It's not quite top of the shop but Samsung's F7000 still has much to admire
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What is the Samsung UE46F7000?Samsung 3D LED range got off to a flying start this year with the excellent F8000 scooping itself an AVForums Highly Recommended award for its combination of excellent picture quality, designer looks and market-leading range of smart TV Features. The F8500 also received the same badge for similar reasons, although perhaps, its picture was even better. So what of the 7 Series? Samsung has been offering this, slightly cut down, flagship range for a number of years and it’s sometimes been the place to go for those that want all the smart features but don’t want to pay top dollar. On paper there’s little to separate the F7000 from the F8000, in terms of picture quality, with just a slightly different local dimming system and marginally reduced ‘Clear Motion’ rating from the manufacturer. The built-in speakers are also a small downgrade and if you want a fancy stand, the F8000 is the one to shoot for but many might consider the £300 saving on the F7000 good value. So is it?
Design and ConnectionsThe F7000 is predictably another very cool looking display to emerge from the Samsung stable, with a 5mm shiny bezel encapsulating the gloss black screen. There’s another 3mm, or so, taken up by a very narrow transparent strip that frames the bezel but at less than a centimetre from outer-edge to the screen, it certainly pulls off the trick of looking as though it’s floating in space very effectively. Another stylish touch comes in the form of the illuminated logo that sits on the ‘nub’ connecting the chassis to the rectangular base-stand which can be dimmed or even switched off altogether, if you find it distracting. We found it looked great when the F7000 was in standby but preferred it off for viewing.
The base-stand doesn’t swivel unfortunately but it does look great and its relatively long form factor suits the low-slung looks of the F7000 very nicely. The F7000 is very low indeed, in fact, and with just 7cm clearance from the bottom of the stand to the bottom of the screen, you’ll struggle to accommodate most centre speakers and soundbars without obscuring the picture. If you are planning on going down the soundbar route in the future, Samsung has got you covered, however, and you could just about place one of their own HW-F750/HW-F751 models without it getting in the way; it’s almost like they planned it!
It’s good to see that UE46F7000 comes equipped with four HDMI inputs, which are all side facing. The HDMI 3 input supports the Audio Return Channel (ARC) and there’s support for Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) via HDMI 4. You also get three USB ports, a CI (Common Interface) slot, an optical digital audio out, a LAN socket, a headphone socket and legacy connections using breakout cables. There are aerial and satellite connectors for both FreeviewHD and FreesatHD, along with twin tuners for each, which means if you add an external HDD you can create a fully functioning PVR.
The F7000 comes with two remote controls, the first of which is a standard black plastic affair, familiar from any number of Samsung TVs but slightly shrunken down to the proportions of your average Blu-ray player remote. Samsung would prefer you to use the included touch pad remote which uses RF to connect and includes basic controls along with a touch pad. There is also a built-in microphone which is used for voice control and definitely beats shouting across the room. We certainly found the touch pad useful for navigating the Smart TV System but despite offering a graphical representation of the full remote onscreen, we found that for basic controls the old school remote was a lot quicker and easier.
The UE46F7000 comes with two pairs of RF 3D glasses that are basically the same as last year. They are extremely lightweight and there is very little tint to the lenses, which is good, but they don’t have any protection from ambient light and reflections getting in from the back and sides, which isn’t quite so good. In fact we gave up with them for that very reason and used some other compatible eyewear we happened to have around. The glasses provided with the F7000 use batteries but you can also buy an optional USB rechargeable version if you prefer.
MenusThe F7000 uses the same menu layout featured in most of their TVs for the last couple of years. The menu system is very snappy to navigate and provides some useful guidance for what the various settings do or, at least, that they’re supposed to. The main menu offers a basic set of options including Picture, Sound, Broadcasting, Network, Smart Features, System and Support but within these main choices are a large number of sub-menus.
The Picture menu offers a choice of four types of Viewing Mode - Standard, Natural, Dynamic and Movie. The latter is designed to approximate industry standards and thus it should offer the most accurate out-of-the-box setting. Both the Picture Mode and the Sound Mode can be accessed directly using the Tools button on the remote control. There are also all the usual basic controls that you would expect to find on any LED TV such as Backlight, Contrast, Brightness, Sharpness, Colour and Tint. From the Picture menu, you can access sub menus for Picture Size, 3D, Advanced Settings and Picture Options. You can also apply your calibrated picture mode to other inputs, although it didn't appear to copy the white balance or colour space settings which kind of defeats the object.
