It’s not exactly an LED TV, but an LCD TV with LED backlights. Nevertheless, the UN55B7100 is the largest of Samsung’s mid-level 7000 series HDTVs and sports a bewildering array of technology and features. Our focus, as usual, is on performance and practical considerations: Does it look and sound great? Does it serve martinis and peanuts?
Dec 22, 2009 by Mike Chin
55" LED HDTV
The recent transformation of the television market has been utterly sweeping.
Large, high resolution, flat panel TVs were once playthings for those who could
gambol in the back of Rolls Royces and jet between mutiple homes in exotic locales.
Less than a decade ago, a salesman at Vancouver’s high end AV store, Sound Plus,
quipped — about the $17,000 price of a then-incredible to behold wall-mounted
plasma 50" TV — that if I had to ask, I couldn’t afford it. Today,
it’s possible to buy a flat 50" plasma brand-name TV for $749 from a vendor
as proletarian as Costco. No self-respecting home even aspiring to middle class
seems to be without one, and the tube TV has become a relic, the once proud
Trinitron relegated to the basement or kid’s rec room — if they’ll have
In this new era, Samsung has emerged with Apple as one of the darlings in consumer
electronics. For sure, Samsung lacks Apple’s marketing panache and chic, but
for sheer product range, good value, and general excellence, the Korean giant
is tough to beat in consumer electronics. Samsung flat panel TVs are visible
everywhere, and according to Digitimes
of Taipei, Samsung sold 400,000 LED TVs globally in the months of April,
May and June of 2009, which amounted to a 90% market share. With its aggressive
marketing, the company predicts it will sell two million LED HDTVs this year,
at least 60% of that high end market. Samsung says their market research shows
20% of Americans are willing to pay more for an LED TV. The other big TV brands
— LG, Sony, Sharp and Panasonic — are sharing the rest of the market,
having started later or marketed less aggressively, while most lower cost vendors
are not getting into LED TVs until next year.
The LED TV so successfully marketed by Samsung is more precisely described
as an LCD that uses LED backlights rather than the usual fluorescent
bulbs for backlights. In contrast, true LED screen displays use a cluster of
red, green, and blue diodes driven together to form a single full-color pixel.
Two different types of LED backlight LCD TVs are in current use, edge-lit and
local dimming. The latter allows dimming to occur locally, creating specific
areas of darkness on the screen, which show truer blacks and higher dynamic
contrast, but less detail in small bright objects on a dark background. Edge-lit
LED TVs, in comparison, can be made extremely thin; the light is diffused by
a special panel which produces a uniform color range across the screen, but
they tend not to show black as convincingly as the local dimming LED screens.
Still the UN55B7100 is said to have "a 3,000,000:1 Dynamic Contrast Ratio
that displays incredibly deep blacks and pristine whites." As almost anyone
shopping for a flat panel TV learns early on, the depiction of black is one
area where LCDs are still generally not quite as good as plasma panels, so this
is an important consideration.
Samsung offers three lines of LED backlit LCD HDTVs, the 8000, 7000 and 6000
series. The UN55B7100 is the largest of the mid-line, and it uses the edge-lit
LED technology. Never mind its mid-level position; the number of features and
technological wizardry this TV offers is so staggering that a reviewer hardly
knows where to begin!
Minimalist, high-gloss black, ultra-modern is the UN55B7100 style, not
unlike many Samsung LCD monitors. There’s no denying its sleek elegance.
A quick run through the feature highlights may help, as might a visit to
Samsung’s web page about this product.
Samsung UN55B7100 Feature Highlights (mostly
from the PDF
|3,000,000:1 Dynamic Contrast Ratio||Sounds amazing.|
| Auto Motion Plus 120 Hz technology
Advanced processing that reduces blur and enhances image detail when
viewing fast motion video sequences.
|Sounds too good to be true… blur occurs
not only in the playback but also during the recording of the video. We’ll
|HD-Grade pixel resolution: High resolution
pixel density is combined with a built-in image scaler to handle inputs
from a variety of digital and analog audio/video sources.
|Suggests superior video picture quality;
it’s presumably what all HDTVs are seeking.
| Ultra Slim (1.2" depth) Touch of
Design: Samsung’s unique manufacturing
process accents the surrounding bezel
with a stylish colored tone.
|It does look cool, but the true benefit
is questionable. The stand or wall mount still takes up room, as do the
cables and connectors. Whether it’s 1.2" or 3" thick is probably
moot for the average user; the stand will take up a foot.
| Response Time: A fast 4ms response
minimizes blurring of fast motion in high
|Built-in digital tuner – no
|Worthwhile if you’re one of the few using
an outdoor antenna.
|Green works in any room.
