Samsung UN55B7000 LCD TV

You've heard the old saying—you can't be too rich or too thin. I won't touch the "too rich" part here, but people can certainly be too thin to maintain good health. On the other hand, flat panels have no such restriction, getting thinner every year in response to strong market demands.

LCD TVs have it particularly rough in this regard, since they rely on a backlight behind the LCD panel to illuminate the image. Or do they? Samsung has developed an ingenious alternative to conventional and even LED backlights called LED edge lighting. By placing white LEDs at the edges of the screen, all you need is a thin sheet of light-guide material behind the LCD panel, allowing the cabinet to be much thinner than most LCD TVs. This is the idea behind the 7000 series, including the 55-inch UN55B7000 reviewed here.

Slim Jim In addition to the 7000 series, Samsung has implemented LED edge lighting in the 6000 and 8000 series, all of which are referred to as "LED TVs." This is slightly misleading, since they are all LCD TVs with LED illumination.

The UN55B7000 is the largest set in the 7000 series. At 1.2 inches thick, it's the slimmest HDTV we've reviewed to date. The routing required for its captive power cord and input jacks will keep you from doing an absolutely flush wall-mount. But it can still snuggle closer to your sheetrock than any other production set we've seen. At 61.3 pounds (with stand), the UN55B7000 is also easy to lift into position. I appreciated this factor since I'm often called on to schlep around 125-pound, 60-inch plasmas.

The design features Samsung's Touch of Color styling, which adds a trace of red to the edges of the mostly black frame. The included stand also offers a useful degree of left-right rotation.

While many LCD sets offer matte-finish screens, Samsung's are reflective, which make for more vivid pictures, but they can be a problem in a room with lights and windows. Since I do most of my serious viewing in a dark or nearly dark room, the screen's reflectivity didn't bother me, but your mileage may vary.

In Control
Samsung includes two different remotes with the UN55B7000. A mini remote, shaped like a flat egg, turns the set on and off, adjusts the volume, and changes channels. But since you can only use the channel selection with the onboard tuners, this remote is of limited use if you're a cable or satellite viewer (unless you watch unscrambled cable stations with a direct cable feed to the set, without a cable box).

The larger remote has conveniently sized, fully backlit buttons, and it is one of the best I've seen. Its only shortcoming—a common one, I'm afraid—is that it has no dedicated input-selection buttons; you must select inputs from an onscreen menu.

The Samsung provides six different picture modes, and they're all separately adjustable for each input. In addition to the usual video controls, including a 10-step backlight setting, there's a wide selection of other adjustments. Perhaps the least common one is a Blue Only mode. By turning off the red and green, this feature provides an accurate means of setting the color and tint controls with a color-bars test pattern. The usual technique for setting these controls requires a special blue filter, which isn't as precise.

Many of the set's special controls are available only in the Standard and Movie modes. These include a seven-step Gamma adjustment, Color Space (a color management system with a full set of controls to fine-tune the color gamut), and White Balance controls (both high and low for all three colors).

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