What's new
  • Please do not post any links until you have 3 posts as they will automatically be rejected to prevent SPAM. Many words are also blocked due to being used in SPAM Messages. Thanks!

Samsung UN55D7000 55" LED 3D HDTV Review

Status
Not open for further replies.

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Samsung has a longstanding tradition of engineering excellence and they have quickly become the most popular HDTV manufacturer around. This is largely due to their bewildering number of offerings which currently stands at 36 different TV models in North America and covers everything from high end LED units to entry level Plasmas and LCDs.

Before we go on, it is important to understand how through a straightforward naming scheme Samsung has classified their HDTVs over the last few years. UN, PN and LN always precede a set’s diagonal size (in inches), designate the type of screen being used and stand for LED, plasma and LCD respectively. This is followed by a generational indicator: the “A” models were released in 2008, the “B” in 2009 and so on. The next few numbers are the series number (three digits for LCD and four numbers for LED and plasma) which means higher figures typically mean more features and better picture quality. Thus, the subject of this review –the UN55D7000- is a 55” LED HDTV that is part of their 2011 lineup and happens to be one of their highest-end products since only the D8000 stands above it.

With something for everyone and value to be found at nearly every level of their product stack, Samsung still has some marquee models which are aimed straight at more discerning individuals. Usually the 8-series headlines the show with the 7-series offering a combination of high performance and leading edge features without breaking the bank and this generation is no different. While the UN55D8000 set (which we’ll be reviewing in a few weeks) typically goes for over $2500, the UN55D7000 typically hits the $1900 to $2000 mark. Here in Canada we get taken to the cleaners to the tune of $2400 or more for this set but that’s nothing compared to the $3100 we’ll have to shell out for the D8000.


Naturally, the D7000 comes with a long list of features and some enviable specifications. First and foremost among these is Samsung’s excellent SmartTV which includes applications, movie streaming services like Hulu and Netflix, internet browsing and Facebook / Skype access through your TV without additional hardware provided you hook up an Ethernet cable or connect to a network with the built-in WiFi. This is all controlled through Samsung’s innovative but –as we will see later- highly annoying remote.

On the picture quality side of things, the D7000 certainly isn’t left wanting either. Technologies like Ultra Clear Panel to reduce ambient light reflections and a Wide Color Enhancer for an expanded color space are included. There are also some questionable additions such as “Clear Motion 720” which is Samsung’s proprietary way of measuring refresh rate (this set’s actual refresh performance is not actually 720Hz) and “Micro Dimming”. Micro Dimming is typical marketing doublespeak so don’t take it to mean the D7000 has a backlit, local dimming panel. Rather, micro dimming allows this edge-lit set to use a software algorithm to analyze up to 4000 zones across the LED panel and make contrast adjustments accordingly.


All in all, the UN55D7000 should have all of the hallmarks many people want in a high quality TV without having to spend the outrageous money demanded by its bigger brother. We don’t expect C9000-series performance out of it but hopefully the shift in generational technology will lead to an improvement over last year’s disappointing UN55C6500.

 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Specifications & Dimensions

Specifications & Dimensions






 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
A Closer Look at the UN55D7000

A Closer Look at the UN55D7000



The UN55D7000’s design follows in the footsteps of its predecessors but Samsung has continued to refine the overall look and feel into something more futuristic this time around. Gone is the large frame from the previous series and in its place is an almost bezel-free design that allows the image to look like its floating in the air. The four-prong base does make a comeback but it too has been revised so each of the “arms” rests flush with the mounting surface.


Not only do edge lit LED panels allow for additional efficiency over previous LED-based designs but they also allow manufacturers to push an amazing amount of technology into a thin frame. This may not be useful for people who shove this set into a cabinet but at a mere 1.2” thick, the D7000 will surely look great when mounted on a wall.



On higher end sets like the D7000, Samsung has finally seen fit to move away from their “Touch of Color” design towards a neutral color palette for panel’s surrounding frame. The minimal screen bezel is surrounded by a border of clear Lucite which blends into almost any background


The back panel connector selection is generous to say the least with the upper section housing four HDMI 1.4a inputs, a trio of USB connectors (one of which can accept a dedicated external hard drive), an optical output for HD audio pass-through and an all in one connector for the standard AV break-out adapter Samsung includes. Meanwhile, the lower area holds a VGA input, an antenna connector, another area for 3 to 1 standard A/V cables, a headphone jack, an interface for Samsung’s proprietary EX-Link for additional features when paired up with some supporting devices and finally a standard Ethernet port.


As we mentioned in the introduction, Samsung has designed what can only be called a unique backlit controller. On one side you have a standard remote interface with every function we’ve come to expect along with a few SmartTV access points and a 2D to 3D conversion shortcut.

