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Samsung UE40B7000WW review: Samsung UE40B7000WW

The 40-inch, 1080p UE40B7000WW with LED edge lights is a truly magnificent TV. Not only does it boast a remarkably thin design and wonderful picture quality but it's got good online functionality and impressive built-in speakers. We were also delighted to see it can play MKV files -- a real boon

Ian Morris

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8 min read

LED backlights are going through a period of flux at the moment. In the past, these backlights have been made by replacing the cold cathode tube used in standard LCDs with an array of LEDs. Now, however, companies are reducing the depth of their TVs by mounting the LEDs at the side of the panel and using some clever diffusing technology to distribute the light evenly.

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8.8

Samsung UE40B7000WW

The Good

Excellent picture quality; stunning design; good online functionality; capable of network media playback; impressive sound.

The Bad

Some patchiness when handling very dark scenes.

The Bottom Line

The Samsung UE40B7000WW is truly wonderful. While we still think plasma TVs have the edge, the UE40B7000WW shows that Samsung is turning sets with LED edge lights into real competitors. We're big fans of the TV's Yahoo Widgets and media-playback capability, and were blown away by the set's ability to play MKV files -- this is truly brilliant, and we're very excited to see a TV with this functionality built in

We've seen TVs with LED edge lights before. One of our concerns has been that the edges of the screen often seem brighter than the middle. We noticed that one company's model suffered from this especially badly, so we were very keen to see how the 40-inch, 1080p Samsung UE40B7000WW performs. We were also eager to take advantage of the Internet and media-streaming functionality offered by this set, which is priced at around £1,600.

Design
There's only one word to describe the UE40B7000WW's design: stunning. We really fell in love with the look of this TV from the first minute we took it out of the box. It's as light as a feather and not much thicker either. From an aesthetic point of view, you'd have to be a pretty tough customer not to feel your heart melt when you set eyes on this set.

Of course, dimensions and weight are just two aspects of TV design. But the Samsung seems to have all the other bases covered too. The UE40B7000WW comes on a sturdy glass stand, with a transparent neck that supports the TV. The idea is to give the illusion that the TV is floating in the air.

If the stand isn't for you, a wall-mounting kit is available, although we think the asking price of around £200 is absurd. We have to admit, though, that this kit is as cool as a cucumber in the salad-refrigeration section of your fridge. Basically, it's a piece of ultra-strong fibre-optic cable that you hang on a special wall fixture -- just like hanging a picture on the wall. If that's not as close to the future as the present can get, we'll eat our hoverboards.

Even the remote control has a cooler design than the usual Samsung fare. The end has an attractive, curved design that makes the remote look like it's been sculpted out of a piece of molten plastic, rather than the product of some tedious injection moulding process. The remote also features a very capable backlight, so, even in pitch-black conditions, you can see what buttons you're pressing.

Samsung is very keen to point out that, although the UE40B7000WW is wafer-thin, it has everything built in that a TV should have. Other manufacturers, such as Hitachi and Sony, have managed to make TVs that are as thin, or thinner, than this one, but they have always had just a single HDMI input. Generally, the rest of the connections are handled via a break-out box or media receiver. The UE40B7000WW offers every socket you'd expect, although it does cheat slightly.

Maybe 'cheat' is too harsh. Essentially, this TV has four HDMI sockets on the rear. These are marked 1 to 4, with number 1 being used as a DVI socket, for PC users who want to connect a PC to the TV. The composite, Scart and component inputs all have specialised cables. These cables use a 3.5mm custom jack to get the relevant signals to the TV. You could argue that this might reduce quality, and we don't think this is the best way of getting a signal to a TV, but, for space-saving purposes, we'll accept it's a necessary evil.

Put simply, we love the way this TV looks, and think the downsides of its design are more than compensated for by the set's beautifully thin and stylish appearance.

Features
We're thrilled to note that Samsung has finally listened to what we've been saying about user interfaces for some time now. The result is that the menus on this TV are beautifully designed and a real treat to use on a day-to-day basis. Previously, Samsung had trailed behind Korean rival LG in the user-interface stakes, but now we think the two companies are fairly evenly matched.

Samsung has cleverly minimised the impact on your TV-viewing experience of going into a menu. If you want to modify a setting, it's possible to do so without having your focus drawn away from the TV show you're enjoying, thanks to an almost entirely transparent menu screen. Also, setting adjustments can be made while keeping the picture clear and clutter-free. For example, adjusting the backlight allows you to see the impact your alterations are having on the picture in real-time.