Samsung LED TVs use 40% less power* than conventional LCD TVs and contain
mercury free back lights, and eliminated C02 and VOC emissions in the manufacturing
process of their TV frames by not using spray paint. (*As compared to 2008
Samsung LCD TVs or similar size and class in standard mode.)
|Sounds good… but actual power consumption
(in watts) is not mentioned anywhere. Naturally, we will measure.
|Ultra Clear Panel: Advanced LCD
technology lets you enjoy crisp image details, natural skin tones, excellent
shadow detail, and vibrant colors.
|Refers to the glass itself.|
– Internet@TV – Content Service:
Receive content from Yahoo!®, Flickr®,
and more via on-screen TV widgets.
– DLNA®: Sync your connectable home
electronics and display remote
content on your TV.
-Pre-loaded Content Library (Flash)
Enjoy hours of built-in entertainment
features, then personalize it by
adding content that’s available online.
– USB 2.0 Movie: Show digital home
movies, photos, PC presentations and
more on your TV, using the remote.
Is it a TV or a computer? The lines are blurring.
A LAN port is provided, but the USB wireless adapter is an extra.
DLNA seems useful, but how could a TV compete against an ordinary computer
The USB 2.0 ports are very useful and work also with external USB hard
| Wide Color Enhancer Pro: Optimizes
given color’s hue, resulting in more natural
rendering of colors.
|SRS TruSurround HD™ creates
immersive, feature-rich surround sound
experience from two speakers, complete
with rich bass, high frequency detail and
clear dialog using down firing speakers with subwoofer, 15 Watts x 2 audio
| Picture-in-Picture (PIP): Enables
convenient, simultaneous viewing of TV
programs and video or PC content sources.
| Stereo broadcast reception: Supports
multichannel sound (MTS) and second audio program (SAP) with 181-channel
| Game Mode enhances dark areas, sharpens
the picture, speeds up the image processing response and enhances the sounds
of your games.
|One of several presets.|
Samsung UN55B7100 Specifications (mostly from
|Video|| Screen Size: 55”
Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Dynamic Contrast Ratio: 3,000,000:1
Backlight: LED Edge
1080 24p Real Movie: Yes
Picture Engine: 1 tuner PIP
Auto Motion Plus 120/240Hz: 120 Hz
Wide Colour Enhancer: Wide Color Enhancer Pro
|Audio|| Speaker Type: Down Firing
Sound Effect System: SRS TruSurround HD & Dolby Digital
Sound Output (RMS) 15 W x 2
|Features|| Sleep timer: Yes
Still Picture: No
Auto Channel Search: Yes
Auto Power Off: Yes
Anynet+ (HDMI-CEC): Yes
Game mode: Yes
Picture-in-Picture: 1 tuner PIP
Clock & on/off timer: Yes
OSD language: English / French / Spanish
DLNA Wireless: Yes
Content Library (Flash): Yes
USB2.0: USB 2.0 Movie
BD Wise: Yes
Wireless LAN Adaptor Support: Yes
User Interface: single
Auto Volume Leveler: Yes
|Dimensions|| Set Size (WxDxH) with Stand: 1321 x 877
x 305 mm
Set Size (WxHxD) without Stand: 1321 x 815 x 29.9 mm
Package Size (WxHxD): 1446 x 996 x 399 mm
|Weight||Package weight: 35.4 kg
Set weight with stand: 27.4 kg
Set weight without stand: 22.2 kg
|Accessories|| ANT- Cable – No
Power Cable – Yes
Batteries – Yes
Vesa Wall Mount – Option
Ultra Slim Wall Mount – Option
Remote Controller – Model TM970
Instruction Book – Yes
|Power||Stand-by Power Consumption: < 0.2 W
Eco Mark: Yes
|Input & Output|| HDMI: 4 (side)
Digital Audio (Optical): 1 (side)
PC input (D-sub): 1 (bottom)
Component (Y/Pb/Pr): 1 (bottom)
Composite (AV): 1 (bottom – component slot)
Ethernet (LAN): 1 (bottom)
USB 2.0: 2 (side)
Some notes about the specs:
Thin is in but…
The UN55B7100 is undoubtedly slim, sleek and svelte. The thin profile
The promotional photo on the left is slightly misleading because a bit
A more tangible benefit is obtained when Samsung’s WMN1000B
It might amuse you to consider the size of the box in which this TV ships.
