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Long-term review: Samsung UE32 F6510 SmartHub TV

Amazing picture and feature-rich - assuming you can be bothered to use them

personBy James Cridland
access_timePosted 15 July 2016, 9.19pm edt

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This is a long-term review of my main television: the snappily-titled Samsung UE32F6510 LED TV. I've had it since 2014. Clearly, it's not available any more: but it's not that different from newer Samsungs, so this might still be of interest.

In the UK

This television has a Freesat tuner inside it. I've not used it though - I don't have a satellite dish (five years ago it was either a dish or a neighbour's tree, and I preferred the tree).

This television also has a Freeview UK tuner inside it. A software update made it understand Freeview HD, which was nice. After my YouView box broke (the hard-drive expired), it was good to use the inbuilt Freeview and discover that it was rather better than at first thought, with a decent programme guide and everything.

I tend to switch off anything that looks 'clever' on a television: noise reduction, enhanced blacks, etc etc: I don't trust it. I also prefer to see the whole picture, something Samsung calls "Screen Fit": normally, a television cuts off a little of the outside of the image, and then zooms in slightly. This, like any other fiddling with the image after reception, causes extra artifacts - it can't do otherwise - which is why I turn it off. With those settings duly changed, Freeview in HD looks great. SD channels look as good as they probably can.

This TV has a bunch of inputs - no VGA, but lots of HDMI inputs, and it also deals happily with a USB key with video on it. Picture quality and settings are separate for every single input, making me quite happy that I can tweak them. It deals well with a USB key containing a bunch of video in MP4 format.

And it's a connected TV - one that connects to the internet. It has something called Samsung SmartHub, which contains a bunch of apps.

In the UK, there are catchup apps from BBC iPlayer, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. Towards the end of my time in the UK, I used these all the time. Buffering issues had disappeared, and they worked pretty well.

Skype on this TV is now no longer available: Microsoft and Samsung had a big fallout, which was a shame since I'd spent some money on a special camera for the TV to enable decent Skyping. It was never really very good.

In Australia

I then moved to Australia, and brought this television with me, assuming it would work okay. It didn't. It picked up a very small amount of channels, and put them on the wrong channel numbers.

I thought that I could reset it somehow, and then tell it that it was now in Australia and it would be happy. After a lot of Googling, I did a full reset, to discover that it gave me the choice of the UK and Ireland, and that was it.

But I wasn't to be foxed. After a lot more Googling, I was able to find the hidden service mode. This, it turns out, almost always sends this television into a hideous boot loop. To fix that, you need to open up the television, short-circuit two pins to erase the internal memory, power up the TV, keep short-circuiting the pins as you power it down and go into service mode, change Local Set to AD_AU_NZ (don’t be tempted by AD_AU_NZ2), change the Type to the highest one starting with 32, and then reset it. This trial and error took four hours.

It deals with Freeview (yes, it's called that here too) happily, including the programme guide, though it isn't as smooth since there's no cross-multiplex EPG. It gets all the HD channels.

It doesn't deal with Freeview Plus, also known as HBBtv. (If you choose the German setting, it does: but it's slow and underwhelming, and in any case, the German setting doesn't get all the channels).

The Australian apps - those that I've tried - are good. ABC iView had an upgrade since I last saw it, and is rather good. SBS's service is technically excellent and a bit bewildering. The YouTube app works very well, and handles live streaming. The only frustration is the continually-changing interface to get there: the latest version from Samsung won't let you get into the Smart Hub for about 30 seconds after turning the telly on, which is a bit annoying.

With a fast enough USB key, you can record on this TV (you need a USB 3.0 stick). The UX is awful, but you can do it; the USB key I have isn't large enough to record more than 50 minutes, though: that would be an issue if I wanted to record anything really, but I don't, having a Telstra TV box with catchup from all the main broadcasters.

The USB ports are plentiful enough to also power a Chromecast and a Roku stick. The Chromecast is used for a bunch of things, mostly movies and music. The Roku stick isn't supported here in Australia at all.

In conclusion

As a thing that shows telly, I'm very happy with it. I never used half of the features until recently, but have found they work pretty well.

It's probably no accident that they use Samsung televisions in Buckingham Palace.

James Cridland — James is the Managing Director of media.info, and a radio futurologist: a consultant, writer and public speaker who concentrates on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business. His website is at james.cridland.net, where you can subscribe to his weekly newsletter.

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