Samsung D5520 (UE-40D5520) LED LCD Smart TV Review
Is the Samsung UE-40D5520 another potential end of line bargain? Mark Hodgkinson finds out.
IntroductionWith the new lines set to hit very soon, this is the time of year when we know we’re writing for the savvy bargain hunters out there who know that the latest generation doesn’t necessarily bring around the promised improvements. The D5520 comes as Samsung’s entry level offer for those yearning for a TV that does a little more. It’s fully equipped with Samsung’s Smart Hub and as such offers a variety of internet, streaming and recording features. Traditionally Samsung score very well in this sector of the market and the likes of the D5520 are the bread and butter of their TV business. Let’s be honest, this isn’t the type of television that will get our typical forum member excited but there’s a good possibility it will represent a value proposition; so let’s see if this unglamorous model can cut it on the AVForums catwalk.
Design and ConnectionsFor the time being, at least, it’s still safe to deem the D5520’s styling as typically Samsung. With a host of other manufacturers looking to emulate Samsung’s sales numbers by ‘paying homage’ to their designs, in the upcoming 2012 ranges, the ‘crystal’ strip surrounding the gloss black bezel won’t be quite so synonymous with the Koreans efforts for much longer. It’s clean, simple and, dare we say, now classic and unlikely to look out of place in any environment and the same goes for the swivelling, rectangular base stand. The chassis is fairly slim and wall mounting options are aided by the fact the HDMI inputs are sideways facing but they are quite close to the edge of the bezel so either slim cables or angled adapters will be needed to ensure nothing pokes out around the edges.
Speaking of HDMI ports, there are four on the side connections panel along with two USB ports (1 for HDD PVR duties); a digital audio output; a terminal for the supplied break-out adapter servicing component video and the audio jack corresponding to the D-SUB PC connection. The aforementioned VGA port is located on the downward facing connections panel together with a Freeview HD compatible aerial socket; a LAN port; a headphones connection and a slot for the break-out capable for use with RGB Scart sources.
The remote that comes with the D5520 is Samsung’s budget version but all that means when compared to the handset that ships with the higher ranges is that it lacks a backlight, so no great shakes really. We’re not the biggest fans of the build quality that goes in to the Samsung remote controls but we’ve no major quibbles over button placement or ease of use. It’s a case of function over form but we’ve no problems with that.
MenusThe Menu system is split in to 6 sections - Picture, Sound, Channel,Network, System and Support and aren’t of the flashy new design sported in the 7 and 8 series’ but they are still informative, with a brief description of what the currently highlighted selection is supposed to do appearing to the right.
The Picture Menu houses the Picture Mode options of Standard, Dynamic and Movie but if you’re looking for a Game mode, you’ll need to navigate to the System tab and then to the General sub-menu. All the standard Contrast, Brightness, Colour and Sharpness controls are found toward the top of the Picture Menu as well as a Tint (Hue) slider and Screen Adjustment option that should be set ‘Screen Fit’ for high def sources.
Under the Advanced Settings, we have the Black Tone and Dynamic Contrast options that we left off and a Shadow Detail slider that goes from -2 to +2. We found with this set to anything other than zero, low end gamma was adversely affected so we left it in its neutral state. The Gamma selection, itself, works on the same basis as the Shadow Detail control only with a +3/-3 range but, obviously, affects the curve throughout. The advanced menu also gives access to an RGB only mode, useful for a quick colour luminance calibration without need for measuring equipment; choices for Auto or Native Colour Space and further options – Flesh Tone, Edge Enhancement and Motion Lighting – that had no beneficial effects on image quality. The UE-40D5520 comes with 2 point White Balance sliders but there’s no Colour Management System to play with, unlike the higher end ranges.
Contained in the Picture Options sub-menu we have the Film Mode that has Auto1, Auto2 and Off options which we’ll test in the Picture Processing section. There are also a couple of noise filters (Digital Noise and MPEG) that didn’t really do anything with our test material but could be useful with particularly low quality content. With the (most accurate) Picture Mode of Movie selected, a Colour Tone (read Colour Temperature) of Warm 2 proved closest to industry standards. Finally, under the Picture Options, there’s a choice of settings for HDMI Black Level that should be at Normal for Video content and Low for PC levels.
