Need to buy a gift for somebody who loves technology but you can’t afford the big ticket items?
Samsung Series 7 (UA55C7000) 3D LED television
This ultra-modern LED television supports 3D movies, has a swathe of Internet features and is exceptionally stylish
- Excellent picture with standard 2D video, very fine detail in 1080p Blu-ray video content, good colour reproduction
- Internal speakers distort on bass notes, overly sharp at default settings, unnatural motion reproduction in default settings, 2D-3D conversion is imperfect
Samsung's Series 7 (UA55C7000) is the best edge-lit LED television we've seen. It doesn't have the deep inky black levels of a high-end plasma television, but its colour reproduction is good and 2D video looks great. The UA55C7000's motion control handles sports and wildlife footage well, but some movies can seem slightly jittery when using default settings. 3D video playback is a novel inclusion that adds extra depth and immersion, but we'd wait a while before purchasing a television purely for 3D video. In short, don't purchase this TV for 3D -- purchase it because it's good at almost everything else.
Price$ 4,499.00 (AUD)
The Samsung Series 7 (UA55C7000) is a 55in LED edge-lit television packed full of brand new features. In addition to 3D video capabilities, it can access the Internet with features like Skype video-calling and Twitter integration. It has a very clean picture and high levels of detail, but a few 2D and 3D video anomalies stop it from being perfect.
Part of Samsung's 2010 LED television range, the Samsung Series 7 (UA55C7000) sits in the middle of the company's television line-up. More fully-featured Series 8 and Series 9 televisions will be released later in the year, but for the moment the Series 7 is the most advanced Samsung TV available. The Series 7 (UA55C7000) is the first 3D television to be sold in Australia, beating units from Sony and Panasonic by several months.
Samsung Series 7 (UA55C7000) design and styling
The Samsung Series 7 (UA55C7000) 3D LED television sports one of the most attractive television designs we've seen in a while, with a few cues that remind us of the Loewe Individual Compose series. The chromed, cross-shaped base is almost identical, and a similar aluminium bezel runs along the lower edge. The Series 7 (UA55C7000) differentiates itself from the Loewe model with a glossy black bezel that it has inherited from its predecessors (the 2009 Series 8 and Series 7). We'd happily hang this panel on the wall of a home theatre room. The bundled metal remote control is also excellent.
The panel has a maximum thickness of 26.5mm, taking advantage of the size and weight advantages of LED lighting technology. Using Samsung's $199 ultra slim wall mount, the face of this television will sit less than 5cm from the wall. A tall floor stand can also be purchased for $299 — useful if you do not have an entertainment unit and if wall-mounting is not an option.
Four HDMI ports are accessible via the TV's side, along with two USB 2.0 ports and two audio outputs (optical digital and analog). The USB ports support various video formats as well as JPG image files, but more interesting is the ability to connect an external hard drive and directly record TV shows from the television's inbuilt tuner. Running along the lower edge of the connector area is a network port and antenna socket, and 3.5mm sockets for the bundled component and composite video break-out inputs. No VGA port is available, so any media centre PC will need to be connected via HDMI or a DVI-HDMI adapter. We were disappointed to see that wireless network connectivity is only available through a $79 optional adapter — in a model packed with Internet features we had hoped Wi-Fi connectivity would be standard.
Samsung Series 7 (UA55C7000) 2D picture quality
To test the Samsung Series 7 (UA55C7000) LED television's 2D picture quality we used The Dark Knight and Terminator: Salvation Blu-ray discs through a Samsung BDP-C6900 Blu-ray disc player, The Dark Knight and Speed Racer on DVD as well as HD and SD digital and analog broadcast television. These tests put particular stress upon any television's ability to display high-contrast material, as well as providing a series of fast-motion clips to test screen response times and frame interlacing.
With all the hype surrounding 3D television and 3D movies, it shouldn't be forgotten that these televisions can also display good ol'-fashioned 2D video as well. For the most part, the Samsung Series 7 (UA55C7000) does a great job of this. We gave The Dark Knight a run through on the television's default settings and found its high-contrast handling to be quite good. Samsung doesn't quote a contrast ratio, but last year's models boasted a 3,000,000:1 figure. While we wouldn't put the Series 7 (UA55C7000) ahead of a top-of-the-line plasma for contrast, it does a good job of recreating both black detail and bright whites.
The Dark Knight's opening sequences push the Samsung Series 7 (UA55C7000) to its limit. Pin-pricks of bright white highlights on a background of inky black are difficult even for plasmas to reproduce, and Samsung's LED panel exhibits a small amount of backlight bleeding and black crush (a loss of detail in dark areas) in this scenario. However, when displaying most footage the Samsung Series 7 (UA55C7000) produces good highlights and blacks that are detailed if not particularly dark.
We've enjoyed the colour reproduction of Samsung's previous LED panels, and thankfully the Series 7 (UA55C7000) is no different. Even at default settings, colours are vivid and brilliant. We wouldn't recommend turning up the colour saturation though — you'll lose detail in brightly coloured areas of video. The brightly coloured hues of Speed Racer were faithfully recreated without any significant colour bias or irregularity. If anything, we'd recommend backing off the red saturation just slightly in the advanced picture controls.
