There are some real standouts in Samsung's massive 2013 LCD TV range, particularly true when you're looking to spend a little money (the F5000), or a lot (the F8000). In the middle, things are little less clear-cut.
Our review of the F6300 and F6400 revealed so-so picture quality, and the F7100 is more of the same. The only picture quality improvement is slightly better black levels, and they're not deep enough to vault the 7100 into the next tier of LED LCD performers.
If you have your heart set on an LED LCD TV, better choices, such as the Sony W900 at 55 inches for a bit more money, or the Vizio M-series for a lot less, abound. Both will offer a better picture than this television. If you want a Smart Samsung LED LCD, the F6300 is a better value. If your mind isn't made up about getting an LED LCD, however, get a Panasonic ST60 plasma while you still can.Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 55-inch Samsung UN55F7100, 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.
|Models in series (details)|
|Samsung UN46F7100||46 inches|
|Samsung UN55F7100 (reviewed)||55 inches|
|Samsung UN60F7100||60 inches|
|Samsung UN65F7100||65 inches|
If you think about a television in clothing terms, the screen is the outer-layer, while the bezel is the underpants. Most people don't care to see your "tighty-whities" unless you're Mark Wahlberg, so TV designers are similarly doing their best to give us the least amount of bezel possible. The F7100 offers a "barely there" bezel trimmed in silver instead of the black of the cheaper F5000 -- think of these as your flashy Calvin Klein undies. The F7100 offers a sturdier swivel stand than the cheaper 6300, though it's still the love-or-hate it "Hell is Chrome/Spiders" legs.
The heart of the 2013 Samsung interface is the five-panel Smart Hub which offers cable-box integration, apps and DLNA content. With the dual-core processor onboard, the screens move pretty quickly back and forth. The settings menu is fairly familiar, since it's the one the company has used for at least five years and is as easy to use as ever.
The new remote control is one of Samsung's most accomplished, with a touch pad and shortcuts. While it doesn't include a shortcut to Netflix, or include number buttons, it does have a link to the Smart Hub and supports a number of gestures. I'd still rather see a standard remote included in the box, but if you're doing lots of Web browsing, or inputting text with the onscreen keyboard, this is a pretty nifty remote.
|Key TV features|
|Display technology||LCD||LED backlight||Edge-lit|
|Smart TV||Yes||Internet connection||Built-in Wi-Fi|
|3D technology||Active||3D glasses included||Four pairs|
|Refresh rate(s)||240Hz||Dejudder (smooth) processing||Yes|
|Other: Voice control; cable box integration and control via IR blaster.|
The Samsung comes with a lot of features, but how useful you'll find them depends on what you're looking to do with your television. If you just want to hook up a Blu-ray player or game console, then cable integration will probably mean very little to you. But if you're looking for a TV that tries, not necessarily successfully, to replace your cable box, then it might be appealing.
The TV features microdimming, which is an electronic dimming system; it doesn't control the backlight, it's software only. The "Dynamic Contrast" is designed to offer better contrast but, as per the calibration notes, it behaved similarly to the same mode on the F6400 (that is, it caused crushing), and I ultimately opted not to use it. The F8000 on the other hand uses Micro Dimming Ultimate and Precision Black Local Dimming which turn the backlight on and off in hundreds of zones in response to onscreen content.
The panel has a "Clear Motion Rate" of 720, which according to Samsung is a combination of backlight scanning (running the backlight at a high rate to reduce blur) and frame interpolation. Ignore that gobbledygook. In real-world terms it has a 240Hz refresh rate.
If you are one of the few who still hankers for 3D content then the F7100 will play it, and it comes with four pairs of RF 3D glasses (SSG-5100GB). Of course the TV is compatible with other goggles bearing the Full HD 3D logo.
The TV comes with a comprehensive selection of apps including the recent addition of -- arguably the best -- music streaming service Spotify. Also on-board are the "big 4" video apps Netflix, Amazon Instant, Hulu Plus and YouTube, as well as notables HBO Go and Vudu. For a look at the apps offered by Samsung and its competitors, try our big chart from 2012, which is basically the same this year except that Samsung doesn't offer a Google Maps app anymore.
If apps are the future of TV, then the Samsung tries to reinvigorate the "past" with its "On TV" feature. It offers an "On TV" guide to current and upcoming shows on your cable or satellite service, as well as cable control. The Samsung includes a IR dongle for this purpose though I like the integrated IR blaster of the LG TVs much better.
Smart View is an extra that allows users to view over-the-air TV or one of the HDMI inputs on a compatible Samsung phone or tablet. Based on my testing it doesn't work that well with significant lag, crashes and corruption of the TV screen itself when I was using a Samsung Galaxy S4 on CNET's wireless network. As with many other TVs, traditional screen mirroring -- where the phone/tablet's screen contents appear on the TV -- is also offered.
While it lacks the webcam of the F8000 and therefore the gesture controls, the F7100 does include voice interaction via a microphone on the touch pad remote. I didn't test advanced functions of the Smart TV interface like cable control and voice interaction, but I expect it would behave very similarly to the F8000. Check out that review for a comprehensive look.
Picture settings: The Samsung F7100 offered most of the settings you'd expect for a TV at its price, with a number of high-end calibration controls, including a 10-point grayscale, and a Color Management System. The Auto Motion Plus dejudder control also provides plenty of adjustability, so you can dial in exactly how much soap opera effect you want.
Connectivity: Four HDMI ports is pretty standard for a higher-end TV, while three USB ports is almost overkill, but they may be useful if you opt for a keyboard, Skype camera, and/or attached hard drive. The 7100 also includes component and composite inputs with an 3.5mm audio out and optical output also thrown in. An Ethernet jack and onboard wireless complete the unit's connectivity options.