Samsung has added plenty of other features to help elevate this TV above the competition. The inclusion of Yahoo Widgets is the main attraction. These handy, bite-sized applications are designed to keep you updated about weather and stock prices, for example, and give you access to other online content. Our favourite is the Flickr app, which allows you to watch full-screen slideshows of online photos -- very funky. We can see widgets taking over from interactive TV, a concept that's never really delivered on its initial promise.

In addition to its widget capability, the TV can also handle video, music and photos from an external source, via your home network, USB hard drive or memory card. We love this functionality. When we tested our usual array of media, we were in for a massive surprise. This TV can open and play files in an MKV container. If that doesn't mean anything to you, please bear with us for a moment while we talk about it. If you do know what we mean, then please now join us in a celebratory dance.


MKV support is a huge deal because it allows plenty of online high-definition content to be played on the TV without any other hardware. Products like the Popcorn Hour A-110 media streamer make this process fairly painless, but having such capability built into the TV is truly amazing. We tested 720p material and found it played flawlessly. There was no noticeable judder, although the picture was rather grainy at times. The real surprise was that the TV is also happy to decode a 1080p clip and play it flawlessly too. The only issue was the DTS soundtrack, which the TV can't internally decode.

We must also congratulate Samsung on the TV's energy-saving credentials. The UE40B7000WW uses muchless power than traditional backlit LCD TVs. With our final picture settings, our voltmeter registered an average power drain of around 100W to 130W. That's a seriously low power consumption that will save you money over the course of a year.

Performance
Initially, we had some concerns that the picture quality was slightly soft. It turned out that the TV had shipped with the sharpness setting knocked right down. We upped this to around 50 per cent -- which we take to mean that the picture is being neither artificially sharpened nor blurred -- and all was well. We would still say, though, that this TV's pictures are at the softer end of the spectrum. How you feel about this will depend on what you like. If you're in doubt, try and audition the set at your local TV dealer before parting with your money.

While we think the LED edge light is considerably dimmer than a traditional backlight, that won't be a problem for most people. If your TV room is exceptionally bright, you may not find this TV as easy to view as a normal LCD set. That said, plasma owners will find the brightness of the UE40B7000WW roughly comparable to the brightness of their existing set.

With LCD sets, the backlight is always a concern. In the case of the UE40B7000WW, with the LED illumination at the sides, we were concerned about patchiness when the set's handling black or very dark scenes. We did indeed notice some patchiness. We perceived more light in the four corners of the screen than in the middle. While this may be annoying during very dark scenes, it won't be an issue for most viewing. Certainly, we prefer this TV's performance to that of a regular LCD TV, but it can't compare with a plasma set for amazing black depth.

Even the built-in speakers were a surprise. We popped on a movie, and had the volume set to 50 per cent. The resulting sound was loud, while retaining clarity. There's no massive bass to shake you off your seat, but the set's audio is certainly capable enough for most viewing environments.

We tested the set with some of our favourite Blu-ray material, and weren't disappointed by the way this TV handled The Dark Knight. The immersive IMAX experience at the beginning of the movie looked stunning. We loved the detail on the gravel, the amazing clarity of the face masks and the utterly wonderful quality you only get from a 70mm film via Blu-ray. This TV didn't disappoint us at all, and we think you'll be impressed too.

Casino Royale, another tried and tested favourite, is also well worth a look on this set. The detail in the opening scene was razor sharp. Noise from the black and white film was as evident and gritty as the director intended. Put simply, this TV really delivers the goods with Blu-ray movies.

The set's upscaled-DVD performance also impressed us. Our favourite test disc, Jurassic Park, looked good. We use this movie in our tests because there are plenty of times when MPEG noise and artefacts are visible. The UE40B7000WW offered a decent amount of detail, but didn't manage to entirely get rid of the blocking and mosquito noise effects that are all too common on MPEG-2 encoded material.

Freeview was a different ball game. While the picture was generally good or very good, we did miss the detail of Blu-ray, and even standard DVD. Even so, the picture was perfectly watchable. Make sure you turn the colour down though, because this TV ships with quite an unnatural and over-bright look.

Conclusion
The Samsung UE40B7000WW is fabulous. There are a few minor bugs but nothing that would put us off owning this TV. The price is a fairly steep, but early adopters will be used to being penalised for their desire to own the latest and greatest technology.

We were worried that the lack of regional dimming would be a problem with this TV. As it turned out, we really didn't notice its absence. We were a little disappointed to see some light-bleeding in the corners of the screen, but, for the most part, it isn't visible during normal viewing in a lit room.

Edited by Charles Kloet

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