Samsung C530 (LE32C530) Review

We take a look at Samsung's entry-level 1080p LCD TV

by hodg100
TV Review

25

Best Buy
Samsung C530 (LE32C530) Review
SRP: £299.00

Introduction

Amongst Samsung’s rather large portfolio of LCD based televisions, here, in the LE32C530 we have their entry level Full HD set. Last year’s less expensive ranges provided some excellent value-for-money televisions that far out-performed the price tag. How does this year’s compare both to its predecessors and the competition? Will the omission of features present on the mid to high range TVs, such as Samsung’s frame interpolation system, have any detrimental effect on overall performance? Let’s take a look...

Design and Connections

At this kind of price, and let’s make no bones about it – this TV is cheap! – I wasn’t expecting a great deal in terms of build quality from the C530 and I certainly was let down in my expectations. On un-boxing the Television, I couldn’t quite believe how ‘plasticky’ it all felt, despite the fact the back panel is actually fashioned from metal. Now I know that this is the norm nowadays but there’s plastic that feels sturdy and robust and there’s also the stuff that feels like it was recycled from the left over Christmas cracker toys. The plastic used on the C530 definitely falls in to the latter category. Do I also need to mention it’s glossy black? I thought not.

The LEC530 is supplied with a stand that swivels. To be honest, I only knew it swivelled from what I’ve read, as the mechanism was not what you would term responsive. In fact, I actually had to keep one hand pressed down, hard, on top of bezel whilst twisting with the other to get it to budge at all. In actual fact, once I got it move, it afforded a fairly generous degree of movement. Whether this was a problem particular to the unit I received or is common to them all, it’s difficult to say but, nonetheless, it proved easier to simply pick the entire television up and angle it, as desired, rather than get the stand to swivel. Perhaps it will loosen with time.

Despite the undeniably cheap feel to the thing, I actually quite like the styling of the C530. It shares similar looks with models higher up the range and, from a distance, certainly belies the price. Measuring a fairly slender 7.5cm, in depth – at its deepest point, the outer frame on both right, left and the top measures 4cm’s in width with the bottom edge, featuring a transparent plastic strip – for decorative purposes, measuring 6.5cm’s. The reason the bottom edge is wider being that it covers the downward firing speakers. I’m not going to feature a dedicated section for sound quality so a word on those speakers here – they are very tinny so I would certainly recommend another solution should you want this television as your primary set.

The screen, itself, is of a non-glass composition and, as a result, provides a fairly good protection against any reflections washing out the contrast - which means it should perform well in a brightly lit environment. The supplied remote control is of a matte black finish and is well laid out with all the important items easily reachable whilst being held one-handed. Overall I’ve no problem with it, despite it feeling rather light. Moving on to the connections and we have, to the rear, a terminal for the aerial; 2 outward facing HDMI 1.3 inputs; a D-Sub PC connection that supports up to [email protected]; a RGB Scart terminal; a Component in with accompanying audio receptors; an Optical digital audio out and a, badly positioned, Headphone jack. To the side we have a Common Interface slot for premium digital content; a further HDMI input, a USB connection and RCA connectors capable of carrying composite video (if you absolutely must) together with stereo audio.

Menus

On initial set up, you are greeted by the usual language selection options; whether the television is intended for home or shop usage; country of use and tuning options – here I opted for digital terrestrial only being as analogue transmissions have been switched off in my area. The new owner is also presented with suggested best connection suggestions, which could be handy for any novice users. The channel scan, itself, took a matter of minutes with all muxes, channels and data services duly found. The menus and EPG are all very well presented in a charcoal and black scheme with accompanying clear white text.

The EPG displays a six channel view with each channel having scheduled programming, for the next two hours, scrolling horizontally. I would have liked the option to have more programming in view but it’s a minor criticism really. Whilst displaying the guide, you are presented with a window, to the top left, showing your currently viewed channel. Overall, it’s an attractive programme guide that’s easy on the eye. Also, take note Panasonic, there’s no intrusive advertising taking up important screen real estate. Coming to the menus and our first sub-menu, ‘Picture’, houses most of the controls holding greatest interest to us. The picture modes on offer are, Dynamic (on by default – make sure this is the first thing you change!), Standard, Natural and Movie. Experience tells us that Movie will afford us the picture closest to industry standards.

Reading vertically down the Picture Menu, we have a Backlight setting together with the usual Contrast, Brightness, Sharpness and Colour settings. There’s also a Tint control that acts as kind of a poor mans CMS. There are three further sub-menus, to the Picture Menu. Firstly, Eco Solution, which notably has an option for the Eco Sensor being activated. In use, this can adversely affect the viewing experience by fluctuating the brightness of the screen, before your very eyes! Next there’s a selection of Advanced Settings. Black Tone, which I found of no practical use, and only seemed to crush blacks with each incremental setting. Dynamic Contrast, that purports to be some sort of brightness limiter, was also left off both in the interests of fair testing and also on principle! Shadow Detail raised the brightness of the close to black greyscale - you guessed it - that was left off too. There’s a global gamma setting, Colour Space options (Auto or Native) and a 2 Point RGB white balance system. There are also options for Edge Enhancement and Flesh Tone, which were also left well alone.