It’s fairly heavy at over 35kg, but more importantly, its dimensions make it
impossibly awkward for any single person except perhaps someone with the arms
of the tallest basketball player to handle. The TV, once out of the box, can
be handled by one person, but it is still awkward to do so, and much easier
with two people.
The Samsung UN55B7100 carton wrapped in packing cellophane, placed
temporarily behind >8′ sofa.
The unit was difficult to photograph due to its size and high reflectivity.
Here it is, atop a typical stand (measuring 60"W x 22"D x 14"H).
The tower speakers on either side are 39" tall.
Scene from The Bourne Identity (1080i HD feed) on Samsung UN55B7100
with Samsung BluRay player, Bell ExpressVu satellite HD PVR, and HTPC
on shelf below.
For more flattering photos of the UN55B7100, you’re advised to visit Samsung’s
product web pages. Here are photos of some details you may not find there.
Corner detail showing clear acrylic frame. The edge is quite thin and
will bite into your palm if you try to grasp it on the bottom to carry
A power switch is just below the Samsung logo, and there are similarly
A shot of the back: The top vent grill appears
to be for heat convection; there is no fan. The round vents are for
speakers, which are back-firing, which makes one wonder about sound
for close on-wall placement. The center lower vent appears to be for
convection cooling of power components, as the power cable goes in around
there. The bottom vents on the left and right may be for convection
air intake as well as for bass speakers that are in those spots.
How can down-pointing bass drivers be mounted in an edge that’s only
The UN55B7100 was connected to several video signal sources, and to the local
area network via both hard wire ethernet and the optional wireless USB device
provided by Samsung. A list of all associated components used for the review
The sparsely furnished viewing room is a modest size, 12′ x 10′ with a standard
8′ ceiling. Viewing distance was 8~9′. There were no hiccups during initial
setup, and the satellite TV viewing proceeded within minutes.
The remote control took little time to learn, its most cumbersome aspect being
the short delay for source selection before the OSD would fade, along with the
click + scroll + click required for source selection. Overall, the remote control
and onscreen display rate a B+. The remote’s ergonomics are OK, while the OSD
is quite good, mostly straightforward and quick.
Over two months were spent with the sample UN55B7100. This is the first TV
review by SPCR, and a period of learning about this particular product as well
as the current technology of TVs in general was necessary. The extended review
time allowed for an intimate, detailed appreciation of the TV’s characteristics.
The various video presets were tried with many different program materials;
Movie mode and Warm2 were the choices that provided
the best, most consistent results. Some tweaking in the video settings menu
could enhance specific programs, but the defaults were usually good enough
to leave alone.
Satellite TV:- With a high quality HD signal, the picture was amazing,
consistently vivid, yet natural and lifelike. It was a pleasure to watch.
The quality of the incoming signal affected the video reproduction far more
than minor tweaks in the TV controls. There is little question that the
flaws in the 1080i limit of broadcast HD programming are far greater than
any flaws inherent in the TV. Standard 480p broadcast material was handled
well enough, usually looking no worse than it does on a typical 27"
or large CRT TV. With poor quality material, the artifacts and flaws of
the original were easily seen, much like with poor sources and a high quality
audio reproduction system. In general, the Samsung video processing handles
the deinterlacing, upconversion and other tasks very well, with great transparency.
