Samsung UN55B7100 55" LED HDTV

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The Samsung UN55B7100 is such a quantum leap over — not your Dad's old Trinitron, no — your own big-buck flat panel TV from just 2-3 years ago that it's hard to fathom without actually seeing it. With an involving, well-produced movie in real 1080p format, this Samsung will draw you into the magic of movies like never before at home. Even "ordinary" 1080i HD broadcast material shows better with the Samsung excellent video processing. While the sound quality lacks the authority, bass and impact of a discrete home theater system, it is clear, rich and smooth enough to complement the video performance.

The energy efficiency is high enough that it consumes less power than any 40" LCD TV more than say 2 years old, and probably just half that of a similar sized plasma, so that you don't have to feel any more eco-guilt as you sink deeper into the couch with Samsung's capable remote control. The LAN access ensures web access to Blockbuster's streaming service directly to the TV if you're inclined to a steady diet of mainstream movies. The USB 2.0 ports and the ability to play video files directly from USB storage devices is very handy, especially if you don've have a PC directly connected to the TV. While certainly not a necessity, a HTPC fully complements the video entertainment options with the Samsung, enabling a wider variety of source files than with just the TV alone.

Some of the features included in the UN55B7100 did not succeed. The networking for TV access to media files in networked computers was a bust in this sample, and the value of the "Content Libary" was completely lost on this reviewer. But in the big picture, these were minor blips, perhaps a sign of trying to offer too much value, rather than serious flaws.

It's said that local dimming LED technology provides even better black depiction at greater off-axis angles, with Samsung's own 8000 Series offering this technology for a thousand dollars extra (for a 55" model). But if that's the only significant gain, the premium is high; the benefit only relevant if you sit far enough off axis that the bad angle itself will ensure a less than ideal viewing experience anyway.

Pricing is always an important consideration. The $3,500 MSP (manufacturer's suggest price) is not exactly inexpensive for most people. But the unit can be found in stores for nearly a thousand dollars less, and at ~$2,500, it should be tempting whether you're looking for an upgrade from your first flat-panel or to get into a big TV for the first time. If this review sample is indicative — the unit shows signs of wear that suggests it must have wend about to other reviewers before SPCR — you will impressed. About the only troubling aspect of this product review is the prospect of having to give up the sample. The main reason the Samsung UN55B7100 does not get an Editor's Choice award is that it's the first TV reviewed by SPCR.

Much thanks to Samsung Canada for the product sample.

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Samsung UN55B7100 55" LED HDTV

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