Samsung C7000 (PS50C7000) Review

We finally get a chance to take a look at Samsung’s 3D plasma and find out how it compares to the competition

TV Review

175

Best Buy
Samsung C7000 (PS50C7000) Review
SRP: £1,299.00

Introduction

When you mention Samsung to most people they will probably think of their ‘LED TVs', but misnomer aside, the company is so associated with LCDs that it is easy to forget that they also make a range of plasmas. Unfortunately Samsung seem to favour their LED samples when it comes to review TVs, so up until now AVForums hasn’t had a chance to review Samsung’s C7000 3D plasma. However thanks to the support of Multizone AV I recently had the chance to review a PS50C7000, giving me an opportunity to not only test its performance but also to compare the display with recent 3D plasmas from Panasonic and LG.

Design and Connections

The C7000 consists of a 50” diagonal screen surrounded by a sleek black brushed metal frame that is 3cm wide at the top and sides and 4cm wide at the bottom. There is a clear protective front that extends 1cm beyond the black bezel on all sides and a matching stand that mirrors the overall design by using a transparent centre column and a gloss black base. Like most modern display designs I found the screen to be quite reflective which could be an issue when watching darker material in a room with a lot of ambient light. However there were no issues when watching material in a darkened room and overall the reflections were a lot less than I’ve seen with some other displays. Thankfully unlike previous models the Samsung logo at the front is not illuminated. The build quality was excellent with the back of the chassis made of black metal and my only real complaint is that the power cable is not detachable. Otherwise this is a beautifully designed display with a sleek and modern look and at only 3.5cm wide it is incredibly thin for a plasma.

The C7000 uses the same style of remote as Samsung’s other high end displays and it can be something of an acquired taste. Personally I really like the design, the sleek black brushed metal casing with chrome edging and touch sensitive buttons perfectly matches the look of the display. I found the remote to be comfortable to hold, with large easy to read buttons that were sensibly laid out and it included full backlighting. The main complaint people have is that due to the touch sensitive buttons you can sometimes hit the wrong control and whilst this can be true when hitting a lot of buttons in succession, as I did during calibration, for normal use I had no issues whatsoever.

The C7000 uses active shutter glasses and comes with a pair included which is an improvement on previous Samsung models which came with none at all. I really like the design of the Samsung active shutter glasses, they are comfortable to wear even for long periods of time, they can be worn over normal glasses and are designed to stop light from coming in from the sides. In fact my only real criticism, aside from the fact that unless you live alone and have no friends you will need to buy more, is that they feel slightly fragile so I'd recommend looking before you sit down! The C7000 has a generous selection of connections at the rear but their layout may not be to everyone’s taste. At the back there are downward facing inputs for the aerial, a LAN port, component video in, composite video in, a RGB in, a VGA in and an audio in for DVI or PC. With the exception of the aerial, the VGA and the LAN sockets the other connections require special adaptors that are provided with the display and are clearly designed to reduce clutter and keep the chassis as thin as possible.

The remaining connections are also at the rear but are sideways facing and about 12cm in from the edge. There are four HDMI inputs one of which has an Audio Return Channel, two USB ports, a headphone socket, a Common Interface (C.I.) slot, a digital audio out which requires a provided adaptor and an analogue audio out that also requires an adaptor. It is clear that Samsung are trying to accommodate both the slim design of the display and the possibility of wall mounting in the design of the connections but I’m not convinced by sideways facing inputs. The problem is unless these inputs are far enough away from the edge of the display you can see the cables at the side of the display, especially if you use high quality HDMI cables. However that minor point aside I liked these connections, they were plentiful, sensibly placed to allow for wall mounting and the adaptors were easy to use.