Finally in the Picture Menu, and thank you for staying with me, there’s a Picture Options sub-menu containing options for Colour Tone – Warm2 yields the best greyscale; Screen Size, Screen Mode, a Digital Noise and MPEG Noise Filter that attempt to help with poor quality SD content; HDMI Black Level that assigns the video levels to either PC(RGB) or Video levels and a Film Mode setting that seemed to have little bearing on the cadence detection tests, more of which later. Also worthy of note, under the Tools button of the remote, you will find an Energy Saving setting that allows you to turn off the picture whilst retaining the audio. I found this quite handy, as one that uses Freeview to listen to the radio.

Test Results

Having set up the basic Brightness and Contrast controls, using the appropriate test patterns, we can take a look at how the set is performing pre-calibration. These results were obtained using the Movie picture preset with the colour temperature set at Warm2. Firstly, let’s take a look at the crucial greyscale performance that governs the neutrality of the picture from black to white and is the under-pinning of any good calibration. As we can see, Green is tracking too high with Red and Blue somewhat under the desired levels. This is by no means a terrible result, especially as there is degree of linearity, in the high and low ends of the scale, to the errors, meaning with some tweaking of the white balance controls, we should be able to bring it very close to industry standards. The actual ‘real world’ results were still pleasing albeit with a faint green tinge that would probably be noticeable to the trained eye.

The results here are somewhat further away from the desired standards we’d like and, with only a Tint control to play with – rather than a CMS, there’s almost certainly only a limited amount that can be done to improve matters. That said, I’ve seen far worse performance, out of the box, and it’s probably only with the off-hue performance of Green that you would notice any significant issues. With the lighting conditions in my test room, I opted to set the Calman software for a target gamma of 2.2. As there is no defined gamma standard for digital displays, I just went with what suited the environment the best. You will find that the darker your lighting conditions are, the lower your gamma value can be set, e.g. in a ‘bat cave’ type scenario, you may wish to target 2.3 – 2.4 and vice versa, although I’d never recommend dipping below a gamma of 2.0 as this will almost certainly leave you with a washed out image. As you can see from the graph, the gamma tracks very well across most of the range with a spike at 90% stimulus and, as a result, was left at the default value.

Unlike some of the models higher up the range, the Samsung LEC530 features only a two point White Balance control but, with the errors being somewhat linear in both halves of the scale, this still should be sufficient to obtain excellent results. After a couple of ‘runs’, we obtained the following results. This is truly an outstanding result for a television in this sector of the market. Delta errors, from 20% stimulus up, are all below 2 - with most around 1, meaning any errors should be totally imperceptible to the eye. The resultant picture was now free of the slight green tinge and looking very nice indeed.

Moving on to the gamut performance and, having calibrated the greyscale and tweaked the tint control, we can see that some improvements have been made to Cyan, Yellow and Green, with each closer to their intended point on the CIE 1994 graph with Magenta now pretty much bang on. Luminance had to be dropped a couple of notches from default, using the Colour control, to avoid luminance errors bringing any garish look to the colours. The results here are something of a compromise - Blue's luminance was sacrificed to spare blowing red out too much - and an exercise in mitigation but, with the limited controls available, this is the best that could be obtained. Some viewers may be able to notice the slight under-saturation of Red, together with the off hue performance of Green, but I feel they would be in the minority and it almost seems churlish to complain with a set costing this little!

We have an almost flat response throughout the range. I have to admit to struggling to notice any major change to the overall image but it’s always good to know that things are pretty much exactly as they should be. Having spent some time watching various material, I started to notice there was a pink tinge to the white’s. This is not something that could be picked up on in the graphs and demonstrates that your own eyes are, ultimately, still the best evaluating tools out there. Fortunately, as is often the case in this eventuality, dialling back the contrast a few notches restored the neutrality and stopped the panel clipping.

This is an area in which Samsung have been very strong recently so would this translate down to an entry level set. Well, the answer is, largely yes. Running the wedge pattern test from the Spears and Munsil disc, to check deinterlacing performance, only near the tips of the wedge did the lines start to flicker and display moir. This should mean the panel will perform well with interlaced content. Cadence detection wasn’t such a success story but the LEC530 did manage to correctly display NTSC based film material correctly, detecting the 3:2 cadence without any hitches. PAL based film material didn’t fare so well with the TV frequently falling back in to video deinterlacing mode. Other, less common, cadences weren’t picked up in the processing either but, in reality, these issues will probably be very minor and for those using upscaling solutions, a non-issue. Film lovers will be pleased to hear Blu-ray 24p material is correctly detected and displayed without any pull down or telecine judder.

