Finding a happy medium for 3D

Samsung’s step-down D7000 series doesn’t cut on spec at all, as John Archer finds out when he powers up the 40in model

Like its UE55D8000 sibling reviewed previously, the UE40D7000 is a mighty stylish TV, with a bezel that’s so slender (barely a centimetre) that it’s barely there at all. Moreover, the slimness is emphasised by the fact that most of the frame is transparent.

The design is perhaps not quite as opulent as that of the D8000 series, with its more metallic finish, but many people might prefer the D7000’s more subtle approach. The main remote control you get as standard is a pretty likeable affair, sporting a sensible layout and nice finish, although it’s not as fashionable as the TV itself.

The D7000’s spec sheet quickly reveals a welcome surprise: apparently the set’s features don’t differ in any significant way from that of the D8000 series, and the only aspect that separates the two ranges is the latter’s higher build quality.It’s rather nice to think that you can save yourself £100-£150 or so by getting the D7000, while only having to compromise on design. Heading up the screen’s features is, of course, its 3D playback. This uses active 3D technology, with one pair of active shutter glasses thrown into the package. This is more than you get with Panasonic’s GT30 3D series, but well short of the seven free pairs of (polarised) glasses you get with LG’s passive 3D TVs.

Samsung has now shifted to Bluetooth technology for its 3D glasses, believing this delivers a more stable connection with the TV’s transmitter. The brand has also created some optional designer glasses, which are intended to prove that active shutter glasses don’t have to be cumbersome and heavy.

Staying with the set’s 3D features, it carries a 2D to 3D conversion process that works using five different visual depth ‘cues’ versus the two or three used by other brands’ 2D-3D converters. This really makes a difference, too, as a combination of more depth and less depth errors help Samsung produce the best upconverted 3D image yet. The set’s other party trick is its Smart TV functions. Essentially, this is a big upgrade of Samsung’s 2010 Internet@TV online service, introducing loads more new ‘apps’, an open internet browser and a brilliant new interface.

Starting with this interface, Samsung has essentially designed a new ‘home page’ for the D7000 that presents you with icon-driven leap-off points to nigh-on all your sources, be they an AV input, material streamed from your DLNA PC, content stored on USB sticks or HDDs (you can also record to HDDs from the Freeview HD/Freesat HD tuners), and Samsung’s latest bank of online content delivery platforms. There’s even a universal search tool on this ‘home page’, which enables you to browse all your available sources, including the web, for particular TV shows or files.

Samsung’s online features include the best part of 40 apps (this will inevitably increase), covering everything from games through to news, information, social networking and video sources. Among the best of the apps are LOVEFiLM, Yahoo, Skype, Acetrax, Facebook, Twitter, the BBC iPlayer and Googlemaps.

Balancing act

Picture tinkerers will find plenty to keep them busy on the D7000, including a healthy degree of colour management, all manner of processes for boosting colours, contrast and black level and, best of all, lots of flexibility and control over the motion processing. Dubbed Motion Plus, and backed up by Samsung’s ‘800CMR’ system, you can adjust the amount of processing applied to its judder and blur components, a level of flexibility that proves immensely helpful in achieving a balance where motion looks cleaner without the picture looking processed.

Unleashed on both a recent 3D football match on Sky and the 3D Green Hornet Blu-ray, the D7000 proves a very good stereoscopic performer. The amount of detail in its 3D pictures is particularly excellent, leaving the Green Hornet disc looking as crisp and textured in 3D as it does in 2D. It has to be said that this resolution advantage of active 3D over passive isn’t as pronounced on the D7000’s 40in screen as it is on the much larger 55D8000, but it’s certainly there.

The football match, meanwhile, as well as bright scenes on the Blu-ray, such as the Black Beauty burial sequence, look impressively punchy and dynamic, reminding us that Samsung’s LED 3D TVs suffer less from dramatic brightness reductions in 3D mode than most active shutter televisions.

Shadow play

A handy knock-on effect of this 3D brightness is that there’s more shadow detail in dark parts of the picture than you usually see. This is particularly evident in the apparent depth of the backgrounds of the nighttime Green Hornet scenes, such as the decapitation of his father’s statue in the park There’s hardly any crosstalk during dark scenes, either, marking a big improvement from last year’s Samsung 3D LED TVs. There is, however, minimal crosstalk during very bright scenes, and more than I saw on the latest Panasonic 3D plasma TV.

Given that 3D will only occupy a small amount of your viewing time, it’s all the more important that the D7000 is also a great 2D performer. It upscales standard-definition material with real aplomb, adding detail and sharpness, while simultaneously suppressing noise without compromising colour tones. HD footage, meanwhile, enjoys immense sharpness and clarity, underlined by one of the most expansive contrast performance I’ve seen from a 40in LCD TV.

What’s more, provided you don’t leave the backlight level set too high, the backlight illumination looks pretty even; there are some minor patches of extra brightness in the corners of the picture, but they’re hardly distracting, even during very dark scenes.

Motion is quite clear and smooth even without Motion Flow in play, and, in fact, many people will probably prefer to leave it off, as it can cause a few processing side-effects. But as noted earlier, it’s got the flexibility to be adjusted to suit your tastes, so don’t be afraid to tinker with it at least. Colours are explosively rich and punchy in 2D mode, too, yet their extreme saturations don’t prevent the TV from delivering subtle shifts in tone or looking natural.

Audio asset

Accompanying the D7000’s excellent pictures is some surprisingly decent audio. Samsung’s slim, edge LED TVs have traditionally struggled to sound credible, but the set’s audio is clean, reasonably dynamic and quite punchy, though more bass extension wouldn’t have gone amiss. Overall, the D7000 is another hugely desirable TV from Samsung. There’s room for improvement where 3D crosstalk is concerned, but it’s still a very good 3D performer, while its 2D pictures are outstanding. All wrapped up in a to-die-for body.

HCC VERDICT

Highs: Gorgeous, space-saving design; good 3D and excellent 2D picture quality
Lows: Slight crosstalk noise with bright 3D footage
Performance: 5/5
Design: 5/5
Features: 5/5
Overall: 5/5

Specifications

Full HD: yes 1080p/24
Tuner: yes Freeview HD and Freesat HD
Component video: yes one input
HDMI/DVI: yes four, including v1.4 options
PC input: yes one D-Sub Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080
Sound: 20W Brightness: N/A Contrast ratio: N/A
Dimensions (off stand): 956(w) x 588.4(h) x 23.9(d)mm
Weight: 12.8kg
Also featuring: ‘800CMR’ motion processing; Smart Hub, open Internet access; ring-fenced online features; USB media playback (MP3, JPEG, multiple video support); AllShare PC connection; LED Motion option; 2D-3D conversion; active 3D playback; one pair of 3D glasses included; Bluetooth 3D transmission system; 10p White Balance adjust; edge enhancement