Samsung UE46C7000 £1300
18th Feb 2011 | 16:27
A winning HD TV, but you'd better look elsewhere for 3D thrills
Samsung UE46C7000: Overview
Samsung's concentration on aesthetics and high-end features goes down very well in the mass market, but the 7 Series screen won't appeal to everyone. Design-wise, it's part stunning, part gaudy; a black frame with silver highlights is bookended by a mirrored strip along the bottom of the TV. There's also an unusual spider stand that's very reflective, though a screen this slim is surely destined for a wall.
A mere 26.5mm deep around the sides and only 29mm deep in the middle, the UE46C7000 – while not as slim as Samsung's 8mm-deep 9 Series – is impressively tiny.
An edge LED backlight helps create this slimness, but there's a lot more to the UE46C7000, including 3D, a Freeview HD tuner and Samsung's expanding Internet@TV service.
Elsewhere in the 7 Series are the 40-inch UE40C7000 and 55-inch UE55C7000. Also in the 7 Series are two plasmas, the 63-inch PS63C7000 and 50-inch PS50C7000, while slimmer sets lie higher-up Samsung's ranges.
In a move that sees all of its Series 7 and above screens fitted with virtually the same comprehensive feature set, slimness and finish appear to be the only differences.
The 8 Series measures 23mm in depth and comprises a 65-inch UE65C8000, 46-inch UE46C8000 and 40-inch UE40C8000, while the flagship, titanium-coloured 9 Series – which manage a startling 8mm – comprises the 46-inch UE55C9000 and 55-inch UE55C9000. Essentially, the UE46C7000 is a cheaper version of those, though it shows only in the outward design.
Samsung UE46C7000: Features
Two pairs of £130 active shutter 3D glasses (SSG2100RB models) are included in the box, but whether you're happy to splash out extra on additional pairs for your kids or friends is another matter (especially for the latter – there are few worthwhile 3D movies for anyone out of primary school).
The UE46C7000 uses active shutter technology, which is marketed as the highest quality of 3D available. It's about to come under intense pressure from Samsung's Korean rival LG, which used January's CES to criticise the technology, arguing that it caused nausea and headaches. LG is about to push a set of cheaper 3D TVs that use passive polarised technology; while this can't deliver full HD to both eyes, as the UE46C7000 can, the 3D specs will cost just a few quid.
Before you think 'format war', bear in mind that it doesn't really matter which 3D tech you buy into – if you like active shutter 3D images (it's advisable to compare 3D on LCD/LED and plasma before making a decision) and you can afford it, there's really no problem.
Ultimately though, the UE46C7000 will please those not even remotely interested in the third dimension. Its in and outputs befit a mid-range TV, though that 29mm depth has been achieved only with an army of adaptors.
On the reverse we counted Ethernet LAN, two Scarts (one RGB), component video, composite video, analogue audio ins, PC VGA and PC audio in, all of which are strung out across the bottom and all of which require additional adaptor cables that measure around seven inches. However, it's not a major issue since the resulting mess of bulky cable joins is hidden by the screen.
Along the inside right-hand side of the TV are the 'major' inputs, including four HDMI inputs (all version 1.4 for 3D, and one with an audio return channel) below a stunning three USB ports. One is capable of making recordings to a USB stick or external hard-disk drive.
Above that, fairly high-up the TV's side, is an optical digital audio output, an analogue audio output, a Common Interface slot and – right up in the top left-hand corner of the screen, a headphones jack.
On the video side, the UE46C7000 includes 3D HyperReal Engine picture processing, Wide Colour Enhancer Plus and Clear Motion Rate 600.
The integrated Freeview HD tuner will attract many, as should Samsung's Internet@TV service. The latter's (already) dated interface includes access to the BBC iPlayer, Lovefilm, Facebook and Twitter among a roster that also includes Acetrax (movie streaming à la Lovefilm), Dailymotion, Picasa, Getty Images, AccuWeather, Google Maps, Rovi (TV listings), The History Channel ('this day in history' text, no video), Muzu.TV and USA Today (news).
