The 55-inch UN55F7100 is Samsung’s most popular big screen TV. With 3D support, the company’s Smart Hub interface for media streaming and a new Smart Touch remote control, it has all the latest features that an average consumer would look for. With a full color-management system, 10-point white balance adjustments, Day and Night modes for professional calibrators, and the ability to disable all unnecessary picture-related settings, it also has the features that video purists demand.
Sporting a thin, 0.2-inch silver bezel, the UN55F7100 is also only 1.2 inches deep at maximum, making it easy to hoist up on a wall. All controls and inputs are found around back on the set’s right side. Four HDMI inputs are provided, including one with Audio Return Channel (PCM 2.0 stereo). There’s also a shared component-/composite-video and an antenna/cable input plus 3 USB ports for accessories like a camera. Wi-Fi is built-in, and there’s an Ethernet jack.
Samsung includes a stand for tabletop use and VESA holes are provided for a wall mount. The small Smart Touch remote eschews many controls, including number keys, in favor of gesture inputs. For example, you have to draw on the remote’s track pad with your finger instead of pointing the remote at the screen. It may sound strange, but I found that entering channel numbers in this manner was easy to do. (I still wish Samsung had included a traditional remote as well.) The set comes with 4 pairs of Samsung’s active 3D glasses.
The F7100 delivered a nice-looking image straight out of the box. With its Movie picture preset, Warm 2 Color Temperature and -2 Gamma settings selected, results were very close to reference targets. Changing the Color Space mode from Auto to Custom, even without making further adjustments, improved things further. Light output with the backlight control set to 6 was 35 footlamberts (ftL)—a good setting for most rooms. Pegging it at the maximum setting produced 105 ftL. That much brightness can overpower glare from windows and other light sources, but it’s too bright for viewing in a dim or dark room.
After making adjustments using the 10-point White Balance and Custom Color Space settings, the F7100 really shined. My measurements were dead-on, indicating that the Samsung can produce a perfect image from an objective standpoint. Black level only hits 0.0127 ftL, however. Combined with its 35.3 ftL light output, that gives us a contrast ratio of 2781:1—decent for an LCD, but well below the kind of contrast ratios a plasma display can produce.
After calibration, movies looked great on the F7100. Lanterns pitched against the water at night showed wonderful contrast in the Macau entrance scene from Skyfall. With LED microdimming enabled, fireworks in the sky in this scene appeared free of any highlighting or blooming. Watching Chapter 12 from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 , I saw none of the objectionable backlight pumping that results from overly-aggressive LED dimming. Where I did notice it is in movies with letterbox bars. The bars looked darker with dimming turned on, but anytime a bright object appeared near them, the black level in that area would fluctuate.
Star Trek Into Darkness looks fantastic on Blu-ray—and also for the most part on the F7100. Skin tones were generally natural, but in some cases they showed a red push where the film’s director intentionally added one. The F7100’s black levels were good, though not particularly deep: starfields looked relatively dark, but I could still see the letterbox bars. Also, the set’s LED edge-lighting became apparent when watching Harry Potter, with visibly brighter corners and backlight bleeding on both sides of the screen. This was only visible in the darkest scenes, but I found it heavily distracting.
Sports like football were handled well by the F7100, but you do have to put up with some motion blur. You can minimize this using the Custom Auto Motion Plus setting’s judder and blur reduction controls, but those also introduce a bit of micro-stuttering—every so often the action will hiccup as if the deinterlacing and blur-reduction algorithms are having a tiny issue. Turning Auto Motion Plus off eliminates this, but it also means you can’t take advantage of the set’s judder and blur reduction controls. A side note: By setting blur reduction to maximum and judder reduction to 0 in the Custom mode, you can maintain a correct 24p film cadence for Blu-ray without introducing any frame interpolation.
The F7100’s ample light output also makes it a very good 3D display. The quality of 3D has really improved over the past few years such that watching it on an LCD TV is no longer a painful experience. With Hugo, there was virtually no crosstalk; the image was bright and clear, and colors looked nice. In general, any 3D-related issues stemmed from the content itself and not the TV. The glasses that Samsung includes with the set are lightweight, but I found myself wishing they blocked out more light from the side.
Gamers will want to use the set’s Game mode. With this engaged, lag dropped to 38ms from 120ms without.
The main issue I have with the F7100 is the limited size of its viewing cone. Viewed straight on, the F7100’s image looks gorgeous: bright, with accurate color and great detail. But move off a bit from a center seat and the image dulls very fast. Just moving my head position 6 inches vertically required a several-click change the TV’s brightness setting to compensate. Ultimately, this means that, despite its large size, the UN55F7100 works best as a TV for a small number of people huddled close together.
Samsung’s Smart Hub interface works well to provide access to online content including Hulu Plus, Amazon On Demand, and Netflix. Picture quality was indistinguishable from my Roku 3. The F7100’s integrated Wi-Fi also makes it easy to get online. Samsung does throw you into the Smart Hub interface as soon as the F7100 is powered on instead of taking you directly to the TV’s last-used input — something that I wish I could disable. Navigation could be a bit faster as well, but for that you’d need one of the company’s higher-end models with a faster processor.
Samsung’s 55-inch UN55F7100 is capable of providing a fantastic image —as long as it’s viewed from a center seat. Even without calibration it looks very good. The set’s screen size-to-dollar ratio ($1697.99 on Amazon) is also good, as is its selection of online content. We give the F7100 3.5 out of five heart rating, but only because its viewing angle is more limited than most LCDs.
Disclosure: The Samsung UN55F7100 reviewed is a manufacturer supplied production sample.
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