Samsung UN55B7000 LCD HDTV

Price: $3,800 At A Glance: Good blacks and shadow detail • Excellent resolution • Natural color • QC issues in our early samples

The LED Edge

It was CES, January 2009. The young lady standing next to the new Samsung 7000 Series LCD HDTVs was still perky. (It was early in the show’s four-day run.)

“Do these sets use local dimming?” I asked, wondering if the new LCD models employed the same LED backlighting technique that helps make the LN55A950—reviewed in our February 2009 Face Off—such an exceptional set.

“No,” she replied. “They don’t need it. They use our new LED edge lighting.”

But are edge-lit LCD designs equivalent to local-dimming designs, as Ms. Samsung proclaimed? Based on the evidence here, not quite. But they’re much closer than I expected, and they have a lot to offer for considerably less money.

Slim and Slimmer
Samsung refers to the 7000 Series (and many of its other new sets) as LED HDTVs, but the LED designation only refers to the type of backlighting used. Technically, the sets are still LCD designs.

The UN55B7000 is the largest set in the 7000 Series. At a thin 1.2 inches thick, it’s the slimmest HDTV we’ve reviewed to date. The exit routing that’s required for its captive power cord and its input jacks that exit to the side or the bottom, 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, 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 nearly matte-finished screens, Samsung’s are reflective. Reflective screens 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. Your mileage may vary.

Setup and 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 will be 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) is that is input selection is via an onscreen menu, rather than direct selection from the remote.

The Samsung has 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, there’s a wide selection of other adjustments. Perhaps the least common one is a Blue Only setting. By turning off the red and green, this feature provides an accurate means of setting the color and tint with a color test pattern. The usual technique for getting these settings right requires a special blue filter, which isn’t as precise.

Many of the set’s special controls are only available 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).