More than a year ago, I wrote a popular article that's becoming increasingly irrelevant: "I want my dumb TV". My argument was that smart TVs make no economic sense because you can get the same or better functionality from an add-on box for cheaper.
TVs like Samsung's UAF5000 and UAF5500 series are the reason behind its increasing irrelevance. The major difference between the two is that the F5500 has Samsung's smart TV suite and the F5000 does not.
With its relatively cheap smart TV suite Samsung makes it abundantly clear it wants you to get the UAF5500 instead. In case you needed extra incentive to step up, it also has a different, arguably nicer stand, and an extra HDMI input.
On the other hand, if you already own an external device for streaming, whether a Roku or an Apple TV, a game console or a disc player, you really don't need smart TV. If that's the case, you'll probably be happy to note that the F5000, according to Samsung's specifications, will likely offer identical picture quality to its slightly more expensive, significantly smarter brother. That picture is pretty darn good for its class, if not quite at the level of what you see on TVs like the Panasonic E60. All told, the F5000 is a solid value among dumb TVs, as long as you don't mind its sparse connectivity.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)
Samsung's well-known minimalist design chops extend even as far down as the UNF5000 series. The frame around the screen is a uniform five-eighths-inch in width and glossy black in colour, and the cabinet is nice and thin. The latter is due to the TV's edge-lit LED backlight, making unnecessary the thicker cabinets imparted by the direct LEDs of sets like the LG LA6200. The only hint of panache is the angular Samsung logo jutting forward from the bottom like a defiant chin.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)
One miscue is the stand, which seemed way too large chunky for our 40-inch review sample, although its proportions might improve on other sizes. I still like it better than the four-legged spider stand found on the F5500 models, but unlike those sets, the F5000 doesn't swivel.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)
Another downside is the remote, but for a relatively budget-priced TV, it's not terrible. The grid of buttons lacks sufficient differentiation and suffers from clogging (I'd rather have blank space where the "Media P." and "Sleep" buttons reside, for example), but in its favour are full backlighting and compact size.
Since Samsung's website claims the F5000 offers "A Clear Motion Rate (CMR) of 100," we forgive you for perhaps thinking it has a 100Hz refresh rate. In fact, this is a 50Hz TV and behaves exactly as we'd expect a 50Hz TV to behave in our tests. At least Samsung isn't alone among TV makers in creating fake specs like CMR.
As we mentioned, the F5000 lacks the extensive smart TV suite found on the step-up UAF5500 series; the extent of its brains is that it can play back photo, music and video files from USB thumb drives. Otherwise, the two are identical, aside from the F5500's stand and its third HDMI input.
Picture settings: The selection here is, not surprisingly, a bit less extensive than on higher-end Samsungs, such as the UAF6300 series. Gone are the 10-point greyscale and colour management controls and the fourth adjustable picture preset. Three, along with a simpler two-point greyscale, should be plenty for most users, however. There's also a control labelled LED Clear Motion that enables backlight scanning for very slightly improved motion resolution at the expense of a dimmer image.
Connectivity: Seriously, Samsung? Just two HDMI ports? If you connect a cable/satellite box and a game console to your UAF5000, there's no room for a Roku or Apple TV, a DVD/Blu-ray player or any number of other HDMI devices.
I was surprised to discover the F5000 actually delivers substantially deeper black levels than the more expensive UAF6300 series. On the other hand, its video processing is pretty disappointing. I certainly consider deep blacks more important than flawless cadence or motion resolution, however, so the F5000 delivers a better picture overall.
Black level: The Samsung F5000 performed well in this category, albeit not quite as well as the Panasonic's S60 or E60. When I watched some of the darker scenes from "Drive", such as the apartment walk-through at 11:52 and the cityscape soon after, the F5000's shadows, letterbox bars and other black and near-black scenes looked inkier and more realistic than on other Samsungs and especially the LG LA6200.
Colour accuracy: I have few complaints here, and in person, the F5000's colours backed up its superb measurement results. The skin tones of Driver and Irene were accurate and correct looking yet well-saturated, especially compared with the LG and, to a lesser extent, the E60. Yes, there was a slight tinge of ruddiness there, so I'd give the edge to the F6300 in this department, but the F5000 more than held its own.
Video processing: In case you were wondering whether the 100 CMR improves motion resolution to the level of a true 100Hz TV, it doesn't. In our tests, the TV could only achieve the 300-odd lines that most 50Hz TVs measure, as opposed to the 600 lines of a typical 100Hz TV, like the Panasonic E60. Engaging the LED Clear Motion setting cut light output by roughly half (typical of backlight scanning in general) but didn't improve that measurement.
Uniformity: The F5000 review sample I reviewed had solid dark-field uniformity across the screen, outdoing the LG but not quite matching the others. Faint brighter clouds were visible on the right-hand side in dark areas. They were subtle enough that they weren't distracting even in very dark scenes, however, so I don't consider them a big deal. The top and bottom edges showed some extra brightness as well, in both bright and dark areas, but again, it was quite subtle.
Sound quality: The F5000 sounded OK, sans the massive flaws I heard from many of the others, but certainly as good as the F6300. Comparing the two with music, the F5000's bass, timpani and vocals from Nick Cave's "Red Right Hand" sounded boomier and muddier, with more clarity from the other Samsung.