Samsung ES7000 (UE-55ES7000) 3D LED LCD Smart TV Review
Can the Samsung ES7000's performance match its great looks?
IntroductionThe model we have for review is the Samsung UE-55ES7000 55 inch Full HD LED LCD TV with a Freeview HD tuner and full UK specifications. Also available is the Samsung UE-46ES7000 46 inch Full HD LED LCD TV and the Samsung UE-40ES7000 40 inch Full HD LED LCD TV, neither of which has not been reviewed here, although both offer the same features and a similar performance. As per last year’s 7 and 8 Series LED TVs from Samsung, all that seems to separate them is a solitary item on the spec sheet and some cosmetic differences in the bezel and stand. Where the recently reviewed ES8000 boasts ‘Micro Dimming Ultimate’, ES7000 owners will have to make do with the ‘Pro’ version and they also won’t have the aesthetic advantages of the new 'arch flow' stand. If the design isn’t an issue there’s only the question of whether the differences in the dimming technology make enough of an upgrade to justify the extra £200, or so, the ES8000 commands; money that could be spent on improving other areas of your set up.
In terms of the feature-set and accessories the two high-end TVs are identical, so the Samsung UE-55ES7000 is equipped with a built in camera and microphone, for both voice and motion control as well as Skype video calls. It also ships with a Smart Controller and IR 'blaster’, more on which later. There's dual core processing on-board and the newly crowned Reference Smart TV platform too. The ES7000 also comes with two pairs of RF active shutter glasses in the box for 3D duties so it could hardly be deemed under-spec'd. It sure is a looker, let’s hope beauty isn’t only skin deep.
Design and ConnectionsThere’s no denying the fact that Samsung has struck a chord with the public’s aesthetic tastes. For a number of years they’ve been up there with the best of them, in terms of design, and some of their TVs are almost iconic in appearance. It’s certainly helped to propel the Koreans to the top of the TV market for the last 6 years and they’ve certainly not dropped the ball with the ES7000, as it is truly gorgeous looking. In fact other than the ‘Quad Stand’, which has never been to our tastes, we’d take the ES7000 over the ES8000 for its even more subtle, transparent micro bezel. Between it and the very thin framing black strip, there’s a mere 1.1cm from the screen to the outer edges of the TV, which is staggering. The top of the bezel features a ‘hump’ which houses the camera but doesn’t really spoil the lines.
As we mentioned in the introduction, the Samsung UE-55ES7000 comes with two controllers in the box - one conventional and another not so. The non-standard ‘Smart Touch Control’ is Samsung’s answer to Panasonic’s TouchPad controller and LG’s Magic Motion controller and features a microphone and scroll pad. The voice control works quite well but it is simpler to use a standard controller in most cases, although we did find it makes searching the included Web Browser a bit easier than tapping away at the standard remote keypad. The scroll pad is also a plus for navigating the Smart Hub and browser, making things much more readily accessible.
The standard remote has been given a minor redesign and no longer features a dedicated button for changing picture aspect ratio - to do that, owners will now need to trawl through the Picture Menu to ensure they’re viewing the optimal size and shape. Instead there are now new buttons for ‘Family Story’, ‘Camera’ and ‘Support’ and whilst we see no problems with the latter two in that list, we would happily have sacrificed the first to make enabling pixel mapping for HD sources a more simple process. Symbolically at the heart of the remote control sits a new multi-coloured button – with no text label - that gives one-touch access to Samsung’s Smart Hub. The design is sleeker than that of the out-going version and a little longer as a result but we do prefer the more ergonomic properties of the new design. It also feels better constructed, with more tactile buttons, a backlight and an indented index finger rest to the back.
The rear of the 55ES7000 houses a joystick type controller with which owners can perform basic controls and it also acts as the power on/off switch. Also at the rear and on the righthand side are the connections, which include three sideways facing HDMI inputs. There is a 3.5mm audio in jack next to HDMI1 for passing the audio if you are using a DVI cable. HDMI2 is allocated as the ARC (Audio Return Channel) and HDMI3 is assigned as the MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link) port for connection of supported tablets and smartphones. There are also three USB ports, with one of them allocated for use with an external HDD. Other sideways facing connections include an optical digital audio output, a RGB input with provided Scart adapter and a headphone socket. Facing downwards there are connections to an external aerial and a satellite dish, inputs for composite and component video and stereo analogue audio. There is also an Ethernet port, although the 55ES8000 has built-in WiFi. Finally, on the left-hand side there is the power cable socket, which uses a detachable 1.5m long two-pin cord.