The best HD sports broadcasts tend to be NHL, NBA and NFL events, and these
provided an opportunity to test the Auto Motion Plus 120Hz motion
smoothing feature, which has separate Blur and Judder controls. Engaging
the presets or manually adjusting the 10-step controls did improve clarity
in fast moving scenes, but the end result was not conclusively better in
all cases. In many high action sports, the motion on the screen occurs in
multiple directions simultaneously — for example, players sprinting
in opposite directions, while a ball is moving in yet another arc, with
the camera tracking the ball, and sometimes with the camera moving as well.
In such scenes, the quest for perfect clarity seems downright silly. The
Samsung Auto Motion Plus 120Hz’s separate Blur and Judder controls are an
improvement over a single control, but you can’t expect miracles. Samsung’s
higher end models offer 240Hz refresh; perhaps this is a more significant
Blu-ray:- The level of detail, realism, and color accuracy from
a good quality Blu-ray disc was staggering. It’s probably not possible to
obtain comparable performance in most commercial movie theaters. It was
difficult to notice any artifacts, although with the number of Blu-ray discs
tried, some instances were seen momentarily here and there, and it is possible
that the TV played a role in the creation of these artifacts. (Remember,
there is the disc itself and the Blu-ray player as well.) The depiction
of black was about as good as on any TV; the only time it was less than
perfect was when sitting over 20 degrees off axis to the side, 2′ or more
outside the edge of the screen. Then, the black on the far side of the screen
faded a bit to gray. The effect was subtle, however, and difficult to notice
if you are at all absorbed by what you are watching. It’s not nearly as
marked as suggested by some online critics’ comments about this TV black
performance. Visitors marvelled at the realism, including the depiction
of black, whatever the viewing angle.
A Picture Quality Evaluation Tool, the HD HDQ Benchmark Blu-ray disc by
HQV Silicon Optix, was used in conjunction with the Samsung Blu-ray player.
The UN55B7100 easily passed all the tests for film resolution, video resolution
loss, signal filtering ("jaggies") and HD noise.
Media Play:- This is the term Samsung uses to describe playback
of digital video, audio and photo files via USB devices and computers on
the network. It also includes the recently introduced On Demand 101 service
by Blockbuster to stream movie rentals or purchases, directly to your Samsung
TV. This feature is currently available only in the US.
The home networking function, also called DLNA (Digital
Living Network Alliance) for no really good reason, but it’s basically
networking to access media files on your PCs from the TV. This requires
a klugy software called Samsung PC Share Manager to be installed on the
networked computers, and for specific folders to be marked for sharing with
the TV. It never worked with the review sample, even though the networked
computers (running Windows 7, Vista or XP) could be seen by the TV.
Media play via USB devices worked much better, however. Not all video formats
are supported; the manual mentions MP3, JPEG and "movie files."
Of the many dozens of video clips tried, some 80% worked fine. The ones
that did not play properly usually had issues with an unsupported audio
codec. This tended to occur most with recent MKV files; both unsupported
and supported files had DTS 6ch 48kHz audio. (Example: A 720p torrent mkv
video file of The Hangover played perfectly while the audio of a
similar 720p torrent mkv video file of Star Trek 2009 could not be
played.) Many different resolution types were tried, ranging from compressed
low resolution youtube clips to full blown 1080p movies. The UN55B7100 did
a great job with the vast majority of these files. Some torrent-downloaded
720p movies were almost indistinguishable from the Blu-ray discs, which
suggests that the Samsung re-processes and upconverts lower resolution material
beautifully. 480p TV broadcast were also handled very well.
No one buys a big, high-end HDTV to pinch pennies on electricity consumption,
but it’s nice to know that the Samsung incorporates pretty good power management,
which should be a consideration of everyone’s electronic product buying
decision. The typical measured maximum power consumption of 132W is amazingly
low compared to any standard CFL LCD TVs, and certainly compared to any
plasma screen TV, which are the biggest power guzzlers among flat panel
TVs. There are setting for lowering power consumption even further, mostly,
it appears, by reducing the brightness of the LEDs. This could certainly
affect video performance.
