Every year, thousands of gadgets flow through our offices. As jaded hacks, very few of them manage to elicit more than the raising of an inquisitive eyebrow. But, when we unpacked the Samsung UE46D7000 TV, it wasn't long before people were flocking around to pay it compliments.
This 46-inch, 1080p TV has an ultra-slim bezel, a stunning LED-illuminated LCD panel, and every new feature you could wish for, including 3D capability. Oh, and it makes jaded hacks drool with desire.
The UE46D7000 will be available in March for around £1,700.
This TV's design is hugely impressive, mainly because the bezel surrounding the screen is incredibly thin. Ignoring those on prototype TVs and OLED screens, it's the thinnest bezel we've ever clapped eyes on.
Samsung has managed to make the bezel appear so thin by using clear plastic on the outer edge, while the inner part is made of the usual black material. Consequently, when turned on, this TV looks more like a floating image than a television. Hang this set on a wall, and it looks more like a poster than a telly.
Both LCD and plasma TVs are flawed when it comes to reproducing 3D content. Plasma screens are too dark, and lack the bright colour of LCD sets. On the other hand, LCD tellies often suffer from nasty ghosting around images, which is a result of the comparatively slow response time of this technology.
Fortunately the UE46D7000 significantly improves on the 3D performance of Samsung's previous generation of screens. Samsung was already one of the leaders in 3D on LCD sets, so this is no mean feat.
The most annoying problem, ghosting around images, has been reduced significantly. While watching Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs on Blu-ray, we noticed that vertical lines no longer had ghosting around them in most scenes. There's still a small amount of ghosting, though. It's slightly distracting when it does appear, but it's been reduced to the point where many people won't even notice it.
Samsung has changed some of the technology involved in its 3D glasses. The TV now syncs with the glasses over Bluetooth, instead of infrared. This is bad news if you've invested in infrared glasses from last year, but, as 3D TV owners are unlikely to be upgrading their sets already, we suspect this won't be much of a problem.
Samsung's active-shutter glasses are the most comfortable on the market, although LG's glorious passive glasses are even lighter and more comfortable. Samsung's glasses are lighter than they were last year, and wearing them isn't an unpleasant experience, although you will still look like an utter buffoon.
Unfortunately, the coating on Samsung's new glasses reflects light. This means that, in a normally lit room, you'll see reflections of whatever's behind you on the inside of the glasses. It's a minor problem, though, and one that can be solved by dimming the lights in your viewing room. Doing so will help to produce a better 3D experience anyway.
We also noticed that, when the UE46D7000 detects that 3D content has stopped playing, it instantly switches off the glasses. This is great most of the time but, if you're between two 3D videos, you have to turn the glasses back on again. It's not a major issue, but it is something to remember if you can't work out why your viewing material is no longer appearing in 3D.
Freeview HD is the weakest source, but it's still much better than normal, standard-definition Freeview. There's plenty of detail in the pictures, and colours on the LCD screen look bright and vivid. You can also tailor the image to suit your taste. We prefer a low-key image, and the TV is perfectly capable of delivering that. If you like eye-punishing greens and reds, this TV will be more than happy to oblige you too. Just don't blame us when your eyes explode.
Blu-ray content is a step-up. While watching movies, we were very pleased to see that everything from black-and-white footage to colourful tropical sunsets looked stunning. We generally expect Blu-ray material to look good, but that doesn't mean companies always get it right. Samsung has, however, and we're pleased to see it.
Samsung believes that using LEDs mounted around the edge of the panel, rather than directly behind it, is the way forward. This system saves power, is significantly less expensive, and can produce blacks that are almost as deep. Put a movie on, switch off the lights, inspect the blacks on this TV, and we think you'll agree.
The LED illumination isn't perfect, as there are areas of bleeding light around the edges of the panel, but this issue isn't as severe as it has been in the past. The TV is also quicker than previous models when it comes to dimming the backlight. It all adds up to pretty deep blacks.
That said, any LED-illuminated TV falls far short of most plasma sets when it comes to black levels. Movie fans might want to consider this fact before buying an LED TV. If you're not interested in 3D, then a plasma TV will almost certainly be a better choice for most hard-core movie fans.
Our past complaints about absurd picture-processing modes haven't been entirely heeded by Samsung. The company told us, however, that, while reviewers hate its ultra-smooth picture modes, customers are actually rather taken with them. That's fair enough.
We don't like the removal of film judder via picture processing because it introduces artefacts into the picture, destroys the look of film, and makes everything look like a low-budget '80s TV show. But that's a matter of taste. If you really want to smooth out motion in films at all costs, this TV's picture-processing modes will do a good job.
The UE46D7000 doesn't look like it has any speakers at all. But we know it does, because Samsung told us, and we've heard them.
Usually, built-in speakers are a massive pain. They're generally weedy, under-powered and produce a thoroughly sickening noise. But, while the bass produced by the UE46D7000 won't cause your cranium to implode, its invisible speaker system is far from inept.
We listened to everything from Blu-ray movies to audio streamed over the Internet, and none of it made us want to cut off our own ears in protest. We'd still recommend buying a proper sound system, but the built-in speakers are more than adequate for day-to-day listening and viewing.
This TV also triumphs in terms of its online capability. It offers possibly the most impressive line-up of Internet content we've ever seen on a telly.
Among the treats on offer are video-streaming services from the BBC and LoveFilm. You can also surf the Internet on a built-in Web browser that also allows you to carry on watching TV shows in another window.
If you're a social-media fan, you'll love the fact that you can have your Twitter feed displayed on the screen while you watch TV. This specially built application is unique to Samsung. We're rather enamoured with the idea of being able to watch a hashtag as we're enjoying TV of an evening.
We will add one caveat, though. While the TV's Internet content is impressive, the built-in Wi-Fi connectivity isn't. We had no end of problems setting this TV up on our corporate Wi-Fi network. Indeed, we weren't able to find our wireless network at all, and had to resort to a wired one instead. That's most annoying (although see update, below).
There will soon also be the option to use Skype for video calling on the TV, once Samsung has released a USB-connected HD camera. We can see Skype being an increasingly important part of TVs in the future, as it's a superb way to stay in touch with distant family.
What's not to like about the Samsung UE46D7000? It's slim, beautiful and offers great image quality. Its 3D images are the best we've ever seen on an LCD TV too. It's not cheap, but cutting-edge tech rarely is.
This TV really is a great all-round package, so we're pleased to give it our highest score and bestow our prestigious Editors' Choice award upon it. The only thing wrong with this TV is that we have to give it back, and we really don't want to.
Update: In this review, we pointed out we weren't able to connect the TV to our Wi-Fi network. After investigating, Samsung got in touch and told us the Wi-Fi module had malfunctioned and the problem was isolated to the review unit we saw.
We've subsequently reviewed the Samsung D8000 series, which is identical in terms of the Wi-Fi hardware, and had no significant problems connecting to wireless networks.
Edited by Charles Kloet