Ferocious price warfare in the middle ground of the TV market has piled all sorts of pressure onto the budget and small-screen TV scene, and as a result it’s becoming more and more difficult to find a cheap or small TV that really stands out from the crowd. Samsung’s UE32K5600, though, is very much the exception that proves the rule.
The Samsung UE32K5600 has no truck with the gloomy black or grey plasticky finishes commonly found wrapped around small-screen TVs these days. Its strikingly slender frame gleams with a lovely metallic silver finish, and the screen sits low on a chrome cross-shaped stand that looks and feels impressively opulent by current 32-inch TV standards.
Even the screen’s rear looks more minimalistically elegant than usual, should you be one of those strange people who likes to look at the back of their TV as well as the front.
The UE32K5600 doesn’t ship with one of Samsung’s cool new ‘smart’ remote controls. However, while the standard remote you do get isn’t especially stylish it does boast responsive buttons and a sensible layout.
Connections, meanwhile, go further than those of most 32-inch TVs by including three HDMIs, two USBs for multimedia playback or recording from the digital tuner, and built-in Wi-Fi.
Design TL;DR: If there’s a prettier mainstream 32-inch TV out there, we haven’t seen it.
Smart TV (Tizen)
The Samsung UE32K5600 sports pretty much the same Tizen-based smart engine you get on Samsung’s much larger and more high-end TVs. This is mostly good news, as it means you get the benefit of a pleasingly efficient, graphically rich and easily customisable home screen that uses a second layer of icons to provide faster direct access to direct shows, movies, apps or games based on the option you’ve got selected in the bottom layer.
Amazon Prime and Netflix are among the supported smart services, along with the BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and My5 catch-up TV services. The only notable absentee, oddly, is the All4 app – though apps can always be added by firmware update, so it may appear at some point.
The only other issue we have with the UE32K5600’s smart engine is that its interface runs pretty sluggishly at times. Clearly it’s not being driven by as powerful a processing system as Samsung’s higher-end Tizen TVs.
Smart TV TL;DR: A decent selection of features combines with a straightforward and easy to customise – if rather sluggish – onscreen menu system.
The Samsung 32K5600’s pictures leave those of most current 32-inch rivals for dead. Its native full HD resolution, for instance, helps it deliver some of the crispest, cleanest, most detailed pictures from high-quality HD sources that we've seen on a small-screen TV.
What’s more, provided you reduce the Sharpness setting a little from its default setting, this high level of detailing looks impressively natural, with no evidence of edge halos or excessive grittiness.
Even better for today’s small TV market, the 32K5600’s sharpness is only slightly diminished when there’s a lot of motion in the frame. There’s nowhere near as much judder or, especially, blur as you often see with small-screen LCD TVs.
The 32K5600 is very impressive in its black level performance too. Unlike the majority of 32-inch models it can produce deep, believable blacks impressively free of low-contrast greyness. What’s more, as long as you keep the backlight setting below its 15 level (unless the TV is being used in a very bright room), the 32K5600 also handles dark scenes without suffering the sort of backlight clouding and inconsistency commonly found with edge-lit LCD TVs.
The image can start to look a little unstable if you use the 32K5600’s Dynamic Contrast system on its highest setting, and can lose quite a bit of black level if you turn Dynamic Contrast off. But stick to its Low setting and you get a strong balance of black level depth and brightness, without much backlight ‘flickering’ at all.
TVs that manage a good black level usually also deliver rich colours, and the 32K5600 is no exception. The bold, vibrant tones of animated movies blaze off the screen with much more intensity than you usually see with small-screen TVs, while subtler video images show off the TV’s ability to render a wider range of tones than most rivals. This colour finesse and richness even remains largely intact in dark parts of the image, which is very unusual in the affordable small TV world.
Really the only issues with the 32K5600’s images are that they lose colour and contrast if watched from much of an angle, and that you'll need to keep shifting its backlight up and down to keep getting the best pictures from it if you’re going to be using it in regularly changing bright and dark environments.
The Samsung 32K5600’s size makes it a potentially popular gaming display, and gamers will be over the moon to learn that in its Game mode the 32K5600 turns in an input lag figure of just 10ms – it's one of the lowest measurements we've recorded from a TV, and should have practically zero impact on your gaming experience.
Picture performance TL;DR: The 32K5600’s pictures are streets ahead of those of the vast majority of 32-inch rivals.
While the UE32K5600’s slim, metallic design might look very pretty, there doesn’t seem to be much room in there for a serious speaker system. It comes as a pleasant surprise, then, to find Samsung’s mini marvel sounding pretty good. It’s open and powerful enough in the mid range to always sound clear and well rounded, and its speakers are dynamic enough to deliver good amounts of both harshness-free treble detailing and bass rumbles.
Sound quality TL;DR: As with its pictures, the UE32K5600’s sound outguns the efforts of almost all of its mainstream 32-inch rivals.
Other panels to ponder
We don’t get to see many 32-inch TVs these days, so it’s hard to pick out good-quality direct competition for the Samsung UE32K5600 with our customary confidence. Samsung itself has a more recently released option, the UE32M5500, but this costs £50 or so more, and we can’t vouch for its performance (yet, anyway).
Experience suggests the Panasonic TX-32ES500B could also be a good 32-inch alternative, though that model only boasts a 720p resolution rather than Full HD.
Another option would be to try and stretch the budget to a 40-inch TV, such as the HDR-capable (though still Full HD rather than 4K) Sony 40WE663.
Perhaps the single best alternative, though, would be to step up to the 40-inch version of the UE32K5600, the Samsung UE40K5600, which can be yours for only around £50 more than the 32-inch model.
The Samsung UE32K5600’s picture quality is excellent, it sounds good too, and it even provides you with a strong and well-presented smart system. All of which means that if your budget is limited to around £360, and/or a 32-inch screen is as big as you can manage, the UE32K5600 is in a league of its own.