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Samsung UN55B7000

HDTV Roundup: 50-58 Inches
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This latest roundup covers 50 to 58-inch HDTVs. From 720p "bargain" sets to high-end Full HD LED TVs, this collection should have a TV for everyone.

Our Measurements

Black levels:0.06 cd/m²
ANSI Contrast:3389:1
Average gamma:2.26
DeltaE on a PC:4
Relative energy consumption:162 W/m²
Homogeneity of whites:3.7/5
Clouding:5/5
Brightness discrepancy (98% black):0.28 cd/m²
DeltaE at 45°:7

We take these measuements using the best settings for watching a movie. Cinema mode is generally the one we use. Wherever possible, we set the white levels at 200 cd/m².

So, here it is: Samsung's new line of LED TVs has finally arrived--and this huge 55'' UE55B7000 certainly makes a formidable first impression.

Build Quality & Design

It's difficult to find any fault with the hardware that's offer here.  The B7000 has everything you'd expect from a top of the range TV: a rotating stand, two USB ports, four HDMI inputs, a DLNA-compatible Ethernet port and a backlit remote.  The remote itself has been thoroughly redesigned, and has a much more modern feel, although its strange curves do slightly recall a shoehorn.



This TV's main strength, though, is how thin it is: less than an inch and a half thick from front to back.  Looking at it from the side is quite simply stunning, especially when you think how large it is from the front.  In that respect, it's like the PN58B850 that we also tested recently, and we suggest you have a look at the video in that test to get an idea of how just  how thin these screens really are.

The screen itself, though, is classic Samsung, with the same glossy finish that all of the manufactuer's high-end TVs sport.  It looks nice, and gives a great picture when you're in a dark room, but if there's either a window or a lamp in between you and the TV, then things are soon spoiled by the appearance of reflections. The onscreen interface is also standard-issue Samsung: practical and easy-to-use, the menus sometimes suffer from a little lag which slows navigation down.  The colors used have been updated to match the frame.

Image Quality

Let's look at the thorny issue of the day, the LEDs themselves.  For a lot of people, those three little letters mean 'perfect pictures' or '100% black', but it's not as simple as that.

To start with then, it's important to note that the LEDs in question replace the traditional fluorescent tube backlighting system found in  today's TVs and monitors.  The screen itself, in front of the backlighting, still uses LCDs.  So, what is the benefit of replacing fluorescent lamps with LEDs?

There are two main advantages:
  • LEDs give a more even light, spread across a grid of LEDs rather than fluorescent tubes.  With a score of 3.7/5 in our test for the homogenity of whites, the B7000 is the best LCD TV to date according to this measure; only plasmas do better with some enjoying a perfect 5/5.
  • LED backlighting also enjoys a reputation for providing a perfect, absolute black.  Well, that's partly true ...To achieve this perfect black, the dynamic backlighting system needs to be activated, allowing those LEDs that are behind darker parts of the image to be turned off.  In such zones, our equipment did indeed measure a light reading of exactly 0 cd/m².  Unfortunately, there is an adverse impact on white levels.  If just a small part of the screen lit by one LED is light, then that particular LED will be considerably dimmer in favor of the darker areas.  White levels fall from 195 cd/m² to 53 cd/m², which is closer to grey than it is to pure white.  Besides, this TV doesn't push LEDs as far as it can, because they are only found around the side of the screen (Edge-fit LED), meaning the final result isn't very different from what we would expect from traditional dynamic backlighting powered by a fluorescent tube.  Of course, the easy solution to these concerns would be to turn off the dynamic backlighting ... which, strangely, is impossible on the B7000.
That, actually, is our biggest criticism of this TV.  Home Cinema fans, who are used to tweaking their systems to the Nth degree appreciate a stable picture.  From the first frame right through to the last of any film, they want blacks, whites and every tone of grey and every shade of color at the same brightness.  Here, though, it's quite simply impossible to a achieve that kind of stability.  

Samsung has plumped for dynamic backlighting and there's not much we can do about it.  This decision is partly justified by the use of LEDs, which produce perfect blacks using the system, but it also helps contribute to the low power consumption that LED backlighting is known for.  An LED 'backlighting' a black part of the screen is an LED that isn't on, and so it doesn't use any electricity.  These positive effects come at the price of being able to configure the screen yourself.

During our tests, the upshot of this was that scenes shot mostly in the dark were too dark, while any highlighted details suffered a lack of brightness. On the other hand, more 'average' scenes, the B7000 proved to be an impressive display with great contrast.  That's why many people are impressed by LED TVs when they see them on show in store, with incredible contrast (around 3380 to 3700:1), or even 'infinite' contrast when black levels fall to zero.  But is it really that impressive when whites remain at 53 cd/m²?  Ultimately, it's a real shame that a TV of this quality doesn't allow you to deactivate dynamic backlighting as plenty of fans would have appreciated this option.

