Samsung UE40C7000 £1800
25th Feb 2010 | 17:41
Samsung's first 3D TV under the microscope
Samsung 40C7000 3D TV: Overview
So, the UK's first 3D TV is here, in the shape of the 40-inch Samsung 40C7000 LCD.
There's been so much hype about 3D in the home, that an enormous amount depends on the impression this first set makes; if people don't take to 3D at once, the feature may never take off.
Cleverly, Samsung has come up with a TV so stunning that 3D is only one of its attractions.
3D is well established in cinemas; the success of recent 3D productions such as Monsters Vs Aliens has been enough to convince theatre managers that it's worth investing in the necessary projection and viewing hardware.
There's a fun element in putting on the specs and ooh-ing and aah-ing at the more outrageous 3D effects which seems to add to the cinematic experience.
But will 3D technology translate well into the home? There are all sorts of problems to overcome; the cost of the glasses, the availability of 3D material, the choice of different technologies and the question of viewer comfort, for starters.
One way the Samsung 40C7000 overcomes the problem of availability of 3D material is that it features a 2D-3D conversion function which will add depth to any flat image.
Of course, it doesn't work as well as with genuine 3D-mastered material; the only way to get the full effect is from a 3D-enabled Blu-ray player. Fortunately Samsung also supplied one of those for our tests; a BD-C6900, which should hit the shops slightly before the TV.
Of course, the other source for 3D material will be broadcast, and the broadcaster making the biggest noise about 3D at the moment is Sky.
Emphasising sports material in its 3D offering, Sky is learning difficult lessons about how to shoot and edit in 3D; in its trial broadcasts of football matches, it has had to arrange for two completely separate shooting and commentary teams, one 2D, the other 3D.
This may become an established practice, as 3D tends to work best with wide shots and slow cuts, and doesn't suit the frenetic cutting style of standard sports broadcasts.
But as we've said, there's more to this Samsung than 3D, so let's canter through the features.
Samsung 40C7000 3D TV: Features
The screen is an Active Shutter set fully compliant with both 3D Blu-ray and Sky.
We actually looked at two models, an engineering sample and a marketing sample; neither were 100 per cent finished (no Samsung screen currently in circulation is production ready), but between the two we experienced all the major features.
Amusingly, the manual features dire warnings about the consequences should anyone who is pregnant, epileptic, elderly or under the age of six attempt to view 3D; we were just worried about whether it would give us a headache.
The set is compatible with several standard 3D modes; side-by-side, top and bottom, line-by-line, vertical stripe, checker-board and obviously frame sequential BD.
All are designed work with Samsung's Active LCD shuttered glasses. The model provided for this test was the SSG2100AB, a lightweight battery-powered model costing around £100 each; there will also be a rechargeable model available at a higher cost.
It's unlikely that glasses from other manufacturers will be compatible.
The glasses work by syncing via an IR signal to the frame-rate of the 3D material; annoyingly, they don't actually give any indication whether they're On or Off, you just have to fiddle with power button until something happens. However, when they are switched on, they do activate themselves when they sense a 3D signal.
If you've selected 3D mode on your player and TV, you should then see the 3D effect.
This is an LED edge-backlit LCD set, and as you would expect from this screen technology, is incredibly thin, at only 27mm deep. Given its other dimensions of 757x579mm and weight of 15kg with the stand, it's not surprising that can you comfortably carry it under one arm.
It's so thin in fact, that it doesn't have space on the back for most types of standard socket, so you're provided with special adaptors for Scart, LAN, antenna, optical digital audio, PC, component video and AV connections.
On the side are four HDMI sockets; these are HDMI V1.4 compatible, and thereby hangs a tale. 3D requires an HDMI V1.4 connection, so the single HDMI socket on the BD-C6900 has to connect to the TV via a V1.4 compatible cable.
This means that you can't connect the player to your existing surround-sound amplifier via HDMI.
Panasonic is getting around this by adding a second HDMI output to its players; Samsung's solution is to offer 7.1 multi-channel analogue audio outputs on its BD-C6900 player.