For what it’s worth, bearing in mind the quality of the built in speakers (not good!), we settled upon the ‘Movie’ Mode from the Sound Menu from the choices of Standard, Music, Clear Voice, Amplify but that was a preference thing, rather than anything measured. A useful option for those that are bothered about volume differences between particular channels exists in the DTV Audio Level which allows for uses to compensate for the varying amplitude between the MPEG and HE-AAC codecs. Most of the other options contained in the D5520’s menus are fairly self-explanatory and we’d suggest a download of the menu from the Samsung website for anyone wishing to know more.
Test ResultsAs mentioned earlier, the Movie picture mode, together with a colour tone of Warm 2, was providing best results and so, with our Backlight, Contrast and Brightness optimised for the viewing environment, we took these measurements. Results here are typical of the Movie/Warm2 configuration with the red channel tracking too high through the greyscale. Green is running too low, near black, whilst Blue is not too far out. Actual on-screen material doesn’t look bad, to be fair, but there’s certainly some improvements to be made. Moving on to the colour performance against the Rec.709 HDTV standard and we are presented with the graph on the right below.
Results here are actually very good. We do have some saturation issues with Blue and Magenta and all the Primary colours (red/green/blue) are somewhat off hue but the errors aren’t so sizeable that they’re easily noticeable with the naked eye. The area where are eyes are most sensitive to colour errors is in their luminance and here the D5520 is returning excellent results, with only the least visible colour, blue, at the point where it would be noticeable without measuring equipment. We may able to tweak slightly better colour reproduction but we’re limited by the lack of fine controls.
No matter that we didn’t have 10 point white balance controls as we were still able to calibrate greyscale to reference performance. As well as almost totally eliminating greyscale errors, the already excellent gamma tracking improved further, too, meaning we now have a chromatically and tonally neutral palette to overlay the colours upon. For a TV in this price range, it’s truly a superb set of results. Although we’re hampered in our attempts to get similar reference performance in the gamut calibration, we were able to use the Tint and Colour sliders to make some improvements. The now near ruler flat greyscale tracking also helps to balance the secondary colours, leaving us with the above left graph. We weren’t able to significantly reduce the blue errors but were very happy to have everything else showing overall delta errors below the 3 level, which in practice means they’re imperceptible to the human eye.
Other than some slightly soft scaling of 576i sources, as we’d witnessed with the 5 series plasma, the D5520 lived up to Samsung’s usual high standard of video processing. Video deinterlacing was excellent, with only a slight hint of jaggedness apparent on our tests patterns. Provided ‘Screen Fit’ is selected as the screen size all resolution tests were passed and filtering performance was very good too.
The D5520 pretty much flew through all our cadence detection tests and as well as comfortably locking on to the most common - 2:2 and 2:3 – cadences, it could identify a few more obscure ones too. Ironically, as the manufacturers’ processing engines get better and better at this task, the need for it is diminishing but it’s still good to see. We can only recall seeing one display that struggled to handle 1080p24 Blu-ray material, in the last year or so, and the D5520 didn’t join it on the naughty step. For a mid to low range TV, the Samsung UE-40D5520 displays excellent all-round video processing abilities but, then, that’s we’ve come to expect from the Korean’s.
Once switched to Game mode the D5520 was up to the job, for our needs as non-competitive gamers, showing a latency of between 30-32 milliseconds to controller input. In console gaming terms, that’s usually a delay of around 2 frames. Fancy PC gamers with their high powered gaming rigs may sniff at these numbers but it’s good enough for us. That’s a jealous dig, by the way!
In out of box Standard Mode, the Samsung UE40D5520 averaged a 51W draw. Once calibrated in the Movie mode, the average was reduced to just under 44W.
