By February 8, 2010

Samsung UE40B7020 LED TV Review

The Samsung UE40B7020 LED TV is a 40 inch model from the Samsung Series 7 LED TV range.

At just 3 cm deep these TVs are stunningly slim, and being so thin they can also be wall mounted and be no deeper than say a mirror or picture.

They are also eco friendly both in the materials they are made from and their energy consumption in use.

Full 1080p HD resolution with high contrast gives deep blacks and rich colours, and 100Hz Motion Plus technology removes edge-blur.

Add in [email protected] widgets and a built-in media player for movies, mp3s and JPEGs (either from USB devices or over your network using DLNA) and the Samsung UE40B7020 is certainly promising to be quite the TV.

Let’s see…

 

LED Series 7020 Right

 

What’s in the box ?

  • Samsung UE40B7020 LED TV
  • Remote Control + batteries
  • Mini Remove Control + Batteries
  • Component cable
  • AV cable
  • Stand + screws
  • Cover (for when you want to wall mount instead of using the stand)
  • Holder rings (for wall mounting)
  • Holder Wires (for tidying cables)
  • Cleaning cloth
  • User Manual
  • Programme CD (software for setting up DLNA on your PC)

 

Samsung UE40B7020 Specifications

 

Screen Size
(Diagonal)

40 inches

Power Consumption
(standby)

< 1W

PC Resolution
(Optimum)

1920×1080 @ 60Hz

Sound
(Output)

10Wx2

Weight
(with stand)

19kg

Full specifications are HERE 

 

General

 LED Series 7020 Front

Samsung UE40B7020 – Front View

From the front you can see that the bezel has what Samsung call Platinum Black colouring – on the 7000 it’s Rose Black. The stand has a clear ‘column’ – behind which you are supposed to feed all your cables so that there is nothing spoiling the aesthetics of the TV. If you look carefully you can also make out the touch controls on the bezel.

 

LED Series 7020 Back 

Samsung UE40B7020 – Rear View

Back of the TV – speakers at the top, connections on the right, stand at the bottom – you can also see the connection points for the wall mount.

Let’s take a closer look at the inputs.

 

connectors

Samsung UE40B7020 – Connector close up

Running from the bottom left along and then up.

LAN, Antenna in, Ext (custom SCART connector), AV in (composite + stereo), Component in, VGA in, PC/DVI audio in, 4 HDMI, USB 2.0, Optical Audio Out, another USB 2.0, common interface slot (does anyone actually use these?) and finally the Ex-Link which is for service personnel only.

 

Highlights

  • Picture richness
  • Slim design
  • Well thought out remote and interface menus
  • Anynet+

 

Lowlights

  • Backlight bleed and backlight inconsistency in general
  • Sound quality

 

Review

First off let’s cover something about model numbers.

The Samsung UE40B7020 and the Samsung UE40B7000 are essentially the same TV – the only difference being that the 7020 has a ‘Platinum Black’ bezel and the 7000 has a ‘Rose Black’ bezel. As if to prove this point Samsung sent us a 7000 in a 7020 box.

As it’s unpacked you realise just how thin the TV actually is – the words ‘wafer thin’ spring to mind. (In fact part of me now wonders how thick a wafer thin mint would be if you scaled it up to the size of this TV)

Once attached, it’s obvious that the clear column of the stand is intended to make the TV ‘float’ – something which works pretty well, even with the cables fed behind it.

The screen surface itself is reflective rather than matt which means that you need to bear this in mind in your positioning of the TV to avoid reflections from windows or light sources in the room.

So how the hell did they manage to make the TV this thin?

The primary reason for a LCDs depth is the backlight technology. The actual picture is on the LCD, it’s the lighting behind it that makes it visible. For a long time LCDs have been lit with fluorescent tube technology, which not only generates a lot of heat and also needs a fair amount of space.

LED lit TV’s have LEDs around the edge.

The LED’s not only take up less space than fluorescent tubes but also generate less heat and take less energy to work. The result is a thinner screen that is far more energy efficient.

