Why I will never buy another Samsung TV (and why I will take this one back if I can)

My post isn’t in line with the focus of this blog, but I had to say something about my recent experience with Samsung TVs and help inform someone thinking about purchasing a new Samsung TV.  We gave our 6 year old 47″ Vizio to my mom  and I picked up a Samsung UN55ES6150F 55″ TV at Costco.

The Good

The TV is really a nice looking piece of electronics.  The picture is much sharper and the color more vibrant than our old Vizio.  The bezel is barely 1″ thick all the way around – most new LED TVs have a thin bezel so it’s not a huge selling feature, but from the 47″ Vizio with (what seemed to be) a 3″ bezel, this is nice.

The TV is very thin.. very.  I know most new TVs have most of these features, but built in wi-fi and a “SmartHub” (which we find out later isn’t so smart) are nice.

The bad

Ugh.. tonight I really wish I hadn’t bought this TV, but more on that later… I think that they were napping in the engineering department the day they drew this one up.

Flush mounting:

When you have a super thin TV, what I want to do with it is mount is as close to the wall as I possibly can.. because.. it’s so thin.  So I bought a new wall mount from Amazon : Loctek PSW005LF   The problem is.. I CAN’T!  Thank you engineering department.  In order to make the TV somewhat work with this adapter, a trip to Lowe’s to pick up a stack of washers and some longer bolts was necessary.  The wall mount is 0.6″ from the wall, but I had to add an extra 0.8″ to make it work.. why ?

  • Power connection : The connection for the power is flush mounted on the back of the television.   The part of the cord that plugs into the back of the TV is at a right angle, but it’s a wide right angle.  Even with my stack of washers, I needed to hammer in an indention into the sheet rock just for the power cord.  It’s a proprietary connector so I couldn’t find an aftermarket right angle plug that would solve this problem.  Great thinking guys..
  • RCA / Composite plugs : All of these are also flush mounted to the back of the TV – thank you Amazon for offering a 10-pack of RCA right angle plugs.  Without my washers, even the right angle plugs wouldn’t clear.
  • 1/8″ audio out : Yep.. another flush mount to the back of the TV.
  • HDMI.  Of all the cables that needs a recessed mount, HDMI cables are the worst!  In their infinite wisdom, the 2 flush mounted HDMI ports are directly above / below each other so when you do manage to find a right angle HDMI adapter, it completely covers   one of the ports rendering it useless.  They did put a recessed USB and HDMI connector on the TV, but why wasn’t everything recessed?

Audio Out without volume control

Any good home theater doesn’t rely on the built in TV speakers.  I think I know why TVs have built in speakers – because not everyone is going to add on another $xxx for a receiver and nice(er) speakers.  For those of us that have or add on a home theater, it sure is nice to control the volume from the TV – or at the least ‘mute’ the TV from the TV remote.  In my case, I located the receiver in a closet that requires a remote extender.  As a side note, why 1/8″ audio out and not RCA jacks?

Eco Sensor

Whoever thought including a feature like this with no easy way of turning it off.. stupid.  Really stupid.  I think their goal is to save energy by reducing the brightness of the TV based on the ambient light sensor.  This may work well in very controlled environments, but in real world experience.. it sucks.  It is bad enough that there are google pages full of complaints all asking the same question “how do I permanently turn this off” with no good answer other than entering some factory maintenance menu where you can royally goof up your TV if you adjust the wrong thing.  Let’s assume for a minute that Samsung isn’t trying to force me to be green – I do my part every earth day by burning 5 tires and spraying 10 cans of aerosol into the air – let’s assume they are trying to have a nice feature .. one of the problems with this feature is that it is very sensitive.  Our TV is located in a decent sized living room in an open floor plan where a breakfast nook and kitchen are close.  There is also a dining room that can add light into the living room.  It is overly sensitive to these light sources that are not in the same room.   I don’t really care that it is a feature – just give me a menu option in one place to turn it off.

Auto Brightness

I’m not sure what this ‘feature’ is, but if you have the factory brightness setting, the TV tries to dynamically adjust the brightness based on the scene.  This results in something like a movie credit page being unreadable.  Other dark scenes are unwatchable.  There is a way to counteract this by setting the brightness above 45.

iPhone remote app

Not really worth installing and setting up, and setting up, and setting up, and setting up.. yep.. it doesn’t manage to stay connected.  I suspect Samsung would blame my network or something creating, but.. they make the TV, they put out the remote app, but it’s my network that is the problem – you know.. my network that I never have any problems out of and has been rock solid for all the devices I’ve had connected to it for the past 4 years… sure guys.. try again.  Pull it from the market and be done.

YouTube app

Yet another failure.  Two big parts to this app – being logged into youtube and having a device  paired with it – both fail.  Every time you launch the app you must login again to your youtube account with arrows on a remote.  You are supposed to be able to pair a device so that you can search for content on your iPhone or iPad and then have it playback on the TV.  That would be very awesome if I didn’t have to pair my device every time I launch the app and sometimes while the app is running it will lose connectivity to the device.  Fail.  Samsung would do good to pull the YouTube connection out or spend the time and effort needed to fix it.  If it’s a problem with YouTube and not the TV, send that to me and I’ll update the post, but from what I’ve seen by searching the web, it’s a Samsung problem.