Skype is also present. Using a Samsung-specific Freetalk TV camera (£134.88 from skype.com) that also works on the brand's C8000 Series, you can use the UE46C7000 for voice and/or video calling.
One real shame is the expensive TV's lack of built-in Wi-Fi, though at least there are plenty of USB ports free if you feel like investing in Samsung's £50 WIS09ABGN LinkStick Wi-Fi dongle.
Samsung UE46C7000: Picture
While 2D is handled with aplomb, Samsung's UE46C7000 really struggles with 3D material. With Monster House playing on 3D Blu-ray, there is an overriding sense of unreality – surely the opposite of what 3D should be trying to achieve.
Rather than mirror how two-eyed animals see the world, the UE46C7000 tends to place the in-focus areas of a shot at the front. The result is a mess of depths and angles, double echoes and crosstalk issues that render the whole image confusing. There are moment of cohesion when the effect is multi-layered and impressive, but even then total immersion is tricky; even at 46-inches the screen simply doesn't seem large enough.
The most significant problems occur with movement. Just as most LCD TVs struggled with any kind of moving video until relatively recently, this capable LED-backlit LCD panel delivers 3D objects that stutter and appear stepped when they move, something that's incredibly uncomfortable to watch.
What the ultra-bright UE46C7000 doesn't do – which 3D plasmas tend to – is reduce the brightness of the panel when watching in 3D. Don those 3D glasses and the picture retains its vivid colours, while the contrast holds up reasonably well, too.
One thing to remember about edge LED sets is that they're all about slimness, with an uneven brightness almost always noticeable. That's the case with the UE46C7000: bright spots are visible along the bottom of the panel and are particularly obvious during contrast-rich footage and CinemaScope-shaped Blu-ray discs, whether 2D or 3D.
The 2D-to-3D conversion almost salvages the UE46C7000. An as-live conversion of athletics on BBC1 produces mixed results, with some footage not appearing in 3D at all. Other scenes, such as a close-up of some hurdlers racing towards the camera, proved as convincing – if not more so – than some 3D Blu-ray discs.
It's true that the main focus of the frame is either sucked into the foreground and the rest sent backwards, which creates a distorted depth, while much of the time the picture is completely misinterpreted by the TV, but it's not nearly as uncomfortable to watch as you might expect.
Thankfully, the UE46C7000 has plenty of other points of interest and skills, chief of which is standard 2D Blu-ray. A blast of the BBC's Yellowstone documentary reveals some excellent nuanced colours amid a bright, vibrant picture that shows-off the great outdoors in sublime fashion. Flick on something a little more moody, and the UE46C7000 manages an image with just about enough contrast, albeit with a slightly blue hue.
Although it's not exactly scarred by motion blur during 2D material, the UE46C7000's LED Motion Plus motion compensation mode works well, which is actually quite rare. It's best left on a low setting, but worth experimenting with since there's less flicker around moving objects than we've seen on rival models' frame interpolation modes.
Freeview HD fare has a similarly sublime service and even standard-definition stuff is clean and bright and without the 'wobble' that is often obvious when digital TV broadcasts are blown up to this huge size.
It might not be big enough or capable enough as a 3DTV, but the UE46C7000 proves itself hugely impressive with all other sources.
Samsung UE46C7000: Sound, value and ease of use
Samsung has very obviously gone for a slim profile at the cost of palatable audio.
The UE46C7000 is fitted with down firing, 10W stereo speakers that muster just enough for normal digital TV, but get completely lost if you watch a movie. SRS TheaterSound has several effects: Music (more bass), Movie (a more even mix), Clear Voice (treble-heavy) and Amplify (increases background audio volume).
Activate SRS TruSurround HD and dialogue seems to sink amid no real sense of rear effects, while SRS TruDialog simply pushes the treble and flattens background effects.
Having lost a third of its value since its 2010 launch, there's a suggestion that this 46-inch edge LED-backlit LCD (or just 'LED', as Samsung prefers to market this tweak of old-fashioned LCD technology) is more delectable wallflower than 3D powerhouse.
