I happened to catch the original Arnold Schwarzenegger version of Total Recall a little while ago and there was one scene where what we thought was a wall was really a digital display. In the 1980s, that was considered science fiction, but super thin wall-mountable displays are very much a reality today. They haven't quite replaced our walls yet, but with HDTVs like the Samsung Series 7 UN55ES7100F, we're getting awfully close. This is the 2012 version of Samsung's Series 7 LED HDTVs, so let's find out if it is worth your hard earned cash.
Features at a Glance
You might remember when I reviewed the similarly sized 55-inch Samsung Series 8 UN55D800YF not too long ago. Many of the features on that slightly higher end TV have translated down to the Series 7, like that super thin chrome bezel and the unique four-prong chrome stand. Naturally, it goes without saying that this is a 1080p television and it offers 3D capabilities by way of the four pairs of included 3D active shutter glasses.
Quickly going down the spec sheet, we find Dolby Digital Plus, SRS TheaterSound HD, 10 W x 2 RMS speakers, auto volume leveler, integrated Wi-Fi connectivity, Wide Color Enhancer Plus, Micro Dimming technology, VESA mount support, ConnectShare Movie, BD Wise, Anynet+, picture-in-picture, dual core processor, 2D to 3D converting, AllShare, WiFi Direct, and Smart TV functionality.
It also boasts 720 "Clear Motion Rate," though the TV has an actual refresh rate of 240Hz. Samsung says this "Clear Motion Rate" better expresses the TVs ability to "resolve detail in fast moving images by incorporating three factors: the TVs video processor, the TV panel, and the TV backlight."
Setting Up the Stand
This is the same four-pronged "one design" stand as we've seen before. Some people like how this chrome four-legged design is different from a more standard TV design, but other people may disagree. I had one person comment that it looks like the base of a kitschy dining table. Opinions will vary, so it's up to you whether or not you like this look. The new Series 8 TVs have an entirely different design, but it's still got plenty of chrome.
The stand itself comes in two pieces. The chrome base has the four legs and then there is a black backplate that attaches to the back of the HDTV itself. These are all held together by a series of screws. You will need to lay your TV facedown and slightly elevated in order to put this all together, so I advise you to be as careful as possible. On my review unit, I found the threading on the screws could get worn or misaligned, so you will need to be diligent about that too.
Ports and Inputs
Because this is meant to be as slim a television as possible, you'll notice that the input panel on the back is quite different than earlier flat panel televisions. Thare are no inputs that point straight back. Instead, they are directed to the side or straight down. This helps considerably if you plan on mounting the TV to the wall.
One thing that I did notice about this Samsung Series 7 is that it only has one set of component video inputs. I realize that most of your home entertainment equipment is going to do the HDMI thing (there are three HDMI ports here), but I still need component for products like the AVerMedia Game Capture HD or the Nintendo Wii. As far as other connectivity, you'll find one digital audio out (optical), one DVI audio in, one mini-jack audio out, three USB ports, and one LAN port. As mentioned, though, there is Wi-Fi on there already, so you probably won't need the LAN port most of the time.
It's a Smart TV
The Smart Hub on here is much the same as with previous Smart TVs from Samsung. There is a "home screen" of sorts where you can access and download a series of different apps that you can use on the TV. There is support for Facebook and Twitter, for example, but using that on-screen keyboard to type a status update isn't exactly fun.
I did like several of the available media apps, though, as they somewhat mirrored the apps that you would be able to find on a tablet or smartphone. These include popular choices like Netflix and YouTube, as well as streaming radio from TuneIn or funny videos from College Humor. The AP News Ticker is a nice touch, since you can have the news headlines running along the bottom of the screen while you watch some other programming.
You'll also notice that while you use this "Smart Hub" home screen to access your apps, whatever you were watching remains in the "picture in picture" window in the top-left. That's incredibly handy, especially if you happen to be watching sports or something else that is time-sensitive. That said, I did find the media performance of many of these apps to be slower compared to their mobile counterparts, despite the fact that this TV has a dual core processor.
