For a full run-down of Smart TV features including voice and gesture control, read our review of the Samsung Series 8 LED TV.
Samsung's Series 7 LED TV is a step down from the range-topping Series 8, but it doesn't make many sacrifices for the $500 saving. As part of the top tier of Samsung's 2012 LED TVs, the Series 7 has all the accoutrements you'd expect from the world's most feature-complete Smart TV manufacturer: voice and gesture control, plenty of Internet video on demand services including Foxtel, and extra value-adding fitness, family and kids' apps.
Samsung Series 7: Design and setup
The Samsung Series 7 is available in 55in and 46in sizes, catering to the mid-to-large-size market. We tested a 55in (UA55ES7500M) model. If you want a bigger LED TV in the seriously large 60in and 65in sizes, you'll need to buy a Series 8 or look at other brands like Sharp. If you want something smaller, Samsung's Series 6 comes in a 40in and 32in without voice and gesture control.
The 2012 Series 7 keeps the chrome finish, thin bezel and four-legged stand of the 2011 and 2010 Series 7 models. It's a good look, and the materials used are of a high quality. Like on the Series 8, bumps in the top and bottom bezels make space for a glowing Samsung logo and integrated webcam and microphone, which handles voice and gesture duties.
If we were wall-mounting a TV and wanted the thinnest model possible, we'd give Samsung a lot of our attention: they've always been at the forefront of cutting out unnecessary bulk. The Series 7 is a mere 29.7mm thick, and Samsung sells a thin wall mount that'll keep it as close to the wall as possible.
Connectivity is a mixed bag for the Series 7. We're mystified by the trend of removing a HDMI port from all but the top model — other manufacturers have done the same thing this year, and the Series 7 is left with three ports. This is more than enough for most users, but for content-happy users it's a slight impediment that necessitates buying a premium TV or a HDMI-compatible A/V receiver.
Apart from three HDMI ports, the Series 7 is well-served by single component and composite inputs, three USB ports, Ethernet, digital audio output, and a Mobile High Definition Link port for connecting a smartphone. Wi-Fi is also built-in.
Setting up the TV is a simple process, as it is with other 2012 Samsung TVs: screw together the stand, mount the TV, plug it in to any necessary devices and an antenna, turn it on, run an initial channel scan, set up a network connection, and you're good to go.
Samsung Series 7: Smart TV
Samsung has included almost all of the Smart TV features that were in the premium Series 8 in the Series 7, so read our Series 8 review for a full run-down of the details. The main difference between the two TVs is in their styling, and some picture quality changes.
All the Samsung Smart Content signature apps — Fitness, Family Story and Kids — remain, and the full Smart Interaction suite of voice and gesture controls are still integrated. Smart Evolution is also included, which lets you upgrade your TV with extra features or power next year. We wouldn't use these over a proper remote control, but their inclusion does put the Series 7 on equal footing with the more expensive Series 8, which starts to look slightly over-priced at its $4599 RRP (for the 55in).
Samsung Series 7: Picture quality and performance
The main difference between the Samsung Series 7 and the top Series 8 is the lack of Micro Dimming Ultimate on the 7: it's burdened with Micro Dimming Pro instead, which has half the dynamic dimming zones of the 8's Ultimate.
This means that while the TV is still able to dim sections of the screen when dark patches are shown on-screen, these patches are larger and the dynamic brightness effect will not be as pronounced. As a result, black levels aren't quite as deep as they could be. They're still very good for an LCD-based TV — plasmas can do better, though — but this is the biggest difference between the Series 7 and the Series 8. It's a case of better versus best.
To ensure a quick response to changes in brightness, the Series 7's LED edge-lighting idles at a minimum brightness that isn't completely black — a common tactic for LED TVs. On an almost-entirely black screen, though — with no video playing — there is a small amount of LED backlight bloom visible, with some areas around the TV's edge brighter compared to the centre of the Series 7's display.
In other areas, though, the Samsung Series 7 is a strong performer. It's able to resolve excellent levels of detail in Blu-ray video, once the crucial 1:1 'Screen Fit' option is enabled. We opted to lower sharpness somewhat, but in Movie mode the Series 7 is able to display very good colour accuracy with a life-like and neutral nature.
Being a LED TV, it's able to produce extremely bright pictures if needed, making it a good choice for especially bright viewing environments. We found that 8 on a scale of 20 gave the best compromise between a vivid picture and deep black levels.
Our 3D experiences, along with the majority of other testing, concluded that apart from the black levels and minor backlight bloom, the Series 7 performs very similarly to the Samsung Series 8. If you supply it with a high quality video source like a Blu-ray movie or 1080p downloaded video file, it's able to produce a very good-looking picture.
Samsung Series 7: Conclusion
Samsung's Series 7 cuts out some minor features in the picture quality and connectivity departments from the range-topping Series 8, but comes at a $500 cost saving for the same screen size. If you're happy with these compromises, it's comparatively good value.