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Friday, March 6, 2015

Samsung Series 5 32" Smart TV

I grabbed a Samsung Series 5 Model 5203 last Thanksgiving.  It's a 32 inch LED backlit LCD High-Definition Smart TV.  I was lucky, Best Buy was selling this TV at a great price all week long.

Why would I review a large 32" LCD smart HDTV in a blog about hand held mobile devices?  Because it can be a great tool for your smart phone or other smart device.  Think of all those portable projectors, why get one when you can use your TV?

It really does come in handy, not just as a TV, but I use my tablet as a remote for it.  I check out NetFlix on my phone or tablet and when I find what I want to watch, I stream it and watch it on the big screen.  It works well.

There are some issues with the 2014 Samsung Series 5 Model 5203 SmartTV, though.  Quite a few that need a bit of attention, actually.  But before criticizing it too badly, I would like to say that I am otherwise pretty impressed.

Although it took Me a long time to get the picture just right for the cable TV as well as for my HDMI connected computer and the Chromecast, the Samsung 5203 smart HDTV really does have a decent picture if you work hard to find it.   However, if you don't you will see hot whites and dark muddy black gradients.  I was surprised that I would have to work so hard to get a decent picture as I am used to a Vizio that had an extremely impressive picture in comparison.

I am otherwise very impressed with the Model 5203 Smart HDTV, with a very few concerns.  Although I am overall pleased with the product, there are some performance shortcomings which have me planning to give this product to my wife and purchasing a Vizio.

I have to say that I do especially like the remote control unit (the 'remote pilot' or 'remote commander', here in America we just refer to it as the 'remote').  It is very well thought-out except in a few instances.

The good points are that there is a distinct braille pattern of dots on the outside edge next to the volume and channel (up and down toggle) buttons.  The pattern is clearly different, even for a sighted person, though I still hit the channel button when I intend to hit the volume button.  Because this TV isn't smart enough to maintain a constant volume, it does not try to lower the the blare of commercials in my bedroom as my family sleeps when I am working late at night.

This is a particular pet peeve of mine, why would I want to blare commercials in my bedroom?  Why do we allow this at all?  Why doesn't the FCC shove these disgusting noisy crappy commercials where the sun doesn't shine?

I see the TVs with the stabilized sound volumes feature on sale, but then they don't even have any other decent features.  That's like trying to get a videophile to buy an HDTV and DVD combo set, the two don't go together, you need to sell us the Smart HDTV with 3D equipped with a full-fledged Blu-ray 3D player combo, not combo'ed with a stupid DVD player!  Sheeeeeeesh.  Why don't these companies get this very simple stuff?  And by the time they do we will need to upgrade everything to 4k 3D ultraHD displays and they will be selling combos based on yesteryear technology yet again.

Unfortunately, in order to get the best premium experience, its gonna cost you in this day and age.  I can't even afford all the stuff I would like.  And some of it gets hard to do without (especially for a video and digital artist).  But, I digress...

How I tend to use this Samsung 32" Smart HDTV is just how I am doing it now, working on my computer using the HDMI connection from my PC to utilize my 'Smart' HDTV as the monitor while using PIP (Picture in Picture) to watch broadcast, cable or streaming television in a little window in a corner window on my work screen.

Even though I am using the TV in my bedroom, I use it as a computer monitor most often.  I do watch TV on it, but since I only get basic cable most of my channels suck because they aren't even in High Definition.  Plus I often want to get some work done.  So I am perfectly entertained with viewing television using the PIP feature while blogging or tending to one of my website ventures.

But that presents a particular problem that the Samsung remote control pilot/commander gurus completely overlooked.  Because this is how I use my TV, even once I have turned the set on and am sitting at my Windows work screen, it takes me 14 clicks on the remote to drill down through the menu just to access and activate the PIP mode.  WTF?  14 clicks!

Why on earth wasn't the PIP submenu included in the easy to access tools menu?  This is such a huge oversight that it is hard for me to get over it.

The rest of the functions on the remote and their placement seem to be well thought out, though in the dark, it is hard to tell one end from the other.  In other words, if you are holding the remote upside down, you are probably hitting the wrong button with jarring results.  Each end of the remote holds the same curve.  There is no easy distinction through the feel of the form of the remote in the hand.  And I am surprised that this is still a simple user interface design problem that engineers refuse to address.  DUH!  Talk about another stupid oversight that would be so simple to address.

One other thing that the remote does have going for it is that it is fairly plastic solid.  That is, when I drop my Vizio remote, My wife's Apex remote, my mother's Sony remote, the battery cover door usually pops off and sometimes even the batteries spill out.  I've dropped this one quite a bit as I fall asleep and yet it still stays together.  That's a very good thing.

I often use my tablet or my phone to control the TV.  Usually I am streaming NetFlix video through Chromecast when I want to enjoy some Hi-Def entertainment.  I can do this easily and reliably with my Samsung Galaxy Note II.  But for some reason, the NetFlix app on my Samsung Galaxy 7" Tab 4 does not connect to Chromecast.  I can get around this by simply streaming NetFlix to the Smart TV itself, but not always as reliably.  Sometimes there is a slight hiccup when I resume watching a show after pausing it to get a snack or break for the bathroom, and NetFlix can't show the movie from there... but only when I use the tablet.  It seems that NetFlix through Chromecast is much more reliable.