Everything else went very well, with even colors, the 120 Hz Motion Plus mode for more fluid movements and a total absence of clouding all very welcome findings.  Test after test, a series of excellent results conspired to put the B7000 at the very top of our selection.  Even in PC mode, we only measured an input lag of 46 ms, with the aspect ratio matching perfectly immediately; a computer monitor wouldn't have done much better. Overall, the image quality is sufficiently impressive to wow the majority of viewers who aren't going to pick faults with the glossy screen, the slightly narrow viewing angles or the slightly clunkys upscaling of SD sources.  The quality of your input really does matter at 55'', though.

Sound Quality

The speakers on Samsung's TVs have always been the manufacturer's Achilles' heel, and the UE55B7000 is no exception to the rule.  The sound quality is quite frankly mediocre, especially for such an advanced TV.  We do have to admit that fitting a powerful speaker in such a thin screen is practically impossible.  Even with the volume at 80%, voices suffered from a noticeable vibration which then remained as we turned the volume down.  It is possible, though, that this was a problem with the sample we were testing.

Power Consumption

Put simply, the B7000 is the very first TV to reach our maximum score for energy efficiency.  That's largely helped by the dynamic backlighting, which allows it to turn off a large number of LEDs when displaying our test card which shows an average brightness of 25%. That does match its real consumption, though, meaning the B7000 can boast of a very low consumption.  It's one more argument in favor for anybody who is willing to put the environment ahead of being able to adjust the backlighting on their TV.

Conclusion

All in all, Samsung's B7000 is an excellent TV for inexperienced customers who won't be able to pick up the problems caused by dynamic backlighting which won't fool somebody with a trained eye.  Experts will be glad to hear that a hidden menu does indeed allow you to deactivate dynamic backlighting ... and lose your guarantee at the same time.   For that reason, we can't encourage its use, and remain disappointed that it   wasn't included as part of the standard interface; if it had been the B7000 could have earned five stars.

That's why Home Cinema fans are likely to seriously consider the Sony Bravia WE5 and W5500 as alternatives to the B7000 which will allow them to decide for themselves.

Samsung UE55B7000
PlusesMinuses
  • Excellent contrast
  • Excellent image quality for most scenes
  • Backlit remote control
  • Very thin, stylish frame
  • Impossible to deactivate dynamic backlighting
  • Too pale in dark scenes
  • Glossy screen suffers from reflections
  • Average quality sound

With LED backlighting, the B7000 produces an excellent image quality which will wow the majority of viewers. Enthusiasts, though, are likely to be irritated by the fact you can't deactivate the dynamic backlighting. Either way, all viewers will need to watch out for reflections from the glossy screen.

Display all 19 comments.
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  • -3 Hide
    thackstonns , September 21, 2009 5:05 PM
    I am so sick of everyone testing lcd and plasma only. Where are the dlp televisions. Mitsubishi dlp are in my opinion one of the best hd tv's you can buy. Accurate colors, black blacks, no burn in, no lag, and they are cheaper than the lcd or plasma alternatives. Not everyone cares if thier tv is flat. I would rather have a 70inch dlp than a 50inch lcd or plasma any day of the week.
  • 1 Hide
    burnley14 , September 21, 2009 5:46 PM
    Samsung has two remotes now? What an amazing idea. I hardly ever use my remote for more than turning the TV on or adjusting the volume, so this would be absolutely perfect.
  • 0 Hide
    baddad , September 21, 2009 6:15 PM
    The prices on the tested sets are way to high and as thackstonns says the Mitsubishi DLP's are great sets not to mention their new laser HDTV.
  • -2 Hide
    Diabolix , September 21, 2009 10:42 PM
    Why so little LG screens ? Only 2 ? There are alot better LG LCD's out there!
  • 0 Hide
    Major7up , September 22, 2009 12:16 AM
    I found this article generally helpful but there are other brands/models I would have liked to have seen (Mitsu, Toshiba, Sony). Where are the rest tom's? Why 4 Samsungs and no Sony or Mitsubishi?
  • 0 Hide
    liemfukliang , September 22, 2009 2:13 AM
    Hmmm I wonder which of this HDTV that is true 8 bits / color or 24 bits?
  • 0 Hide
    dupaman , September 22, 2009 2:57 AM
    I agree with thackstonns. I have no beef with flat TVs, but my speakers are effectively 2 feet deep (if you count the space to the back wall), so a flat TV would look stupid in such a setup. Also, are there really people who would buy high-end TVs and not spend anything on audio? Who cares about the quality of built-in speakers?
  • 0 Hide
    SuckRaven , September 22, 2009 2:06 PM
    I know Pionner has left the TV business, and that the very last models they made are now getting a bit on the old side. Nonetheless, it would be interesting to see how some of the TVs in this review stack up against a PRO-151FD or a KRP600A, especially when it comes to black levels, or the possibility of ISF calibration.
  • -1 Hide
    dark_lord69 , September 22, 2009 5:07 PM
    thackstonnsI am so sick of everyone testing lcd and plasma only. Where are the dlp televisions. Mitsubishi dlp are in my opinion one of the best hd tv's you can buy. Accurate colors, black blacks, no burn in, no lag, and they are cheaper than the lcd or plasma alternatives. Not everyone cares if thier tv is flat. I would rather have a 70inch dlp than a 50inch lcd or plasma any day of the week.