Power measurements shown in the table below were taken at the AC plug with
many different types of source material on the screen. The actual readings
varied somewhat with the mix of dark and light on the screen at any given
time. The brightest sequences caused the great power consumption. When turned
off, the AC power dropped too low for it to register on the meter; kudos
to Samsung for this. Power on standby with no active inputs (or with screen
off on the PC) was a very high 32W; this is mode you want to use only briefly.
Better to turn the TV off altogether when not in use.
Measured Power Consumption Mode AC Power Power Off 0W Standby (w/ no active inputs) 32W Power Save Off 110~132W Low Power Save 90~94W Med Power Save 78~84W High Power Save 65~68W Auto Power Save 62~132W
The reduction in brightness in Low Power Save mode would probably be more
than acceptable for a lot of people; the picture is still very nice. The
power saving here is a pretty consistent 20~40W, depending on the exact
programming, with 30W as a typical average difference. Over the long term,
if you use the TV a lot, this is quite significant. The Med and High settings
are too dim to consider seriously. The Auto mode may be the best compomise
between reduced power and ideal video performance. The brightness is varied
dynamically with intelligence so that when the image calls for full brightness,
it’s all there — the power meter reads just as high as when the Power
Save mode is off — yet with a night or dark interior scene, the LEDs
are deliberately turned down, and the power reading can plummet to ~60W.
The overall power savings is probably a bit less than with the Low setting,
but close, and the drop in image brightness is very difficult to discern,
similar to a well-chosen compression mode for MP3 audio.
Audio:- The quality of the UN55B7100’s audio system was surprisingly
pleasant, with good clarity and plenty of gain for the admittedly small
test room. There was no real bass to speak of (not much below 100Hz), but
the illusion of bass was excellent. The standard audio profiles are equalizer
presets which can be improved upon by directly tweaking the 5-band equalizer.
The main speakers fire out the back and rely on reflection off the back
wall, which might be affected by very close mounting to the back wall. This
could be a consideration when using Sasmung’s "low profile" wall
hanging mount. More on speakers later.
Background shows TV screen with Internet widgets on the bottom; foreground
shows weather widget open while a movie is being watched.
Internet TV Content Service:- When the TV is connected to a network
with access to the web, the feature can be engaged. It places a number of
widgets across the bottom of the screen for access to yahoo! news, weather,
financial info, flickr, youtube, etc. There are many widgets to choose from,
and many of them can be uploaded and ready to go instantly. It’s further
blurring of the line between TV and PC, but these features are not compelling,
especially if you have to pay extra for the USB wireless key. Such information
is already readily available on TV broadcast services, or any web-enabled
PC — why clutter your TV viewing with more distractions on the screen?
A library of "Content"
Games and other Content:- The UN55B7100 has enough built in-memory
for a little library of curious content. These include: A gallery of famous
art and nice photos; a cookbook of static images and text; a couple of video
games that only really young children could enjoy; animated stories for
the same audience, voiced by actors who are clearly non-native speakers
of Enligsh; a mini exercise set for Piliates, stretches, etc, consisting
not of full motion video but sequential photos and voice/music track. Not
only are these features weak, engaging any of them increases AC power consumption
to 195~200W. Our assessment: It probably didn’t take that much effort, time
or money, but please don’t bother next time!
TV Monitor for HTPC:- The failure of the network media file sharing
feature in the TV, and the incomplete support for audio in many mkv files
via USB makes a strong argument for a HTPC to be used with the UN55B7100.
Even a modest, cheap PC is far more flexible in its digital file management
than any TV, and issues such as video or audio codecs are solved easily
with quickly downloaded updates. (a couple of quick examples: The $499
retail Asus EeeBox EB1501 ION Mini-PC or my self-assembled ~$500 DIY
AMD780G-based A64-4850 CPU system with 4gb RAM and 500gb hard drive in Antec
NSK1480 case.) Virtually any movie file could be made playable. The
1080p movies that were played on the Samsung UN55B7100 from the HTPC provided
stunning video and audio indistinguishable from the original Blu-ray disc,
especially when the TV picture setting were slightly tweaked for best results
with the video card output of the PC. The video and audio connection via
HDMI worked perfectly — once a HDMI cable was found that worked. As
with almost all high tech consumer electronics/digital cables, getting them
to work is often hit-and-miss, despite "plug-and-play". SPCR has
a collection of about half a dozen different HDMI cables for this reason.
