Design and Connections
Even though the UE-D7000 isn't quite a flagship product, the remote control supplied is still something of a small insult when you consider the price paid for the television. We can understand that Samsung want you to upgrade to the, soon to be available, QWERTY remote but the unit in the box really doesn't convey a feeling of quality. To be fair there are no operational issues with it other than the lack of controls for HDMI CEC connected devices, and there is a backlight, but we'd imagine owners of smartphones will be keen to download the Samsung Remote app to make best use of the 'Smart' features on board.
As ever, the Picture menu is our main area of operations and it's one that could easily scare off the less knowledgeable with its enormous amount of options. There are 4 Picture Mode option as well as the standard Backlight, Contrast, Brightness, Sharpness and Colour adjustments located to the first page of the Picture menu in addition to what is likely to be a fairly superfluous Tint control, bearing in mind we have a functional CMS to play with. Scrolling down we have Screen Adjustment that accommodates the Screen Fit option, enabling 1:1 pixel mapping, which is of particular importance for Blu-ray material. Scrolling to the second page of the Picture Menu and we are presented with options for 3D output as well as Picture Options and Advanced Settings.
In our testing with the 3D sources the D7000 performed impeccably in detecting the correct 3D output but, nevertheless, the 3D menu allows setting of 3D output format. There's options for setting 3D Auto View and the 2D > 3D conversion mode and a 3D optimiser slider we found best left at the factory set value. Picture Options houses a couple of noise reduction options that proved relatively ineffectual with most content and there's Film Mode and Motion Plus settings that we'll address later in the review. Colour Tone is best set to Warm 2 in conjunction with the Movie picture mode for greatest accuracy and there's the HDMI Black Level option that governs setting of PC or Video levels - set to low for video content.
The other options found under Advanced Settings all behaved identically to those of the UE-D8000 we tested so Flesh Tone mucked about with the luminance of Magenta. Dynamic Contrast did increasingly wild and wonderful things to the Gamma curve, the further up the scale it was pushed with Shadow Detail affecting the near black gamma. The Shadow Detail control might have served a purpose had the 10 point White Balance controls not performed correctly but, fortunately, they did. We'd advise setting Black Tone to off to avoid clipping shadow detail and we'd also recommend Edge Enhancement is likewise disabled. Finally there's the rather mysterious Motion Lighting and LED Motion Plus settings. The former dynamically alters light output dependent on the extent of activity of the source material, i.e. it lowers output the more action there is on screen. In reality the effect was fairly mild but, nonetheless, we'd also set this to 'off'. The LED Motion Plus setting increases the rate of the side-located LED 'blinking' to increase perceived motion resolution. For us, it didn't really work and actually produced a flicker effect on solid patches of colour - again we switched it off.
In to the Sound Menu and we have a few pre-set modes to choose from - truth be told the onboard speakers are as slim in their sound stage as the chassis is in its depth so choosing a mode is a matter of preference here rather than anything else but we settled on Movie as the most 'rewarding'. There's useful delay setting for SPDIF connected amplification and we found it necessary with just about everything connected to make use of the facility. Having guided you through the potential picture quality marring options we'll just make further note, once more, that gamers looking to reduce input lag will need to delve in to theGeneral area of the System Menu to activate GAME mode. We've already fed back to Samsung our belief that the placement here is totally counter-intuitive and it's being looked in to. The D7000 features Samsung's usual 6 Channel/2 Hour view Electronic Program Guide (EPG). There's a video window, top left of the screen, and the audio channel remains on whilst the EPG is displayed. We like the presentation but perhaps adding a couple more channels would improve things.
We choose a THX recommended target gamma of 2.2 for our reviews as it's a good fit for our low-light test conditions. In reality the viewing environment is by far the biggest governing factor when choosing a target and this is another area where an experienced calibrator will earn their salt. The gamma tracking is already highly respectable but just a little too low in the dark areas of the picture that means we're losing just a little shadow detail. Again, given the controls available, we should be able to flatten out the response satisfactorily. Moving on to colour performance against the HD Rec.709 standard and we obtained these measurements in the Custom colour space. We chose custom as it's the only option to afford use of the Colour Management System provided.
In our review of the D8000, we did experience a couple of hiccups using the 10 point White Balance controls, in that altering at one level of stimulus would have an effect on the neighbouring stimuli around the middle of the greyscale. This isn't typical of the excellent Samsung controls and things were back on track with the D7000 we received; as evidenced in the following charts. First using the 2 point white balance controls and then the 10 point to fine tune RGB balance and gamma we were able to calibrate the greyscale to almost total perfection. Delta errors are below 0.5, throughout, with gamma tracking bang on our targeted 2.2 value. Bringing up a stair-step pattern confirms the measurements of neutrality and we're good to move on to tweaking the colour gamut.
Readers of our recent Samsung reviews could be forgiven for looking away at this point as the UE-D7000 performs with the same excellence we've seen on all the other higher range televisions we've seen from the Korean manufacturer when it comes to picture processing. The heart and brains of the newer Samsung's is their own custom HyperReal chip that really does fly through the majority of our testing regime. Standard definition scaling of both 480i and 576i signals are handled with aplomb with virtually no ringing present when fed anything like a decent bitrate. Well transferred DVDs showed up particularly well and with something like a viewing distance of 8 feet, owners of the 40 inch version of this TV needn't feel the urge to upgrade all of their existing collection to Blu-ray disc.
