The middle black patch of an ANSI contrast chart measured at 0.056 cd/m2, when we had the Samsung UE40ES7000 configured to a peak white brightness of 120 cd/m2. This is a good result, albeit marginally worse than on the 55-inch version of the ES8000 series we reviewed earlier. We noticed similar dynamic backlight shifting during the measurements – for example, the black level originally measured at 0.067 cd/m2, apparently being influenced by the order in which the different patterns were cycled through.
Viewing of real-world content left us mostly satisfied with the performance. Black levels are no match for any of the better Plasma TVs during dark viewing (and of course being an LCD display, the level of black isn’t entirely consistent across the panel surface), but the ES7000 will excel in brighter rooms, producing the impression of very deep blacks, and if the user needs them in a bright environment, very bright whites, too.
Evenness across the UE40ES7000 was very good for an edge-lit LED LCD, although there was some shading at the extreme left and right edges of the panel, with an approximately 1cm darker strip at both edges.
Low-tone grey test fields revealed some greyscale inconsistency across the panel. 20% stimulus in particular revealed that the middle of the screen was more reddish, with the image turning more blue toward the light sources at the left and right edges. This probably won’t be visible to most users during most content, with the critical factor being consistent brightness across the panel. For an edge LED TV, the Samsung UE40ES7000 does well here, but there’s room for improvement.
The 40ES7000 manages to resolve 1080 lines in the FPD Benchmark test, although does so with artefacting (white halos around the moving black areas). In real-life performance, as an LCD, there is still some visible motion blur, although it’s nowhere near the level of being problematic for most users. There’s also still some low-tone smearing: on the “Hammock” test sequence, the pixels showing the girl’s black hair would take longer to update as the hammock moved back and forth, causing them to blend with her flesh tone, which manifested as quick oily green trails.
This is all mostly acceptable, from our point of view, and par for the course with VA-type LCD panels. The only way to avoid this specific motion artefact that we know of is to move to Plasma technology (in which case you’ll get different motion artefacts, which from our point of view are slightly less visible, but to others perhaps moreso), or to get an IPS-type LCD TV (which will provide slightly more uniform motion blur, at the cost of a much weaker black level).
The Samsung ES7000 gets nearly everything right when it comes to accurate display of HD movies and other content. So we can end with the good news, let’s get the bad out the way – just like the ES8000, the UE40ES7000 features a light amount of noise reduction, which is constantly running in the background even if the [Digital Noise Filter] is set “Off”. Put another way, the “Off” switch for the [Digital Noise Filter] feature is not implemented correctly, and does not work properly. This is enough to smear film grain textures and other fine motion details in high-def content; in fact we also caught it scrubbing away subtle motion in grainless CG material. For example, in The Adventures of Tintin, a scene at roughly 17 minutes has the titular protagonist walking down a street, with a very light coating of rain visible against the brickwork. It was a subtle effect to start with, but it’s all but gone on the Samsung UE-40ES7000 due to the temporal NR filtering, which looks at a series of frames and averages out pixels with only small changes between them.
There are similar effects throughout the rest of the film, where fast-moving rainstorms are transformed into less ferocious-looking drizzles by the unwanted and unrequested video processing (and to be fair, the inherent motion characteristics of LCD panels will slightly reduce the appearance of these effects on their own). Small details, such as sand blowing during the desert scenes, also fell foul of the undefeatable noise filter. The American/Canadian Samsung HDTVs have a properly working “Off” switch, but for now, users in European countries who want to see absolutely every scrap of detail will have to resort to using the “Game Mode”, which means you lose the 10-point White Balance control and get added motion judder with 24p sources – not a great trade-off, and not one that anyone should have to make in the first place. We supplied Samsung with test sequences and instructions on how to replicate this when we saw it on the ES8000 series, so we can only hope that the company can fix it with firmware updates.
With that aspect out of the way, we’re pleased to report that the Samsung UE40ES7000 gets nearly everything else right. Greyscale and colour accuracy were nearly flawless, with little in the way of deviations when compared to a reference display. We can’t think of any instances where the slight errors in colour reproduction would significantly alter the intended effect of the filmmakers. There was no unwanted edge sharpening provided the [Sharpness] control was correctly set, which is excellent.
In terms of motion judder, we were able to get consistently flawless 24p playback only by turning [Motion Plus] off. The “Custom” setting with Blur Reduction set to 10 and Judder Reduction (soap opera effect) at 0 would occasionally cause temporary motion stuttering after a scene change, or during particularly complicated motion. The “Clear” setting eliminated this, but gave us constant judder, visible with camera pans. Turning [Motion Plus] Off for films was our preferred option, since 24fps film content doesn’t really need LCD motion processing trickery anyway. (The other Motion Plus modes add the “soap opera effect”, so we avoided those by default).
The Samsung UE40ES7000 features the same SD strengths and weaknesses as the ES8000, so to recap: excellent, smooth, scaling, good jaggedness suppression for deinterlacing video content, but a lack of proper 2-2 film cadence detection support for movies transferred to PAL video (aka European TV). The Korean brand used to get everything right in this area, so fingers crossed for a firmware fix.
