Review Price free/subscription
Samsung LE32B550 32in LCD TV - Samsung LE32B550
For what it's worth, we'd love to tell you here some absurdly high quoted contrast ratio figure for the TV as well. But in a rather odd move, Samsung has recently started just saying its TVs have 'ultra' or, in the LE32B550's case, 'High' contrast. Honestly - it's enough to make you think Samsung is starting to have about as much respect for contrast ratios as we do!
A set of really attractive, excellently legible onscreen menus, meanwhile, provide you with all manner of handy tweaks to help you calibrate images to suit your tastes and environment.
Among the best of the options available are a Black Tone adjustment, a multi-level dynamic contrast system, a multi-level black level booster, a colour space adjustment, a flesh tone tweaker, an edge enhancement circuit, and the facility to adjust the black level 'starting point' of the HDMI sockets. This latter feature has come in surprisingly handy on one or two recent TVs, enhancing greatly the black levels of some console games we've played, which otherwise looked rather flat and grey.
I'm duty-bound to report before going any further a couple of key features found higher up Samsung's range that the LE32B550 doesn't have. So: there's no Ethernet port for extracting files from a PC or accessing Samsung's Media 2.0 online service. And there's no 100Hz system - all you've got picture processing-wise is Samsung's general-purpose DNIe video engine.
While the absence of 100Hz and Ethernet connectivity certainly provide you with genuine reasons to consider stepping up to Samsung's LE32B650 TV, their absence on the LE32B550 is entirely commensurate with its lowly price.
Switching the LE32B550 on reveals almost immediately that its pictures are every bit as striking as those we saw on the LE40B550. And when we say striking, that's exactly what we mean.
For the dynamism on show is remarkable for any 32in TV, never mind such a cheap one. At one end of the spectrum, colours are extremely dynamic, rich, and fulsomely saturated, while peak whites are bright and crisp. Even more impressive, though, is the TV's black level response. Dark scenes actually contain what looks like black - or at least, something as close to black as I've ever seen on a 32in LCD TV.
Even better, dark parts of otherwise bright pictures also look remarkably black, revealing an ability to render simultaneously bright and dark picture elements that almost defies science, given that this is a 'normal' LCD TV with a single CCFL backlight, rather than an LED model.
As you would expect, this sort of deep black level/rich colour combination works wonders on HD movies. But I was also startled by how much impact it had with simple Freeview tuner fare.