Within the Advanced Settings sub-menu there is Dynamic Contrast which varies the Contrast on-the-fly and thus boosts the perceived dynamic range, Black Tone which is best left off as it crushes shadow detail, Flesh Tone which primarily adjusts the luminance of magenta, RGB Only Mode which allows you to see each of the three primary colours individually and is a useful for checking correct colour decoding, Expert Pattern provides a series of test patterns and Motion Lighting. In Movie mode most of these controls default to off which is good as we recommend that you leave them that way.
Within Advanced Settings there are also all the key calibration controls, starting with Gamma which globally adjusts gamma across the entire image. Then there's a choice of a two-point White Balance control or a ten-point White Balance control which will allow for very accurate calibration of the greyscale. Finally, there's an option called Colour Space which gives you a choice between Auto, Native and Custom; if you choose Custom you have access to a full Colour Management System (CMS).
Audio and FeaturesQuite a few of the manufacturers, this year, have attempted to address the issues inherent in putting speakers into TVs that are incredibly thin. Panasonic has done so to great effect with the VT65 plasma and Sony’s new flagship will support much fuller audio. Steve commented in the review of the F8000 that Samsung had also upped their sonic game and, despite the fact the F7000 uses components with half the rated output of its bigger brother, it also acquits itself with impressive competence, delivering decent bass, convincing sound effects and crystal clear dialogue. It’s also capable of being pushed quite loud without losing the plot.
Despite delivering the best Smart TV system last year, Samsung were clearly not content to sit on their laurels and they have made a number of improvements for 2013. The internet and app response times are super-fast and Samsung has made it even easier to toggle between apps, online services and on-air TV, with a natty redesign. Since we’ve conducted a full investigation and review of Samsung’s 2013 Smart TV platform, there’s no point us re-treading old ground when you can feast your eyes upon it right here.
Test ResultsWe quickly slipped the F7000 in to the Movie picture mode which brings about the advantage of the most accurate representation of TV and film content as well as disabling most of the unnecessary enhancement features. In fact the F7000’s out-of-the-box performance was incredibly tight with just a slight over-emphasis of red in the greyscale, vaguely visible as a pinkish tinge to whites, but with Delta Errors all beneath five, creditably neutral. Gamma tracking was also more than respectable with a slight kink at 10% stim which means the F7000 would be a little too revealing in darker scenes. Colour performance was also superb for a pre-set and with only red having an error above 3, virtually perfect to the HDTV Rec.709 colour gamut. In fact, since we had been watching a lot of The Masters golf during our time with the F7000, it was actually green that looked the most out, compared to a pristinely calibrated VT65.
With base errors so low and the Samsung calibration controls so good, we’d have been shamefaced to admit we’d achieved anything but perfect results. Fortunately no large spanners entered the works during the process. The charts below demonstrate how the 10 point White Balance controls allow is to align the red, green and blue channels in a perfect mix, whilst also letting us achieve a perfectly flat relative luminance response. In other words, grey is grey from black to white and all at the correct brightness.
With a perfectly set and neutral greyscale we can be confident that similarly aligned colours are not subject to tinting or colour cast so the fact we also managed to hit the marks for both primary and secondary colours was all the more rewarding. The chart above shows that the F7000 has no trouble in hitting targets for full saturation whilst the one below shows how it does with less fully expressed tones. Whilst it’s not quite the picture of perfection as the 100% saturation results, it is nevertheless a fantastic performance with no real visible errors with real world content.The Samsung UE46F7000 performed very well in both the on/off and ANSI Contrast tests. Given a full screen black signal, the F7000 will completely shut down the lights but we still managed to get a reading of 0.037 cd/m2 before that happened. Set against our standardised 120 cd/m2 peak light output, that gives an on/off Contrast Ratio of around 3200:1, which is very good for LED/LCD. The F7000 couldn’t quite keep it up with mixed content on the screen but an ANSI number of about 2800:1 so it also impressive intra-frame dynamic range.Samsung’s ‘local’ dimming technology was highly efficient in masking any light pooling and corner bleed in 2D and the Cinema Black feature gives you fantastically black bars when watching movies. The unit supplied no doubt did have issues with uniformity, especially in the corners, but we rarely saw it until we switched in to 3D where the increased light output made dark scenes distractingly affected. We could occasionally detect some evidence of panel banding (alternating strips of unevenly illuminated panel running vertically) too and that was especially evidence with solid blocks of colour such as sky-scapes and grass but we’ve certainly encountered worse and, for us, in the realms of tolerable.
