Samsung UE40D7000 £1400
25th Jun 2011 | 08:30
Samsung's step-down D7000 series doesn't cut corners on the spec at all
With design currently riding high on the list of reasons people choose a particular TV, it's no surprise that Samsung's 2011 range of TVs appear to be selling so well again this year. For they consistently benefit from a combination of aesthetic flare and excellent build quality that no other brand can currently match.
Even by Samsung's routinely high design standards, though, the UED7000 series looks exceptional, thanks mostly to the fact that its bezel is so small you actually forget it's there. It's only a cm or so across, which is remarkable enough in itself, but it's 'invisibility' is underlined by the fact that its constructed from a see-through plastic.
Add this bezel to a rear that's less than 24mm deep, and you really do have the nearest thing yet to a 'floating screen'.
The technology making this design possible is edge LED lighting, while other key specifications of the screen include a full HD resolution, Samsung's '800 Clear Motion Rate' processing, and a truly comprehensive suite of multimedia tools that include the fullest expression of Samsung's Smart TV online system.
As one of Samsung's higher-end TVs, it's also no surprise to find the £1250 UE40D7000 carrying active 3D playback, with a single pair of active shutter glasses included for free.
Alongside the UE40D7000 in Samsung's range are the 46-inch UE46D7000, and 55-inch UE55D7000. There is actually one range of Samsung TVs above the D7000 series: the D8000 series. These are identical in specification to the D7000 models, though; their only point of difference is that they slip a bit of shiny, silver metal into the bezel design and charge you more for the privilege.
One step down Samsung's LCD range, meanwhile, is the D65 series, which use a slightly more straightforward design and a less powerful video processor which 'only' delivers 400CMR.
If you fancy a top-end Samsung 3D plasma TV instead, you're looking at the D8000 plasma range - though please note that while still very attractive, the D8000 plasmas don't carry the ultra-slim bezels of the LED models.
There aren't many stones Samsung has left unturned with the UE40D7000 in its quest to deliver a truly high-end TV. For a start, its design, is a huge selling feature in itself, thanks to its almost impossibly slender bezel and tiny rear. The technology that's gone into creating this look is itself remarkable. But it's just the tip of the iceberg.
A big hint at just how much the UE40D7000 has got going on inside its svelte form comes from its connections. For a start, it's got four HDMI inputs, all built to the v1.4 spec. This up-to-date HDMI spec is important because it means they're capable of taking in full HD 'active' 3D images from 3D Blu-ray players.
Also significant is the UE40D7000's carriage of three USBs. This initially looks a bit OTT, actually, even given the wide variety of video, photo and music file formats the USB slots can play back. But then you realise that the TV can use one of the USBs to record to USB HDDs from its built-in HD tuners (the set carries both Freeview HD and Freesat HD tuners).
The UE40D7000 has a LAN port, as required of any Freeview HD TV. But with TVs commonly not sitting conveniently close to broadband routers, it's a relief to find that it's also got built-in Wi-Fi - a feature that will hopefully become standard in 2012, but which this year remains disappointingly rare in the TV world.
The Wi-Fi/LAN options have two distinct but equally important purposes. First, they can be used to pipe in multimedia files of most types from a networked DLNA PC. But even better, they provide your means of access to the full version of Samsung's Smart TV online service.
This means it benefits from the Skype and Web browser features absent from some of Samsung's lower-end Smart TVs - anything below the D65 series, in fact. Though note that you can only use the Skype functionality if you add an optional extra Samsung webcam.
The amount of services available on Samsung's Smart TV platform really is extensive these days. Sensibly divided into separate 'Premium' (largely video-based) and secondary tiers, the available services and smaller 'apps' include the BBC iPlayer; BBC News; the AceTrax movie purchase/rental service; LoveFilm; Muzu TV; Facebook; Twitter; Skype; a relatively new 3D video channel featuring documentaries and music videos for the most part; and more basic game and infotainment apps than you can shake a very large stick at.
It remains the case that many of the secondary apps are of minority interest at best, but there has perhaps been a little refinement in their quality since the first of 2011's Samsung TVs rolled in.
Turning to the features provided for calibrating the UE40D7000's pictures, they're reasonably extensive. There are white balance and gamma adjustments, a degree of colour management (though professional installers would doubtless wish for more here), various noise reduction systems, a series of themed picture presets, and an impressive amount of control over Samsung's motion processing system that allows you to manually tweak its judder and blur components.
With 2D footage, the UE40D7000 exhibits all the impressive image trademarks that have made Samsung's sets so successful - commercially and critically - this year.