Menus

The set up is very easy with the C7000 providing a series of simple choices as you set the time and date and tune in the Freeview channels. The Samsung EPG is one of the best available, it is intuitive and easy to use and shows all the stations in a clear and concise way; it also includes a thumbnail image and the audio of the station you are currently on. The [email protected] function was also easy to set up, you just connect a LAN cable and then the system automatically downloads all the necessary services. This took about 10 minutes during which time you couldn't use the remote and when it was finished there were applications for numerous internet services including LOVEFiLM, Facebook, Google Maps, iPlayer and Twitter. If you can’t connect a LAN cable to the C7000 because of the location of your broadband router you have the option to buy a wireless dongle from Samsung which can be connected to one of the USB ports.

The C7000 uses Samsung’s latest menu system which is excellent, it is well thought out, quick to respond, pleasing to look at and offers a clear and concise series of choices. The menu offers a basic set of options including Picture, Sound, Channel, Set Up, Input,Applications and Support but within these main choices are a large number of sub menus. The Channel menu obviously shows you all the available Freeview channels and the Input menu shows the source list and gives you the option to edit the source names if you so wish. The Application menu gives you access to the Content View function which can also be engaged directly using the remote, as well as options for the Anynet+ (HDMI-CEC) functions. Content View in turn gives you access to the [email protected] service, the Media viewing options and the EPG, all of which can also be accessed directly from the remote. The Set Up menu allows access to sub-menus relating to Time, Language, Subtitles, Text, Network etc. One idiosyncrasy of the Samsung menu system is that to engage the Game mode you have to enter the General sub-menu in the Set Up menu, rather than just including it as another picture mode within the Picture menu.

The Sound menu is also fairly comprehensive with a choice of presets such as Movie, Music, Standard, Clear Voice etc. as well as controls for an equaliser, SRS surround, audio languages, audio formats and speaker selection. The sound produced by the C7000 was actually quite good considering the depth of the chassis and the location of the speakers but I’m assuming that anyone buying a display like this will wisely be using an outboard receiver to provide the surround sound. The Picture menu offers a choice of four types of viewing Mode called Standard, Relax (previously called Natural), Dynamic and Movie. In lieu of any THX preset the latter is Samsung’s attempt at an accurate out of the box setting. There are the usual basic controls that you would expect to find on a plasma display such as Contrast, Brightness, Sharpness, Colour and Tint but also a control called Cell Light which allows you to adjust the overall brightness of the display in much the same way that the backlight control on a LCD display works. In addition there is the Eco Solution control which adjusts the setting depending on the ambient light but I find that this can cause fluctuations in the display’s brightness and I prefer to leave it off. Both the Picture Mode and the Eco Solution can be accessed directly using the Tools button on the remote.

Within Advanced Settings there is Black Tone which allows you to change the Black Level of the image just as the Brightness control does, Dynamic Control which varies the Contrast on-the-fly to try and boost the dynamic range, Gamma which adjusts between the bright and dark areas of the image, Expert Pattern which provides a series of test patterns, RGB Only Mode which allows you to see each of the three primary colours individually and is a useful for checking correct colour decoding, Flesh Tone which attempts to correct inaccurate flesh tones but at the expense of the rest of image, Edge Enhancement which is an additional Sharpness control and xvYCC which expands the colour gamut. Most of these controls default to off which is good as I recommend that you leave them that way.

Also within Advanced Settings is 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 3D Colour Management System (CMS) which will allow for accurate calibration of the colour gamut. There is also a choice of a two point White Balance control or a ten point White Balance control which will allow for very accurate calibration of greyscale. Whilst the display doesn't have ISF certification, Samsung are to be congratulated for including such comprehensive calibration controls. Within Picture Options there is Size which obviously gives you sizes to choose from including Auto Wide, 16:9, Wide Zoom, Zoom, 4:3 and Screen Fit. This function can be accessed directly using the P. Size button on the remote. There is also Colour Tone (really colour temperature) which gives you a choice of Cool, Normal, Warm1 and Warm2 and a Digital Noise Filter control (3D noise reduction filter) which will reduce analogue background noise. There is a HDMI Black Level control that I left set to Normal and a Film Mode option that has two choices, Auto1 and Auto2.

