Samsung has long been the leader in U.S. TV market share, but the manufacturer is facing some tough competition, especially at the budget end. Lesser-known competitors like Vizio and TCL are coming up with TVs that can challenge the Korean behemoth's picture quality at half the price.
The Samsung E550 is a decent television with fairly deep blacks for a budget TV and bright, natural colors. Off-axis performance is very good, making it suitable for wide rooms, and the TV has excellent uniformity, making dark scenes easy to watch. Only a slight softness -- particularly to movement -- tarnishes an otherwise solid performance.
There are two TVs in the E550 range, a 40-inch and the 46-inch; the smaller model looks like the better deal at the time of review. If you're looking to spend this amount of money, though, there are plenty of other options, including the surprisingly good and much less expensive TCL P60.
While Samsung's TV looks black in the pictures above, it actually isn't. The bezel uses something like Samsung's old Touch of Color design, which infuses the plastic with a faint puce glow. The TV sits on a solid stand but unfortunately, it doesn't swivel.
The remote control is a little older-looking but quite usable.
The television's menu system is straightforward and easy to use; it shares the same look as the TVs I've seen over the years.
|Key TV features|
|Display technology||LCD||LED backlight||N/A|
|Smart TV||No||Internet connection||N/A|
|3D technology||No||3D glasses included||No|
|Refresh rate(s)||60Hz||Dejudder (smooth) processing||No|
If you're paying less than $500 for a television, you can't complain about lack of features. In Samsung's case this is often a good thing as it usually means your money not wasted on frivolities. The backlight, unlike pretty much every other 2012 Samsung TV, uses old-school fluorescents and not LEDs -- not that that matters much for picture quality.
The TV does include a Clear Motion Rate of 60 according to the specifications, but this is really just a way to invent a tick box where there wasn't one before. What it really means is that the E550 has the standard 60Hz refresh rate without smoothing of any kind.
Although it doesn't have Smart TV, the E550 does offer photo viewing and music playback via the USB port.
Picture settings: The TV boasts just three modes -- Standard, Vivid, and Movie -- and lacks the gaming-specific options of competitors like Vizio and Philips. Properly adjusted, advanced white-balance controls help ensure a better picture. The TV does miss a color management system, though, and as a result its colors aren't as accurate as they could be.
Connectivity: This TV isn't a direct replacement of the D550 and nowhere is this more obvious than in the number of connections provided. The D550 had four HDMI ports, two components, and an Ethernet port. In comparison, the inclusion of only a pair of HDMI ports seems stingy, as does the shared component/composite port. If you're looking to use the TV as a PC monitor, you'll have to use one of the HDMI inputs, as it lacks a RGB port. Also missing is a digital audio output for connection to an external amp.
Last year's Samsung D630 was one of our favorite budget LCDs. Here was a TV with dated styling and old-hat fluorescent lighting, but it was one of the best TVs at the price. While there are some similarities between it and the newer E550, the successor can't quite live up to the former's performance.