Samsung Serif: A Midcentury Modern Television

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By Reviewed.com

Like a lot of my coworkers at Reviewed.com, I care deeply about how my television looks. Except, unlike the folks who devote their days to testing the latest panels, I don’t demand a perfect picture—I just want a TV that blends with my decor.It may sound like heresy for a tech reviewer to admit this, but as a design enthusiast and cord-cutter, I’d rather own a television with an attractive exterior and simple smart interface than one with an expanded color gamut.

That’s why I was so excited to discover the Samsung Serif television. Not only does it have a unique, midcentury-modern-inspired exterior penned by brothers Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, the design-forward frame encloses one of Samsung’s superb 4K SUHD panels. Judging by the outstanding performance of the SUHD televisions our reviewers have tested in our labs, that means the Serif should look as good when it’s on as when it’s off.We first heard about Serif back in November, but we only had the chance to spend some hands-on time with the actual sets at Milan Design Week.

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I decided I’d use my own TV naïveté to my advantage and give the Serif a try.We usually write in-depth first impression reviews of the new technology we see at trade shows and model debuts. But, because it’s such an outlier of a product, we decided to do something a bit different for the Serif.There's no question that Reviewed.com employs some of the most highly qualified television writers in the world. I'm not one of them. As a relative novice to tech that exists outside the kitchen and laundry room, I decided I’d use my own TV naïveté to my advantage and give the Serif a try. Bear with me, AV nerds.

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Sizing, Accessories, and Availability. Serif comes in three sizes and a few color options. The largest is a 40-inch model, and is simply called the Samsung Serif TV (MSRP $1,700). It is available in dark blue (UE40LS001CU) and white (UE40LS001AU). The 32-inch Serif TV Medium (MSRP $1,000) also comes in white (UE32LS001AU) and dark blue (UE32LS001CU). Both these models can sit on a shelf or tabletop, or can be installed on top of optional legs. Finally, the 24-inch Serif TV Mini (MSRP $700) is designed for a bedroom or kitchen. It lacks legs, but can sit on a counter or shelf and comes in white (UE24LS001AU) and red (UE24LS001BU).Currently, the televisions are not available in North America. We spoke with Samsung representatives, who had no word whether Serif would be sold outside Europe.

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Ports and Remote Control.Unlike most televisions, the Serif’s ports and cord management are hidden behind an attractive fabric cover. Once the TV is installed, simply snap the magnetic cover back into place, and the Serif will look as good from the back as from the front and sides. Connectivity includes three HDMI ports, a USB and USB 3.0 port, optical audio out, 3.5mm headphone out, and a coax antenna input. Interestingly, for all the attention Samsung paid to detail, the model label on the TV we photographed was applied at a bit of an awkward angle.The remote is unique to Serif, with a minimal amount of buttons. In addition to dedicated buttons for volume, smart functionality, and other frequently used choices, Serif’s remote has an intuitive pointer. Like a game of Duck Hunt, simply point the remote at the screen and a target will appear. Press the Pointer button to select a highlighted option.

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Smart Interface. Like most high-end Samsung televisions, this one has internet connectivity and smart functionality. Unlike most other Samsung TVs, this one uses a special, minimalist version of Samsung’s smart operating system. All the important streaming apps are available, and those that aren’t already installed can be downloaded from Samsung’s app store. You can also stream music via bluetooth or upload photos for display.LG’s WebOS and Samsung’s existing smart interface are both exceptionally expandable and well-designed. But if you care more about simplicity than expandability, Serif might be the smart TV for you.Serif is for folks who want a TV that complements their style, rather than overpowering it.Additionally, Samsung has given Serif what it calls Curtain mode, which draws abstract lines across the picture for ambient lighting and display. There’s an option to show a clock, too.

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Conclusion.I suspect many consumers will be attracted to the Serif for the same reasons I was: Unlike televisions that trumpet their technology through black, shiny plastics and futuristic design, Serif is for folks who want a TV that complements their style, rather than overpowering it. I also suspect that many more traditional television reviewers will dismiss Serif as a gimmick. Indeed, in a business where margins are tiny, adding a fancy new exterior and a corresponding price increase to an existing panel can add significant profit.However, Serif’s relatively accessible price fills a definite niche market for design enthusiasts who want something better than the retro-style televisions from Crosley or Seiki but can’t justify (or afford) a Bang & Olufsen.

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Will the Serif take off? Well, I can’t speak for the European market. But Americans will likely demand larger screen sizes and lower prices. If Samsung can make it happen, the company may have a low-volume, high-margin, design-forward success on its hands.  

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