It's a mixed bag, but this is the smallest size you should plump for if you want your 3D to be at all immersive. If you can go higher still, do so – and ironically, the perfect candidate exists elsewhere in Samsung's range. That Samsung's 6 Series full HD 3D plasma is bigger and cheaper virtually renders the UE46C7000 pointless, though not quite; that plasma is a 'whopping' 71mm in depth, which may be too much for some to stomach.
Ease of use
As well as LED slimness, the UE46C7000 is extremely touchy-feely. Along the bottom right-hand side of the TV's frame are a few buttons that light up when touched, though they're needlessly labelled.
The remote control is similarly high-end in look, with a brushed metallic appearance and soft rubber dividers between rows of buttons. The size of the keys, their responsiveness and even the large fonts used are excellent, though we're not sure how rugged or long lasting the plastic remote will prove to be; it's brushed metallic in look only.
The UE46C7000's onscreen menus are typical Samsung fare in that they're simple and comprehensive. The way they're laid out is rather linear and nowhere near as modern as, say, Sony's Xross Media Bar or LG's grid-style approach, but it all ties together well.
The central menu's picture settings include the usual Movie/Natural/Standard/Dynamic settings, though there are some high-end options hidden away in the Advanced Settings section. In there you'll find adjustments for gamma, white balance and colour space, though the main feature to pay attention to is LED Motion Plus, Samsung's effort at frame interpolation technology to reduce motion blur.
Dedicated 3D picture settings include a depth scale (one to 10) and a picture correction mode, but the most unusual is 2D-3D conversion. Flick that on and the channel you're watching suddenly converts to 3D – with mixed, though generally impressive, results.
The eight-day electronic programme guide for Freeview HD is superb. It contains information across two hours for six channels at once, with a brief description of each programme above alongside a small screen showing the channel you're currently watching.
You can use a USB stick to make recordings, but the TV attempts to persuade you to use a proper external HDD. We formatted an 8GB stick then managed to record A Question of Sport simply by pressing the remote's record button, with an option appearing to either record the entire programme, or in 10-minute increments up to 360 minutes. Recordings can only be played back on this TV, while an arguably more useful pause/rewind live TV function is also available.
Using a wholly different menu system is Internet@TV, which is reached via a dedicated button on the TV's remote. More details are here, but know that this hub is richer in content than most and as easy to use as any. Its dated look is immaterial, and that should change with the introduction of Samsung's new Smart Hub, due in March.
The UE46C7000's treatment of multimedia files via USB is similarly comprehensive without being particularly attractive. Insert a USB stick and you're presented with the option of playing back music, video, photos or recorded TV programmes. Virtually all video formats are supported, including DivX and DivX HD files, though music is limited to the MP3 format.
Samsung UE46C7000: Verdict
Able to display 2D and 3D – and even convert one into the other (great if you've just shelled-out on extra 3D glasses), Samsung's UE46C7000 is stuck in the middle. Not able to produce brilliant 3D but excellent with 2D, it has much the same problems as its far better looking Series 8 and Series 9 screens.
Freeview HD and 2D Blu-ray are sublime, while standard-definition fare is upscaled well. BBC iPlayer via Internet@TV service is a bonus, as is pausing and recording live TV, while the touch sensitive remote control is better than most. It's far from perfect, but 2D to 3D conversion is worth persevering with if you're set on creating a 3D experience.
Confusing, uncomfortable 3D and a feeling that even this 46-inch size isn't large enough, with edge LED backlighting that's uneven and blotchy, Samsung is being a tad too ambitious with the UE46C7000. The slimness will appeal to some, though if you're after a seriously cinematic picture it's always best to completely ignore aesthetics – and slimness always comes at a price.
We're not sure who the UE46C7000 is aimed at. For a number of reasons, active shutter 3D footage looks far better on a much cheaper, bigger plasma, as proved by Samsung itself. There's also still a niggling feeling that even this huge size of screen just isn't big enough for 3D to be completely convincing – and a warning to avoid 2011's upcoming raft of 32-inch '3D-ready' TVs.
Which, in effect, makes this 7 Series screen – and all of the other screens higher-up in Samsung's range – all about edge LED, and all about depth. If you're after a shallow screen, you've got a great candidate in the UE46C7000, though even its relatively stylish good looks don't compare to its 9 Series siblings.
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