- Review Price: £1050.00
Samsung’s brief to its designers for the new LE32R74BDX seems to have been simply this: come up with the best looking LCD TV ever made. And you know what? Despite some outstandingly attractive competition, we reckon Samsung might just have pulled it off.
What is it that makes the set so desirable? Well, all the key elements of TV attraction are there: a high-gloss polish for the deep black screen frame; a similarly shiny rotating stand; cutesy curves on all the edges; and a terrifically slender profile. But the 32R74BDX also generates more je ne sais quoi than its rivals thanks to a couple of extra design flourishes in the form of a funky white triangle sticking out of the bottom edge, and the apparent absence of any speakers.
This does not mean that the set doesn’t have any speakers, though; in fact, the clue to their position lies in that bold white triangle. For if you look closely at our pictures of the set you might notice that the white triangle angles back under the main screen frame, creating a hidden ledge along the TV frame’s bottom edge. And it’s in this ledge that two down-firing speakers have been tucked. Clever, very clever.
Let’s not forget, though, that unless you’re a Hollywood actor looks alone can only get you so far. If you’re going to win us at TrustedReviews over, your beauty had better be more than skin deep!
So let’s start our investigation of what else the set might have going for it with its connections. Of which the most key findings are an HDMI socket and component video input for high definition sources, along with a D-SUB port and two SCARTs.
To be honest, this isn’t as impressive as we’d hoped from a brand that usually prides itself on being on the cutting edge connections-wise. A second HDMI would have been particularly appreciated. Oh well – c’est la vie, we guess.
The 32R74BDX’s features are pleasingly numerous, though. For starters, as with all the TVs we’re covering in our World Cup run-up it’s fully HD Ready, adding to its HD connectivity a suitably high native resolution of 1,366 x 768 and compatibility with the key 720p and 1080i HD formats. Early word from Samsung had suggested the 32R74BDX might also handle the new 1080p HD format, but experiments with our resident 1080p-upscaling Marantz DV9600 DVD player suggest this is not actually the case.
The 32R74BDX also sports a built-in digital tuner for Freeview reception, and helpfully backs this up with a slot for adding payTV subscription cards and a digital audio output ready for if/when Freeview gets round to broadcasting Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks.
Staying with the digital tuner, we can also report that it offers full support for the Freeview 7-day electronic programme guide (EPG), and lets you set timer events simply by selecting programmes directly from the listings. Rather crazily, though, the 32R74BDX only lets you skip ahead through the EPG a maximum of a couple of hours at a time, making looking for programmes a few days ahead tedious in the extreme.
As with nearly all Samsung TVs these days, the 32R74BDX sports the Digital Natural Image engine picture processing system. This contains algorithms for improving contrast, colour brightness/tone, motion and fine detail response, and hopefully it will impress us here as much as it has on previous Samsung sets.
More picture assistance comes from a new way of letting light through the LCD pixels. Called Super Vertical Pattern Alignment, the system refracts the light from each LCD pixel more widely, meaning you can watch the picture from a much wider angle without experiencing the customary drop off in contrast and colours.
Elsewhere there’s a 10-bit colour processing engine that allegedly serves up a stonking 12.8 billion different colours, and an outrageously high (by LCD standards) claimed contrast ratio of 5000:1.
Other little tricks worth running by you include a ‘Game’ picture preset specially calibrated to suit an attached Xbox 360 console, a digital noise reduction system, and picture in picture facilities.
Let loose in HD on our Xbox 360 and Sky HD service, the 32R74BDX quickly reveals that thankfully it’s not just a pretty face. Right away, for instance, we found ourselves hugely impressed by the natural tone and extensive range of its colour palette. What’s more, this naturalism and range is not achieved at the expense of the extreme colour vibrancy that’s become something of a Samsung trademark.
Samsung LCDs are renowned for their fine detailing too, and again the 32R74BDX continues the trend, eking out every last pixel of image information from our HD sources, especially the Xbox 360.
It’s a relief to find that much of this fine detail can even be seen in dark parts of the picture, partly thanks to dark picture areas not suffering badly with LCD’s common ‘greying-over’ phenomenon, and partly because the set has an unusually deft touch when it comes to portraying subtle brightness shifts in dark scenes.
While they’re definitely very good, though, the 32R74BDX’s pictures aren’t perfect. First, although they’re decent, black levels don’t plummet quite as deep as one or two LCD rivals these days. Second, actors’ skin can look a bit plasticky and smooth, especially with standard definition footage. And finally, the DNIe system can break down just a touch with standard definition and cause traces of smearing over moving objects.
When it comes to audio, the 32R74BDX’s ‘invisible’ speaker design requires you to accept slightly more sound quality compromises than we’re entirely comfortable with. Things sound just about OK during fairly bog-standard daytime TV programmes, but pushed hard with an action movie or game soundtrack the speakers are quickly found lacking in real power or frequency response. And so while the soundstage is generally clear, it’s also rather flat and uninvolving.
The 32R74BDX might not quite be as good as it looks, especially in the sound department. But its pictures are still accomplished enough to ensure that it avoids any nasty style over substance allegations.
Score in detail
Image Quality 9
Sound Quality 6