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Samsung UNKU7000 series review:

Heavy on style and smarts, lighter on picture quality

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The Good The affordable KU7000 series showed accurate color and a good picture in bright rooms. Samsung incorporates unique device and smart-home control features, tied together with a simple remote and interface. The design is sleek and minimalist.

The Bad In overall image quality it lags behind some similarly priced TVs.

The Bottom Line Midrange buyers seeking a stylish, feature-filled 4K TV from a well-known brand will find plenty to like about the Samsung KU7000, but picture-first shoppers should look elsewhere.

CNET Editors' Rating

7.0 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 6.0
  • Value 7.0

Samsung TVs deserve credit for Smart TV innovation and futuristic design, and the KU7000 combines both for an affordable price.

It's the least expensive TV to feature the company's cool automatic device control system, which lets you command connected AV equipment using the TV's simple remote and zero programming. It can operate SmartThings-compatible smart home devices like lights and thermostats, and even simplifies your cable box and streaming-app interfaces. All with style that's sleek and modern.

So far, so good, and for many buyers, especially those who value Samsung's brand cachet, that's plenty. Right about now, however, I'm imagine a typical CNET reader would mutter: "Stop talking about the design and features, Katzmaier, and tell me about the picture." Soon enough, but first, look at these slides.

Back? OK. Remember that Samsung has a premium line of TVs it calls SUHD. But in 2015, the company's JU7100 -- technically a step down from the SUHD line -- actually delivered comparable picture quality to its SUHD big brother, the JS8500. But that happy occurrence isn't being repeated for 2016: Comparing the KU7000 reviewed here directly with the 2016 SUHD step-up, model KS8000, the latter model was the clear winner. It gets brighter and darker, looks better in a dim and in bright rooms, and has better color. (And, of course, it costs a lot more.)

Then there's Vizio. The 2016 M series costs about as much as the KU7000, and Samsung trounces Vizio in design and ease of use -- despite Vizio's included Android tablet-based remote, it feels less futuristic to use than the KU7000. On the other hand, the Vizio beats the Samsung at the most important thing a TV can do: producing a beautiful picture.

Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 65-inch Samsung UN65KU7000, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.

samsung-unku7000-series-06.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

Signature sweet Samsung style

One of the main reasons to pay up for Samsung is for nice design, and even the midrange KU7000 benefits. The dark gray metallic frame is thin, but not razor-thin like on some other sets. The small Samsung logo matches the quiet discretion of the rest of the TV, and the stand is a svelte splayed pedestal in darker black.

samsung-unku7000-series-09.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

I also like the remote. It's small enough to fit any hand yet feels substantial. Bumps, depressions and logical placement make finding keys by feel with a thumb as easy as on any clicker I've ever used. I'm an especially big fan of the raised flanges for volume and channel. I would have appreciated backlighting, however, as well as a few more keys -- in particular dedicated fast-forward, rewind and skip keys.

samsung-unku7000-series-03.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

Automatic control, smarter TV

Samsung's novel control system allows the TV's remote to command a lot of your home theater gear, including a cable box, without any tedious setup. Simply plugging in a device during initial TV setup is often enough to get the TV to recognize it and completely set up control using Samsung's TV remote. This unique auto setup ability worked for a little over half the ones I tried when I reviewed it with the KS8000 (I didn't retest it for this review).

You'll need to plug your stuff directly into the TV, so if your setup incorporates an AV receiver it won't work. The system mostly relies on infrared commands sent from Samsung's remote, so you'll need line-of-sight to control most devices (if your stuff is hidden in a cabinet, it won't work).

samsung-unks8000-series-15.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

In the end I'd stick with my Harmony, but people with simpler systems that use supported devices should be fine using just Samsung's remote to control everything.

Samsung also revamped its Smart TV system with a friendlier design. App coverage isn't as comprehensive as on Android TV (on Sony sets) or Roku TV, but it's better than LG. If your streaming tastes go beyond the basic apps, you will probably still need to connect an external device like a Roku or Apple TV.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung incorporates content more seamlessly than other TVs, though. Click the Home button and you'll be able to browse content from within apps like Netflix and Hulu while your current video keeps playing in the background. The menu even serves suggestions and, on some apps, lets you resume stuff you were watching previously.

For more details on the control system and Smart TV, check out the KS8000 review.

Key TV features

Display technology: LED LCD
LED backlight: Edge-lit
Resolution: 4K
HDR compatible: HDR10
Screen shape: Flat
Smart TV: Tizen
Remote: Standard
3D-capable: No

Features

The KU lacks most of the picture-related extras of its SUHD compatriots, including Quantum Dots, "1,000 nits" of brightness and local dimming. Instead is a relatively standard 4K resolution set.

The "UHD Dimming" feature on this TV isn't true local dimming, but rather an algorithm Samsung says enhances contrast, color and detail. The KU7000 has an edge-lit LED backlight as opposed to the direct or full-array units found on some other TVs, which helps thin the cabinet but can negatively impact screen uniformity. has a panel with a 60Hz native resolution, not the 120Hz of step-up sets, which has an effect on motion handling. See the picture quality section for more on how these features affect the image.

The set supports HDR (high dynamic range) content in HDR10 format only. It lacks the Dolby Vision HDR support found on Vizio's and LG's 2016 HDR TVs. It's still too early to determine whether one HDR format is "better" than the other, and I definitely don't consider lack of Dolby Vision a deal breaker on this TV--instead it's just one more factor to consider.

samsung-unku7000-series-02.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

Connectivity

  • 3x HDMI inputs with HDMI 2.0a, HDCP 2.2
  • 1x composite/component video input
  • 2x USB ports
  • Ethernet (LAN) port
  • Optical digital audio output
  • RF (antenna) input

No complaints here, and all three of its HDMI are state-of-the-art. Unlike the KS8000 and other more expensive Samsung TVs, the KU7000 actually includes an analog video input.

One of the USB ports, labeled IoT Extend, is designed to accept the company's SmartThings Extend control dongle. The dongles will allow the TVs to control SmartThings devices via an app on the TV. They were originally expected to ship this September, but now won't be available until early 2017, according to Samsung. They're free to owners of this TV who redeem a coupon included in the box. Maybe the integration of the platform into TVs will push Samsung to iron out some of SmartThings' glitches.

Picture quality

The KU7000's image was good, but not up to the standards of many TVs I've tested this year. Its relatively light black levels and subpar video processing were the biggest issues, and while I appreciated its accurate color and solid HDR image, they aren't enough to push its picture into "very good" territory.

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