressive array of connected features and very good picture quality to boot. It doesn’t quite beat the 55-inch Vizio M551D-A2R on bang for your buck, but the 46-inch $749.99 (direct) UN46F5500 we tested is an excellent deal.
Editors’ Note: This review is based on tests performed on the Samsung UN46F5500AF, the 46-inch version of the series. Besides the screen-size difference, the 50-inch $879.99 (direct) UN50F5500AF is otherwise identical in features, and while we didn’t perform lab tests on this specific model, we expect similar performance.
Looking plain and unassuming without seeming cheap, the F5500 has a flat black bezel with only a Samsung logo on the bottom bezel. The screen sits on a silver plastic four-legged base that lets it pivot left and right. A four-way joystick on the back near the lower-right corner controls the HDTV and lets you navigate the menu system. On the back, two USB and two HDMI ports can be found next to the antenna connection facing the right side of the screen. The remaining HDMI port, Ethernet port (if you don’t want to use the HDTV’s built-in Wi-Fi), component and composite inputs, and optical audio, mini-jack audio, and infrared blaster outputs face back.
The remote is a simple rectangular wand filled with rectangular buttons, a somewhat frustrating aspect of Samsung remotes without touch pads. The navigation buttons are shaped nearly the same as the surrounding menu buttons, so it’s easy to hit Return or Exit when you’re navigating menus without looking directly at the remote. The volume and channel rockers are easy to find under your thumb, as is the hexagonal Smart Hub button that brings up the media navigation menu.
While the F5500′s physical design is plain, Samsung put a lot of work into its software design and features. The set uses Samsung’s Smart Hub menu, which divides content into live TV, movies and TV shows, social features, apps, and local media. The Live TV menu has its own channel guide, and can control your cable or satellite box with the included IR blaster. The Movie and TV show menu offers a selection of on-demand titles you can purchase from Samsung, but you might prefer the apps menu’s selection of more standard services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, and HBO Go. The Apps menu also features a full Web browser, but navigating the Web and entering text on a standard TV remote is very awkward. The social tab tracks your Facebook and Twitter activity, and the local media tab can load content on connected USB drives, networked DLNA media servers, and media stored through the Samsung Link cloud service.
These content tabs use Samsung’s S Recommend feature to refine suggestions for what to watch, keeping track of your viewing habits and adjusting the movies, shows, and channels it displays first to reflect them. If you want it to work with your television, you’ll have to set it up to control your cable or satellite box.
Besides the features in the Smart Hub tabs, you can also mirror your smartphone or tablet screen with Miracast, found in the F5500′s Network settings menu as Wireless Display. Samsung heavily pushes its AllShare features for sending media from a Samsung smartphone or tablet to the HDTV, and it worked flawlessly in my tests. I had no problem streaming a movie from my Google Nexus 7 tablet. Screen mirroring is more tricky; the screen showed up as a wireless display to the Nexus 7, but it couldn’t make a connection. Samsung devices might communicate a little more smoothly through Samsung’s AllShare software, but you should be able to use any DLNA-enabled device.
We test HDTVs with a Klein K10-A colorimeter, SpectraCal’s CalMAN 5 diagnostic software, and DisplayMate test patterns with a basic dark room calibration for brightness and contrast. The F5500 gets satisfyingly bright at 316.360 cd/m2, but it doesn’t get too dark with a black level of 0.084 cd/m2. The contrast ratio is a solid 3,754:1, but the Editors’ Choice Vizio M551D-A2R edges it out with a black level of 0.031 cd/m2 and a contrast ratio of almost double at 7,145:1 even with the Vizio’s dimmer (221.492 cd/m2 peak brightness) screen.
As shown in the chart above, colors fare very well out of the box. With the color temperature presets at the warmest setting but no other changes made the F5500 showed nearly spot-on white, blue, and green colors. Red was slightly oversaturated, but not enough to visibly tint the picture. For the most accurate colors, use the Movie mode with color temperature set to Warm2.
I watched Piranha and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance on the set, and they both looked very good. The murky underwater scenes and bright surface scenes of Piranha were colorful and crisp, and the darker scenes showed deep blacks and strong detail. The rampant fire of Ghost Rider’s powers were warm and bright in otherwise very dark scenes, highlighting the screen’s strong contrast.
Under typical viewing conditions, the UN46F5500AF consumes 106 watts with all power saving features disabled. At the Low Eco mode setting, the screen darkens the picture noticeably, but keeps it watchable while consuming 66 watts. The Medium Eco setting borders on too dark and requires 47 watts, and the High Eco setting darkens the screen too much to watch.
The Samsung F5500 series of LED HDTVs offers a very good picture and an impressive array of smart services and features. It isn’t the darkest panel, and it doesn’t offer 3D, but for the price, you get a lot of screen. If you want a bigger picture and similarly strong performance, the Editors’ Choice Vizio M551D-A2R offers a solid bump in size for a slightly higher price (compared with the 46-inch model we reviewed), and if you’re willing to pay a bit more than that, the 55-inch Panasonic TC-L55ET60 offers excellent performance along with a 3D picture and a more stylish design.
|Video Inputs||Component, Composite, HDMI, RF, USB|
|Diagonal Screen Size||50 inches|
|Pixel Refresh Rate Speed||120Hz|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc