If you’re in the market for a new TV, it can be striking just how similar all the options are. Whether you’re walking into a traditional brick-and-mortar store and confronted with a wall of basically-similar panels, or scrolling through Amazon listings for seemingly identical rectangles, it can be hard to find enough differentiating factors to be convinced any TV is meaningfully different or better than the competition. However, the Samsung Serif stands apart with its willingness to be different.
The Samsung Serif is a killer design piece that ties a space together in a way that other TVs can’t. And even for those that don’t want the Serif as their main Television, the unique design offers a level of portability that makes the Serif a uniquely versatile option as a second TV that you can move around easily without being an eyesore.
To really understand everything this TV has to offer, let’s dive into the features and what makes this unit unique. Samsung is really trying to do interesting things with the Serif and its bigger brother, the Frame, and now that they’ve had a few years to iterate the Serif is becoming a more compelling option based on the really innovative features on offer.
If you’re looking into the Samsung Serif (on Amazon) then I’m going to assume that the unique features of the device are what got you here. We will discuss the “normal” TV features like image and sound quality, Smart TV capabilities, and other standard-fare details about the Serif in the next section, but first let’s explore what set’s the Serif apart.
First, no conversation about the Serif would be complete without addressing the design up-front. To someone who doesn’t think of a Television as a design piece, the look is a little jarring at first. With the metal legs, the Serif gives of an easel vibe, and it’s not clear at first how (or where!) this Television is meant to be used. Or classic spots like above a mantle, on an entertainment center, these locations would do for the Serif, but that’s not what it’s designed for.
You may have heard the term “Serif” in reference to fonts before, and it’s actually the same origin story here. Looking at the TV from the side, you can clearly make out the shape of the TV, specifically how it forms the letter I. The game for most TVs is thinness, not thickness, so it’s immediately surprising to see the bulk of this unit. From the side, you can see it’s several inches deep, a decision that chooses to simply not play the same game as other TVs.
This works because it adds a unique feature to the Serif at the design level: it has a literal shelf on top, enabling you to stage the unit and help it blend into the space. This is just one of the tricks the Serif uses to do this. That wideness, the spreading out of the ends of the “I”, is repeated at the base of the unit, which means those metal feet can screw off and you have a nice, flat, stable base to use if you do want to place this TV on one of those more traditional places: on a mantle, on an entertainment center, etc.
And the lack of a stand, or a traditional TV stand, this means if you do place the Serif somewhere flat, it really starts to feel like part of that furniture, an effect you can boost with Ambient Mode, which we’ll discuss a little more below.
Lots of TVs do have attempts at cable management features, the most notable being the Samsung Frame series and a handful of other high-end Samsung models that literally punt all of the input/output to a separate box that’s much easier to hide. But while that strategy of punting the I/O somewhere else solves the problem by adding a component, the Serif solves it by helping you subtract something: the length of the power cable.
Looking at the back of the unit, which by the way is covered with a slightly curved white panel that hides all the cables when not fiddling with them, you’ll notice a series of grooves at the bottom. This is a simple, low-tech solution for winding the power cable up so that it’s just the right length. A clever solution that allows you to modify the length of the power cable relative to the unit without anything complicated going on.
Get this right, and the power cable can be exactly the right length, allowing you to run it to exactly the right place and, hopefully, hide it very well. As if this cable-length-managing trick weren’t enough, the Serif also includes a little conduit that snaps onto one of the legs, allowing you to run one, or even a couple of cables in a way that is controlled, as opposing to draping out behind the unit.
These details are hard to overstate: this attention to helping you really embed the unit into your space in a seamless (or rather cordless way) really adds to the effect of the Serif, which screams intention and thoughtfulness already. That’s why I’ve used the word elegance in the title of this section, and not just convenience. And it’s why this is a unique feature of the Serif, a place where it plays to win a game that other Televisions simply aren’t playing.
This is not an advertised feature of the Serif, and if you skim Samsung’s product page, they’re not going to advocate using it like this. The focus on design, on embedding the Serif into a space, means you’re probably going to pick one spot and work to make the Serif blend in there, but after I had this TV in my space, I realized something really interesting: it’s not too heavy, and with that wide base and top, it’s actually quite easy to pick up and move around.
Then it hit me: it’s actually so easy to move around, that you could easily just pop it where you want it temporarily. The fact that it has those metal legs and flat base means that it takes its “mounting” system with it. Unlike a flat panel you have to stick on a wall or a TV with a more traditional stand, a Serif can very easily be popped where you’d like it. That might mean sitting it out on the porch with you on a summer night or setting it up in the bedroom temporarily for movie night in bed. And if you've read our article on portable projectors, it's interesting to think that this is dramatically easier than even a portable projector, since there's no big screen to manage.
Just think about the TV you have in your house now: if you wanted to physically move it somewhere else, what sort of work would be involved to move it around then replace it? This, for me, turned out to be a killer feature, something I didn’t realize I wanted until I had the Serif in hand and was moving it around, testing out where it felt the nicest. Most of the time you have to choose, up front, where your TV will go permanently, and with the Serif that is, again, just a game that this unit refuses to play.
Finally, there are the little software things that set this unit apart. Ambient Mode, which gets its own dedicated button on the remote, puts the screen on display in a way that’s at first similar to the way the Samsung Frame Series or any Chromecast-connected device does. However, the big difference is that Chromecast and The Frame are only using static images. The Serif’s Ambient Mode takes this effect a bit further, adding motion as well as color control.
You can easily set the background to a flat color so that it quietly blends in with the wall, or you can choose one of the various more abstract motion modes that, while hard to capture in images, really pop to the eye. Take this example below of spinning blocks. They tilt over every so often, adding a clever piece of eye candy to the space, and the colors, in this case gold, grey and red, are all editable. You can change them to match the space, helping the unit blend in more.