That presents an issue with me.  I have the Samsung app, 'Watch On' installed on my Samsung 7 inch 'Galaxy Tab 4' tablet.  But that same app won't run on my Samsung Galaxy Note II 'smart' phone.  So when I sit down to watch the facsimile of a HD resolution movie (it is a facsimile of a High-Def resolution because NetFlix and internet streaming video is even more compressed and of even lower quality than cable/satellite) I am using the remote or my tablet to switch between the sources and set the sound, etc... while using the phone to stream, pause and play the NetFlix movie because the Samsung Smart TV isn't smart enough to keep a reliable stream on its own, or even with the direction of the Tablet or Phone.

And for some reason, the Samsung Tablet won't stream to the Chromecast at all, but the Note II will do it all day and tomorrow, too.  Technology is still so bonkers that we really can't rely on it, yet. I just got the tablet when I picked-up this TV, but I've had the old trusty reliable Note II for well over 2 years.

I often stream photos to the 32" HDTV because I have a screen saver that shows my photos, but I like doing it with the Chromecast and checking out my poor smart phone/camera snap-shooting skills in a decent resolution.  It's also pretty easy to use the Smart TV's 'Screen Mirroring' to do it once you get figured out how to do it.

Sometimes I capture video at our Indoor Football League, NBA D-League or USHL games and post a few highlights on YouTube, so its fun to watch them on the large screen, as well.  It's getting to the point that I find my High-Def video more entertaining than the crap standard resolution video broacasts that cable spews out.  I wish I didn't have to ever leave my house without my trusty phone camera,  Unfortunately, if I bring it to work I might wind-up in trouble because customers could really use some internet access.  ;)

I was planning on using a roku stick for streaming media with this television, as well.  Unfortunately, My Windows PC takes up one HDMI port and the Chromecast takes up the only other HDMI port.  So the Roku went downstairs.  Now, I know thjat I could have spent $50.00 more to get another Samsung Smart TV with an extra HDMI port, but I thought that spending $50.00 for a singular HDMI port was a bit outrageous, as the sales people I drilled all claimed that this Samsung Smart TV used the exact same quad core processor as the $50.00 upgrade model.  Guess what?  If this Samsung model 5203 32" LED backlit LCD HDTV uses any sort of quad core processor at all, it is the slowest and doggiest quad core processor in the known universe.  Believe me, I do wish I upgraded!

The problem is that when accessing the Smart TV's user interface, as you click on things, the response rate is in light years.  This isn't a problem once you are watching your TV, whether you are streaming HDTV on the internet, watching video from your phone, or catching the local television broadcast, but accessing the menu and the smart hub takes patience.  It's as if the menu itself, and all of the apps are all compressed so tightly and never are unpacked until an item is clicked.  The 'Smart Hub' itself just plain sucks.  It is the hardest to maneuver and the slowest to respond.  To top that off, it is the worst thought-out worthless piece of UIX a human could ever experience in his entire lifetime.  It is absolute garbage as a menu, but then really doesn't offer much that is free.  It seems that Samsung is only presenting subscription services and services that show advertising, as if it is getting some sort of kickback for the content it showcases.  Because there is plenty of good free stuff that isn't showing up at all in the Smartt Hub apps (NASA, MIT, TED, FOX, History, A&E, AMC, etc...).  It seems that Samsung is only offering certain apps and video programming that it can cash in on.

I was so excited about HDTV when it was promised, when it was coming, when it was almost here, when it finally showed up, when I could finally afford it.  But we don't see anything in High-Def much.  All the good programs are on FX, AMC and History (..etc...) which aren't available in HD to me, while the major networks' broadcast programming has gone to crap.  The news is disgraceful, everyone bullying an opinion of their own and everyone avoiding the facts altogether.  The Daily show is the only real show that tells it like it is, and its hilarious only because of how stupid the news has become because they actually think that we are going to swallow their bullshit.

So HDTV has become a divide between the haves and have-nots.  If you don't have HDTV channels, you are poor, inferior.  But look what we gave up when we made the move to HDTV... now our broadcast, cable and satellite signals are so compressed that we can't simply flip through the channels at break-neck speed, we have to wait for each channel to decompress before we get to see what is there, and this ads a second to every channel flip.  High Definition can be accessed through the internet more cheaply than through cable or satellite, but broadcast doesn't offer near as many channels.

I should be happy as I am a videographer, a digital photographer, a digital artist, a publisher, a producer, this should be a great thing, but it has all been commercialized for every last penny.  I think it has gone too far, has become too outrageous, too lack lustre, too boring and expensive, too much and way too little all at the same time.

I was looking to enjoy this move from my old 32" Vizio HDTV to this new Samsung Smart TV, but as a guy that deals with technology all the time, designs UIX for websites and such, I look at this endevour as an updrade for my wife's pathetic Apex HDTV (never buy an Apex brand HDTV, ever).

I have to hope for something better.  I can't have it be anything less or more than another Smart LED backlit LCD HDTV, as I will still use it as my monitor and I need one TV that will finally accomplish that for me before I can move on to a larger one for the TV room.  But I can only give Samsung's Series 5 model 5203 Smart TV a simple 3 stars out of five.  It takes way too much work to get a decent picture out of it.  It is way too slow to be considered responsive.  The UIX isn't just slow, it isn't well designed, very thoughtless.  More care was given to the layout of the remote than the user's experience using it.   The apps available are few and worthless unless require a subscription.

But, on the positive side, my wife will love it as soon as I can afford a Vizio.

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