If the excellent black levels were a surprise, the response time - in terms of input lag - of this panel was a total shock. I entered this area of testing expecting very little, LCD televisions are well known for introducing lag that can mar the gaming experience – particularly online, not so with the C530!! Not only was it a match for my resident Panasonic Plasma but it was actually a tad more responsive. I have no idea how Samsung have managed this but they deserve plaudits for doing so. If only my ageing reflexes were a match for the response times, I might actually stand a chance in online shooters! The downside of gaming on this TV was the motion blur, particularly evident in high contrast area’s. For example, I could literally see the players ‘dragging’ against the pitch whilst engaged in a game of FIFA. This is something I can certainly forgive but I’d advise anyone with a real aversion to this aspect of LCD technology to check for themselves before installing it as their gaming TV.

Picture Quality

So we have some very good performance indicators, on paper, but how does that translate when you’re actually sat down watching the television? Being as the panel tested was an S-PVA variant, we should be able to look forward to a good contrast performance and this, indeed, proved to be the case. The black level, i.e. the minimum luminance output, of the LEC530 was excellent for any LCD, never mind one at this price-point! Shadow detailing was pretty weak, however, and there’s a very noticeable loss of contrast when viewed from anything over approximately 40 degrees off centre. Not only was this on the horizontal plane but also on the vertical one meaning that any prospective owner should give serious consideration to the placement of the television and how it would affect anyone viewing the television out of the ‘sweet spot’.

Out of the box, panel uniformity was far from great, with visible clouding towards the corners of the screen. Having run the set in for approximately 100 hours, things took a turn for the better and only test patterns revealed any remnants of the issue; even then, it was certainly something that had diminished considerably. Scaling of standard definition sources was, for the most part, good but there was a graininess to the picture occasionally visible. This is perhaps the result of trying to cram all those pixels in to such a small panel. On the upside, there was very little in the way of haloing to distract you from the content. Fed a decent bit-rate, the C530 certainly performed well if with an occasional softness you wouldn’t expect from an LCD.

Viewing High Definition material was a real pleasure on the Samsung LEC530, Blu-rays looked excellent and the solid deinterlacing performance meant that 1080i broadcast material was handled very well indeed. All in all, it’s hats off to Samsung for extracting such great performance on a set in this price range. Have I mentioned that this set is only around £300? It’s crazy!! With its lack of any frame interpolation technology, the typical LCD problem of being unable to maintain resolution, when things start to move quickly, did occasionally rear its head. As a result, fast moving action didn’t fare brilliantly so, if sport is a huge concern, you’ll need to demo the set to see if it’s going to be a problem for you.

Features

Being somewhat toward the bottom of the food chain, the C530 is not overly-laden with features by today’s standards. As seems routine, these days, the set is equipped with a USB input allowing playback of Music (MP3/PCM files); Video (including AVI/MKV/VOB/TS containers and Mpeg/MP4 files) and Photographs. It’s worthy of note that the USB device is not restricted to FAT variants and you can hook up a NTFS formatted device. Naturally there are some limitations to the files it will play and it’s obviously no substitute for a fully fledged HTPC or media player. The C530 is equipped with Samsung’s own version of HDMI CEC, labelled Anynet+, allowing the television’s remote control to issue commands to any connected device allowing this control. In practice I found the remote control, itself, to be the limiting factor as it has only the most basic transport and playback controls on board.

Verdict

8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Excellent Contrast and Black Levels - On Axis!
  • Superbly Responsive Panel for Gaming
  • Excellent Calibrated Greyscale and Gamma
  • Good Scaling for SD Sources

Cons

  • Very Poor Viewing Angles
  • Motion Blur
  • Poor Build Quality

Samsung C530 (LE32C530) Review

To my mind, there’s no doubt about it, the Samsung LE32C530 represents something of a bargain. If you can live with the typical shortcomings of LCD technology, in particular poor viewing angles and average motion resolution, then this set is well worthy of consideration. You could certainly spend nearly double and not achieve the greyscale accuracy or deep black levels this television produces. It’s certainly not the greatest example of workmanship, with regards to build quality but, once in situ, the clean, simple styling could help you overlook this.

The menus are very well represented and share the clean simplicity of the outward design. The calibration controls afford the opportunity for an accurate greyscale and gamma, the omission of a CMS is a slight disappointment but is it reasonable to expect that level of sophistication, at this price? And there’s the kicker with the Samsung LEC530, the price. If MCFI solutions are not your thing; if internet widgets don’t float your boat and you already own a PVR, why spend more?

Best Buy

Scores

Sound Quality

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
3

Smart Features

.
.
.
.
.
5

Ease Of Use

.
.
8

Build Quality

.
.
.
.
6

Value for Money

10

Verdict

.
.
8

Picture Quality

.
.
8

Video Processing

.
.
8

Greyscale Accuracy

.
.
8

Colour Accuracy

.
.
.
7

Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level

.
.
8

Screen Uniformity

.
.
8
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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