The final sub-menu within the Picture menu contains all the 3D related controls and can be accessed directly by using the 3D button on the remote. This sub-menu allows you to choose the 3D Mode (2D to 3D, Side by Side, Top and Bottom etc.), the 3D View Point (which adjusts the 3D perspective), Depth which only affects the 2D to 3D mode, Picture Correction which adjusts the images for each eye and 3D Auto View which automatically selects the correct 3D Mode when it receives a 3D input. The C7000 allows you to save the settings (including White Balance and Colour Space) for each input, this is a very handy function as it allows you to correctly calibrate each input for the device that is connected to it.

Test Results

For the purposes of measuring the out of the box performance I used the Movie mode preset and made sure that all picture enhancement features were turned off. I then set the Cell Light to an appropriate level and used a PLUGE pattern to correctly set the Brightness, a Hi-Lo Tracking pattern to correctly set the Contrast and I set the Colour Tone to Warm2. As you can see from the graph above the Greyscale performance is excellent with Gamma tracking around our target of 2.2 and the DeltaEs all measuring below 3 which is indistinguishable to the human eye. Red is tracking 5% high compared to the target of 100 but after 30 IRE both Green and Blue track very close to this target and overall this is a superb out of the box performance. The available 10 point White Balance control should allow us to improve this performance still further.

As with the Greyscale the Colour Gamut performance was also very good out of the box and as the CIE chart shows all six colours are quite close to their targets. The overall DeltaEs for each colour are all at 3 or below with the exception of Red which is excellent. The Luminance DeltaEs are all quite low which is good as the human eye is very sensitive to this measurement and the DeltaEs for Hue were also very low. The only real errors were in the Colour measurement because all the colours are slightly under saturated but if the native colour space of the display is wider than this then we should be able to use the CMS to improve the colour accuracy as well. The C7000 may not have a THX preset but with Greyscale and Colour accuracy this good you don't really need it.

To calibrate the C7000 I left the majority of settings as they were and used the 10 point White Balance and the CMS to set the Greyscale and Colour Gamut as correctly as possible. As I had experienced previously with Samsung’s 10 point White Balance control I found actually calibrating the Greyscale to be time consuming and counter-intuitive at times but I was able to get a good result ultimately. As the graph shows the Greyscale tracking is now even more accurate with DeltaEs of one or less for most IRE levels. The Gamma is also tracking even closer to the 2.2 target and overall this is a reference standard performance. The Greyscale forms the backbone of the displayed image and that is why it is so important that there is a smooth transition from Black to White with no discolouration. If you think about it in painting terminology the Greyscale creates the canvas to which we add the colour, any discolouration o that canvas will affect how the colours we add look.

The squares on the CIE graph represent where each colour is supposed to be when material is mastered to an industry standard called Rec.709. The closer a display is to Rec.709 the closer the viewer is to watching the material as the creators intended. This is the reason why we measure the colour gamut and place so much importance on colour accuracy. It is also the reason why we push manufacturers to include a full CMS and why we resist attempts to expand the colour gamut of a display beyond the colour space in which PAL and high def material is mastered.

As you can see the native colour gamut of the C7000 was actually wider than the one we measured in Movie mode and using the CMS I was able to produce a very accurate Colour Gamut. The first thing to notice is that now the Greyscale has been fully calibrated White is measuring exactly at D65 which we would expect given the excellent results for Greyscale. In addition the Luminance and Hue DeltaEs are almost zero now and whilst Red and Blue are still a little understatrated which in turn has affected Magenta the overall DeltaEs are all less than three. In fact most are less than two which is an error level that is indistinguishable to the human eye and a reference colour accuracy.

