Time flies when you’re having fun. It was three short weeks ago since we acceptable the challenge of Mission Samsung. For this specific challenge we were sent a 40” Samsung Series 6 Smart LED TV and tasked with a set of missions. In case you missed them, you can catch up on missions one and two. What follows is some of our notes that didn’t make it into the missions and a wrap-up of our experience with Smart LED TV.
“Out with the old, in with the new” as they say. For this challenge, we switched off our 5-year old Samsung 50” plasma TV, for newfangled LED TV technology. We didn’t know too much about the benefits of LED, so we reached out to Gavin at Samsung who helped enlighten us, without overloading us with technical jargon. That served as a great preamble to the challenge.
Upgrading from an older TV to a newer one comes with some issues, notably with the lack of legacy connections. The Series 6 Smart LED TV only has one set of component input and one set of composite inputs, and the latter shares the Y input with the former. This becomes problematic if you want to connect a Nintendo Wii using component cables and a standard dstv decoder via RCA cables. You can’t have both. If you thought of connecting an older Xbox 360 to the TV via a VGA cable, think again. There’s no VGA input either. BUT there are four HDMI inputs so you can happily connect any of the newer electronics.
The physical setup of the TV would have gone a tad smoother had the one-page A5 quick-start guide came with a magnifying glass. One image was so small that we had trouble making out that the foot and the stand connector had to go in a specific way under a plastic doohickey otherwise it would not fit. This should have been made clear in the image but it wasn’t.
Speaking of instructions, a slimmed down hard copy of the manual accompanies the TV, but there is a full eManual that’s accessible from the TV’s menu. It’s a pity that the manual isn’t specific to the model of TV you have. Instead of giving you a subset of features relevant to the TV you have, you’re presented with a superset of instructions on how to operate all the features across the Series 6 LED TV range. The extra information is irrelevant and adds noise. One nice thing about the eManual though — when you are reading about a certain setting, sometimes there is a shortcut that you can click to go to the very same setting and make your changes. The eManual isn’t available on the companion Android app where I think it would have been a useful reference, but you can always download it and store it on your smartphone or tablet. On that topic, let’s talk quickly about the Android app.
Smart View 2.0 is Samsung’s own companion app to any of its 2014 Smart TVs. It’s trivial to connect it to the Smart TV and once paired you can send photo, video, or musical content from your phone by swiping it upwards, and have it appear on the TV. If the remote control is not within reach, the app makes for a handy replacement where you can access the majority of the TV functions. You can also use your smartphone as a second TV. With a tap in the top area of the app, anything that is visible on your TV is streamed to your smart phone. You can watch TV on the go, as long as you’re in WiFi range. With newer smartphone features like “screen mirroring”, you can view your mobile device’s screen on the TV in a few quick steps. And the latest YouTube app sports a “Play on TV” button that makes it a cinch to watch YouTube videos on your TV.
When it comes to picture quality, there is nothing but good to say. It did however, take a little getting used to. For the last couple of years our eyes have been used to viewing content on a plasma TV, and the move to LED TV provided such a noticeable improvement to the picture quality that it didn’t “feel right”. We’ve come to find out that it’s called the “soap opera effect” and we talked about that in mission #1. By adjusting the different TV settings, one can reduce this soap opera effect, but it may take some time as the adjustments will be small to see how much difference is made. We think we’ll have to get used to the wonderfully sharper and crisper images on the LED TV :)
In mission #2 we had to use the Smart Hub to find fitness apps. You can read about the experience if you like, but the main takeaway point there is that even though you have access to apps in five to six different categories, the selection is not great. These days, we understand the need to be “everything for everyone”. Games consoles let you watch movies and series and play your music. Smartphones enable you to play games, check your e-mail, and make calls should you need to. I don’t deny that having apps on your Smart TV to post a tweet, check the weather, or play some casual games may be of interest to some people, but the selection and quality of apps on offer is poor. Let’s not forget that interaction with these apps is not via the touchscreen like on your smart phone but from a remote controller with simple up, down, left, right buttons for (awkward) navigation. There are apps that work well like YouTube, TED Talks, TuneIn Radio, Twitter, and Facebook, but that list needs to grow if Samsung want to use apps as one of the selling points of the Smart TV.
The user interface could do with some improvements too. There is a mishmash of styles being used, and there are gradients, and even text that glows. The “Loading” graphic used in this LED TV is the same as the one on our old plasma TV from five years ago. If only Samsung would take some design cues from the likes of Google and Apple. When browsing content on network shares, the files are shown as blocks of large icons. It’s difficult to see the titles at a quick glance and there is no option to view the media as a simple list. Small things like that can greatly improve the experience. The user interface is not horrible but it could do with a cleaner, more modern look.
This Smart LED TV is the first I have seen to sport a “Football mode” with a dedicated button on the remote control. Pressing that button bumps up the colours to give a vivid picture. The sound mode is also changed to “stadium” to enhance the cheers and jeers of the crowd. Football games are certainly better with the mode than without.
As the final credit roll on Mission Samsung, we’ve absolutely loved our time with the Series 6 Smart LED TV. Our untrained eyes savoured the exceptional picture quality and loved modern design of the unit. The audio quality is fair and doesn’t need much more of a mention. Things we didn’t like were the user interface that could do with a modern uplift and the app store could do with a boatload of good quality apps. Given Samsung’s recent decision, it seems that that company is certainly pushing the growth of LED TV as the preferred technology standard. Given our experience thus far, if we were looking to upgrade from our plasma TV, our minds (and eyeballs) have certainly been won over to the LED side.
That concludes our third and final entry for Mission Samsung. We hope you enjoyed the content and found it informative. A big thanks to the folk at Samsung South Africa for accepting the Onelargeprawn blog to participate in this blogger challenge. As always, you can track #MissionSamsung on Twitter.
IMPORTANT UPDATE (DECEMBER 2016): I would be remiss in my duties if I did not mention this, dear readers. I’ve experienced issues with this model of TV, the UA8H6400. I am not sure if I got a bad unit or the quality of the panel is not up to expected standards, but let me tell you what happened.
A year after receiving the TV (August 2014), I noticed a dark patch appearing the near the middle of my screen. Because the TV was in the two-year warranty period, a third-party repairer replaced the panel with another panel. Fast-forward a year and four months (present day, December 2016), and the dark patch reappeared, this time, not at the centre, but at the top of the screen. The TV is now out of the warranty period so any cost in repair would fall onto me. Considering my experience, I opted not to have the panel replaced in the fear that another year down the line, I may get a similar dark patch appearing on the screen. Given the two thus far, I don’t want to be paying for another possibly faulty panel. If you’re looking into purchasing the UA8H6400 (if it’s still on sale), I would advise caution — contact Samsung Support to find out if other customers have had similar issues. I would also advise taking out an extended warranty if you can.
In the beginning of this post, I mentioned that I previously had a 5-year old Samsung 50″ plasma TV. This model worked faultlessly for the time that I had it. The UA8H6400 had issues in the very first year. That old adage rings true in this case, “They don’t make them like they used to“.