The flip side is where the magic lies. Samsung has converted the remote’s underside into a full QWERTY keyboard, number pad and directional controller that really comes in handy when using the SmartTV applications that are included with the D7000. There is also a small monochromatic screen that displays text as you type.

We found this to be a great addition and due to its button design, there’s no way you’ll accidentally press the opposite side’s keys. There is however one major issue with this thing: it has to be “paired” with the TV in a process that is long, arduous and next to impossible without some serious patience.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Menu Layout & Observations

Menu Layout & Observations


As usual, Samsung’s menu system is nothing short of spectacular and is the benchmark by which all others should be measured. It is clearly laid out with good explanations and features plenty of worthwhile adjustments alongside some detailed, fine grain tuning tools that will appeal to true HDTV junkies.



The main menu houses all of the available options under six distinct categories: Picture, Sound, Network, System, and Support. They are all self descriptive but we’ll go through each quickly below.

The Picture section allows for both basic and fine-grain image settings to be controlled along with the ability to enable the TV’s 3D options (separation, 2D / 3D conversion, etc.). This is also where the all-important Picture Mode can be selected. Picture Mode automatically adjusts a variety of image settings for a given viewing condition and in our opinion it works quite well, particularly when in Movie mode.


Within the Picture menu, there are two additional subsections: Advanced Settings and Picture Options. Advanced Settings houses items that deal with colour, contrast, white balance and motion performance. Most of the options are straightforward but the custom While Balance and Colour Space sections allow for tweaking to your heart’s content.


The Picture Options section really could have been lumped into the previously explained Advanced Options area since it really doesn’t include much. With that being said the items here are important for overall image cohesion since the Color Tone makes an appearance right at the menu’s onset. Color Tone allows you to set a default color profile depending on your requirements or viewing conditions. Meanwhile, the two Noise Filters are handy for reducing various types of image noise but increasing these two into the higher reaches of their sliders can induce unwanted image artifacts.

The Auto Motion Plus option deserves its own page but unfortunately, we don’t have the space in this review to go too far into details. At its most basic, AMP gives users the ability to control this TV’s motion interpolation or refresh rate which reduces the amount of ghosting and judder in fast scenes. There are a number of presets that can be worked through but we prefer to go straight for the Custom setting and fiddle with the sliders until motion performance is good but the scene doesn’t take on the “shot on rails” look of over compensation.


As we already said, the other sections are pretty much self explanatory with the Sound options controlling the two included 15W speakers and optical output while the Network settings being used to set up and control the interconnect between this TV and the internet or other linked hardware. The System section includes general hardware settings but there is one item that’s hidden here: Game Mode, a setting that reduces input lag by turning off the TV’s post processing. Finally, Support allows for software updates among other things and Samsung has even included an electronic owner’s manual.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Viewing Conditions / Calibrated Settings

Viewing Conditions


Before we get to the calibrated settings, it should be mentioned that my viewing environment isn’t exactly what you would call optimal for TV watching. During the day, we get a ton of light coming in from our monstrous second story window while at night there is a street light directly opposite the viewing room. If anything, this emphasizes that even though I have included my somewhat finalized settings below, everyone’s viewing conditions will be different and as such you should take these as a starting point rather than an end-all of calibrations.


Calibrated Settings


Picture Mode

Mode: Movie
Backlight: 11
Contrast: 96
Brightness: 49
Sharpness: 0
Color: 49
Tint: G50/R50


Screen adjustment:

Picture Size: Screen Fit


Advanced Settings

Black tone: Off
Dynamic contrast: Off
Gamma: 0
Expert Pattern: Off
RGB Only Mode: Off
Color space: Standard
White Balance: Standard
10p White Balance: On
Flesh tone: 0
Edge enhancement: Off
Motion Lighting: Off
xvYCC: Off
LED Motion Plus: Cinema


Picture Options

Color tone: Warm2
Digital Noise Filter: Off
MPEG Noise Filter: Off
HDMI black level: Normal
Film mode: Off
Auto motion plus: Custom


Custom AMP Settings:

Blur reduction: 10
Judder reduction: 2
Smart LED: Standard
Cinema Black: On
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
General HD Picture & Image Quality Observations

General HD Picture & Image Quality Observations


There are three words to remember when you first set up you brand new HDTV: calibration, calibration, calibration. We cannot emphasize this enough since every set we have come across has had default picture settings which are set for in-store environments rather than our living room. Need proof? Check out our images below.



As you can see the pre-calibrated image is overly saturated, features a very cool color pallet, sacrifices contrast for white level “pop” and is generally unviewable for long periods of time. After a few minor tweaks which largely involve setting the Color Tone to Warm 2, reducing the backlight and nixing Dynamic Contrast, the image begins to something that approaches acceptability. Another important setting to remember is the Screen Fit option which enables 1:1 pixel mapping for 1080P content so a movie or program can be viewed as the director intended.

