For those who’ve found themselves on the fence over pulling the trigger on a flat panel TV purchase, we want you to know that we’ve been there, too. The TV market is flooded with TVs right now. That’s both good – because prices are lower than ever – and bad – because making a selection is harder than ever.
Just because you’re looking at the (gargantuan) entry to mid-level TV segment doesn’t mean you aren’t looking to make a smart call with your dollars. Comparing reams of ramped up LCD displays under fluorescent store lighting is not a good way to shop. It helps to get advice from someone who knows the market, seen it all, and understands where a given product stands before you go shopping. That’s where we come in.
We here at DT are turning our magnifying glass toward entry-level TVs in an attempt find you the absolute best bang for your buck. Whether you’re shopping on a budget or looking to add an extra TV for the bedroom, rec room, or even the bathroom, we’re digging deep to guide you on your quest for value. One of our first subjects in this brave new world of uber-affordable LCD displays is Samsung’s UN32EH4003f 32 inch LED TV (4003).
Priced at around $250 online, Samsung is busting the price bubble with the 4003. And though it offers only 720p resolution with a 60Hz refresh rate, for most applications, those specs are more than ample to deliver a gorgeous picture. Specs aside, the real question is: What’s it like to live with this TV? Read on to find out.
Out of the box
We never cease to be amazed at how light LCD TVs have become. Carting the 4003 home in its box was only mildly awkward due to its dimensions. As we effortlessly pulled the slim-bezeled TV from its box, we were impressed with its glossy black exterior and sharp edges – pretty nice for such an inexpensive TV. Inside the box, we found a rectangular stand with a matching black finish, an AC power cord, and the obligatory plastic baggy filled with accessories, including a curved remote, batteries, instructions, and a package of 8 screws.
Features and design
The 4003 has an impressively thin bezel for its price point. At just .7 inches thick, it sharply frames the display. However, though the term LED tends to conjure images of pencil-thin TV cabinets, this is a direct-lit LED set, meaning its 3.7-inch depth, while not especially sexy, isn’t out of line with CCFL-backlit TVs of the same size. As mentioned above, the 4003 is quite light, weighing in at a miniscule 13.2 pounds with stand attached.
The 4003’s modest collection of inputs are all at the rear, including a Component/Composite hybrid input, 2 HDMI inputs, a USB input, and a coaxial cable input.
We were puzzled and a bit dismayed to see there is no audio output to be found anywhere on the 4003 — and believe us, we looked everywhere. This oversight makes adding a simple sound bar solution to the TV’s less-than-impressive on-board audio a bi t of a hassle- but more on that later.
The 4003’s remote primarily controls the TV and only the most basic functions on, say, a Samsung Blu-ray player. It can’t be programmed for other devices, which is no surprise in an entry level set. We don’t, however, care for the fact that Samsung essentially shrunk the full-size remote it uses for its more advanced TV’s, leaving the thing feeling crowded.
Those looking for apps or internet connection will need to move up a notch or two in price or simply add a Roku box, Apple TV or some other OTT solution. No Smart TVs exist at this price point…yet.
Connecting the 4003 to its 7-inch deep stand is as easy as setting eight screws in place. The TV was ready for action in under a minute, and looked pretty smart atop its stand. For those intending to wall mount, installation should be similarly straightforward, as the TV light weight lends it well to basic wall mounting hardware.
As the 4003 includes a modicum of advanced picture settings, it’s pretty easy to stay out of trouble. Most novice users should be able to find a satisfying image with only minor changes to the TV’s default setting. One thing to remember about this TV is that the picture settings aren’t globalized, so you’ll have to adjust for each available input. While the process can be time consuming, we’d rather a manufacturer err on the side of more control than less.
The 4003 has 3 basic picture mode settings including Standard, Dynamic, and Movie. The default Standard mode looked pretty clean straight out of the box, but had a bit of washout in the whites, and some slight color issues. We also found the Standard mode’s backlight setting of 12 to be pretty dull, while the maxed out level of 20 on both the Movie and Dynamic modes were blazingly bright, especially at night.
We ended up settling on the Movie mode as a starting point, adding some basic adjustment to tint, color, sharpness, and contrast. A full listing of our recommended settings follows this review.
We were pretty impressed with the 4003’s picture considering it is an entry-level model. Its LED backlighting provided ample punch to underscore its rendering of lush greens, vivid reds, and golden yellows. Watching animation on Blu-ray with the 4003 was a satisfying experience, especially for a 720p display. Though the set doesn’t yield minute details with the sort of sharpness you’ll get with a larger,1080p TV, it does a good job of cutting a very clean image – we think remarkably so for its price.
That said, we encountered a few basic issues here and there. We witnessed some occasional jitter during fast-paced sporting events and action sequences. We also noticed a fair amount of edgelight bleed displayed when the screen rendered its deepest blacks, most noticeable in the top right corner of our test model.
Still, to put things in perspective, these issues will be inherent in virtually all entry level LED TVs with similar specs. And we have to say that they were marginal at best compared to our expectations. Indeed, for most of our viewing time, we simply enjoyed the 4003’s brilliant colors, and sharp image.
The 4003’s weakest point is its terrible audio situation, and we worry that may be a deal-breaker for folks. Even with EQ adjustment, the speakers reproduced a flat, tinny sound that fared worse than even our 5 year old Samsung LCD. As mentioned previously, the problem is exacerbated by a lack of any audio outputs, preventing convenient use of a sound bar as a solution. If you need on-board audio ouput, the closely-related UH4000 series offers digital optical output. Otherwise, those who regard sound as a priority will have to rely on source component outputs to do anything about this TV’s sub-par sound.
The Samsung 4003’s attractive design, excellent picture quality, and easy setup make it a formidable choice in the entry level market. We definitely took issue with the sound quality and lack of audio outputs, but at the bargain-basement price of $250, the TV remains a great value. In fact, among budget TVs, this set would earn a 9 were it not for the sound problems.
For those looking to add a second TV or make that first leap into the flat panel realm, we think Samsung’s UN32EH4003 is one of the better budget TVs available.
- Excellent picture
- Easy setup
- Attractive design
- Extremely affordable
- Poor sound quality
- Lack of audio outputs
Digital Trends Picture Settings
The following settings were arrived at through a process of manual adjustment and further adjusted for preference. As indicated in our How we test televisions article, processing such as noise reduction and dynamic contrast are disabled for picture and testing purposes. They may or may not be re-engaged based on subjective preferences gained from observation during real-world performance scenarios. Though we arrived at these settings with a specific TV size, these settings can be used for any of the sizes in this TV series with consistent results.
Picture Mode – Movie
Tint (G/R): G44/R56
Color Space – Auto
Gamma – (-1)
Dynamic Contrast – Off
Black Tone – Off
Flesh Tone – 0
Motion Lighting – (HDMI only) Off
Color Tone – Warm2
Size – HDMI – screen fit, Other 16:9