Progressively shot film based material sent through an interlaced signal again proved trivial for the D7000 bar the extremely obscure 5:5 cadence so we're not losing any unnecessary resolution here. Similarly, deinterlacing of video based content was very good, with fine lines maintained well under, motion, and a distinct lack of jaggies in evidence. We had our issues with Samsung's two-tiered interpolation frame interpolation systems whilst testing the D8000 and, for the most part, the same problems were there; with some inconsistent behaviour when faced with material with sudden and differing changes of pace. Where the D7000 did outperform the D8000 was in use of the Clear Motion Plus setting which has shown improvements that are probably attributable to the interim firmware released between testing.
There was always something about the D8000's motion handling performance that bothered us but we were only able to confirm our thoughts when running one side by side with 3 other TVs from different manufacturers. Even with both standard and LED Motion Plus settings totally disabled, the HyperReal engine is performing some form of motion smoothing. A particularly good example can be found on the Spears and Munsil disc where there's a clip with a boat crossing a choppy sea. The movement of the boat should obviously be - and we apologise for the technical jargon - 'bobby' but the Samsung's are clearly smoothing it out. We saw the same effect in a few choice Blu-ray clips so the processing is clearly doing something to even 24p material and is by far the biggest black mark against the D7000s video processing efforts. It's a curious choice from Samsung and we'd ask for an option to disable it, particularly for 24p material.
Whilst we routinely measure for input lag against a CRT referenced laptop monitor, we also feel that a little too much focus is placed on the numbers. Display lag is only one part of the equation when it comes to the sense of responsiveness during gaming. Before breaking out the camera and stopwatch, we like to get a feel for gaming and the D7000 is what we would describe as perfectly fine for single player gaming for the vast majority of gamers out there. The average measured lag, in the obliquely placed GAME mode, was between 48 and 64 milliseconds, i.e. 3 to 4 frames at 60 frames per second. Add that number on to controller, network and actual game lag and the online competitive gamer could certainly find a more suitable display. Those that are sensitive to input lag know who they are and are forewarned accordingly.
As this particular TV is to be sold as base pre-calibrated by our sponsors MultiZone, we boosted light output just a little more than that of the calibrated D8000, meaning that energy consumption was just a touch higher. In its calibrated state, the UE-D7000 averaged 89w with 0.5w in standby.
Picture Quality - 2D
With the deep blacks and excellent dynamic range coupled with the superb calibrated greyscale and colours, Blu-ray material really came alive on the D7000. The almost floating sense the near transparent bezel affords works very well indeed with the right lighting. Unfortunately, as we found with the D8000, backlighting was again very inconsistent and darker scenes suffered clouding as a result. All four corners were affected in addition to a few patches across the screen. We've seen much better lighting consistency from Panasonic, Sony, Toshiba, LG and Sharp so far this year and it's something that Samsung really need to address, particularly on higher end models attracting premium prices!
Picture Quality - 3D
Exactly as per the D8000 testing, on default settings we did see some crosstalk that was panel rather than source induced. The 3D Effect controls in the Advanced Picture Menu offer a chance to reduce the effect where a setting of zero for the 3D Perspective proved the best balance between reducing crosstalk and blurring the background image. The default of +3 certainly had more depth and clarity to the background but crosstalk was at unacceptable levels, for us, with the setting. Once tweeked, the 3D experience was still very acceptable.
Colour shifting through the glasses wasn't as pronounced as some we've seen and, like the crosstalk performance, an improvement over last year. There was, of course, a large loss of luminance through the lenses but the D7000 can go plenty bright enough to compensate and the glasses have the added bonus of masking some of the backlight clouding.
Taking pride of place, atop the GUI, is the 'Your Video' section that actually works on a recommendation engine, where your viewing habits are tracked and suggestions based on genre, subject matter, director, actor/actress etc are made for your further viewing delight. The engine will search material from the various VoD services, including iPlayer and YouTube and will shortly add paid for content from the likes of LoveFilm. Habits are tracked from EPG selections, searched for material through the Smart Hub and recordings scheduled using the PVR functions. - the D7000 has the ability to make recordings to external storage via USB and the interface is, again, through the Smart Hub. Although we only had the D7000 for a couple of weeks, the engine did manage to make a couple of useful suggestions so it shows there is, at least, something going on but we expect much bigger things in the future.
There's a couple of other points worth mentioning here. Firstly, a video search will, by default, bring up the highest resolution version of material available from, say, YouTube and that the BBC iPlayer widget allows access to all the currently stored BBC HD content so users wont have to make the quality compromises that are common with other manufacturers' implementations.