I’m not sure if the thinness of the TV is the result of the technology chosen allowing them to manufacture it like this or whether Samsung wanted to make thinner TV’s and so went to find the technology – but either way, it’s very thin.

All TV’s need source input connectors, and when a TV is this thin the connections had better be thin as well. The easy ones are the HD connections that this TV is designed for, the problem is that not all inputs are HDMI yet and so they have to support external RGB (SCART in this case) as well as component RGB, composite AV and RF aerials.

In order to support the SCART, component and composite connections Samsung have opted to create ‘break-out cables’, allowing the connections on the TV itself to be smaller whilst letting the end user still connect older hardware.

 

component

Samsung UE40B7020 – Component break-out cable

 

composite_stereo

Samsung UE40B7020 – Composite break-out cable

The component and composite cables aren’t that unusual and the cables working in reverse have been seen on things like video camera outputs for a while now.

 

scart

Samsung UE40B7020 – SCART break-out cable

The new one here is the custom External RGB to SCART cable, and whilst it kind of does the job, it’s not perfect.

The clips that hold the connector into the TV aren’t the greatest, so if you move the TV at all and the SCART cable isn’t supported by other means then the weight of the SCART cable will tend to pull on the clip and it often undoes slightly. This results in a loss of sound or even a loss of both picture and sound. As we all move to HDMI connections for everything this will become less of an issue obviously – but in the meantime make sure your SCART input is supported and don’t move your TV around.

 

Whilst we are talking connectors let’s quickly run through the rest.

The LAN connector is positioned very close to the back plastics so if your cable has a large sleeve on the connector then it will be very snug to put in place – on the plus side, it’s not going to go anywhere once it’s in place

The RF aerial connection is standard, as are the VGA and PC stereo audio in. The VGA connection supports resolutions up to the LCD’s optimum 1920×1080 @ 60hz.

Going up the right hand side of the TV we have the four HDMI connections. Whilst it’s not immediately obvious from the photos the HDMI connectors are a little close to the edge and if you have bulky cables then it may be tight to get them to turn downwards and still be hidden from the clear part of the surround – especially if you have several HDMI cables to run there.

Then comes the common interface slot (and I have still yet to know anyone who actually uses these) and the service link at the top rounds things out.

Around the front there are some touch controls that allow you to change the Source, call up the Menu, change the volume or the channel. To be honest I didn’t find these any use at all, especially when you get 2 remote controls.

Related to the remote controls, the only other physical thing on the TV itself worth mentioning is the Light.

 

LED Series 7020 Close up base

Clear stand and ‘the Light’

That’s capitalised because there are software options for it. As you have no doubt have noticed, pretty much all TV’s have some sort of LED that flashes to let you know that it’s registering a press on the remote control. It’s usually a mid brightness LED next to the remote receiver and you barely notice it. On the 7000 Samsung have fed a red LED into the large, flat, round piece of plastic between the stand and screen. The result is that the whole of this piece of plastic lights up when you press the remote and let me tell you, that is a large area to have flashing red at the bottom of the screen. Quite annoying and there is no way to disable it.

[ NOTE: I’ve now seen the 7020 in person (as against the 7000 we had for testing) – and along with different colour bezels they have different coloured ‘Lights’ – on the 7020 the Light is white, which is far less annoying ]

To add to this, sometimes when the set is turned on the red light stays on permanently – despite the settings being otherwise (always off in my case). You have to turn the TV off and back on again and usually it then behaves as per your saved settings – changing the settings in the options and changing it back again also works sometimes, but this is far more fiddly than off and back on again.

The other obvious physical things are the two remote controls.

 

pebble

The ‘pebble’ remote control

The small ‘pebble’ remote control can turn the TV on and off, change the channel up and down, and change the volume. It’s a really nicely designed little device and feels really nice in the hand – which makes it a shame that it’s almost completely useless. Unless you are only planning on viewing Digital TV Channels (in which case why are you getting a full HD TV) you are going to do what I did – install the battery, think it’s a nice device and then just put it away.