The overall look of an image is highly subjective (indeed, the post calibration picture above may look too warm for some) but a good looking picture doesn’t require a degree in rocket science or a $200 ISF calibration service. Samsung gives users a full set of easy to understand tools and we recommend you use them.


With calibration complete, we can say that for the most part the picture quality of Samsung’s UN55D7000 is simply beyond reproach. Colours are rich and vibrant without leaning towards either the overly cool or warm spectrums as some past sets have done. Skin tone was also a highlight with even coloration and spot on luminescence. There were some odd shifts towards blue tones in some HD satellite broadcasts but we chalked that up to the source image rather than the TV. Nonetheless, from Batman: The Dark Knight to Avatar and 2012, the image rendition was some of the best we’ve seen in a long time and is a massive step forward from the last generation’s similarly priced C6000 and C7000 series.

LED edge lighting sometimes causes a distracting halo effect which is particularly noticeable during movies displayed in their native 16:9 or 1.35:1 formats which leave large black bands above and below the image. The D7000’s Cinema Black setting allows it to avoid this pitfall. By enabling Cinema Black, the TV essentially turns off parts of the screen lighting to enable true black upper and lower bands. It is a brilliant feature and one we just can’t see doing without in the future.

Some past Samsung HDTVs exhibited an odd issue which caused them to “skip” some frames when displaying 1080P/24 content but luckily the D7000 seems to have done away with this nagging problem. Video processing was smooth, particularly with Auto Motion Plus in our custom setup.


Black level and contrast performance were very good when compared to the immediate competition and it seemed like Samsung’s “Micro Dimming” technology doing a yeoman’s job of keeping the panel under control. Indeed, this is one of the better performing LED TVs we’ve seen when it came to black levels with inky blacks being achievable through a few minor tweaks. Unfortunately, there was some noticeable black crush every so often –particularly in darker movies like Tron Legacy-, acceptable shadow detail was hard to achieve and some shadows did take on a faintly blueish aura in 300.

It still seems like LED-based sets have a long way to go until they can even come close to matching the black level performance of plasmas and some of the higher end LCD TVs out there.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Panel Uniformity / Viewing Angles

Panel Uniformity


Panel uniformity has never been one of the strong points of edge lit LED sets due to the nature of their backlighting system. Unfortunately the UN55D7000 simply carries on this tradition in spectacular fashion.


Simply put, the word “uniformity” isn’t in this HDTV’s dictionary. Against a completely black screen, the left and right edges are noticeably brighter than the rest of the screen and this effect carries over into standard viewing scenarios as well, just with less extreme results. Luckily, there wasn’t any backlight bleeding that we could detect.


Yes, things get even worse depending on the source used. In some cases like you can see above, the D7000 move away from the vertical bands to random clouding across various parts of its screen area. We found this could be replicated when either using Game Mode or increasing brightness in HDMI-streamed content.

<object width="640" height="360"><param name="allowfullscreen" value="true"/><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"/><param name="movie" value="http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=31770418&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=0&show_portrait=0&color=00adef&fullscreen=1&autoplay=0&loop=0"/><embed src="http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=31770418&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=0&show_portrait=0&color=00adef&fullscreen=1&autoplay=0&loop=0" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" width="640" height="360"></embed></object>​

As you may be able to see in the video above (as the image pans left or right) the high brightness of the outer edges causes vertical dark bands to form at certain places. Not only is this highly distracting but it handicaps picture quality to an embarrassing degree.

We’re not quite sure whether these issues are due to Samsung’s move towards slimmer designs but in our eyes, uniformity problems like the ones we experienced have no place on an HDTV that costs upwards of two grand. We also need to mention that our set had an H302 panel and supposedly a newly released H303 version almost eliminates these issues. Unfortunately this also means buyers have once again entered Samsung’s infamous panel lottery…


Viewing Angles



The D7000’s viewing angles were generally very good and the panel retained most of its contrast and black levels when viewed up to about 15 degrees off center. Past this, there was a noticeable drop off in shadow depth while colours began looking a bit washed out. Considering some higher end sets start losing contrast when viewed even slightly off center, this result is actually quite good and rank up there with some of the best we’ve tested.
 
Last edited:

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Gaming Impressions / 3D Performance

Gaming Impressions


Many of today’s most popular HDTVs can’t be deemed fit for gaming on due to their massive amounts of input lag. Basically, input lag means there is a discernable pause between a controller input and that same action showing up on the screen Most of the time this is caused by excess background post processing or the signal passing through a long list of filters and noise reduction processes before it can be viewed on the screen. During regular TV or movie watching, this process is all but invisible to end users but when direct input is required, things quickly go downhill.

LCD and LED-based sets are more often than not particularly bad in this respect since their light engine has to process the signal prior to display in order to clean up the image. Samsung has found a way around this through their Game Mode.

