Last Updated: November 2, 2013
LED TV Review: 2009 Samsung LED TV Sets
B6000, B7000/7100, and B8000 edge-lit LED LCD TVs
Product Guide - Part 1: Main Features
Samsung's new range of LED LCD TV sets is surely among the most awaited LCD HDTV lineups for 2009. Being thin is the name of the game. They definitely enjoy significant advantage over conventional CCFL backlit LCDs. Overall design is extremely elegant, and they are among the greenest HDTVs around.
After last year success of the Samsung A950 LED HDTV series, many are expecting that this year follow-up be better and more affordable. Yet, while the new series - from entry-level to the premium line - sport technologically advanced features, the new Samsung LED HDTVs are still very expensive. So...
Does the new Samsung LED TVs overall performance live up to their high price?
Samsung UN60F8000 60-Inch 1080p 240Hz 3D Ultra Slim Smart LED HDTV
This high-end feature rich LED HDTV comes with Samsung's Micro dimming Ultimate LED backlight technology - among the best in its class for black level performance. It is also the TV with the best feature set.
The New Samsung LED TV Sets: Introducing the new lineup
Many described the 2008 as the year of the LED LCD TV. It was the year when we first saw multiple top brands attempting to compete with cutting edge LED backlit LCD technology - with the two best-performing LED TVs we have seen so far being the Sony XBR8 and the Samsung A950 we featured on our site in November.
But if 2008 could be described as the year of the LED TV, then 2009 is definitely the year when major top brands are coming up with the latest LED HDTV technology as a true mass-market proposition. In this respect, nobody is going as far as Samsung - with a lineup of eleven LED TVs spread over three series. This is apart from a fourth series - the UNB8500 - released in October using the superior LED local dimming technology instead of the edge-lit LED backlight used on the rest of the LED HDTV lineup.
The entry-level series in the present Samsung LED TV lineup is the Series 6 (UNB6000). It comprises the smallest LED TV in the whole 2009 lineup, the 32-inch Samsung UN32B6000. In addition, the UNB6000 also covers three additional screen sizes - 40-inch, 46-inch, and the 55-inch UN55B6000 LED TV. The latter happens to be the Samsung LED TV that is generating most interest - possibly because it offers the best mix of cutting edge LED lighting technology and affordability from the full Samsung lineup at this screen size.
The step-up series, Series 7 - UNB7000 - comprises three sets, the 40-inch UN40B7000, the 46-inch UN46B7000 and the 55-inch UN55B7000 Samsung LED TV. The key upgrade over the B6000 is the addition of TV widgets.
The UNB7000 is also available as retailer specific - currently exclusive to Best Buy - as UNB7100. It includes two models, the 46-inch Samsung UN46B7100 and the 55-inch Samsung UN55B7100 LED HDTV; these are identical with the UNB7000 models except for the gray instead of the red touch of color (TOC) present on the 7000 series.
Series 8 - UNB8000 is Samsung premier LED TV lineup for 2009 using edge-lit LED backlight technology. It adds 240Hz refresh rate to the otherwise similar specs sheet of the UNB7000 series and comprises two models, the Samsung 46-inch UN46B8000 ($2,300) and the Samsung 55-inch UN55B8000 LED HDTV ($3,020).
Samsung Series 8 LED lineup also includes the recently released UNB8500 series referred to above; a detailed product evaluation of this new line of Samsung LED TVs appears on site here.
Note: What follows is an in-depth technical evaluation of the 2009 Samsung LED TV lineup. Our product evaluations take a detailed look at the product features and analyze the technical implication of the product specs with respect to performance. This should lead to a better understanding of what to expect in terms of functionality and performance. However, we do not stop there. We also confront our analysis with what other professional reviewers are saying about these LED TVs, as well as see what customers think about Samsung LED LCD TVs following their purchase.
We hope that our researched approach and technical evaluation be of some assistance to you in your search for an HDTV that best fits your needs.
Samsung Edge-lit LED LCDs Key Features
Thin is beautiful but... there is a lot more to the new Samsung LED TVs
Before proceeding further with our evaluation of the 2009 Samsung LED TV lineup, first we will highlight the main features and differences between these three LED HDTV series.
Thin Profile: All new Samsung LED TVs - including the 55-inch models - are characterized by an exceptionally thin profile that is no more than 1.2 inches thick. This is 0.7-inch less than Samsung 2008 Series 8 (A850/A860) slim-line LCD TVs.
This thin profile is surely a key feature of the new 2009 Samsung LED TV lineup. From the side, this slim design looks great but it is best appreciated in a wall-mounted installation especially when complemented by the specially designed Samsung WMN1000BXZA Ultra-slim flat-panel TV Wall Mount.
The new ultra thin profile for LED TVs of this size arises directly out of the LED edge lighting technology that is being used to replace the standard cold cathode fluorescent (CCFL) backlight found in conventional LCD HDTVs.