MenusThere’s always lots to uncover in the Samsung Picture Menus where the bountiful options are very likely to put off the average user. Within the Picture Menu are 4 Viewing Modes - Standard, Natural, Dynamic and Movie – with the latter offering the most accurate out-of-the-box alternative. There are also all the usual front panel controls of Contrast, Brightness and Colour plus Backlight and Sharpness sliders and a largely unnecessary Tint control. From the Picture menu, you can also access sub menus for Screen Adjustment, 3D, Advanced Settings and Picture Options.
The Screen Adjustment menu allows access to the Picture Size options with Screen Fit the go-to choice for high quality HD material. Within the Options sub-menu, you can choose the Colour Tone (read colour temperature) which gives you a choice of Cool, Normal, Warm1 and Warm2. There is also a Digital Noise Filter and an MPEG Noise Filter, both of which we would recommend turning off. In this sub-menu, you will also find HDMI Black Level for choosing between PC and Video levels and the Film Mode option for cadence detection. Finally there are options for both Motion Plus and LED Motion Plus both of which we will address later in the review.
Within the Advanced Settings sub-menu there is Dynamic Contrast, Black Tone, Flesh Tone, RGB Only, Expert Pattern which provides a series of test patterns and Black Enhancer. Within Advanced Settings there are all the key calibration controls – Gamma; a choice of a two or ten point White Balance controls and Colour Space which gives you a choice between Auto, Native and Custom; Custom allows access to a full Colour Management System (CMS).
Test ResultsFollowing a quick shift in to the Movie mode (with a Colour Tone of Warm 2) and the setting of Contrast and Brightness to suit the viewing conditions and maximise dynamic range, we were left with the much healthier looking charts below. From critical list to fairly rude health in no more than 8 button presses! Greyscale tracking is now much more even, particularly closer to white, although the blue tinge to darker areas of pictures is fairly easy to spot. Gamma (the relative luminance of the greyscale) isn’t what we’d want, with dark areas of images too bright and vice versa for the brighter elements. However our colours are much better with most hitting their targets for hue and luminance, according to the Rec.709 standard and only blue displaying noteworthy errors.
The calibration controls inside the top end Samsung’s are certainly amongst the best available and almost always allow us to achieve outstanding results - with delta errors well below the tolerable threshold of 3 for both greyscale and colour gamut and gamma plotting a nice steady course. Not much to be said other than congratulations to Samsung for implementing such impressive controls.
As with the greyscale, colour reproduction is near flawless at typical picture brightness with just a slight under-saturation of red noticeable; but only to the very trained eye. Now that the Calman calibration software is able to easily display readings for multiple saturation points graphically, we can see from the chart below that red is actually over-saturating in its paler guises. Using some reference material we could see that white flesh tones were just a little baked and necessitated a dial back on the Colour control by a click to balance the picture.Having already seen the ostensibly identical ES8000 we were unsurprised by our findings here. Irrespective of what mode were in, with a peak luminance set to around 120cd/m2, black levels were around the 0.05cd/m2 mark in both the ANSI and On/Off tests. In fact, the ANSI averaged black level was somewhere around 0.048cd/m2 giving a contrast ratio of about 2450:1 against an On/Off ratio of 2460:1 so the ES700 is capable of a very impressive dynamic range.The Samsung 55ES7000 performed identically to its stable-mate here, correctly and cleanly scaling the full 576i signal. It is also capable of excellent video deinterlacing and motion adaptive deinterlacing, with only very slight jaggies appearing on the bottom most extreme of the three moving bars in the HQV test. The 55ES7000 also had no problems displaying film material with scrolling video text when Film Mode was set to Auto2. In the cadence tests, however, ES7000 was unable to correctly detect the 2:2 (PAL - European) cadence, which will result in some jaggies and loss of resolution but it didn’t struggle with Blu-ray 1080p24 material and introduced no judder.
