The 55-inch, 1080p UE55B7020WW LCD TV with LED edge lights looks like it's been sent from five years in the future, cramming an extraordinary amount of features into its incredibly svelte body. Its backlight-inconsistency flaw is disappointing, but its pictures are excellent otherwise
It's not often that we're rendered speechless, but we have to admit that, when we saw Samsung's UE55B7020WW, we were struck dumb. After all, it's not every day you see a 55-inch screen that's only 30mm thick. But can this £2,050, 1080p, LED-backlit LCD TV's pictures match its outer beauty?
The extreme slenderness of the UE55B7020WW immediately hints at the screen's single most important feature: its LED edge lights. LED light sources are ranged around the screen's edges, behind the TV's bezel, firing light across the back of the screen, with this light then being deflected out through the screen by an array of tiny mirrors.
This approach to LED lighting denies the UE55B7020WW the contrast-boosting local-dimming technology enjoyed by sets with LEDs located directly behind the screen. But it does allow the UE55B7020WW to be entrancingly thin.
Fittingly for a screen that looks so cutting-edge and makes such extravagant use of a relatively new technology, the UE55B7020WW is stuffed with connections and features. Four HDMI ports get the ball rolling, aided by, among other connections, two USB sockets for playback of all manner of multimedia file types, and an Ethernet port that allows access to a DLNA-certified PC or Samsung's online Media 2.0 service.
You can also get online wirelessly via an optional Wi-Fi USB dongle. But whichever way you access Media 2.0, instead of full Internet access, you'll get the same Yahoo Widgets-driven, ring-fenced content, including YouTube, Flickr, Twitter and Yahoo news, weather and finance reports.
If Media 2.0's online content and the USB ports don't satisfy your multimedia cravings, the UE55B7020WW also offers Samsung's unique Content Library feature, a collection of multimedia content stored on flash memory inside the TV, including everything from artwork and photo galleries to recipes, games, and even fitness regimes. Unsurprisingly, most of this content is pretty basic and probably won't draw you back for more very often. But it's an intriguing concept that has plenty of space to develop.
The UE55B7020WW's high-end status is further confirmed by a striking quantity of picture options within its on-screen menus, including, most notably, a 100Hz engine that allows you to adjust how heavily it goes to work on whatever you're watching.
A single aggravating flaw mars the UE55B7020WW, though: pronounced backlight inconsistency. It manifests itself the moment you watch any dark scene. Some parts of the picture -- most notably the corners -- look markedly brighter than others. That can really distract you from what you're watching. You can reduce the impact of the light leakage if you ramp down the image's brightness, but we couldn't completely get rid of it, at least while retaining an image that was still bright and dynamic enough to be enjoyable.
Making this flaw all the more irksome is the fact that, in most other respects, the UE55B7020WW's pictures are outstanding. Where not blighted by the light pools, the screen's blacks are intensely deep, leaving those of most normal LCD TVs for dead. Its colours are bright and richly saturated too -- not to the same extent as those of Sharp's recent LED-backlit TVs, but much more than we might have expected from an LED-edge-lit TV. They're also very natural.
The UE55B7020WW eats high-definition pictures for breakfast, reproducing them with excellent detail and clarity. The detail even extends into dark areas of the picture, except where the distracting light pools get in the way. Also, although there's slightly more judder than we'd ideally have hoped for, motion still looks adequate with the 100Hz mode set to its 'clean' level. We wouldn't recommend using any more potent 100Hz setting, though -- otherwise you run the risk of a few processing side effects creeping into the picture.
The UE55B7020WW is even quite accomplished with standard-definition material, as Samsung's new rescaling engine maps low-definition footage to the screen's 1080p resolution, so that it looks sharp, reasonably free of noise, and naturally coloured.
While the UE55B7020WW's extreme skinniness might boost its aesthetic appeal, it seems to have caused Samsung considerable problems when it comes to getting respectable audio performance out of the set. While the audio is sufficient for ordinary TV shows, and markedly better than that of smaller Samsung TVs, it lacks the dynamic range and power to rise fully to the challenges of decent action sequences, leaving them sounding rather thin.
The Samsung UE55B7020WW is one of the most frustrating TVs we've ever seen. It looks beautiful and is capable of delivering some heroic pictures. Unfortunately, its backlight flaw also makes it almost unwatchable at times. It's lucky for Samsung that its smaller LED-edge-lit models, like the previously reviewed UE46B8000, don't suffer from the same problem.
Edited by Charles Kloet