Picture QualityWith most of the ingredients already in place to produce great images, the D5520 rarely disappointed. To add to the wonderful calibrated results and fine video processing, we can include excellent black levels and contrast, with a very respectable dynamic range. Naturally, high definition material particularly impressed and the near ruler flat gamma response gave images a defined stand-out quality unbecoming of the D5520’s modest status. As we mentioned in the Picture Processing section, scaling of interlaced standard definition signals could have been better but the general accuracy of the picture combined with the deep blacks isn’t such a bad trade-off.
Of course it wasn’t all a bed of roses as the D5520 couldn’t throw off the shackles of its LED heritage and there were some uniformity problems. Foremost of these was some noticeable light pooling in various patches of the screen. To be fair, they weren’t overly apparent in general viewing unless the scenes were of a very low lit nature but as we seem to find ourselves watching material with lots of shadowy content, it did intrude somewhat on the experience. The other typical weaknesses of LCD/LED, in blurry fast movement and restrictive viewing angles, were also present but we’d prefer a touch of blur against the, frankly awful, undefeatable motion processing employed in the 7 and 8 series; and with careful placement, the contrast drop off from around 30 degrees off-centre can be negated.
FeaturesIt’s good to see access to Samsung’s excellent Smart Hub extending down to the 5 series, even if it isn’t quite such a fully featured as the upper tier TVs version. That said, most of what people are likely to regularly use, i.e. the Video on Demand content, is fully intact and there’s plenty to go out with BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Demand 5, Netflix and a host of others featuring. The Samsung Apps store provides the ability to download a wide assortment of free ‘casual’ games, social networking widgets and the like but we’ve yet to really see anything outside of the VoD content to get us excited, including the abysmal Darts game and the virtual fish tank!
Perhaps the thing we like best about the Smart Hub is that it consolidates all the added features in one location; so as well as all the internet content from the ‘Hub’ we can also, for example, initiate media file sharing and streaming or access recordings made to a connected USB hard drive. If we’ve one criticism, it does all look a touch cluttered but we’re pleased to learn that Samsung have addressed that issue in the 2012 ranges.
- Deep blacks
- Calibrated greyscale is reference level
- Mostly excellent video processing
- Out-of-the-box colour reproduction is impressive
- Lots of Smart TV features
- Freeview HD tuner
- Some noticeable light pooling uniformity issues
- Off-axis viewing diminishes contrast performance
- Soft scaling of interlaced standard def signals
- Motion blur with fast paced action
- Lame speakers
Samsung D5520 (UE-40D5520) LED LCD Smart TV Review
Simply put, for the current asking price that the Samsung UE-40D5520 commands, just shy of £450, you can treat yourself to a television capable of producing very accurate, contrast rich images with a host of features not usually available for this sort of money. If you can put up with some light pooling and the fact that fast paced action will exhibit some blurriness, then the D5520 is a sure fire steal. Throw in some mostly excellent video processing and we have a very solid recipient of an AVForums Recommended badge.
The D5520’s styling can now probably be deemed as classic and we’re about to see a clutch of manufacturers emulate the crystal strip that surrounds the gloss black bezel in their upcoming ranges; no doubt in the hope they can match Samsung’s sales numbers. There’s not that much surprising about the D552 and as well as the familiar styling, the boxed remote control is of the Korean’s typical stock - we’re not the biggest fans but it gets the job done with no fuss. The menu design and structure is also what we’ve become accustomed to in the manufacturer's lower end ranges and are reasonably comfortable to navigate, even if there are a lot of options on offer. The scale of Samsung’s Smart Hub offering is slightly cut back in the 5 series but the crucial video on demand services are all present and there’s generous streaming and recording options too.
We were reasonably impressed by the out of box accuracy of the greyscale and following calibration the D5520 achieved a reference result here. Fortunately the colour reproduction was of a very high standard without our intervention as there’s no CMS to play with in the menus. Samsung TVs usually come with excellent on-board video processing and the D5520 was no real exception, save for some soft standard definition scaling with certain sources.
If you’re in need of a 40inch television that won’t break the bank, whilst offering both very good picture quality and an extremely generous feature set, you could do much worse than check out the Samsung D5520.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £549.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level8
Ease Of Use8
Value for Money7
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