Our inevitable interest in all things 3D has meant that so far we’ve focussed our reviewing attentions on the higher reaches of Samsung’s new TV range. But it’s arguably at the lower reaches where Samsung has struck so much gold in recent years, consistently delivering levels of features and performance that have embarrassed most if not all of its similarly priced competition. So while the strikingly affordable LE32C580 might not have 3D or a pencil-thin design, we’re still excited to have it sitting pretty on our test benches.
Well, maybe ‘sitting pretty’ was a bit of an overstatement. The 32in LE32C580 is certainly attractive enough with its glossy bezel, transparent outer ‘wings’ and subtle infusion of a deep red colour into the bottom edge, but it doesn’t strike us as quite such a stand-out design classic as some of Samsung’s previous affordable TVs. Though to be fair, this has arguably more to do with other brands drastically improving their TV designs than Samsung losing its design way.
Turning our attentions to the set’s rear, we find a fairly normal depth in place of the almost terrifying thinness of Samsung’s edge-LED range, as well as a fairly likeable set of connections. You get four v1.3 HDMIs, for instance - one down the side, three on the rear. There’s also an Ethernet port, a D-Sub PC input, and not one but two USB inputs, which the TV can use to either play JPEG, MP3 and video files, or for making the TV Wi-Fi via an optional extra wireless USB dongle.
Before this talk of Ethernet ports and Wi-Fi dongles starts you dreaming of going online with your bargain new Samsung TV though, it’s time for a rude awakening. For the LE32C580 doesn’t actually let you access Samsung’s Internet@TV online platform. Unfortunate, certainly, but hardly surprising on a £400 TV.
So what can you do with the Ethernet port and optional Wi-Fi dongle? Well, you can update the TV’s firmware, or access stuff on a DLNA PC through your local area network. This latter multimedia touch is actually not a bad discovery at all on such an affordable TV.
The Ethernet port is also required on the LE32C580 because it has a Freeview HD tuner - something else we wouldn’t necessarily have predicted finding on a sub-£400 32in TV. And so the Ethernet port will enable the TV to add the BBC iPlayer to its feature list once the service is ready to roll out - as well as, potentially, other services.
We’re not done with the multimedia stuff either. For the TV is also equipped with AllShare, a software platform that allows the TV to connect with compatible Samsung mobile phones or devices through a network. This way you can have your TV tell you when new calls and text messages come in; access schedules set on your phones; and play any media files you might have stored on your phone or portable device.