Samsung UN55B7100 55" LED HDTV

Audio|Video|Misc
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SETUP

The UN55B7100 was connected to several video signal sources, and to the local area network via both hard wire ethernet and the optional wireless USB device provided by Samsung. A list of all associated components used for the review follows:

  • Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray Disc Player (1080p) — via HDMI
  • Bell ExpressVu 9200 HDTV Satellite Receiver (1080i) — via component video/audio
  • Home Theater PC (AMD780G chipset, w/ A64x2 4850 CPU -1080p) — via D-sub VGA and 2-ch PC audio
  • Samsung LinkStick Wireless USB Adaptor WIS09ABGN
  • Seasonic Power Angel AC power meter
  • Numerous USB flash drives and portable external USB hard drives with various video content

The sparsely furnished viewing room is a modest size, 12' x 10' with a standard 8' ceiling. Viewing distance was 8~9'. There were no hiccups during initial setup, and the satellite TV viewing proceeded within minutes.

PERFORMANCE

The remote control took little time to learn, its most cumbersome aspect being the short delay for source selection before the OSD would fade, along with the click + scroll + click required for source selection. Overall, the remote control and onscreen display rate a B+. The remote's ergonomics are OK, while the OSD is quite good, mostly straightforward and quick.

Over two months were spent with the sample UN55B7100. This is the first TV review by SPCR, and a period of learning about this particular product as well as the current technology of TVs in general was necessary. The extended review time allowed for an intimate, detailed appreciation of the TV's characteristics.

VIDEO

The various video presets were tried with many different program materials; Movie mode and Warm2 were the choices that provided the best, most consistent results. Some tweaking in the video settings menu could enhance specific programs, but the defaults were usually good enough to leave alone.

Satellite TV:- With a high quality HD signal, the picture was amazing, consistently vivid, yet natural and lifelike. It was a pleasure to watch. The quality of the incoming signal affected the video reproduction far more than minor tweaks in the TV controls. There is little question that the flaws in the 1080i limit of broadcast HD programming are far greater than any flaws inherent in the TV. Standard 480p broadcast material was handled well enough, usually looking no worse than it does on a typical 27" or large CRT TV. With poor quality material, the artifacts and flaws of the original were easily seen, much like with poor sources and a high quality audio reproduction system. In general, the Samsung video processing handles the deinterlacing, upconversion and other tasks very well, with great transparency.

The best HD sports broadcasts tend to be NHL, NBA and NFL events, and these provided an opportunity to test the Auto Motion Plus 120Hz motion smoothing feature, which has separate Blur and Judder controls. Engaging the presets or manually adjusting the 10-step controls did improve clarity in fast moving scenes, but the end result was not conclusively better in all cases. In many high action sports, the motion on the screen occurs in multiple directions simultaneously — for example, players sprinting in opposite directions, while a ball is moving in yet another arc, with the camera tracking the ball, and sometimes with the camera moving as well. In such scenes, the quest for perfect clarity seems downright silly. The Samsung Auto Motion Plus 120Hz's separate Blur and Judder controls are an improvement over a single control, but you can't expect miracles. Samsung's higher end models offer 240Hz refresh; perhaps this is a more significant improvement.

Blu-ray:- The level of detail, realism, and color accuracy from a good quality Blu-ray disc was staggering. It's probably not possible to obtain comparable performance in most commercial movie theaters. It was difficult to notice any artifacts, although with the number of Blu-ray discs tried, some instances were seen momentarily here and there, and it is possible that the TV played a role in the creation of these artifacts. (Remember, there is the disc itself and the Blu-ray player as well.) The depiction of black was about as good as on any TV; the only time it was less than perfect was when sitting over 20 degrees off axis to the side, 2' or more outside the edge of the screen. Then, the black on the far side of the screen faded a bit to gray. The effect was subtle, however, and difficult to notice if you are at all absorbed by what you are watching. It's not nearly as marked as suggested by some online critics' comments about this TV black performance. Visitors marvelled at the realism, including the depiction of black, whatever the viewing angle.

A Picture Quality Evaluation Tool, the HD HDQ Benchmark Blu-ray disc by HQV Silicon Optix, was used in conjunction with the Samsung Blu-ray player. The UN55B7100 easily passed all the tests for film resolution, video resolution loss, signal filtering ("jaggies") and HD noise.

Media Play:- This is the term Samsung uses to describe playback of digital video, audio and photo files via USB devices and computers on the network. It also includes the recently introduced On Demand 101 service by Blockbuster to stream movie rentals or purchases, directly to your Samsung TV. This feature is currently available only in the US.

The home networking function, also called DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) for no really good reason, but it's basically networking to access media files on your PCs from the TV. This requires a klugy software called Samsung PC Share Manager to be installed on the networked computers, and for specific folders to be marked for sharing with the TV. It never worked with the review sample, even though the networked computers (running Windows 7, Vista or XP) could be seen by the TV.

Media play via USB devices worked much better, however. Not all video formats are supported; the manual mentions MP3, JPEG and "movie files." Of the many dozens of video clips tried, some 80% worked fine. The ones that did not play properly usually had issues with an unsupported audio codec. This tended to occur most with recent MKV files; both unsupported and supported files had DTS 6ch 48kHz audio. (Example: A 720p torrent mkv video file of The Hangover played perfectly while the audio of a similar 720p torrent mkv video file of Star Trek 2009 could not be played.) Many different resolution types were tried, ranging from compressed low resolution youtube clips to full blown 1080p movies. The UN55B7100 did a great job with the vast majority of these files. Some torrent-downloaded 720p movies were almost indistinguishable from the Blu-ray discs, which suggests that the Samsung re-processes and upconverts lower resolution material beautifully. 480p TV broadcast were also handled very well.



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