As we’d expect from a Samsung product, the U46F7000 performed superbly in this section of testing, with extremely competent deinterlacing and scaling of standard definition content, with clear and crisp reproduction of fine details and no unwanted ringing. The F7000 also had no problems detecting both 3:2 and 2:2 cadence correctly and, as long as the Auto2 Film Mode was selected, scrolling video text over film was also delivered perfectly. The UE45F7000 aced all the other tests as well, delivering an almost flawless performance in every regard. The quality of the video deinterlacing at 1080i50 was just as good as it was for standard definition and there were no apparent issues with 24p content. In fact we found the overall motion handling to be quite impressive for a LCD TV and we measured 400 lines of resolution on the FPD Benchmark test, so even fast moving sport looked quite good. Of course once you use Motion Plus the resolution increases to the full 1080 but it is quite aggressive so don’t use it with film content, we beg you.
For reasons best known to themselves, Samsung continue to hide the Game mode away in the General sub-menu within the System menu. We measured the input lag at 117ms without the Game mode activated but even with it on we were measuring the input lag at betweem 75 and 82ms, which is way too high for any serious gamer. By labelling the HDMI 1 input from the Source menu using the Tools button as 'PC', that clearly by-passed some additional processing and got the input lag down to a far more reasonable 45ms.
- Standby: 0W
- Out-of-the-Box – Standard Mode: 79.8W
- Calibrated – Movie Mode: 74W
- Calibrated - 3D Mode: 112W
Samsung UE46F7000 Picture Quality 2DThe first thing we noticed about the F7000’s picture was how monumentally sharp it all looks, even with all the sharpening and ‘enhancement’ features disabled. Coming straight from a (fantastic) plasma TV, which resolves its images almost entirely differently, it took some getting used to. That’s not a criticism and there’s no doubt lots of people will love the output of the F7000 but it's something we had to remark upon. Less surprisingly, the UE46F7000 is also incredibly bright and even in default Movie Mode we found ourselves reaching for the remote to turn down the Backlight control to as low as 5 for night-time viewing; if you consider the maximum setting is 20, that will give you some idea. Once we did turn the lights down, the F7000 provided some excellent pictures with the incredibly accurate colours bolstered by the better contrast performance a lower backlight setting gives. That might sound an unusual logic but lowering the light output has the knock on effect of improving black levels, which is more critical to dynamic range than eye-tearing whites.
To back up the higher end of the dynamic range, the F7000 is capable of very decent black levels that are given a further helping hand by Samsung’s Micro Dimming technology which analyses the pictures in virtual blocks to assess where it’s needed to be applied. It actually works pretty well, in most circumstances, although we could see a bit of haloing around film credits and with objects in very dark scenes but it did do an excellent job in masking some of the light uniformity issues we had with this particular panel. For content with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio (mostly movies), Samsung’s new Cinema Black feature works very well. The idea behind it is to turn off the LEDs in the ‘black bars’ at top and bottom in order to make the bars blacker. As Steve found with the F8000, whilst this feature really works, only use the Low setting and make sure you turn it off when not watching 2.35:1 content, otherwise the brightness of the image will fluctuate as the LEDs turn on and off, depending on how dark the top and bottom of the image is.