As always I started with the SMPTE colour bar tests on the PAL and NTSC HQV benchmark discs which the C7000 had absolutely no problems with, correctly scaling the full 576i and 480i images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. The C7000 also performed brilliantly when it came to video deinterlacing with jaggies only appearing when the line was at a very acute angle in the first test. In the second test the motion adaptive deinterlacing was also excellent with only very slight jaggies appearing on the bottom most extreme of the three moving bars. The C7000 also resolved all the fine brickwork in the detail tests and quickly locked onto and displayed a solid image in the film detail test (provided the Film Mode is enabled). However as I expected based on my experience with other Samsung displays the C7000 actually failed the test displaying film material with scrolling video text when Film Mode was set to Auto1 but passed when it was set to Auto2, so if you experience any problems with video text over film try changing between the two settings. I’m not entirely sure why Samsung includes two film modes but according to the manual Auto1 is optimised for viewing film material and so I generally used that setting. In the cadence tests the C7000 had no problems correctly detecting both the 2:2 (PAL - European) and 3:2 (NTSC - USA/Japan) tests, producing rock solid images that were free of artefacts.

The C7000 also performed very well in tests on the HQV Blu-ray benchmark disc and with the player set to 1080i the C7000 correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests (provided the Picture Size is set to Screen Fit). The C7000 also showed a fast response to changes in cadence as well as excellent scaling and filtering and good resolution enhancement. The C7000 had no problems handling 24p material either, reproducing the test images smoothly with no judder or other artefacts. In fact the only high definition test that the C7000 performed poorly on as the one showing video text overlaid on film based material but once again switching to Auto2 fixed this.

Finally I moved on to my trusted Spears and Munsil test disc which contains a number of very handy test patterns to measure the overall performance of the display and needless to say the C7000 sailed through all the cadence and deinterlacing tests. I find that the ‘Image Cropping’ test is useful for checking if there is any overscan and the ‘Luma Multiburst’ is handy for making sure that the full 1920x1080 resolution is being displayed. These tests are particularly useful for demonstrating why you should always use the Screen Fit aspect ratio instead of the 16:9 ratio. If you leave the C7000 set to the default 16:9 ratio then the image is cropped by up to 30 pixels and the scaling involved results in reduced resolution that is easy to see on the multiburst test. I understand that manufacturers use the overscan to avoid consumers seeing junk at the edges of the video image when the display is in a showroom but if you don’t choose the correct pixel mapping ratio you are no longer watching a full high def image. The situation isn’t helped by the fact that each manufacturer uses a different name for its own pixel mapping option and quite often these names aren’t very informative. In the case of Samsung they call their pixel mapping option Screen Fit but other names I’ve seen include Just Scan, Dot By Dot and best of all Pixel By Pixel.

In addition I was able to use the ‘Dynamic Range High’ test to check that I had set the Contrast correctly with the C7000 showing excellent headroom performance from reference white (video level 235) up to peak white (video level 255) and absolutely no signs of clipping. On the ‘Dynamic Range Low’ test the C7000 also correctly showed detail down to a video level 17 and reference black below that to video level 0 which confirmed that I had also correctly set the Brightness control. This test also showed why you should leave the Black Tone and Dynamic Contrast controls off because engaging them immediately resulted in lost video levels at the bottom of the dynamic range. Overall this really is an excellent set of results and Samsung’s video processing remains the benchmark against which other consumer displays are measured.

In Game mode the input lag on the C7000 measured at 20ms which is excellent and should please all but the most demanding gamer. As I mentioned previously, to enter Game mode you need to go into the Set Up menu and then the General sub-menu which seemed a bit counter-intuitive to me. I would have thought it would be more obvious to include Game mode in with all the other picture modes and having to find it buried in a separate menu was something of an inconvenience.

For a plasma the C7000 is surprisingly energy efficient, although due to the self illuminating nature of the technology the power usage varies depending on the content being shown on the screen. Using the calibrated Movie mode and watching normal content I measured a high of 220 watts, a low of 90 watts and an average of 120 watts which is excellent. The consumption figures using 0, 50 and 100 IRE rasters were 89 watts, 170 watts and 295 watts and the C7000 used less than 1 watt in standby.