 

remote

The main remote control

The main remote allows you to get to all the functions of the TV and I found it really well laid out (not something that every remote can claim) with all the main features being grouped together in the middle. I also really like the fact that there is a button to make the remote light up which makes it far easier to use in dark rooms during movie night.

 

So with the basic hardware covered, let’s talk about the built in software.

I just want to point out that my photos from here on aren’t great – in my own defense, taking pictures of a TV whilst it’s on and has this bright an image is very, very difficult.

The actual TV picture is far better than I managed to capture.

First the media player.

 

 Dsc00103 Dsc00104 

Reading through the manual I think that the media player is based on some open source Linux work. It can read files either from plugged in USB devices or else from DLNA sources on your network.

Image handling seems to be limited to JPEG’s, it doesn’t seem to like anything else.

The interface is a little clunky, but you can make groups, mark favourites and choose to display groups or else pick individual images. Whilst being displayed you can rotate images in 90 degree increments, zoom in and out and pan, but none of this alters the original image. You can run groups or a complete folder of images as a slideshow (with music in the background if you like), choose the playback speed (only 3 choices) and select a wipe effect. It’s all pretty basic, but for occasional showing of images it works well enough.

Music playback seems to be MP3’s only and the interface is pretty much exactly the same as for the image viewer.

Movie playback is a lot more interesting – though again the interface is the same as images and music.

Supported formats include avi, mkv, asf, wmv, mp4, 3gp, vob, mpg and h.264 – pretty much everything you could ask for. (For full details of the supported formats download the TV’s manual from the Samsung site)

You can fast forward, rewind, pause etc – all very functional.

If you drop out of a video you can skip back to where you were by pressing the blue button when you reselect that file – though the text misleadingly claims ‘Continuous Playback’ instead of ‘Continue Playback’.

Videos can be either run at their original size or else scaled up to fill the screen – and that’s the only 2 options you have. Which is fine as long as all your videos have the pixel aspect ratio set correctly (which they obviously should) – but if, for example, you have a video that is captured at 704×576 (UK resolution) which should be stretched to fill widescreen then you are out of luck. So if this is important to you then you need to make sure that your videos are correctly setup.

As well as being able to play back from USB devices and DLNA network sources the TV itself has 876.69MB of onboard memory, so you can copy files from your devices to the TV so that you can run things from there.

The next piece of software to mention is something called ‘Content’. It appears to be a collection of mini apps stored on the TV and includes a few art slideshows, some cooking recipes, a couple of basic games, a sing along song and some basic stretching exercises. Clearly this, along with the media player, is intended to make the TV the main hub for all entertainment.

You can apparently write your own ‘Content’ apps and download them from the Samsung site – but I couldn’t actually find any others out there and to be honest I’m not sure I’d use them personally. Maybe someone will come up with something that would convince we otherwise.

Another application is something called ‘Home Network Centre’ which allows you to keep track of your phone messages and media from compatible phones – phones which Samsung happen to make.

 

 Dsc00112 Dsc00113 

 Dsc00114 Dsc00117

The last piece of software that is part of the Samsung pitch is something call [email protected] These are a collection of ‘widget’ type mini applications that connect to the internet. These include things like viewers for YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, weather forecast for your town – and there are more to download from the web.

I found these ‘widgets’, whilst potentially useful, to be slow to both load and get their data – despite the network connection being fast and the relative amount of data they need to grab being small.

So Media Player, Content, Home Network Centre and [email protected] all have some useful functionality but aren’t great. But as they are all software based Samsung could improve them with firmware updates should they choose to. As it stands they are functional at best.

Whilst we are talking about the software I want to discuss the menus and setup options on this TV.

The first menu option is for the picture settings and quite simply there are more options and tweaks in here than I’ve ever seen on a TV. Normally you get Contrast, Brightness, Colour, Sharpness and occasionally a ‘Colour Tone’ or MPEG reduction toggle – but in general that’s about it.

Here is a breakdown I made of all the picture settings you can tweak…

 

graphics

Lots of control of your picture settings

For me the thing that takes all the picture settings even further is the fact that all of the settings are saved independent of each other.