We gave some criticism to the motion handling of the high-end Samsung LED TVs last year and, alas, the ES7000 seems to perform the same kind of unavoidable ‘smoothing’ the 2011 TVs displayed, irrespective of whether the interpolating Motion Plus engine was enabled or not. It seems that Samsung’s touted Clear Motion Rate (CMR) technology which combines backlight, panel refresh rates and the image processor factors is unavoidable which would be fine, other than it sometimes breaks down, causing stuttering, pauses and speed up/slow down anomalies to occur on occasion. It’s most easily noticeable when on-screen action has a sudden change of pace and can cause almost comical effects with slow motion replays. The actual interpolation of the Motion Plus engine is quite pleasing for sporting action, when set to Clear or a conservative User setting and the ‘black frame insertion’ technique of the LED Motion plus can be particularly effective with film but it’s a shame about the unavoidable motion processing.
To get the responsive gaming performance possible from the ES7000, users will need to go in to the System Menu and head down to the General sub-menu to enable the Game mode. The standard modes available in the Picture Menu all lag over 100 milliseconds which is intolerable for most games. There’s no need to alter Input titles, as we see mentioned on the Forum, Game mode is all it takes to bring input latency down to a far more tolerable 42-43 milliseconds which whilst not as impressive as some, was enough for our needs. Stereoscopic 3D signals caused the lag to increase to around 71 milliseconds but don’t expect a photo of that!
- Standby: 0.0W
- Out-of-the-Box – Standard Mode: 91W
- Calibrated Movie Mode: 87.4W
- 3D – Movie Mode: 151W
Picture Quality - 2DSince we lambasted the high-end Samsung LEDs for their uniformity issues last year, it’s only fair we give credit where it’s due for making improvements. There’s no doubt the ES7000 review sample had very little in the way of clouding that could spoil darker portions of the picture and it’s thanks, in part, to the I.C.E. (Intelligent Contrast Enhancement) technology that creates hundreds of pseudo dimming zones across the screen. It’s here that the ES7000 and ES8000 probably differ most in their picture quality as the 8000 has double the number of zones and thus slightly less haloing effects on bright objects on dark backgrounds. Not that the ES7000 was particularly bad in this regard but we could definitely spot the effect from time to time. The processing is also partly responsible for the standout nature of the ES7000’s pictures – ably abetted by the deep blacks and impressive dynamic range. In fact we’ve seen a similar, albeit far more advanced version, of the technology employed here with the Darbee Darblet DVP device but Samsung’s version is far less aggressive than the mid to high range of the Darblet. That said, the ES7000’s images did sometimes take on an over-processed look, especially with brighter content. We’d like the option of switching it off, ideally, but that would likely mean a complete redesign of the picture engine so it's unlikely to happen.
The UE-55ES7000 again embodies Samsung’s insistence on sneaking in undefeatable noise reduction into some of their TVs that mainly manifests in removing a bit of film grain. In reality, it’s extremely unlikely most would notice this processing and it’s mainly as a result have having dedicated tests to uncover it that we noticed. Still, it's not really necessary and the option to turn it off completely would be appreciated. Our only other real gripe was with a touch of panel banding being occasionally present on very dark and very bright areas of the picture with the stripes being largely horizontal in orientation and only really noticeable just above and below centre screen. Again, this banding was nothing like as evident as we saw on a number of 2011 LED TVs.
For the most part the ES7000 imparted extremely convincing video; colours were accurate, contrast performance very impressive and motion handling – when the CMR processing wasn’t having one of its infrequent breakdowns – was generally pretty clean. The contrast levels do take a nose-dive off once you move off-centre but the stand swivels pretty generously so room placement to maximise dynamic range should be fairly easy for most. As we mentioned on the Tests page, a touch of Motion Plus didn’t do any harm to fast moving video based action but was totally unnecessary for film, unless you like things that bit smoother than they really are. Samsung’s scaling of standard definition is of an extremely high quality, although we don’t expect many purchasers of a 55 inch TV to really care about that too much. Like the ES8000, the 7000 is equipped with an extremely resilient filter to combat ambient light making it an excellent choice for a bright room, although it is quite reflective.