Picture Quality - 2D

The 2D performance of the C7000 was excellent with the accurate colours and greyscale combining with the superb video processing to create good images no matter what the source. The superior video processing really paid dividends when watching standard definition material with the first rate deinterlacing and scaling resulting in such impressive images from DVDs that it could give your collection a new lease of life. The Freeview HD tuner worked very well too and once again the video processing managed to make most Freeview stations look good, although you can’t expect it to work miracles with the worst offenders.

When the image stepped up to high definition the results were excellent with the C7000 able to show the HD channels on Freeview in wonderful detail and accuracy. Once I put a Blu-ray on the C7000 displayed the 24p images effortlessly with smooth judder free motion and breathtaking clarity. As is always the case an accurate greyscale is the bedrock of any good image and the addition of colour accuracy makes for a truly impressive high definition performance. As you’d expect from a plasma the images are free of motion artefacts, just make sure you have the frame interpolation function turned off unless you want to ruin this wonderful performance.

As you would expect from a plasma the off-axis performance was excellent with the panel able to maintain the dynamic range and colours of the image even when viewing at quite extreme angles. The Real Black Filter also worked well reducing reflections and producing impressive black levels and an excellent dynamic range. One thing to note here is that Samsung pulls its usual trick of turning off the panel when there is no signal, a feature that I call 'globalised dimming'. The main reason for doing this is to boost the on/off contrast ratio numbers and possibly to create artificially low black level readings but with actual viewing material it serves no real purpose other than to show a very black screen when you're changing inputs.

When watching regular viewing material, the accurate greyscale combined with the solid blacks and the wide dynamic range to produce a very pleasing image, it was bright enough to make an impact but the lack of black crush meant you also maintained plenty of shadow detail. The image was thankfully free of the flicker that has plagued some other plasmas but there was some PWM noise although that is really a byproduct of the technology itself and is largely to be expected. The only area where the C7000 suffered slightly was from image retention. All plasmas suffer from image retention to some degree or another but I found myself being more aware of it when watching the C7000 than I was when reviewing other plasmas recently.

The image retention was only a minor issue for what was otherwise an excellent 2D performance but it might be worth considering if you plan on using the C7000 primarily for gaming. Having said that the performance with games in Game mode was very good with a solid, bright and vibrant image that didn’t suffer from motion artefacts and benefitted from the low input lag. Overall this is a very impressive performance and the quality of the 2D image would be enough to recommend the C7000 even if it wasn’t also a 3D display.

Picture Quality - 3D

However the C7000 is also a 3D display with an equally impressive performance where any issues really related to the limitations of the technology rather than the display itself. As with all 3D displays there was an obvious drop in brightness once you donned the glasses but it was clear that in 3D mode the C7000 boosted its brightness to try and compensate for this effect. On the whole this approach worked quite well and whilst the image was dimmer than with 2D material the brightness was still acceptable. I also noticed that despite the boosted brightness the C7000 still seemed to produce a reasonably accurate image without unnecessary discolouration.

Another common problem with 3D displays is the issue of crosstalk which results in ghosting when watching 3D material. The causes of crosstalk are numerous which can sometimes make it difficult to determine exactly where the issue lies. However generally crosstalk is caused by the display not being able to refresh the image fast enough and one eye momentarily seeing the image that is meant for the other eye. The faster refresh rate on a plasma is the reason that they suffer from this phenomenon less than LCDs but you will still see it occasionally even with a plasma. The reason for this is because the speed at which the glasses themselves refresh can also be a factor when it comes to crosstalk. Finally, even if you can eliminate the other two causes there might be problems with the encoding of the 3D material itself. However as a general rule, plasmas suffer far less from crosstalk when compared to LCD displays.