SmartHub – the biggest deal breaker

I could probably deal with all the other problems mentioned above (and I had up until this point).  Googling solved several of the problems – but why should the average consumer have to google just to find out how to make their TV not suck so bad?  But.. SmartHub is the deal breaker.

The idea behind SmartHub doesn’t seem to be a bad one, and honestly, I really liked having some ‘apps’ on my TV so when we wanted to watch something that wasn’t off-air, I didn’t have to plug my laptop in.  We’ve used Hulu and Amazon on-demand services but there are a host of other apps and services available.  These are all great things and for us, we don’t need or want cable so being able to pick a few shows to watch on demand is a nice feature.  I don’t have a problem with the idea or the concept itself, but the single point of failure with SmartHub is what I have a problem with.  Apparently, in order for any app at all to function, Samsung’s “SmartHub” servers have to be running.  uh… what?!  I need to say that again… In order for any app to work, Samsung’s SmartHub servers have to be running.  Whose idea was that and why are they still working at Samsung?!  I did a bit of Googling while I was waiting to chat with a Samsung rep and found that Outages of SmartHub are a regular occurrence.   I launched an app and after about 30 seconds of “connecting”, my TV told me ERROR_MODEL_BIND – Network not connected – check network settings.  What a useless error that doesn’t even come close to reflecting what the problem is.  The network was connected, I didn’t need to check network settings.  Samsung’s servers were down… but wait.. I wasn’t needing to launch Samsung provided content.. so why does the app need Samsung’s servers?!??!  I know that the app “installs” onto the TV so it doesn’t have to download every time from Samsung.  My chat with Samsung proved this:

 

Jan: Hi, thanks for reaching out to Samsung Technical Support. How can I help you today?
You: I have a Samsung 55″ LED TV with Smart Hub and I receive the error_model_bind message when attempting to use any application. From what I have read on the internet, I set the time manually and I also did a ‘full reset’
Jan: Sorry for the inconvenience that you have right now with your TV having a problem on Smart Hub.
Jan: Let me see what I can do to help you on that.
Jan: As of now we are having a problem with our Smart Hub on Samsung TV.
You: right.. but that shouldn’t affect other apps like Amazon Video or Hulu
You: unless the entire application system depends on Samsung’s server availability
Jan: There is no problem with the TV. There is a problem with the Smart Hub.
Jan: Yes, there might be a problem with accessing the Smart Hub on your Tv.
You: so if I understand you correctly, my TV applications like Hulu and Amazon Video are dependent upon Samsung’s SmartHub servers availability in order to work correctly ?
Jan: Yes.
You: which means that my TV can be fine, my internet can be fine, Hulu can be fine, all the Backbones between me and Hulu can be fine, but if Samsung’s servers or datacenter is having problems, nothing works
You: does that sound like an intelligent design to you?
You: I’m a systems engineer for <removed> and if I designed something with a dependency like that, I’d be finding another job.
Jan: Yes, there is nothing wrong with the TV. There is just some maintenance going on Smart Hub right now.
Jan: I understand your frustration right now but Smart Hub is feature of Smart TV that has a server to be maintain.
You: nah.. I don’t believe that. I’ve engineered several apps that require high availability because of the huge customer base and brand destruction if they are down and it’s not my frustration that is the problem. I don’t believe for a second that Samsung just couldn’t engineer it to work without their servers as a single point of failure.
You: but that’s not really your problem
You: you can’t do much about that
You: I can take the TV back and find one that isn’t engineered in such a way
Jan: Thank you for understanding.
You: no problem.. I’ll be glad to pass that information on to every one I can.
I’d like to know:
  1. Why does the app ‘install’ onto my TV if it depends on SmartHub servers in order to work right?
  2. Why did Samsung think it was a good idea to design a system that had a complete dependency on ‘SmartHub’ servers which they can’t seem to keep running in an acceptable manner (and if you think 99.9 is acceptable for a product in 100’s of thousands of homes, we have a different definition of acceptable uptime)?
  3. Why haven’t they fixed this in a software update?
  4. What information is Samsung and SmartHub gathering from me every time I launch an app?

For me, I really wanted to like this TV, but after learning of its dependency on the mother ship, I think I’m done.

 

3 Responses to “Why I will never buy another Samsung TV (and why I will take this one back if I can)”

  • Finn:

    Hi

    Exactly my words. It is impossible to understand the idea of building such a huge dependency into a little Smart TV. Would be nice to know the reasons.

    Next problem would be to construct THE world wide server, that had at least 99.9999 % availability around the clock. Anything else would be a disaster (for Samsung).

  • clint:

    Same issue for me too. Smarthub failure is now model spefic. I have the un55es6150 and have been unable to watch netflix or amazon prime for a week now on a relatively expensive tv. Buyer beware

  • Vic Kamber:

    I spent the last 3 days talking to Samsung support regarding a periodic screen blackout one in 5 minutes of play. They offered lots of solutions, but the one that worked. I used a vacuum on the vents in the back of the set and have not had any more problems. Support was very hard to understand especially with all the talking in the background.

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