Picture Quality - 3D3D wise, the 55ES7000 was a pretty nifty performer. We really like 3D with the near borderless effect the ultra-thin bezel affords and the ES7000 has brightness to spare to counter the dimming effect of the active shutter technology and 3D eye-wear. It’s a testament to the manufacturers that instances of crosstalk are much rarer in the various LED TVs we’ve seen this year than they were in 2011 and the ES7000 is up there with the excellence of the 3D LED TVs from Panasonic in this regard. We’ve mixed feelings on the supplied 3D eye-wear in the box and whilst they're incredibly light, there’s little to no protection from ambient light entering them. In turn this can cause unbearable flicker for some, even in good lighting conditions and can also cause reflections to hit the lenses and mar the images. They won’t be a problem to everyone but at least there are alternatives, as the ES7000 is part of the new 3D RF standard meaning other glasses carrying the appropriate sticker are compatible.
Audio and FeaturesWhilst the sounds that emanate from the 2 x 10w downward-firing speakers concealed at the back of the ES7000’s chassis are certainly nothing special, with bass particularly notable by its absence, the clarity of the higher frequencies are maintained quite well without ever becoming shrill of jarring; even at quite high volume levels. Dialogue maintained clarity, even in challenging scenes, and for a flat panel TV, the speakers are relatively good. One could certainly do a lot better with only a modest out-board solution but the ES7000’s audio was certainly passable.
There’s no point reinventing the wheel so rather than rehashing everything from our in-depth look at Samsung’s Smart TV system, so if you'd like to know more, why not clink on the link provided? Everything in there applies, in total, to the ES7000 – in fact it was written when this very review sample was undergoing testing.
- Fantastic styling
- Amazing feature-set
- Excellent colour gamut out-of-the-box
- Reference colour gamut after calibration
- Reference greyscale after calibration
- (Mostly) excellent video processing
- Some undefeatable noise reduction
- Some issues with motion processing
- Poor off-axis performance
- Gesture controls can be problematic
- Only 3 HDMI inputs
Samsung ES7000 (UE-55ES7000) 3D LED LCD Smart TV Review
Samsung have struck another winner with the design of the ES7000, it’s ultra-sleek and the almost bezel-less frame creates a real wow factor. We’d prefer it if Samsung did away with the quad stand but you do get accustomed to it. Samsung include two remote controls in the box, with the new Smart Controller allowing for voice controls and nifty swiping for the many internet and Smart features available. As we concluded in our dedicated review of Samsung’s Smart TV System, their offerings are truly first class although the less said about the gesture control, the better.
The out-of-the-box Movie mode was a massive improvement over the factory setting of Standard and better yet, once we’d calibrated it to virtual perfection. The extremely convincing colours were underpinned by excellent dynamic range making the ES7000’s pictures very pleasing on the eye. The first class video processing didn’t do any harm, either. There was a niggle, or two, mostly centred around undefeatable noise reduction and motion smoothing but, in general, the Samsung produced wonderful, stand-out video. Screen uniformity is definitely improved over last year’s efforts but could still be improved in terms of panel banding.
3D pictures were almost every bit as good as their 2D counterparts and the almost crosstalk free presentation was ably assisted by the inherent brightness the ES7000 is capable of delivering. Flicker sufferers will likely seek an alternative to the 3D eye-wear provided in the box as they provide little to no protection against ambient light and reflections but, to their credit, they are so light one could be forgiven for forgetting they were wearing them. Gaming performance was in the not-too-bad-at-all category with a measured lag of around 42 milliseconds in 2D and just under 71 for 3D gaming.
The Samsung UE-55ES7000 was everything we expected; very sleek, highly Smart and capable of delivering some glorious images. On the flip side, we wish Samsung wouldn’t insist upon introducing undefeatable aspects of picture processing in some of their higher end TVs.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £2,299.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level8
3D Picture Quality9
Ease Of Use9
Value for Money7
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