One of the other advantages that a 3D plasma has over a 3D LCD is that it doesn’t emit polarised light which means that you can tilt your head whilst watching 3D material without experiencing a darkening of the image in one of the lenses on your 3D glasses. In fact I was able to actually lie down and still experience 3D, although the overall effect wasn’t as impressive as when I sat upright.
When watching 3D blu-rays the C7000 performed very well producing sharp and detailed high definition images that were largely free of crosstalk. The 50” screen gives the 3D images more impact and the overall quality of the display gives the whole experience a real sense of accuracy and dimensionality. The C7000 performed equally as well with 3D games and I found the images to be both involving and exciting which greatly enhanced my gaming experience. Finally the C7000 also correctly displayed side by side 3D material provided by a 3D camera which is similar in nature to the content on Sky 3D.

I believe that Samsung’s 2D to 3D software is actually one of the more advanced that is available and as such it does work surprisingly well. I think it is best suited for use with 2D games, here the software seems better able to determine depth information and the resulting dimensionality is more believable. Ultimately though it remains a novelty feature and in the same way that you can’t turn a standard definition image into a high definition image, you can’t make a 2D image into a 3D image, no matter how sophisticated the software.

Features

The primary feature of the C7000 is obviously its 3D capability and its active shutter system can display a full 1080p 3D image when connected to a 3D capable Blu-ray player. In addition the C7000 can display Sky 3D and 3D games and like all Samsung 3D displays it also includes a 2D to 3D feature. The C7000‘s [email protected] platform provides a gateway to a multitude of entertainment ranging from Video, Music, Social Networking, News and Games amongst others. Simply connect the C7000 to the internet via an ethernet cable or Samsung wireless dongle to access services such as LOVEFiLM, BBC iPlayer, Twitter, YouTube and many others. The C7000 utilises Samsung’s Real Black Filter which allows it to block external light reflections while simultaneously maximising the transmission of internal light. This is designed to create clearer, sharper images on screen with brighter whites and deeper blacks that help to provide a more dynamic image. The C7000 uses 600Hz technology with 12 full subfields into each frame which is intended to produce better contours, sharper scrolling text and reduce judder. The C7000 also incorporates a Freeview HD tuner and DNLA for streaming content and like all of Samsung’s 2010 Plasma displays it uses 40% less power than last year’s models and is made with eco-friendly materials.

Verdict

9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Reference greyscale performance after calibration
  • Reference colour accuracy after calibration
  • Excellent blacks
  • 10 point white balance control
  • Colour management system
  • Freeview HD built in
  • Impressive internet platform
  • Very well designed and responsive menu system
  • Attractive styling and well designed remote
  • Excellent input lag for gaming
  • Superb build quality and design
  • Excellent video processing
  • Excellent off-axis performance
  • One pair of 3D active shutter glasses included
  • Very competitive price

Cons

  • Occasional issues with image retention
  • Some PWM noise
  • 10 point white balance control can be problematic to use
  • Occasional instances of crosstalk
  • 3D glasses might be a bit fragile.

Samsung C7000 (PS50C7000) Review

I was greatly impressed by the C7000, it not only offers an impressive 2D performance but also a great 3D performance to boot. It combines excellent build quality and design with a superbly accurate greyscale and colours and some of the best video processing on the market. Like all plasmas it has its strengths and its weaknesses but on the whole the weaknesses were minor such as some PWM noise, slight image retention and occasional crosstalk. However these are far outweighed by its strengths which include a wonderfully dynamic image with excellent natural blacks and plenty of shadow detail plus an impressive 3D performance. Considering the price you can buy the Samsung C7000 for it would offer fantastic value if it was just a 2D display but the fact that it also includes full 3D capability is nothing short of remarkable. Anyone looking for excellent 2D and 3D performance at a very reasonable price would be well advised to give the Samsung C7000 a demo.

Best Buy

Scores

3D Picture Quality

.
9

Sound Quality

.
.
.
7

Smart Features

.
9

Ease Of Use

.
9

Build Quality

.
9

Value for Money

.
9

Verdict

.
9

Picture Quality

.
9

Video Processing

.
9

Greyscale Accuracy

10

Colour Accuracy

10

Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level

.
9

Screen Uniformity

.
9
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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