Samsung UE55B7020 LCD TV £2100
4th Jan 2010 | 13:00
Impressive 55-inch pictures are marred by an insidious LED backlight flaw
If you want to see the future of TV design, look no further than the truly stunning Samsung UE55B7020. This is the largest of the range at 55-inches so if you're looking for something a bit smaller you should have a look at the UE40B7020.
For, despite boasting a huge 55in screen, its rear end sticks out less than 30mm. Add to this a lovely glass-like finish and a transparent frame that extends a centimetre or so beyond the main black bezel, and you've got one truly stylish screen.
You might think that Samsung couldn't fit many connections or features into such a skinny body, but you'd be wrong. For instance, you get a healthy four HDMIs, a PC port, and an Ethernet port for hooking up to either a DLNA PC or Samsung's solid, widgets-based online service.
Dubbed Media 2.0, this currently includes YouTube, Flickr and news, weather or finance reports. Two USBs can play back a decent variety of multimedia file formats, or get you online wirelessly, via an optional (£30 or so) Wi-Fi dongle. It's a shame that the latter isn't included.
The 55B7020 also has a unique built-in library of multimedia content, while carrying a reasonable array of picture processing tricks, including 100Hz, an Edge Enhancement tool and Samsung's own, multi-purpose Digital Natural Image engine.
The screen claims to deliver a 'Mega' contrast ratio, thanks to its use of LED backlighting.
Since the diodes are arranged around the 55B7020's bezel to keep the design so thin, you don't get the local dimming feature possible with a 'direct' array, where they are sited right behind the screen.
But as we've seen with other 7000 and 8000 models, the lack of local dimming doesn't mean the technology can't produce a good black level response when required.
You can also tweak such niceties as a skin tone adjustor, the underlying gamma level and the extent of noise reduction applied to the picture.
Ease of use
The 55B7020's onscreen menus are decently enough organised and presented. Except, perhaps, for the rather confusing separation of some key options into two separate menus, dubbed Advanced Settings and Picture Options.
The remote control, meanwhile, is rather nice, with a glossy finish, dramatic but ergonomic shape and spacious, logical button layout.
After reading glowing reviews of Samsung's edge-lit LED TVs, you might have high hopes of the 55B7020's pictures, but sadly it's a bit of a let-down.
First impressions, familiar from Samsung's other LED sets, are good. Its pictures are superbly dynamic, thanks to the way a wide and extremely well saturated palette of colours combines with a black level response that leaves most standard CCFL LCD flatscreens looking comparatively grey and short of shadow detail.
The colours aren't just vibrant, either: They're natural in tone and contain some really subtle detailing, even with standard-def sources.
The set also delivers HD pictures that look as scintillatingly sharp and detailed as those of the company's smaller LED TVs. In fact, we'd say the crispness of the 55B7020's pictures is even more pronounced, relative to its size.
At their best, which is often, the 55B7020's pictures are mesmerising, but as we suggested before, they're let down by one really serious flaw. For, all too often while watching any dark scenes in a film or console game, we found our eye caught by some low-level, but obvious, arrows of light coming in from the TV's corners.
This is especially noticeable if a shot features a bright object in the middle of an otherwise dark image. Our guess is that this problem is caused by the crossover in the corners of the vertical and horizontal edge LED light beams.
If we're right about this, then it raises real questions about how far in screen size terms edge LED technology can be pushed. We also detected some relatively minor motion blur, especially while playing console games.
But this issue wouldn't have stopped the 55B7020 from earning a Best Buy recommendation, were it not for the backlight problems.
Despite being substantially bigger than any other Samsung edge LED model we've seen, the 55B7020 still sounds pretty uninspiring.
There's nowhere near enough bass extension, trebles sound a bit bright, and the mid-range is easily cramped by any dense soundstage information, so there's no real sense of the sonics opening up' when an action scene asks it to.
All these flaws aside, considering the vastness of the screen; its revolutionary slimness; its glut of connections and features and at times excellent pictures, the £2k price doesn't look unreasonable.
Follow TechRadar Reviews on Twitter: http://twitter.com/techradarreview