The edge LED illumination is able to kick out prodigious amounts of brightness, for a start, giving pictures an immediately arresting appearance that looks all the more eye-catching thanks to the fact that the images are emerging from seemingly nowhere, thanks to the see-through and tiny nature of the bezel.
The brightness is put to good use in pumping out frequently spectacular colour tones and saturations, enabling light, colourful content to look exceptionally dynamic and punchy. Actually, if you stick with the TV's presets, the dynamism is a bit too strong, leaving some colours looking slightly over-wrought. But it doesn't take a great deal of effort in the set-up menus to get tones looking natural and well balanced while still retaining plenty of vibrancy.
Underpinning the 40D7000's cloud-pleasing colours and brightness is one of the LCD world's finest black level performances. Make sure the set's backlight adjustment is nudged down to around its half-way point on Samsung's scale and you'll enjoy dark scenes that suffer remarkably little with the grey 'mist' effect associated with low-contrast LCD TVs. You're not quite talking a level of blackness to rival what you might get from the best plasma or even direct LED TVs, but it's hard to think of any edge LED model that does black levels better.
What's even better about this is that the blackness is achieved without having to take anywhere near as much brightness out of pictures as might have been expected. This means that where predominantly dark shots have a couple of bright, colourful elements within them, those bright elements still look punchy and believable. It also means that all but the very darkest areas of the picture retain more shadow detail than you might expect, giving them a sense of depth comparable with that evident during bright scenes.
The UE40D7000 also scores serious points with its sharpness. HD 2D footage looks incredibly rich in detail and exceptionally crisp, helped considerably by the screen's intense brightness and some very good motion response.
There's precious little blur and only minor judder to report even with Samsung's motion processing turned off, but if you want to experiment with this processing system, your best bet is to manually adjust the processing's judder and blur components, setting them to one of their bottom two 'power levels'. If you don't, you might find that the picture starts to look a bit artificial and processed, with flickering and artefacts around the edges of moving objects.
More good news concerns the UE40D7000's standard definition 2D video, as the onboard upscaling processing system proves arguably the best in the consumer TV business right now when it comes to adding detail and sharpness while simultaneously suppressing noise and retaining colour accuracy.
There are a couple of flaws with 2D material to report. First, there are minor signs during dark scenes of backlight inconsistency/clouding, where the edge LED system causes some sections of dark scenes to look slightly brighter than others. This issue is actually quite distracting using many of the screen's presets, but if you're sensibly brutal with the backlight control you should find the residual minor lighting inconsistencies a small price to pay for all the strengths elsewhere.
The only thing worth adding here is that it might be interesting to see if Samsung could get rid of this backlight issue if it wasn't so obsessed with making its top-end screens so painstakingly thin.
The other issue is common to practically all LCD TVs; namely that colour and contrast levels reduce during off-axis viewing.
When it comes to 3D, the UE40D7000 isn't quite so assured, for one simple reason: crosstalk noise. Bright scenes don't suffer much with crosstalk's double-ghosting flaw, but bright objects set against dark backgrounds certainly can suffer with noticeable 'echoes' of themselves. This can make dark 3D scenes rather fatiguing to watch, as well as giving the impression of reduced detail.
In other respects, though, the UE40D7000's 3D images are good. Detail levels are very high off 3D full HD Blu-rays when crosstalk isn't in play, and 3D images look quite bright and vibrantly coloured - certainly compared with Panasonic's otherwise exemplary 3D plasma images.
Sound, value and ease of use
The audio quality on Samsung's previous generations of 'ultra-slim' TVs has been a bit of an industry joke, sounding every bit as thin and 'hardly there' as the TV's bodies.
Thankfully, the UE40D7000 delivers a solid step in the right audio direction, somehow managing to produce a passably satisfying combination of volume, dynamic range and mid-range clarity from its practically non-existent bodywork.
More bass would have been the icing on the cake, but the fact that there's any sense of bass at all is quite impressive given the lack of physical room for any normal speaker 'boxes'.
It's impossible to pretend that £1250 isn't a lot to ask for a 40-inch TV these days. But the UE40D7000 works very hard to justify its cost. Its design is genuinely innovative, for a start, and the extent of its multimedia functionality is prodigious. Its online Smart TV service is particularly impressive.
It's also got little 'value-added' bits and bobs like built-in Wi-Fi, separate Freeview and Freesat HD tuners, and recording onto USB HDDs via any of a trio of USB ports.
