Did you ever consider that a television could be a piece of furniture? It’s not as new as Samsung many want you to believe with their new Serif range of TV sets – well, if you count pictures on the wall as furniture.
Back in the 60s, you were no one unless your new fangled telly had a cabinet with doors. These days, that idea may have all but died out, but Samsung wants us to at least have a set that literally blends into the background.
Hence this magnificent set we have here. You can stand it on its own set of super-skinny legs for that real retro look, or put it on the wall. It even sits comfortable on its own base. After putting it on the unit, we nudged it ever harder to see if would tip over. The result was, yes it will, but you are going to have to really collide with it to take away its balance and cause the Samsung Serif to topple over.
While most manufacturers are striving to kill off the bezel until it simply isn’t there, Samsung has put a picture frame style around these panels for that art gallery chic.
By sheer coincidence, we have just decorated and now have a simple low white unit from Ikea costing just a few pounds to match the grey and white wallpaper. The Samsung Serif virtually melts into this environment.
It is an odd approach and the jury is out on this whole approach, but one thing is for certain, if this trend fails, it is not because the panels were rubbish. The picture is super stunning – clear, sharp and in your face thanks to its amazing QLED technology with over a billion shades of colour.
We were sent a 49″ version, which fit comfortably in the space we keep our television. We usually have a 55″ television there, and the drop in screen size wasn’t a huge issue, as there is a heavy bezel surrounding the panel.
The screen can show images up to a 4K resolution and supports 10-bit colour. Samsung have rated their panel at 3000 PQI, which is not too far away from their flagship Q90R, and much better than our current offering at 1500 PQI. Samsung have also included their Quantum Dot technology, which promises a 100% colour volume, so expect some pretty vivid colours produced by this television, especially when watching HDR content. It can show HDR10+ certified video, and has a peak brightness of 4,000 nits, things look pretty decent, with highlights and shadow areas well controlled and detailed. The Serif though only has edge backlighting, which is a step down from the Q90R we reviewed before, but it does support local dimming, which Samsung are calling Micro Dimming – Supreme UHD Dimming.
It also comes with the usual Samsung motion controls which is supposed to control motion blue in your images. As usual, I mostly avoided these, although I gave the screen a bit of Blur Reduction and Judder Reduction. Keep these low as if set too high, you end up with a strange, over-processed image, and everything you watch has that ‘Soap Opera’ effect. It’s off-putting, especially during action scenes.
The inclusion of a Game Mode was great too, seeing as the new Call of Duty Modern Warfare has just come out. You can target the Game Mode options to one of the inputs, which we did with the HDMI our PS4 was plugged into. Game Mode essentially turns of image processors to improve input latency between your PS4 and TV, ensuring input lag is kept to a minimum. For the most part it worked well. It lessens the image quality somewhat, but when you’re zipping round a game of TDM on Piccadilly, you’re not going to notice it much. The setting also includes a Black Level Stabiliser, where you can choose how bright or dark shadowy areas are.
It comes in three flavours – 43 inch, 49 inch which we tried out and the 55 inch. So, we get no monsters in this beautiful range. Weird to say that – those people in the 60s the world would be gawping in awe at these sizes.
Prices at the time of writing run from £900 to £1400 but shop around for bundled deals, for instance John Lewis were offering a healthy amount of cash-back on their e-card. And Samsung itself had interest-free credit through a partnership with Klarna, who offer three payment options: a buy now, pay in 30 days, a buy now, pay in three monthly payments and even an option to spread the cost over four years.
So, let’s take a look at what makes this a little bit off-kilter. The Samsung Serif has ambient settings, which are designed to make your television blend into the decor of your room. Options here are wide and extensive. Choose from a myriad of subliminal backgrounds, and include the date, time and weather if you fancy it. Seemingly endlessly customisable, you have the chance to match your decor, too. You can also turn the Serif into a digital photo frame, to show off your favourite snaps front and centre.
There is a batch of apps too, including Apple TV, which is a first for Samsung televisions, YouTube and Netflix. While we are here, one word of advice if you happen to fall in love with this set and have to have one, do not activate Bixby – after we did, it randomly interrupted programmes to tell us she could not do that – what ‘that’ was is hard to tell, but it was clear she was listening to the programme output as well as our own voices and rather arrogantly thought we were talking to her. It got annoying in the end. So don’t, just don’t.
You have a choice of two remote controls, as well. A conventional one that you see with most televisions, and then one that has been cut down to the most used buttons and controls. We used this one, and it was amazing, even operating our Virgin Media V6 box and Samsung surround sound system.
If you can bury the cables, and hang this on the wall with a piece of artwork on the screen, someone who has no idea what it is could easily mistake it for a picture. There are quite a few built in images but you can also add your own.
I really liked this set, and would prefer the larger one if I was going to buy it, but that all depends on the usual things about room size and budget. Now it just remains to see if this is just a fad or is here to stay with all television manufacturers offering something similar. This is not just for art lovers, but it will make your room a little posher without even trying.