The Samsung UA56B7000 is a remarkable television. It suffers slightly from backlight bleeding but the viewing angles have greatly improved over previous models and, most importantly, the image quality is great.
The flat panel television market has undergone some major changes of late. The battle between LCD and Plasma has shifted with the introduction of LED panels. These aren’t a new type of panel but more a new light source for LCD TVs. Instead of using a fluorescent back light, the panel uses LEDs which offer better control of the light, lower power consumption and since LEDs take up less space, the new range of panels can be ultra thin. Those that have always touted plasma as superior due to its accurate black levels now have to rethink as LEDs allow black levels comparable to plasma.
The Samsung UA56B7000 is a remarkable television. The first generation of LED TVs were promising but had some massive shortcomings mostly from backlight bleeding and poor viewing angles. While this unit isn’t the premium range of LED TVs that Samsung has on offer, it is quite an impressive unit. It still suffers slightly from backlight bleeding but the viewing angles have greatly improved and, most importantly, the image quality is incredibly crisp with accurate colours and a good range of customisation options.
In addition to the image quality, the unit also has a wide range of features such as an integrated media player, the ability to stream music, images and video over a home network and internet enabled features as well. These were all included in the previous generation of panels but they are nonetheless a value added feature that sets Samsung apart from its competitors. Others have similar features but none are quite as good.
We tested the image quality in 1080p resolution using Blu-ray films, HD games and our HD testing patterns. In default mode, the sharpness levels are set far too high and we suggest reducing it or turning sharpness to zero. With just a few minor adjustments, we were able to achieve an ideal set up. We also turned the backlights up a little as well. By default they are set to five, which is a little too dark. Increasing the backlights will also increase power consumption, so keep that in mind if power conservation is a major concern to you.
At 1080p, the images were crisp and colours were perfect. There were no overblown tones and the contrast between light and dark areas was handled brilliantly. Most importantly, the black levels were highly accurate. The unit also offers black level customisation which, while useful, you shouldn’t really need to use. The initial settings are adequate for watching movies and playing games but if you want even deeper blacks you have the option to boost black levels. However, keep in mind that doing so sacrifices contrast a little.
We also tested in 720p resolution and in standard definition 576i. In both the panel performed beautifully. There was no scaling issues in standard definition and 720p HD sources looked excellent.
This unit has 100Hz technology as well, although they have made some improvements to it that allow the levels to be tweaked in a variety of ways. Rather than three or four levels of motion control, you now also have the option to change different aspects of it as well. Since many users complain that motion control tends to remove any film-like quality from movies, using these options you can find a healthy balance, essentially removing most judder without losing the motion blur that film requires.
While this is a great television, it isn’t without its flaws. The most noticeable is backlight bleeding in the lower corners of the screen. It isn’t noticeable when the whole screen is filled with an image but when the screen is black or you are watching a widescreen movie with black bars top and bottom, is can be clearly seen. It’s not a massive problem but it is still a problem nonetheless. Also, while improved from previous models, the vertical viewing angle leaves a lot to be desired. In a regular lounge room set up, this won’t be a problem since most of the time you will be seated in front of the TV anyway. However, it does limit the angle you can put the TV if you are mounting it high on a wall above the viewer.
The design of the panel is exquisite. It not only looks great but it is also one of the thinnest panels we have ever seen. It’s fairly lightweight and, on the whole, looks very sophisticated. The rear panel has four HDMI connections and one component and one composite connection. However, in an effort to conserve space, composite and component cables can’t be plugged directly into the TV – a breakout cable is provided. We would have liked to see more than one component connection since many people have some older HD devices that don’t use HDMI. There is also a 15pin D-Sub connection to hook up a PC.
Samsung are currently leading the LED TV market and this model, when released, has a good chance to win over more than just the early adopters as it’s vastly superior to most traditional LCD televisions and gives most plasmas a run for their money as well. Samsung are also planning to release a Series 8 as their premium range which, if this series 7 is anything to go by, should be exciting. Price-wise, the UA46B7000 is a mid-range LEDTV, and is only differentiated from the entry level series 6 by its inclusion of connectivity features like DLNA video streaming and web based widgets.
The Series 7 should be available mid-may. The recommended retail price for the 46inch model is $4499. The 40 inch model is $3899 and the 55inch is $5799.
Also available: Series 6 – 40″ $3699, 46″ $ 4499, 55″ $5499