General Video Performance
To run the Samsung Series 7 Slim LED HDTV through its paces, I enjoyed a variety of video content on it. I watched HD cable TV, standard-definition cable TV, streaming HD videos on YouTube, HD video files through the Pivos AIOS Media Center and a number of games with my Xbox 360. I also watched a number of standard DVD movies, as well as HD content by way of different Blu-ray movies.
In general, the video performance was very good. There are several different picture modes, some of which are far brighter than others. I prefered the slightly dimmer complexion of the "Movie" mode most of the time, but the dynamic mode was great during the day when I needed more brightness. You can see the eco savings in real time with this Energy Star product too, which I thought was a nice touch.
The higher level of brightness afforded by LED TVs does come at a price though, as there were instances when the content could feel somewhat "washed out." This is more pronounced at the wider angles than when you are watching straight on. That said, the micro-dimming technology helped to keep the blacks quite dark. Color saturation was good and the "Clear Motion" made for minimal motion blur with fast action, as was the case when I was watching NFL football on Sunday afternoon.
The upconversion algorithm appears to be very good on this television as well. When watching standard definition DVDs, I wasn't quite able to get 1080p Blu-ray level quality, but it was certainly better than what you would get watching the same DVD on a TV that does not upconvert. This was possibly assisted even further with the upconversion technology in the Samsung Blu-ray player I was using as part of this review.
Converting 2D to 3D Video
Yes, this is a 3D television, but many people will point out that there is a severe lack of 3D content at the moment. For the most part, that's true. We don't get much in terms of 3D cable television, so the only real way to get some really good 3D content is with native 3D Blu-ray discs. Even so, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy some 3D without content that isn't really 3D.
Like other Samsung 3D HDTVs, this Series 7 also has the capability to convert any 2D video into 3D video. I tried this with some video files on my media player, as well as with DVDs and cable television. The result isn't nearly as pronounced as what you would get with something that was rendered in 3D in the first place, but you do get some 3D depth. It really depends on the content too, as some videos gained more "depth" than others.
In any case, Samsung has bundled four pairs of active shutter 3D glasses with this television. They each take one of those coin-sized batteries (CR2025), placed in a slot by the nose bridge. There is a single power button on the top which you hold to sync up with the TV. They're very lightweight and very comfortable to wear, even for long periods of time, though my eyes still get tired from watching a lot of 3D.
Watching True 3D Video
Naturally, it would be fair to gauge the 3D capabilities of a 3D television without watching something that was actually offered natively in 3D in the first place. To test that, I viewed a 3D Blu-ray documentary on the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. As mentioned above, the 3D effect is definitely more pronounced here.
However, it is important to note that the 3D effect is not like what you get when you go to a movie theater. The visuals don't pop out at you. Instead, it's more like you are looking into a three-dimensional box, not unlike the experience you get on a Nintendo 3DS (albeit at a much higher quality and resolution). Also like other 3D televisions, the visual experience is more akin to seeing a series of 2D planes in a 3D space; individual objects don't really carry that sense of 3D depth. Instead, you simply have some objects (and people) look like they are closer or further away.
MEGATechie Visual Beauty or MEGATechie Blurry Beast?
With a retail street price in the $2000-$2500 range, the Samsung 55-inch UN55ES7100F Series 7 Slim LED HDTV is certainly not the cheapest option on the block, but it's definitely not the priciest either. You get an incredibly thin television with a remarkably slim bezel and it is very easily mounted to the wall in your living room.
Samsung has made some incremental improvements here that make this year's Series 7 easily rival last year's Series 8 televisions. The 2D-to-3D conversion is quite good, the picture quality is stellar, and the web-connected Smart Hub functions can be quite useful. The impossibly thin chrome bezel is beautiful too. At the same time, I did find many of the Smart TV apps to be sluggish and the loudness with the on-board speakers was quite lacking; for the latter, I imagine you'd want to connect this to your home theater speaker system anyhow. The "washed out" whiteness at extreme angles can be a little annoying as well.
They say that the best 2D televisions out there are the 3D televisions and this Samsung Series 7 LED HDTV is a testament to that. If you're in the market for a new TV, this is one of your best choices assuming that you also have a proper home theater receiver and rely almost exclusively on HDMI inputs. It'll be interesting to see what the best 4K TVs online will bring to the market in the future, and how they will compare to top HD technology today.