As we found with the F8000 Samsung has done away with the last traces of undefeatable noise reduction technology which means the fidelity of films with added grain will remain intact. If you do watch any low quality content through the F7000 however, you might well find the setting useful as it does a quite an incredible job at cleaning up poor sources. It seems there’s no getting away from the Clear Motion Rate processing however as, even with all the Motion Plus processing completely disengaged, there were still instances where we would encounter hiccups and stuttering. This is an issue we’ve had in the past with the higher-end Samsung LED’s and it’s especially noticeable with sports, where frequent changes in camera and regular slo-mo replays can sometimes wreak havoc with CMR. A weekend of sporting action, including FA Cup semi-finals and Masters Golf was perhaps a bit unkind on the F7000, but them’s the breaks. When it isn’t tripping up, motion clarity is actually very good with the F7000, for LED/LCD technology, so it would be good to get this minor issue resolved. Our only other minor complaint was that on occasion we could see some motion artefacts, i.e. judder, with 24p content but since motion in film material is inherently a touch jerky, at times, barely a problem.
Samsung UE46F7000 Picture Quality 3DIt would be good if Samsung could find a way to carry over the Cinema Black feature into their 3D processing, as the F7000’s imaging in the added dimension was undoubtedly inhibited by the uniformity issues much more than the 2D. In darker scenes we were reminded of the clouding and edge-bleed far more frequently than we would have liked and the dwarf cave scenes, towards the beginning of The Hobbit, were subject to more torch-lighting than the Director intended. It’s a shame as the general 3D presentation was very good with fairly minimal crosstalk and decent motion, backed up with extremely bright images with pleasing colours that could make you forget you had the 3D specs on. Well, nearly.
- Impressive blacks and dynamic range
- Much improved backlight uniformity in 2D
- Excellent greyscale and colour out-of-the-box
- Reference greyscale and colour after calibration
- Excellent video processing
- Comprehensive calibration controls
- Quad-core processing
- Well designed and responsive menu system
- Reference Smart TV System
- Very effective remote app
- Beautiful design
- Built-in WiFi and camera
- Touch pad remote control
- Two pairs of 3D glasses
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- Motion processing sometime gets caught out causing stuttering
- Some judder with 1080p24 sources
- Light uniformity poor with 3D sources
- Stand doesn't swivel
Samsung UE46F7000 TV ReviewThat the UE46F7000 is very easy on the eye should come as no surprise. When it comes to design, Samsung hits it over the net more than most and only the staunchest traditionalist would be put off by the minimal elegance provided by the micro-thin bezel enveloping the gloss black screen. Connectivity options abound with everything you could want from 4 HDMI through to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
The F7000 is equally smart inside as it is out and the quadcore processing shows some of its benefits by aiding menus and apps to load in incredibly brisk fashion. The goodness doesn’t stop there, either, and to add to the almost innumerate apps and video streaming services, there’s a built-in camera for video calling, a comprehensive media player plus motion and voice controls. The new Smart controller is also very good with a touchpad for speedy scrolling and its own voice recognition technology built-in. We could go on about Samsung’s market leading Smart TV platform until the cows come home, it’s so vast we created an entire review dedicated to it.
Those super-snappy menus conceal some incredibly effective calibration controls that enabled us to extract maximum accuracy from the F7000 and, allied to fairly notable dynamic range performance, helped it to produce some highly engaging images which packed in almost uncanny clarity. Samsung’s micro-dimming technology is generally very effective and their video processing is amongst the best. We did encounter the odd motion stutter when cameras changed, which was particularly evident when watching sport. There was the odd bit of unexpected judder from Blu-ray sources, as well, but nothing too distracting.
The dimming technology helped the F7000 achieve very creditable screen uniformity with 2D pictures but life in 3D took a hit courtesy of unseemly corner bleed and clouding in the dark scenes; which was a shame as the general presentation was good. Gamers will need to jump few through a few hoops to get the best from the UE46F7000, merely finding the well buried Game mode isn’t enough but ecologists will take pleasure in its undemanding thirst for juice.
The Samsung UE46F7000 is super smart, inside and out, and brings the full might of the Korean’s industry-leading connected platform to the party. It’s also capable of reference colour performance and striking contrast backed up by generally superb picture processing. There’s the odd hiccup, here and there, and the F7000 is quite considerably better in 2D than it is in three but it’s nevertheless worthy of an AVForums Recommended Award.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level8
2D Picture Quality8
3D Picture Quality7
Ease Of Use9
Value for Money8
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