Samsung UN55B7100 55" LED HDTV

Audio|Video|Misc
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POWER CONSUMPTION

No one buys a big, high-end HDTV to pinch pennies on electricity consumption, but it's nice to know that the Samsung incorporates pretty good power management, which should be a consideration of everyone's electronic product buying decision. The typical measured maximum power consumption of 132W is amazingly low compared to any standard CFL LCD TVs, and certainly compared to any plasma screen TV, which are the biggest power guzzlers among flat panel TVs. There are setting for lowering power consumption even further, mostly, it appears, by reducing the brightness of the LEDs. This could certainly affect video performance.

Power measurements shown in the table below were taken at the AC plug with many different types of source material on the screen. The actual readings varied somewhat with the mix of dark and light on the screen at any given time. The brightest sequences caused the great power consumption. When turned off, the AC power dropped too low for it to register on the meter; kudos to Samsung for this. Power on standby with no active inputs (or with screen off on the PC) was a very high 32W; this is mode you want to use only briefly. Better to turn the TV off altogether when not in use.

Measured Power Consumption
Mode
AC Power
Power Off
0W
Standby (w/ no active inputs)
32W
Power Save Off
110~132W
Low Power Save
90~94W
Med Power Save
78~84W
High Power Save
65~68W
Auto Power Save
62~132W

The reduction in brightness in Low Power Save mode would probably be more than acceptable for a lot of people; the picture is still very nice. The power saving here is a pretty consistent 20~40W, depending on the exact programming, with 30W as a typical average difference. Over the long term, if you use the TV a lot, this is quite significant. The Med and High settings are too dim to consider seriously. The Auto mode may be the best compomise between reduced power and ideal video performance. The brightness is varied dynamically with intelligence so that when the image calls for full brightness, it's all there — the power meter reads just as high as when the Power Save mode is off — yet with a night or dark interior scene, the LEDs are deliberately turned down, and the power reading can plummet to ~60W. The overall power savings is probably a bit less than with the Low setting, but close, and the drop in image brightness is very difficult to discern, similar to a well-chosen compression mode for MP3 audio.

OTHER FUNCTIONS

Audio:- The quality of the UN55B7100's audio system was surprisingly pleasant, with good clarity and plenty of gain for the admittedly small test room. There was no real bass to speak of (not much below 100Hz), but the illusion of bass was excellent. The standard audio profiles are equalizer presets which can be improved upon by directly tweaking the 5-band equalizer. The main speakers fire out the back and rely on reflection off the back wall, which might be affected by very close mounting to the back wall. This could be a consideration when using Sasmung's "low profile" wall hanging mount. More on speakers later.


Background shows TV screen with Internet widgets on the bottom; foreground shows weather widget open while a movie is being watched.

Internet TV Content Service:- When the TV is connected to a network with access to the web, the feature can be engaged. It places a number of widgets across the bottom of the screen for access to yahoo! news, weather, financial info, flickr, youtube, etc. There are many widgets to choose from, and many of them can be uploaded and ready to go instantly. It's further blurring of the line between TV and PC, but these features are not compelling, especially if you have to pay extra for the USB wireless key. Such information is already readily available on TV broadcast services, or any web-enabled PC — why clutter your TV viewing with more distractions on the screen?


A library of "Content"

Games and other Content:- The UN55B7100 has enough built in-memory for a little library of curious content. These include: A gallery of famous art and nice photos; a cookbook of static images and text; a couple of video games that only really young children could enjoy; animated stories for the same audience, voiced by actors who are clearly non-native speakers of Enligsh; a mini exercise set for Piliates, stretches, etc, consisting not of full motion video but sequential photos and voice/music track. Not only are these features weak, engaging any of them increases AC power consumption to 195~200W. Our assessment: It probably didn't take that much effort, time or money, but please don't bother next time!

TV Monitor for HTPC:- The failure of the network media file sharing feature in the TV, and the incomplete support for audio in many mkv files via USB makes a strong argument for a HTPC to be used with the UN55B7100. Even a modest, cheap PC is far more flexible in its digital file management than any TV, and issues such as video or audio codecs are solved easily with quickly downloaded updates. (a couple of quick examples: The $499 retail Asus EeeBox EB1501 ION Mini-PC or my self-assembled ~$500 DIY AMD780G-based A64-4850 CPU system with 4gb RAM and 500gb hard drive in Antec NSK1480 case.) Virtually any movie file could be made playable. The 1080p movies that were played on the Samsung UN55B7100 from the HTPC provided stunning video and audio indistinguishable from the original Blu-ray disc, especially when the TV picture setting were slightly tweaked for best results with the video card output of the PC. The video and audio connection via HDMI worked perfectly — once a HDMI cable was found that worked. As with almost all high tech consumer electronics/digital cables, getting them to work is often hit-and-miss, despite "plug-and-play". SPCR has a collection of about half a dozen different HDMI cables for this reason.

The native video processing in the Samsung TV is clearly superior to that provided by the ATI-780G video/chipset in the PC, however, particularly for lower resolution videos that require upsampling for fullscreen viewing on this big TV. Time and time again, the TV's USB input gave an immediately acceptable, natural result while the same file via the HTPC would require some tweaking to get it as good. Digital artifacts with low resolution videos showed up far more often with the HTPC as well. Still, there's no question this Samsung is a magnificent HDTV for a HTPC.

Noise:- We couldn't let a review go without some mention of noise, could we?! There's not much to say. When the speaker is muted, if you stick your head behind the TV, you'll hear some of the high frequency buzzing that comes from every TV ever made. But like with most TVs, it's nowhere loud enough to be audible when anything is actually on and playing, at any volume, especially not from the seated position.



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