Best of all, though, it delivers Samsung's most uncompromising 2D picture quality yet, setting a new bar for the edge LED world.
The appearance of crosstalk over some 3D scenes does slightly dent the UE40D7000's value credentials, perhaps, but even if you only end up using its 3D talents occasionally it's still got enough going on to justify its cost - especially if you're a dedicated follower of technology fashion.
Ease of use
Considering how many features it's got onboard, the UE40D7000 is surprisingly easy to use. The main reason for this is its inspired 'Smart Hub' interface, which manages to provide a one-stop leaping off point to a huge amount of sources and Smart TV services and apps without looking cluttered or confusing.
The apps store is very easy on the eye too, and the Smart TV and Smart Hub options load quickly and react swiftly to your selections.
It's also helpful that Samsung has kept its calibration menus completely separate to its 'Smart Hub' menus. This is a much more sensible approach than that employed by LG with its otherwise similar Smart Hub system, which requires you to have go into the Hub source menu before you can access the calibration menus.
The UE40D7000's remote control is generally sensible too, with a comfortable feel and a good button layout that puts most of the set's key buttons in suitably prominent places. Samsung has also given a pleasing amount of key features dedicated buttons on the remote, including its 3D tools.
You can get an optional touch-screen remote for the TV that's a big help when it comes to inputting text into the Web browser - though before you rush out and buy one, it can be a little fiddly for other aspects of the TV's operation.
The UE40D7000's onscreen menus are perfect. There's an unnecessary and confusing division of some of the subtler picture features into two separate 'advanced'-style submenus, and bizarrely the set's important Game preset is tucked away in an obscure System submenu rather than being placed with the other picture presets.
These relatively small aberrations aren't likely to provide any many major headaches to the average TV user, though.
Nobody knows how to make a TV look better than Samsung. But even by the Korean brand's usual standards the UE40D7000 is a sight to behold. In fact, the way it manages to produce edge LED images while seemingly having hardly any edge seems to defy the laws of science. Gorgeous.
Since it shares the same specification as Samsung's flagship D8000 LED TVs (the D8000s just have a slightly fancier finish), it's no surprise to find the UE40D7000 sporting a prodigious set of features.
Headlining are its 3D playback capabilities, which are of the full HD active type. But probably more routinely useful is Samsung's Smart TV online service, with its truly extensive level of content, including plenty of video streaming platforms.
The TV also supports multimedia playback from USB sticks and DLNA PCs, and the interface provided for dealing with all of these multimedia sources is unprecedentedly good at handling huge amounts of information without becoming confusing.
The ultimate ace up the UE40D7000's sleeve, though, is its superb 2D picture quality. Sharp HD detailing, brilliant standard definition upscaling, knockout colours, and a cracking contrast range - despite pictures looking unusually bright - make it the current pick of the 40-inch edge LED crop for anyone willing to pay for its premium quality.
Its 3D playback has numerous strengths too, though in the end it's a touch more defined by the appearance of crosstalk during dark scenes than we'd ideally have liked. This might potentially be a deal breaker if you're going to use 3D regularly - maybe for gaming or watching lots of films. But if you only envisage using 3D occasionally, the set's 2D talents, design glories and extensive features make it well worth saving for.
As well as looking a million dollars, the UE40D7000's ultra-slim bezel and ridiculously trim rear allow it to be much less dominant a presence in a typical living room than most 40-inch TVs.
The UE40D7000's class-leadingly huge list of potential video and multimedia sources continues the futuristic theme established by the design, and the operating system for handling all these sources is superbly designed.
Finally, the UE40D7000's 2D picture quality is outstanding.
While many things about the UE40D7000's 3D pictures are very good, it does unfortunately suffer with noticeable crosstalk noise during dark scenes.
The set suffers minor backlight inconsistencies too (though you can minimise these via careful manipulation of the TV's brightness and backlight settings), and in keeping with most LCD TVs, pictures lose colour saturation when viewed from an angle.
Samsung's UE40D7000 is bristling with innovation and cutting edge features, from its astonishingly svelte design through to its mammoth and beautifully organised online Smart TV platform, PC file playback and outstandingly constructed and presented operating system.
While this is all handy in justifying the UE40D7000's fairly high price point, though, what really matters about Samsung's 40-inch beauty queen is that it produces superb 2D picture quality, regardless of whether you're watching HD or standard def.
Its 3D pictures are only good rather than great thanks to the appearance of occasional crosstalk, but only die-hard 3D gamers or 3D movie fans will likely find this a deal breaker.
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