There are dozens of ambient mode backgrounds, both static and motion ones, all of them tweakable with detailed control over the colors so that you can really make the Serif match a space when in ambient mode.
Lastly, worth a footnote here not as a game-changer but as something clever and unique nonetheless, there’s NFC pairing in the top of the unit. So, you can walk up with an Android phone, sit it in the middle of the top shelf of the unit, and immediately connect with it to stream music through the unit’s speakers. A nice little tech touch that leverages that top shelf even more, and establishing that the unit is meant to be walked up to, to be accessible, to be interacted with in a limited way. Again, this is strange, different stuff to have in a TV, and the Serif pulls it all off.
So, the Serif provides a lot of unique features, but what about the “normal” stuff? What about the quality of the unit when it comes to actually just watching something?
To start off, two specs that won’t surprise you are 4k resolution and a QLED panel. At this price point, those might as well be anteing up when it comes to TV specs. The panel of the TV is punchy with bright brights and surprisingly dark darks. Great color. Great contrast. I won’t belabor image quality much more because there’s just nothing to say other than you don’t need to worry: the quality here is as high as any other panel in this price range.
When it comes to sound quality, I actually have to give this TV props just for sheer volume and clarity. Usually, built-in speakers start to get a bit messy at high volumes, but this unit performed well with normal movie-watching as well as streaming audio. It’s worth noting that this TV isn’t designed for you to add a soundbar, and that intention shows in the design. The speakers are higher quality than you’d typically find built into a Television, something that helps justify that higher price. They’re still not as good as a standalone soundbar, but they’re certainly good enough.
There are some smart software features built into these two areas, with Samsung claiming Adaptive Picture manages color and resolution based on ambient light, and an Active Voice Amplifier doing something similar to bring out dialogue against sounds in a noisy room. I didn’t notice these features in operation during my testing, but I also didn’t notice any lack of them. Maybe they were operating and increasing the experience a bit, but I didn’t notice or have to think about them, which is exactly what you want.
What’s not to like about the standard Samsung remote that’s been shipping the last few years? Notable additions to the Serif model include that dedicated Ambient Mode button, as well as a few dedicated streaming service buttons at the bottom. This isn’t Serif-specific, more an updated feature Samsung has started to roll out across their remotes in general.
My muscle memory kept me using the normal smart TV menus to navigate to Netflix and Prime the first few days, but once I remembered the dedicated buttons I quickly started to notice not having them on the other TV’s remote. There’s nothing crazy to write home about here--the remote is just enough tech without anything to complicate the user experience. Simply a way to navigate and control the smart-TV features.
We have an article about using your Smartphone as a TV remote, and it's good to note that the Samsung SmartThings app allows this functionality too. This is great for when you lose the stock remote or, more likely, one of your pets figures out how satisfying the soft-touch finish is to chew through.
When it comes to the software, if you have a Samsung TV, or any smart TV, you’re going to feel at home navigating the Serif’s software. For all its hardware design features, there was simply no need to change the operating system up because Samsung has this down to a science. You’ll have access to plenty of apps and streaming services, any of them you can think of really. And additions like Apple Airplay 2 and android screencasting allow you to stream from basically any device you’d like.
In the category of “Smartness” it’s appropriate to mention the smart assistants in the Serif as well. It has capabilities to use either Alexa, the Google Assistant, or Bixby built-in. While Bixby still has a “stop trying to make this happen/it’s not going to happen” vibe, the ability to use Alexa and Google Assistant are actually pretty neat to have in a TV like this, one that’s geared more toward interaction. Commanding Alexa to change the channel, or Google Assistant to pull up photos is a neat trick, and the button-activated mic on the remote means you’re not constantly being listened to and monitored like with other voice assistant connection points.
When it comes to I/O, you can reference the cable management images above - you’re not going to want to plug something in and not have a port for it on this model, and although there are several options, this unit really does encourage a simple, cable-minimizing setup like I’ve run in it: just a Chromecast Ultra and nothing more. That said, the cable management is flexible enough to handle whatever you’d like to throw at it.
To answer this question, consider the two different models: 43in and 55in. I think that as the main TV in your living space, if you have a big room, the 55in is the correct answer, but this is going to minimize the impact of the portability of this machine, so that 55in is, in my opinion, less functional and versatile. That said, if you want a stylish TV for your space, either model serves that purpose and is in my opinion a bargain at this price point.
The reason I feel this way is because not only are you getting all the features of a high-end smart TV in the Serif, you’re getting unique design elements and features that you literally can’t get anywhere else...there are no other design-oriented TVs that allow you to bring a space together like this, to avoid the effect of a black rectangular monolith just sitting in a room when not being used.
So, if you have the money for it, the Serif is absolutely worth the price, but in my mind it’s best deployed as the smaller, 43in model that’s used as a sort of swing TV. The 55in model being used as the main TV for the house...this just isn’t going to fit some people’s needs because it’s possible for the design to be too good for the surroundings. Put another way, if you just want a 55in panel and don’t care about the design, sure, this TV is out of your price range and you need to look for something else.
Even for those who don’t want a fancy design-oriented TV, the Serif, especially the 43” model, still offers a unique portability and versatility aspect that even non-design-oriented TVs can’t match. That’s why, in the end, I’ve chosen to title this article the best second TV you can buy. Because while I can’t advocate that this is the best primary TV for everyone, based on my experience I can say that for anyone looking into a second TV, this is likely the best bang for your buck, offering unique features and supporting unique use cases that a traditional TV just can’t match.