 

All the inputs have different settings and all their modes have further different settings. This means that you can create all sorts of pre-sets for each source, and then you can use the quick Tools Menu to change between the different modes with just a quick press. So the settings for Movie mode are different from Natural mode, and the Movie settings for HDMI1 are different to the Movie settings for TV. Very, very cool – all TV’s should have this.

 

Dsc00058

Tools Menu

The Tools Menu also allows other settings to be quickly switched – certainly much more convenient than having to go in and out of the full menu each time.

So after the picture settings comes Sound Menu. Again there are more options than normal here. There are 5 different sound ‘Modes’ to choose from, an Equalizer, SRS TruSurround HD toggle, as well as being able to setup the language choice for input systems that support it. You can set the TV to have Auto Volume, set the sound to be either from the built in speakers or through the Optical Digital output and when you are in Picture in Picture mode you can select which source you want to use as the source of the sound.

All in all plenty of control to let you set things up the way you like.

The next group of controls is for managing your TV channels. Auto-tuning, channel organising and the like – all very simple and effective. It found Freeview digital channels without any problems.

 

 Dsc00108

Full TV Guide

 

 Dsc00109
Mini TV Guide

Which we are talking about Freeview the picture quality is very good and is scaled up very nicely, and both the full and mini TV guides are very nicely done.

 

Dsc00111
Info bar and energy widget

There is also a nice popup info bar about the current program – which also shows the Samsung Energy display. This little widget shows an estimate of how much energy the screen is currently consuming and changes dynamically as the picture changes.

There are yet more settings within the Setup Menu.

 

 Dsc00094

This includes things like Security options where you can setup a PIN number to unlock the TV to stop the kids using it for example – though the manual does include instructions on how to reset the pin if you forget it – which kinda makes it less useful.

 

Dsc00095 Dsc00096

Network setup is a doddle for both Wifi and direct LAN connection. It can either get its info from a DHCP server or else you can manually set everything up. Wifi handles WEP and WPA so you should have no problems connecting.

 

usbwifi

USB Wifi adapter

NOTE : The Wifi adapter is sold separately, not built in.

Under the General submenu one of the first ones I personally turned off was the Melody option, otherwise the TV plays a startup melody.

A further menu allows you to edit the names of the input sources – this makes is far easier for you to remember which input is which, or in fact releases you from having to actually remember at all, making life easier.

As you’ve no doubt gathered by now, there are options galore for you to play with.

There are also things in here like guides on how to connect the cables which are less useful, but it’s nice to see Samsung making the effort to help their users.

 

And as all this interface is software based Samsung can offer firmware updates to further improve features.

 

 

So let’s get down to the nitty gritty – once everything is setup, how is the TV to use.

It’s sounds obvious, but the only way to get the best from the UE40B7020 (and it’s sister UE40B7000) is to have high quality input sources. Blu-ray is obviously the best and the TV really shines with good quality Blu-rays (there are some really poorly encoded ones out there that are no better than DVDs).

Here are some photos as examples of the brightness and contrast. Again, please bear in mind that even with the backlight turned down I still had problems with taking pictures with my camera – the image is that deep and bright, something that seemed to scare my poor little camera.

 

 Dsc00056 Dsc00061 Dsc00064  

When you see in the image in person it really is stunning. Colours are rich, blacks are black, and really good contrast ratios across the whole palette – it’s well worth making the trip to your local shop to see this in person. If there is something about the image that you don’t like then there are the raft of settings for you to tweak.

Personally I wasn’t 100% happy with the default settings of any of the modes, but that’s why I was so happy with the amount of control Samsung give you over the image – you can tweak just about everything I think of (and some beyond that as well).

Another setting to make sure you tweak if your source is Blu-ray is the make sure that the image size is set to ‘Screen Fit’ so that it’s properly pixel matching instead of scaling the image.

 

I should also mention that when your source is a Blu-ray player that supports true 24fps movie mode the TV does as well – yet another feature ensuring that the image quality is maintained throughout.

