Samsung has climbed to the top of the TV marketplace by delivering reasonably priced sets with top-notch picture quality. Adding the latest technology into its sets has also helped attract buyers. Don't look to the TV maker for bargain-basement prices; that’s not its forte. But it offers good value for its advanced designs.
TV manufacturers are infamous for producing multiple models in multiple sizes with elongated model numbers that make it nearly impossible to determine which set is which. Is that a plasma TV or an edge-lit LED LCD? Does it support 3D or not?
Not to worry. We've broken out the best Samsung models, depending on your budget and needs.
Budget Samsung model: 40-inch LED FH6030 ($530)
Looking for a second set for the bedroom or just want the basics? This $530 Samsung 40-inch set delivers a good picture at a 240-frames-per-second (fps) refresh rate that’s fast enough to even support 3D movies.
Boasting a solid picture, what the FH6030 elides is a Wi-Fi connection and smart TV features. If you decide later you need to pull in Netflix, Hulu, et al, you can plug a set-top box like the $60 Roku 1 into one of the set’s two HDMI ports and add those services on the cheap.
Big Samsung screen on a budget: 50-inch LED F5500 ($880)
If you live in an apartment and have a modest budget, all you need is a good picture in a reasonably sized TV. It will improve your enjoyment of movies and sporting events without blowing your budget or ruining the feng shui of your living quarters.
The 50-inch Samsung LED F5500 Series Smart TV is $880 and provides plenty of picture for most cliff dwellers and suburban dens. It uses an edge-lit LED design, so it's svelte, and the picture is solid and bright, day or night. The set also has built-in Wi-Fi with smart TV services, something nearly mandatory today in all but ultra-budget models.
What you're giving up at this price is 3D support and features such as a built-in video camera for Skyping friends, fancy extras that most people don’t use that frequently.
Best TV for movie fans: 64-inch Plasma 5500 ($1,800)
Plasma TVs have been the darlings of critics and movie fans for years, primarily because the technology has traditionally produced a better picture than LCD sets. Plasma sets are better at reproducing smooth motion, subtle shades of black and accurate colors. Most of those advantages have narrowed as LCD sets using LED lighting have improved. And with even better OLED sets now appearing, some plasma makers like Panasonic are getting out of the business.
Fortunately, Samsung's still making plasmas, and the sets offer some great values. Perhaps no better value can be found in terms of size and features than the 64-inch Samsung Plasma 5500 Series TV. It's just $1,800, yet comes with a full complement of features, including built-in Wi-Fi, smart TV services (Netflix, Hulu, Facebook, etc.), and a remote with a touchpad, as well as a microphone for receiving voice commands.
The set produces an excellent picture, delineating shadowy scenes with great detail. It also does a better-than-average job playing 3D content, should you want to do so. About the only shortcoming of this set is one that's common to the technology: In bright rooms, streaming sunlight can wash out the picture.
Top of the line Samsung TV: 60-inch LED F8000 ($1,600)
The $2,600 set uses advanced local dimming (also known as active dimming), employing LEDs along the edge of the screen to change the lighting in different portions of the screen. It means dark areas stay dark and bright portions stay bright. The F8000's picture is also crisp and visible even in sunlit living rooms.
The raft of features includes voice and gesture controls, as well as a built-in video camera for making Skype calls without a computer or smartphone. Smart TV services are included, of course, as are 4 HDMI inputs, and a quad-core processor to control it all. If you don't like compromises — and your budget supports that attitude — the F8000 set is the model for you.
Best next-generation technology TV: 55-inch S9C OLED ($9,000)
The ultimate in terms of pure picture quality available today isn't found in a 4K or Ultra HD set. It's available only in OLED (organic light-emitting diode) displays, of which the Samsung S9C is one of only two large-screen models available today (the other model is from LG).
The S9C may only have a 55-inch picture, but it's a stunner. Rather than relying on LCD technology, which requires a separate light source such as LEDs to illuminate the picture, OLEDs can light up (or turn off) on their own. The result is that fireworks pop on the screen, tropical vistas look as if you could walk right into them and dim scary movie scenes look frighteningly sharp.
The S9C offers all the requisite smart TV streaming services, of course. The S9C's screen is slightly curved, which some may find immersive while others find it distracting. But the further back you sit, the less noticeable it is. In any case, it does take some getting used to. The real potential pitfall is the price: $9,000. But if you can afford the very best, look no further.
John R. Quain has been reviewing and testing video and audio equipment for more than 20 years. He is currently a contributor to The New York Times and is an on-air technology contributor for the CBS News television network. Follow him @jqontech. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.