Sharpness is one area the Samsung Series 7 (UA55C7000) needs adjustment in. When using default settings we found 1080p Blu-ray video to be overly sharp, accentuating edges excessively. Dialling down the sharpness by a few increments gives video a much more film-like feel that is far less fatiguing to watch. Even at lower sharpness settings detail levels are excellent. In close-up scenes in Terminator: Salvation we were consistently impressed at the amount of detail visible in character's faces — in several instances skin and pore detail is excruciatingly evident.
Motion control in Standard mode is reasonable, removing almost all flickering from fast motion video. Smooth mode is even more effective, but occasionally has the effect of making video seem eerily fluid and unrealistic. Thankfully, manual control of flicker and judder reduction means fine-tuning is easy.
Overall, 2D video looks great. This is especially true when the Samsung Series 7 (UA55C7000) is presented with 1080p Full HD video content; vivid colour and extremely high detail levels mean it offers one of the most photorealistic viewing experiences we've had from a flat panel television. Its 200Hz frame interpolation mode needs some tweaking for optimum quality, but it is easily adjustable.
Samsung Series 7 (UA55C7000) 3D picture quality
3D picture quality is more difficult to quantify, but on features alone the Samsung Series 7 (UA55C7000) is unrivalled. As well as being able to display native 3D content from a compatible Blu-ray player (we used the Samsung BDP-C6900), it also has the ability to convert regular video footage from 2D into 3D. To view 3D content on the Samsung Series 7 (UA55C7000) in 3D a pair of active shutter 3D glasses is required. As part of a launch promotion ("while stocks last"), a bonus pack that includes two pairs of rechargeable glasses is bundled with the television. Additional pairs, including child-size glasses, can be purchased for $129. Glasses powered by disposable batteries can also be purchased for $99, although these are available in adult sizes only.
We used a test Blu-ray of Monsters vs. Aliens 3D to put the Samsung Series 7 (UA55C7000) through its paces. This Blu-ray disc is included in the special bonus pack, although you'll need to buy a 3D-ready Blu-ray player to watch it.
To get the most impressive 3D effect from the Samsung Series 7 (UA55C7000) you'll need to sit close to the television with the lights dimmed or off. We tested it from one metre to four metres away; while the increased depth was still visible from our maximum viewing distance, it was much more pronounced during close-up watching. The 3D effect was generally impressive.
In 3D mode there is a definite increased depth of field. In our testing, video backgrounds seemed on a different plane to in-focus foregrounds, and most scenes offered an increased sense of immersion compared to their 2D equivalents. Fast motion moving across the screen did occasionally introduce a small amount of flickering, and we noticed a few instances of blurred edges on out-of-focus 3D objects. The effect is reasonably consistent for the most part.
Although 3D Blu-ray video content is very light on the ground at the moment — it will take several months or even years for a decent catalogue of movies to be released — the TV's ability to convert 2D footage into faux-3D should keep you entertained for a while. We watched broadcast television, DVD and 2D Blu-ray content to test the Samsung Series 7 (UA55C7000) television's 2D-3D conversion process. With some content, most notably the Blu-ray of Terminator: Salvation, we did notice an increase in perceived image depth. Some broadcast television looks non-3D and lifeless though — the 2D-3D conversion process is reliant upon out of focus areas in order to create a foreground and background. Since TV footage generally doesn't have the cinematic depth of focus that makes movies visually stunning, there are instances where the conversion process falls flat (no pun intended). Interestingly enough, Channel Nine's new news studio looks great in 3D.
3D video can make movies a little more exciting to watch in the right scenarios. It doesn't work for every piece of content, and it requires sitting close to the TV in a dark environment to function best. Content is currently extremely scarce and the 2D-3D conversion process certainly isn't perfect. You also need to pay for a 3D-capable Blu-ray player, movies and glasses to enjoy the experience. The technology is still in its infancy and while we wouldn't buy a TV just on its 3D abilities right now, it will be exciting to see how the technology and content evolves.
Samsung Series 7 (UA55C7000) sound
The internal speakers of the Samsung Series 7 (UA55C7000) LED television are on par with other TV speakers. They can output audio with decent quality but will be eclipsed by any proper home theatre system.
Two 10W speakers project audio from the TV's lower bezel. Treble and mid-range notes are reasonably well represented, but bass is less pronounced and is prone to distortion at even moderate volumes. The speakers perform capably for watching broadcast TV, but movie-watchers will be left wanting more.
Samsung Series 7 (UA55C7000) interface and Internet features
The Samsung Series 7 (UA55C7000) has an on-screen interface that is well designed and easy to understand, but it is a little slow. Navigating through the Content menu (used to access 3D and Internet features) is slow, with button presses sometimes taking a few seconds to register.
The Internet features of the Series 7 (UA55C7000) are many and varied. An iPhone-style grid menu offers access to YouTube and Twitter features, BigPond movies on demand (in the near future) and Skype video-calling (when a compatible camera is purchased from Skype for around $200). We gave these features a quick run-through and found them easy enough to use — the application interface allows additional 'apps' to be easily downloaded and played with. It has great potential once more video-on-demand options become available.
Samsung's debut 3D television is an impressive performer. 3D isn't perfect, but when circumstances are right it offers increased depth and immersion. 2D video performance is excellent as well, and the inclusion of Internet access and video-on-demand will mean this TV will get even better in the future. While we wouldn't buy this television purely on its 3D merits, its design, features and picture quality make it easy to recommend.
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