    Right on, I completely agree.
  • 1 Hide
    cdillon , September 22, 2009 6:01 PM
    thackstonns: DLP and LCoS TVs are always rear-projection (or front-projection, but then you don't call that a "TV"), not direct-view like LCD and Plasma and LED flat-screens. Personally, I've never seen a rear-projection TV that I've liked, they all suffer from hot-spotting which absolutely drives me nuts. I'd rather gouge my eyes out with a spoon than watch a rear-projection TV.
  • 2 Hide
    black_mamba , September 22, 2009 6:45 PM
    I don't think plasmas still suffer from the burn in that is mentioned in each one of the plasma reviews. I have read on AVSforums that users have unintentionally left a static image on their Panasonic plasmas for hours at a time and had no ill effects. I'm not sure of other manufacturers, but Panasonic has somehow figured out a way to prevent it. So to say that it's not good for games and "entirely unsuitable for use with a PC" is false. If you disagree, maybe you should test for this while you still have your review units.
  • 1 Hide
    black_mamba , September 22, 2009 6:54 PM
    I also agree with cdillon. I have never seen a DLP I would ever consider over a plasma or lcd. The only advantage they have over plama and lcd is their screen size, and PQ is much higher on my list than screen size. And just because your speakers don't sit flush with your wall dones't mean that your flat-screen has to. Most people have their screens sitting on stands that house their A/V equipment and would not be flush with the wall anyway.
  • 0 Hide
    jcwbnimble , September 24, 2009 5:44 PM
    I gotta say I'm dissapointed with this article. 4 units from Samsung? Why? If you are going to do a review like this, be more specific in your product selection.

    For your average reader, doing a review of the entry level models for 7 different manufacturers would have been more useful. Show me how Panasonic's entry level 50" 1080P plasma compares to Samsungs, or LG's LCD, or Vizio's. I want to know which model offers the best value, apples to apples, not 55"LCD versus 50" plasma.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 25, 2009 1:47 PM
    Samsung not only has some of the best prices, but they also makes some of the best units. I have found Samsung to have the best value overall than any other brand. If he didn't show other brands, did you stop to think that maybe it's because they're not worth mentioning?
  • 0 Hide
    jcwbnimble , September 25, 2009 3:47 PM
    Samsung does make great TVs, but this article should have had another focus if they wanted to tout the company's products. Do an article where you compare Samsung's large panel lineup against the competition. To only have one plasma from Panasonice (the undisputed king of plasma now that Pioneer is gone) is suspect to say the least.

    I am looking to purchase a large screen LCD or plasma in November, and this artcile is of little use to me. I want to know how the Panasonic 54" plasmas compare to equivalent sized LCDs from Samsung, LG, and Sony. I think most people who would get any value out of an article like this are going to be dissapointed.

    If Tom's Guide wants to do an article like this, they have to make it more extensive. Do what Tom's Hardware does and make it far more in depth and then break it up into several pieces so they can publish it over a few days time.

    The only thing this article did was make me want to subscribe to Consumer Reports so that I can get a real comparison of large screen TV's. At the very least I'm going to Google some more in-depth comparisons and ratings. All I can say is that I expected more from Tom's.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 30, 2009 3:36 PM
    With all the talk of DLP, Plasma, and LED’s each one has its advantages and disadvantages. I hope that the new OLED TV’s come to market soon and at a reasonable price. While the 11” is now available from Sony at $2,500 Sony is working on larger models to be released in the future. There are several advantages of OLED TV’s , they are very thin – so thin the can be bent around curved surfaces , use very little power, contain no hazardous materials such as lead, have an extremely high contract ratios and wide viewing angle. For those interested one can go to YouTube and search for “OLED” to see presentations of the technology”. For now I am happy with my old projection set and converter box and will wait until the OLED TV technology is made available.
  • 0 Hide
    AIstudio , October 1, 2009 3:45 PM
    All I can say is that i use a 50" panasonic plasma connected to my HTPC at 1080 native. I have never had any burn in issues etc. May be a little image retention that is gone in seconds, but then again you get this on LCD's too.
    I use it for Movies, gaming and evrything PC related.
    No need to worry about issues with static images these days. An old problem, but not anymore.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , October 8, 2009 3:07 PM
    Used to be a big fan of Tom's website. However, the quality of writing, limited scope, lack of focus, absence of comparison charts, etc on all their reviews has really turned me away. All of their stories feel like watered down advertorials. Somebody made a comment about Consumer Reports - it's sad when a jack-of-all-trades review publication can trump this site on a TV/tech roundup.

    I would like to see toms hardware return to glory.

  • 0 Hide
    jp182 , October 9, 2009 5:57 PM
    dupamanI agree with thackstonns. I have no beef with flat TVs, but my speakers are effectively 2 feet deep (if you count the space to the back wall), so a flat TV would look stupid in such a setup. Also, are there really people who would buy high-end TVs and not spend anything on audio? Who cares about the quality of built-in speakers?


    Actually I know quite a few people that get a TV that fits their needs spatially but are perfectly happy with the sound they get.
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