With their new 7000 series of LED backlit LCD flat panel HDTVs, Samsung has hastened the inevitable death of conventional fluorescent tube backlighting. Unlike their top-line 950 models, which feature banks of individual white LEDs spread behind the LCD imaging panel, the 7000 series features white LED strips at the screen’s edges, with a light guide plate that channels the light over the entire screen. The guide plate also features a variable diffusion system to ensure even light distribution for optimum imaging uniformity.
There are a number of benefits to using LEDs for backlighting, including lower power consumption (Samsung says around 40% less than a comparably-sized conventionally backlit set), slimmer cabinet depth (a svelte 1.2”), eco-friendliness (no mercury, lead or other nasties), and consistent lighting characteristics along with long life. Available in 55” and 46” sizes, the 7000 series sets also benefit from Samsung’s latest video processor, an in-house creation that provides numerous picture enhancements, including film and video blur and judder elimination and advanced 120 Hz processing (the step-up 8000 series is essentially the same, but features 240 Hz processing).
Consider this HDTV if: you’re looking for a star performer that produces a great picture, has great cosmetics and super-slim depth, and comes with a well-designed remote control.
Look elsewhere if: you can find another $500 in your piggy-bank, as that will let you purchase Samsung’s top-line 950 model which features local dimming LED backlighting, and is simply the best-performing LCD flat panel currently out there.
Ratings (relative to comparably-priced LCD HDTVs):
LED backlighting is what sets this Samsung apart from conventional LCD flat panels, which utilize fluorescent tube backlighting. With the 7000 series, the LEDs aren’t directly behind the panel, but are instead arrayed at the panel edges, with their light channeled across the back of the LCD imaging panel via a variable diffusion guide light plate and lens for optimum uniformity across the entire screen. Samsung’s latest video processing engine includes numerous picture enhancement modes, and their 120 Hz Auto Motion Plus system now features separate de-blur and de-judder controls for video-originated and film-originated content, letting you dial in exactly the amount of smoothing you want.
The slim cabinet depth precludes a traditional input panel, so the Samsung has inset HDMI and USB ports along the left center of the rear panel, with the component input and other ports arrayed horizontally along the lower rear cabinet center. The only concern here is that the spacing around the four HDMI inputs might be a bit tight for some cables that feature bulky connectors – the ones I had on hand just barely fit. (To Samsung’s credit, a warning label advising just that is placed right next to the inputs). The USB ports allow connection to thumb drives, portable HDD units and such for audio and video file playback. A LAN port allows connection to the home network, to access various internet widgets such as Yahoo! Video, news/sports/weather and the like, but this Samsung doesn’t have access to movie download services such as Netflix.
On Screen Display
Featuring colorful graphics, logical groupings and clearly legible text that can be seen across the room, the Samsung’s OSD is a model of good ergonomic design. One flaw is that the picture adjustment slider bars disappear after only a few seconds of non-use, a common fault found on some other brands.
Samsung’s top models ship with what I think is the industry’s best-designed TV remote. The remote that comes with the 7000 series is very similar, but not exactly the same. It features large buttons with easy to read nomenclature, and is backlit with a gentle amber lighting color – the optimum choice for viewing in a darkened room. It doesn’t have the iPod-like click/scroll cursor wheel however, nor does it have the auto backlighting function that’s activated when the remote is picked up. Even without those features, the 7000’s remote is still one of the best-designed out there.
As with other recently tested Samsung sets, going with the Movie picture mode and the Warm 2 color temperature mode provides results that are oh-so-close to what’s achievable after a full calibration. (See settings, below).