The native video processing in the Samsung TV is clearly superior to that
provided by the ATI-780G video/chipset in the PC, however, particularly
for lower resolution videos that require upsampling for fullscreen viewing
on this big TV. Time and time again, the TV’s USB input gave an immediately
acceptable, natural result while the same file via the HTPC would require
some tweaking to get it as good. Digital artifacts with low resolution videos
showed up far more often with the HTPC as well. Still, there’s no question
this Samsung is a magnificent HDTV for a HTPC.
Noise:- We couldn’t let a review go without some mention of noise,
could we?! There’s not much to say. When the speaker is muted, if you stick
your head behind the TV, you’ll hear some of the high frequency buzzing
that comes from every TV ever made. But like with most TVs, it’s nowhere
loud enough to be audible when anything is actually on and playing, at any
volume, especially not from the seated position.
BEHIND THE BACK PANEL
There were a couple of hints to this page. It was curiosity about the good
quality of the Samsung’s audio system that led to a session with a screwdriver…
so that the geekiest of our readers won’t feel compelled to do this at home.
The relatively thin steel, one-piece back panel came off easily enough.
Behind the back panel, it looks pretty clean and tidy.
The Samsung UN55B7100 is such a quantum leap over — not your Dad’s old
Trinitron, no — your own big-buck flat panel TV from just 2-3 years ago
that it’s hard to fathom without actually seeing it. With an involving, well-produced
movie in real 1080p format, this Samsung will draw you into the magic of movies
like never before at home. Even "ordinary" 1080i HD broadcast material
shows better with the Samsung excellent video processing. While the sound quality
lacks the authority, bass and impact of a discrete home theater system, it is
clear, rich and smooth enough to complement the video performance.
The energy efficiency is high enough that it consumes less power than any 40"
LCD TV more than say 2 years old, and probably just half that of a similar sized
plasma, so that you don’t have to feel any more eco-guilt as you sink deeper
into the couch with Samsung’s capable remote control. The LAN access ensures
web access to Blockbuster’s streaming service directly to the TV if you’re inclined
to a steady diet of mainstream movies. The USB 2.0 ports and the ability to
play video files directly from USB storage devices is very handy, especially
if you don’ve have a PC directly connected to the TV. While certainly not a
necessity, a HTPC fully complements the video entertainment options with the
Samsung, enabling a wider variety of source files than with just the TV alone.
Some of the features included in the UN55B7100 did not succeed. The networking
for TV access to media files in networked computers was a bust in this sample,
and the value of the "Content Libary" was completely lost on this
reviewer. But in the big picture, these were minor blips, perhaps a sign of
trying to offer too much value, rather than serious flaws.
It’s said that local dimming LED technology provides even better black depiction
at greater off-axis angles, with Samsung’s own 8000 Series offering this technology
for a thousand dollars extra (for a 55" model). But if that’s the only
significant gain, the premium is high; the benefit only relevant if you sit
far enough off axis that the bad angle itself will ensure a less than ideal
viewing experience anyway.
Pricing is always an important consideration. The $3,500 MSP (manufacturer’s
suggest price) is not exactly inexpensive for most people. But the unit can
be found in stores for nearly a thousand dollars less, and at ~$2,500,
it should be tempting whether you’re looking for an upgrade from your first
flat-panel or to get into a big TV for the first time. If this review sample
is indicative — the unit shows signs of wear that suggests it must have
wend about to other reviewers before SPCR — you will impressed. About the
only troubling aspect of this product review is the prospect of having to give
up the sample. The main reason the Samsung UN55B7100 does not get an Editor’s
Choice award is that it’s the first TV reviewed by SPCR.
Much thanks to Samsung Canada for the product sample.
* * *
Samsung UN55B7100 55" LED HDTV
Recommended by SPCR
* * *