Below Your Video and the App Store runs a set of 'Recommended' apps, widgets, whatever you want to call them and below that, occupying the bottom half of the screen, interfaces for network/USB playback of media files, a Web Browser plus additional ways of accessing the EPG and certain Menu items, for example one could rescan for channels from here. As well as AllShare providing standard DLNA functionality, Samsung have recently released the Smart View app that allows owners of Galaxy S2 Android smartphones to view video sent from the TV via wireless ethernet. The really clever thing here is that the TV doesn't even have to be on or, if it is, the owner is not locked to viewing what's being shown on-screen as another input can viewed simultaneously through the phone. The same support will also be present in the upcoming Galaxy S and Galaxy Tab tablets when they are released later this year.
In addition to the Smart View App, there's also a Smart Remote app available that does exactly what you'd expect in that it can act as a replacement for the cheap, plastic unit supplied. The app is far more convenient for using the included Web Browser that's main noteworthy feature is its ability to play embedded Flash video where competitors don't. The creation of folders for tidying up the Smart Hub by grouping your apps is possible through both the 'Remote' app and standard remote control but is, again, easier using a smartphone. For those that have the urge to video chat through the TV, there's an optional camera/mic available that can be used in tandem with the pre-loaded Skype app with video quality up to 720p. With everything Samsung have crammed in to the Smart Hub, we could probably devote an entire mini review to the subject but we really must get on with checking out some other facets of the D7000!
- Deep Blacks - even in brightly lit rooms
- Excellent Calibration Controls
- Much Improved 3D Performance
- General Video Processing
- Smart Hub
- Freeview HD
- Backlight Issues
- Undefeatable Motion Smoothing
- Screen Reflectivity
- Cheap Remote
- Too Many Confusing Options in Menus
Samsung D7000 (UE-40D7000) 3D LED LCD Television Review
Whilst the Samsung UE-D7000 shares the same tiny dimensions, it has a slightly different appearance to the D8000. The chrome effect bezel is replaced by one that's transparent and we found ourselves preferring the D7000's design, if only for the fact that light didn't so readily bounce and glint off it. The remote control is a continuing source of disappointment but Smartphone users shouldn't worry unduly about that given the apps available. We really like the lack of weight in the supplied 3D specs but, at the same time, we'd also like to see the size of the lenses increased to keep out more light - not that we'd really advise 3D viewing as a daytime event.
The Samsung menus are, as ever, pretty much a pleasure to use but there are far too many confusing and unnecessary picture options that are a minefield for the uninitiated; although the fact there are, at least, some descriptions as to what the various options do - or are supposed to. The calibration suite is as least as good as any of the competitions' and really allows for the dialling in of some excellent results.
Samsung's Smart Hub is, in our opinion, the industry leading standard for these sorts of added functionalities. We really like the fact that all the added extras are centralised and the little touches like folder creation and a built-in video recommendation engine add up to something that is already impressive with the added promise of much more going forwards. We wouldn't mind Samsung bringing in some decluttering experts to sort out the interface but, once you are used to things, it's fairly easy to navigate - remote control use considered. Once calibrated to reference greyscale and gamma with near reference colour performance, the D7000's deep black levels and excellent dynamic range gave images a real pop and thanks to some very clever filtering techniques black levels hold up remarkably well in bright conditions. Unfortunately blacks don't hold up too well off-axis and the screen is highly reflective so some careful thought to placement is needed if daytime viewing is of importance. Samsung's familiar problems with backlight uniformity were again present on the sample although not to the extent of some we've seen. Still, it's a potential issue for those that like to watch in the dark.
Much as with the D8000, our biggest concern with the D7000 was in its motion handling. In actual fact a newer firmware seems to have fixed some of the major hiccups we saw previously but we've been able to identify another issue. Even with all interpolation systems deactivated, the D7000 seems to be performing a motion smoothing process that can, at times, appear very unnatural. It's not a problem that rears its head too often but we'd certainly prefer for it not to be there at all 3D performance was exactly same as seen with the D8000. In short, the almost borderless design really added depth to 3D and, in part, compensated for the modest screen size. We were able to neutralise much of the crosstalk present at default settings in the menus and overall it's a big step up on last year's efforts. There's room for improvement of course but if they keep going at this rate, the inherent advantages plasma technology currently has for delivering 3D will be all but nullified but that's assuming plasma stands still. 3D gaming was the usual blast with the D7000 and it's a decent choice for the non-competitive game too. Lag times were a little on the high side but certainly nothing that would trouble most gamers in single player titles.
The Samsung D7000 has plenty to offer and at increasingly reasonable prices. If you had the D8000 on your radar, the D7000 is most certainly worthy of your consideration as it is just a case of same fella, different hat. If we could ask Samsung to resolve two things; number one would be to up the level of QC/improve transit measures to ensure panels with such uniformity issues don't go in to retail channels in quite the numbers they appear to, given the samples we've received for review here over the last 12 months. We would also like to see an option to defeat the motion smoothing processing that is of particular concern with some Blu-ray material. We gave the D8000 a Recommended award so it would seem logical to do the same for the D7000 although the D8000 was given the badge with an element of 'benefit of the doubt' on backlighting issues. That the D7000 shares the same issue is a real disappointment but it is capable of producing excellent pictures so we'll put Samsung on final warning and Recommend but we'd urge you to choose your retailer wisely in case you need to return.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
3D Picture Quality
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
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