Design and Connections
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Excellent Contrast and Black Levels - On Axis!
- Superbly Responsive Panel for Gaming
- Excellent Calibrated Greyscale and Gamma
- Good Scaling for SD Sources
- 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?
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
Our Review Ethos
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