There's also a headphone socket, a CI card slot and a USB socket. By connecting a hard drive to this socket, you can turn the TV into a PVR; recordings (including HD) will only be viewable on that TV, but the PVR functions clearly adds a lot of appeal to the system.
The C7000 incorporates a Freeview HD tuner, and since the first Freeview HD set-top boxes are just hitting the shops, this alone is enough to make it worthy of attention.
The 40C7000 can also access internet content using Samsung's Internet@TV portal, either by direct connection to a network or via a modem.
Samsung 40C7000 3D TV: Performance
The 3D concept is obviously going to be of most interest for potential buyers.
We all know roughly how it works; the TV image is split into two, shot from slightly different angles; the glasses separate the images into left and right eye, and the brain combines them to give an illusion of depth. If you only have one eye, it's not going to work for you.
The TV's 3D functions support resolutions of 1280x720p at 50/60Hz, 1920x1080i at 50/60Hz, and 1920x1080p at 24/30/50/60Hz. In PC input mode, resolution is set to 1920x1080.
There are various functions to adjust the 3D effect, including a Depth parameter, and L/R Picture Correction.
So we sat and watched a Monsters Vs. Aliens 3D Blu-ray disc. Samsung will be bundling this with some hardware options – in the UK this seems unlikely to be with the TV or the BD player, it'll more likely ship with a glasses pack.
Either way, it's a strong title to aim at the family market, but it doesn't go over the top with its 3D effects; most of them are quite subtle, with only the odd in-your-face effect.
It's hard to explain stereoscopic 3D if you've never seen it; it certainly adds a sense of depth to the image, but it's more like a pop-up book than Star Wars hologram; in other words, you tend to see objects in the foreground, while the background is, er, in the background.
Then occasionally something will leap out of the depth plane and appear to be in front of the screen.
The question is how solid the effect appears; if there's any blur around the edges of objects, the effect is spoiled.
As for the 2D-to-3D conversion, we were just amazed that it worked at all.
Of course, the frame-delay technique it uses to generate the 3D effects gives unpredictable results; we got some good effects with footage of skaters on an ice rink, but with an image of newsreaders at a desk, their heads appeared to be in the foreground and their bodies in the background; most disconcerting.
We can't imagine it adding much enjoyment to Eastenders.
Samsung 40C7000 3D TV: Verdict
For a first 3D TV, this is an interesting product. The question remains whether 3D will catch on in terms of the amount of media and broadcasts which use it, or whether it will become a niche format for kids' cartoons, sports TV and gaming.
To make the most of 3D will cost you £100 per set of glasses, plus the cost of a 3D Blu-ray player (around £300), plus the costs of the 3D Blu-ray discs (which might be around £50 each).
This is a well-specified set with a host of user parameters, USB and internet functions, and the potential to expand.
The Freeview HD compatibility, and PVR, internet and wireless functions make this more than a TV; it's the centre of a home entertainment hub, and well specified for the digital, multimedia future.
Connections can be rather fiddly, as the supplied adaptors have to be used for several sockets; but as this is probably a one-time job it's not too much of a worry.
The 3D functions adds a price premium to the set, the necessary glasses, the desirable Blu-ray player and the essential 3D media, which might prove to be a fad - and that's assuming that you find the 3D effect entertaining enough to bother with.
Ultimately, we believe that the 3D functions will work better with a larger set. If you are keen on 3D, a larger set may be desirable.
In conclusion, this is a fine set with state-of-the-art LED backlighting technology, it has Internet capabilities, Freeview HD built-in and the options of PVR and wireless functions.
It's beautifully light and slim, and has a fancy remote control handset which will look good on your coffee table. If it's in your price-bracket, even if the 3D glasses end up gathering dust on a shelf, we don't reckon you'll be sorry you bought this Samsung.
This review was written in conjunction with Home Cinema Choice magazine:
For more coverage of this groundbreaking set, look out for the in-depth review in Home Cinema Choice issue 180, on sale March 11.