Game mode essentially shuts off the TV’s post processing algorithm which increases response times, tightens up input commands and renders the TV / controller handoff all but invisible. Unfortunately, there is one major downfall to using game mode: a significant reduction in image quality.



The difference between disabling and enabling Game Mode is like night and day. Not only does this setting shut off image processing but it also severely limits the image quality and color settings you have access to. The result is a picture that is overly saturated, lacks contrast, exhibits excess bloom, has poor black level performance and just looks like crap. Nonetheless, input lag is essentially eliminated and response times become razor sharp. It really goes to show just how much effort the UN55D7000 is putting into cleaning up the image.

For most competitive gamers, this tradeoff will be more than acceptable since the improvement in reaction times is noticeable. On the other hand, anyone with a large format HDTV won’t want their newest PS3 or Xbox 360 game looking like a previous generation title.


Without Game Mode enabled, the UN55D7000 performs reasonably well with about 110ms of lag. Due to the high speed of most games the picture quality issues we mentioned in previous sections weren’t really noticable but we did have to increase Gamma and Brightness for nearly ever title due to severe black crush in darker scenes. Otherwise, colors were mostly spot on and ghosting was minimal due to the D7000’s excellent Auto Motion Plus settings.


3D Performance


This is a tough section for us since we feel stereoscopic content is (hopefully) nothing more than a fad which is being shoved down our throats by overeager Hollywood studios that need to justify their existence in a digital world. Nonetheless, viewing 3D movies at home does have a certain amount of allure provided your TV properly supports this emerging format.

We’ve gone through three successive generations of 3D HDTVs without finding a single one that supports stereoscopic content to our liking. The UN55D7000 doesn’t vastly improve our opinion of 3D on “small” screens but it does succeed in some key areas where its predecessors have failed in spectacular fashion. The 2D to 3D conversion mode is very, very good and does an outstanding job of displaying run of the mill TV shows in three dimensions. Samsung has also decreased the amount of crosstalk when compared to their C-series and higher end B-series products.

Unfortunately, making an encore presentation here is the usual severe ghosting during high speed sporting events (hockey games are borderline offensive to watch in 3D) while the glasses are anything but comfortable. There is also a noticeable reduction in screen brightness and color depth when wearing the shutter glasses due to their polarized lenses. In addition, without proper separation options stereo 3D on the D7000 still causes eyestrain and pounding headaches after less than an hour of viewing.

All in all the D7000 takes several steps in the right direction and almost makes stereoscopic viewing palatable but Samsung still has a long way to go before we can see using their 3D feature on a daily basis.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Conclusion

Conclusion


The expectations for this generation of Samsung HDTVs reached a fever pitch at the last CES show since the new D-series looked like the one that every other manufacturer would have to beat. For the most part the UN55D7000 hit many high points and played the part of an enthusiast level, $2000 set. It was a joy to use due to an intuitive, user friendly menu system and the amazing color accuracy, deep blacks and faithful 1080P/24 content reproduction could have propelled it to the forefront of our “must have” list. Motion performance and even stereoscopic 3D viewing were also some of the best we have encountered in the sub-$3000 category.

You may notice we said “could have” and therein lies the D7000’s major drawback. With the hard lessons Samsung learned from their past foibles in the high end range this could have been a well priced, benchmark setting HDTV. The strengths we saw in contrast, saturation and shadow detail could have been leveraged into picture quality not seen at this price point in some time. Indeed, the UN55D7000 could have been many great things but once again Samsung’s glaring quality assurance issues reared their ugly heads and ruined an otherwise flawless viewing experience.

Vertical banding, clouding and a general lack of screen uniformity are the name of the game here and they really do a number on picture quality. Instead of even colors across the screen, the left and right thirds are noticeably brighter to the point where their emphasis on over saturation leads to darker bands appearing at regular intervals. This is both distracting and disheartening considering the D7000 aces nearly every other test. Samsung quite obviously has some problems here that are likely a byproduct of the slim design being chosen over substance.

We may be coming off as sounding overly harsh but like it or not, the UN55D7000 is a miss in our books. We’d never play Russian Roulette with $2000 but that’s exactly what is being offered; maybe you’ll luck out and get the H303 panel that supposedly fixes some of the more glaring issues but there are still tons of H301 and H302-equipped sets on retailers’ shelves. Would we take that chance? Nope.

There is a hell of a lot to like about Samsung’s newest entry into the $1999 market. It has all the hallmarks of a great TV with the potential for eye opening picture quality, superb motion performance, a stunning design and a class leading menu system but the issues were so glaring, they just couldn’t be overlooked. In essence the UN55D7000 is a good looking product which has the potential to be an outstanding HDTV but its aspirations were ultimately sunk by a spectacular lack of panel uniformity.
 
Last edited:
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top