Before we launch into the review proper we thought we'd preface it with a discussion of Samsung's term "LED TV" and why we think this is potentially misleading. This is not a different type of television, this is an LCD television with a different type of lighting system. In this case it's lit by a bunch of LEDs and not fluorescent tubes, and it's not new: the technology's been around since at least 2004. An LCD is an LCD in our books and you can use anything you like to light it.
Samsung calls this the "thinnest TV in the world with a digital tuner inside". The backlighting system on this one means it is incredibly slim, and it doesn't need an external media box like most others — it's all built in. The television features the company's now-familiar "Crystal Design", which is a predominantly black bezel bleeding into a grey and then clear edge. The stand is also striking with a clear "stem", with a subtle red glow atop. Pity you can't hide your cables behind the stand, though.
Given the unit's slimness, the Samsung is a prime candidate for wall-mounting, and while the unit wasn't supplied with one, the optional wall-mount bracket appears to be almost as easy to hang as a picture. If you're looking to wall-mount, this is one of the best products yet.
Samsung has altered the design of its now-familiar remote slightly with a small sculpted overhang at the bottom. It's not particularly ergonomic, but it looks cool. Most buttons are within easy reach and we found we could easily control a Panasonic DMR-BW850 Blu-ray recorder with the same remote — thanks to the Samsung Anynet+ (HDMI-CEC) feature. The package includes a second round remote, and we couldn't help but laugh at Samsung's description: "It shines with a rare beauty that enriches its environment, making your world a more beautiful place". We are tempted to take the meaning of world literally here, and think that Samsung plans to make all of our lives better by simply inventing this round piece of plastic (and introducing it to the "world").
Editor's Note: the model we received had a red bezel instead of a grey bezel. The red bezel is not available in Australia, but the feature set is otherwise identical.
What we have before us is probably the most fully-featured television in the world. There is very little that the UA40B7100 leaves us wanting, and comes with a full complement of networking features, connectivity options and even on-board entertainment. It may sound odd to say it, but this is an incredibly entertaining television. You don't even have to plug an aerial into it to get games, MP3s or even YouTube (though you will need to plug in an Ethernet cable or USB wireless adapter). As with last year's Series 9, the UA40B7100 is a "connected" TV and features internet connectivity plus DLNA playback from other machines on your network.
Later this year, Samsung is planning to introduce MSN widgets, but at the moment there are two plug-ins available: weather and YouTube. The weather application works as you'd expect it to, giving you potted descriptions and a forecast for the next few days, but we must say we're a little disappointed by the YouTube application. While it works in a similar way to solutions offered by LG and Panasonic, it misses one crucial aspect: search. Without it you're reduced to browsing what's new and "highlights" are picked by somebody in Samsung. We're hopeful search will be implemented in the future. Look out for further widgets though, as we think this feature shows promise in a similar way thatare promising — though probably without the excitement or hype.
The slim form-factor has lead to some compromises in terms of connectivity, some of which may not please videophiles. The unit ships with an impressive four HDMI inputs (which are side-mounted), and while indented they are perhaps still a little too close to the edge for effective stealthy installation. Also along the side is a USB input, an optical audio output, and a connector for control of the optional, motorised wall-mount bracket. On the back — not that there's really a "back" because the screen is so thin, it's more a continuation of the side-mounts — lives a PC input, an antenna and a LAN connector. Naturally, there is also an AV input and single component connection but there is a twist; to save room these take the form of a proprietary, PlayStation 2-type connector and 3.5mm-to-component adapter respectively.
In use, the UA40B7100 reminded us very much of another television from the Samsung stable, the. Not surprising, as both are based on LED backlighting technology, and while the 9 Series was a better television it also CHEATED by using Cold Cathode tubes in addition to LEDs. We should also note that the LEDs are lined up around the edge of the TV, which means you can get that super-human thinness, but it also means it may not have the black levels of a direct-lit TV.