Yet another really nice feature of this TV is the Anynet+ support. This allows the TV to ‘take control’ of an external source device that supports it and control it with the TV’s remote. Which means that the TV’s remote can control your Blu-rays for example, which is one less controller to worry about.

 

 Dsc00060

Picture in Picture mode

The UE40B7020 also supports Picture in Picture mode. This is limited to TV channels over the top of your other sources, so you can’t have 1 HDMI over another for example which is bit of a shame. It works pretty much as you’d expect and it’s nice to see that you can choose the audio source as being either the main image or the PiP one. This means that if you are using the TV as say a monitor then you can have a Freeview channel in the corner and actually hear it whilst you work (or even NCIS over Dark Knight if you like :D)

 

OK, all glowing so far. More options than you can shake a stick at and really good colour and contrast, built in media player and internet widgets.

 

Now the caveats.

 

The energy saving on the Samsung UE40B7020 is quite aggressive. Even when it’s actually turned off it will still alter the backlight subtly between dark and bright scenes – which is obvious as it causes a very slight fade in and out. This also means that if a scene has both light and dark elements and then the camera pans the backlight will adjust and some details can be faded in and out – it’s not something your ‘average’ viewer will likely notice, but I firmly believe that if you give the user the ability to turn this option Off, then Off should mean Off.

The way to fully turn this off is to put the TV in something called ‘Game Mode’. This is intended for use with consoles and is a high contrast setting. The downside is that when Game Mode is enabled you lose the ability to edit some image settings – so it’s a question of which you prefer to live with.

 

The second image issue is more serious in my opinion.

 

LED edge lighting has an inherent problem. It tends to cause inconsistent brightness across the screen, and as the screen gets larger this becomes more obvious. Edges tend to be brighter than the center and corners get a double dose of this brightness.

All the images up until now have been full screen and generally bright, but I like to watch lots of movies which have black bars top and bottom, and not all TV programs are bright images all the time – some things happen at night. And when the edges are dark you see that the black is actually slightly off. It’s subtle, but once you notice it, it can be annoying.

 

 Dsc00065

 

If you look carefully at the areas directly above and below the movie ‘strip’ in the above photo you’ll see what I mean.

To make it clearer I took an image of a pure black JPG, and then to really make it clear I put it into my art package and tweaked the contrast and brightness.

 

black black_enhanced

The image on the left is an untouched photo, the one on the right being the tweaked version.

Doing a similar thing with a white image gives you this.

 

white white_enhanced

Again the image on the left is an untouched photo, the one on the right being the tweaked version.

As you tell from the photos above, the inconsistency is far less obvious when the image is full screen and bright.

 

This does all depend on how sensitive to these things you are. Personally I found it very distracting in dark scenes and widescreen movies (which I watch plenty of).

 

The built in speakers are best described as ‘functional’ – they are nothing special, but I guess that’s not too surprising given the thinness of the TV. If you are serious about your HD then you are likely to feeding the audio through your surround sound anyway.

 

Something worth mentioning is at the time of writing Samsung has a cash back offer on purchases of it’s energy efficient TV’s – see http://www.samsung.com/uk/eco/ for details.

 

 

Conclusion

The Samsung UE40B7020 is a stunningly slim TV, definitely something you could wall mount without thinking twice. The colour richness and the contrast that it displays are very impressive. It’s eco friendly in manufacturing and in usage. The speakers aren’t great, just functional. The internet widgets are slow, the media player, whilst playing just about everything you are likely to use, is a little clunky. The add-on Wifi adapter is a little expensive (in my opinion). There are 4 HDMI inputs as well as break-out cabling for historical connections. There are a myriad of settings to allow you full control over your image settings, all of which are beautifully kept separated for each input source. The menus and the main remote control are well thought out.

 

The big decision splitter is the LED backlighting.

If you can live with the slight bleeding and inconsistencies that it shows, or even better you get lucky and your unit doesn’t show it for some reason, then this really is a stunning TV in both styling and image richness.

 

Posted by : Iain

Posted in: Reviews

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