The ES7000 presents a full HD 3D image, resolving full horizontal and vertical detail in the third dimension. Unlike the 55″ version of the ES8000 we reviewed, it doesn’t draw an entirely flawless Right Eye image, with the extra information appearing with a slight stippled effect. We thought this was a thing of the past when we saw that the UE55ES8000 was free of it – whether or not it’s down to the difference in panel size or series, we’re not sure. Panasonic’s ET50 series, which uses an IPS LCD panel and active-shutter technology, draws a 3D image which has essentially the same quality as its 2D output, with no such effects. In any case, it’s mild, although if you’re a videophile who’s hugely into 3D TV, you might want to consider it.
Otherwise, 3-dimensional performance was the same as with the 55ES8000.
We ran our usual 3-D motion tests on the Samsung UE40ES7000 to detect any issues with judder in 3D content. With [Motion Plus] turned off, the 50hz test displayed with motion judder. Enabling the higher levels of [Blur Reduction] removed the judder on our test sequence, but not during some actual 50hz 25fps 3D film content. However, as with last year, we found that entering the “Game Mode” (which by default, produces a very sharpened, blue-tinted picture, but can be calibrated to a high level of accuracy) solved any judder and reproduced cinema-smooth playback of 50hz films.
24p 3D material – the kind of video you’ll get from films on 3D Blu-ray Discs – also displayed with essentially identical performance to the aforementioned 50hz material. Unfortunately, turning on Game Mode didn’t resolve judder here. Fortunately, it was mild. So, if you want to avoid some light motion judder, you’ll need to turn on the TV’s own motion-smoothing features, and find a good balance of a setting that avoids the judder but doesn’t introduce much of a “soap opera” effect. This does mean that you can’t get cinema quality motion from the UE40ES7000 in 3D, though.
It appears that the design of Samsung’s 3D LCD televisions is 60hz-centric, which is understandable (given that, like all major TV manufacturers, they’re based in a 60hz-centric country). This is in contrast to LCD and Plasma offerings from Panasonic, all of which have been configurable to replay all types of 3D content without judder and without requiring frame interpolation. However, we didn’t feel that the judder was a huge deal, and importantly, greyscale tracking and colour were both up to a good standard (although neither were quite as accurate as in 2D).
The Samsung ES7000 gave us the same very good, but not top-tier input lag performance that we experienced with the ES8000. With “Game Mode” turned on, we measured 31ms of input lag.
Additionally, Game Mode does remove the aforementioned undefeatable noise reduction, allowing all of the texture of high quality film scans to come through untouched. It also features higher chroma resolution, with sharper tiny coloured details, although this improvement is subtle. This picture preset is however also accompanied by dynamic backlighting, meaning that the UE40ES7000 will darken and brighten the intensity of the LED light sources relative to picture content (for example, a dimly lit scene in which a dark, cloaked character steps into the frame will cause the TV to shift brightness on the fly). For that reason, we didn’t use the Game Mode for movies as we sometimes do to avoid the noise reduction.
Smart TV Features
Samsung’s Smart Hub portal is launched by pressing the stylish diamond-shaped “M” button on the remote. The interface is up to the Korean TV maker’s usual standard, and features five wallpaper backgrounds to choose from. The video image is shrunk and displayed in a box at the top left. Installed apps appear at the bottom of the screen, with highlights being displayed in the top half of the screen. There’s a Camera app, a fairly usable web browser, and perhaps most worthwhile of all, a Skype app. We’re also happy to see the inclusion of a Netflix app, which we could use to access the vast American catalogue by plugging the appropriate DNS addresses into the TV’s user menus.
The current top-end Samsung LED LCD TVs, although flawed, are some of the better ones on the market for home cinema usage due to their impressive contrast performance. For that reason, we’re glad to report that in many ways, the ES7000 really is just a cheaper version of the ES8000. If you’re set on an LED TV, then it’s a good choice, but it could have been a slightly better one from our point of view as film lovers, had Samsung properly implemented the “Off” setting for the Digital Noise Reduction system.
With that caveat already mentioned time and time again, we’re happy to see that although the out-of-the-box performance isn’t at the same level as some of the better THX-Certified TVs on the market, the Samsung UE40ES7000 can be calibrated to a near-perfect level of accuracy in 2D, and a decent level in 3D. There’s also a good selection of internet-connected “Smart TV” features.
The Samsung faces competition from the Sony HX853 series. The Sony overall has less accurate colour, so normally wouldn’t be in the same category as an HDTV like the UE40ES7000 (which has full three-axis colour controls and 10-point greyscale configuration), but Samsung’s forced noise reduction is also an inaccuracy which will cause it to fall to a similar level for video purists. Had it not been for this, the Samsung would have been the clear winner. As it stands, the 40ES7000, like the Sony, is still one of the better LED LCDs around, and we hope to see it get better with firmware updates.
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