The wait is over. Hitting the shops in April, the UE46C7000 is the first 3D television you ‘ll be able to buy. As well as supporting full HD, you’ll be able to watch 3D Blu-ray movies, play 3D games and view Sky’s upcoming 3D broadcasts when they eventually launch.
It’s hard not to be impressed by Samsung’s slither of technology. Its designers have flattened the panel to a “finger thin” 27mm that makes its rivals look decidedly chunky. Yet somehow it matches them all for inputs and specifications, and raises them one very important feature: 3D.
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At £2,000, this is a high-end set, even though Samsung’s forthcoming 8000 and 9000 series sets will be pitched even higher, and it looks the part. Thinness aside, the glossy plastic bezel looks slick and it tapers to a narrow strip of mirrored plastic at the bottom – just brush your finger along the mirror’s surface and the hidden touchscreen controls illuminate. The stand is deceptive as it’s actually made of plastic, but you’d have to actually tap it to believe it.
Get ready for 3D
We put the 3D format to the test by donning Samsung’s bundled active shutter glasses (two are supplied), connecting Samsung’s BD-P6900 3D Blu-ray player and watching the only available 3D Blu-ray movie, Monsters vs Aliens. Our verdict? Full-HD 3D is a lot better than red-and-blue-glasses 3D.
Unlike anaglyph 3D (as used by 3D DVD releases) the active shutter system doesn’t compromise the colour or resolution of the images, so you see two separate 1080p images that alternate between the left and right eye. One lens becomes opaque while the other lets light through, and they alternate in time with the flickering screen. It’s because TVs are able to display high definition pictures and refresh at 100Hz that makes this technology is now possible.
The glasses themselves are reasonably light and comfortable, even over the full duration of the film, and the effect is very engaging. It didn’t have us ducking to avoid special effects, but it does lend an exciting depth that draws you into the action. Characters in the foreground appear to be slightly in front of the TV screen and flying objects seem to loom out of the set.
3D might not be for everyone and it certainly wouldn’t suit every film, but where directors have understood the technology, 3D adds to the enjoyment. Perhaps the biggest impact so far will be in the gaming community; from what we’ve seen so far, 3D games are far more immersive than 2D games and this set will be ready for them too.
High definition fare
Switching back to 2D for a moment, which is what you’ll be watching 99 per cent of the time, the detail looks slightly crisper and more vivid than in 3D. The edge-mounted LED backlight gives the set a punchy, bright and boldly coloured picture. For this kind of money you could reasonably ask for local dimming LEDs that would improve contrast levels, but that would have meant a fatter TV.
Black levels are deep and even darker scenes remain well resolved and it avoids banding (where slightly different shades fall into unrealistic bands of colour). Overall it creates a very realistic picture. Samsung’s video processing chip obviously does a decent job of smoothing motion, as fast-flowing football posed no problems for this set, 200Hz processing proving more than enough to follow the ball. It also works well at upscaling standard-def footage.
Somehow the sound quality doesn’t quite measure up to the big 46-inch picture. That’s because the two 10 watt stereo speakers, mounted behind the screen, are just a little too quiet, even at full tilt.
Freeview HD and web options
3D is grabbing all the limelight at the moment, but this set also has some other key features that you’ll probably make more use of. There’s a Freeview HD tuner, so that means free HD programming straight out of the box. At the moment there are only two channels, but BBC HD and ITV HD look rich and detailed compared to the standard-def fare.
The online widgets that were previously powered by Yahoo have undergone a radical overhaul too. They’re now called Samsung apps. They open a lot faster and there’s a fine selection of them, including BBC iPlayer, LoveFilm, Picassa, AcuWeather and many more.
Connectivity includes four HDMIs, two USB slots for playing all your digital files, either by streaming them from a PC over your network or directly from a USB storage device. You can even record onto a hard drive now. The slim size does mean PC, composite and Ethernet require a dongle.
Wading through this labyrinth of additional material is made a little easier by Samsung’s improved interface and excellent remote control. While the Home button gives you the usual TV options, pressing the Content button takes you to a menu page offering five options – Internet@TV, Media Play, All Share, Guide and 3D – for easy navigation.
In short, Samsung’s set is a very strong all-round TV. It can’t claim to provide the best picture quality, but it’s still excellent, and at £2,000 it’s acutely priced, but it does offer a dizzying mix of style, ease-of-use and a full set of this year’s hottest TV features. We’ll be interested to see how the Sony HX903 (hitting later this year) and LG LX9900 (landing in May) compare in the 3D stakes.