Simplistically speaking, these inch-thick Samsung LED TV sets are nothing more than standard LCD TVs with LED (light emitting diodes) as their light source instead of CCFL.
At this point however, it is important to release that this new LED TV lineup do not use the same LED-backlighting technology as used in the A950 series we reviewed last year or the new B8500 LED TV series. A950 and B8500 HDTVs use local dimming technology where individual groups of LEDs behind the screen could be dimmed and even turned off - depending on the brightness of the content at the respective screen position - to achieve exceptional black levels that no conventional CCFL and edge-lit LED LCD TV can achieve. More on LED local dimming technology is available in our guide to LED LCD Technology.
Instead, the new Samsung LED TV sets use edge-lighting where white light LEDs are arranged along the four edges of the display panel and a special dispersion layer is used as a 'light guide' to send light towards the full area of the screen. According to Samsung, this setup still yields similar brightness uniformity characteristics to standard backlit LCDs. It is this new arrangement that has enabled Samsung to come up with such a thin profile for its new LED TV lineup.
However, the fact that local dimming is out of the equation means that the new Samsung LED TVs cannot product the same inky blacks of the A950 and B8500 when handling mixed brightness content. In other words, the present new lineup of LED LCD TVs under review in this article cannot be considered as a replacement to the exceptionally successful Samsung A950 series.
More than just thin...
Energy-Efficient: Local dimming apart, this new edge-lit LED lighting has brought about more than just a thin profile. The most important and also the most touted by Samsung is that these new Samsung LED TVs are 40% more efficient than Energy Star certified conventional LCD TVs. And considering, the new energy star standards (Ver. 3.0) tightens the requirements for TV power since unlike previous versions, the new standard also takes into account power-on testing rather than just standby-mode consumption.
However, this is more than just a claim. Default power consumption for the 46-inch Samsung UN46B6000 is just over 100W; and this falls to less than 80W in Power Save mode!
Equally important is that this reduction in energy consumption is not being brought about at the expense of too low image brightness as instead is often the case with some HDTVs. In a review of the Samsung UN46B7000, Cnet reported that the measured light output before calibration was in excess of 60 foot Lambert in the Movie default mode. Definitely, 60 foot Lambert is a bit too bright for comfortable viewing in a darkened environment, but at the same time, it goes to show that if you need higher brightness levels, these energy efficient LED LCD TVs can deliver.
Equally important, this higher energy efficiency means that these LED TVs run a lot cooler than conventional LCD and plasma TVs for the same screen brightness levels.
Lightweight: This new thin profile has brought about HDTV sets that are relatively light for their screen size. The 46-inch UN46B7000 Samsung LED TV weighs 39 lbs without the stand while the corresponding 46-inch LN46B750 from within the Samsung lineup of conventional LCD TV weighs 43.4 lbs. And this despite that the LN46B750 Samsung LCD TV is one of the lightweights within its class. However a typical 46-inch conventional LCD may easily weigh over 50 lbs; the 46-inch Sony Bravia XBR6 stands at 52 lbs without the stand. This should help make handling during installation easier.
Mega Contrast: During these last years, we got accustomed to Samsung touting its impressive contrast ratio ratings for its line of flat panel HDTVs.
Last year, we had for the first time ever a quoted ratio of 1,000,000:1 - which Samsung quoted for its A950 series of LED LCD TVs. This year, Samsung is quoting an even more incredible figure - that of 3,000,000:1! And this is not the highest - this has been reserved for Samsung high-end LED TV series, the B8500 with its 7,000,000:1 rating! Mind you, this is the dynamic contrast rating; static contrast performance is a lot less.
What these big numbers really means in practical terms is another issue and for this we advise you to check our article on contrast ratio. But it still remains a fact that cutting edge LED light technology has brought about a new standard in picture performance.
A high dynamic contrast performance is typical of LED TVs. Unlike conventional CCFL backlighting which remains turned on all the time, LED backlights can be dimmed to exceptional low light levels and turned off in synch with the displayed content, thus allowing black areas of the picture to display as true black instead of the dark gray characteristic associated with CCFL-based LCD HDTVs.
Interactivity Suite: Interactivity capability happens to be a key differentiator between the entry-level UNB6000 series and the rest of the more expensive Samsung LED TV lineups for 2009.
The step-up series UNB7000/7100 and the UNB8000 premium line of Samsung LED TVs come with the so called 'Internet@TV' capabilities in the form of TV Widgets; there is also built-in content and the capability to stream music, photos and video from a networked PC.
Built-in content includes recipes, games, workout guides, and a slideshow of high-definition art and photos with music. To what extent this is of any use is another issue but this forms part of the package you get with the more expensive Samsung LED LCD TVs.
The 'TV widgets' are basically small web applications that allow you to easily access your favorite site using the remote control. You can enjoy various types of information, such as the latest news, weather information, and stock information, etc. on your TV. The gathered information from the Internet is displayed in the form of a 'snippets,' or a preview bar along the bottom of the screen, and each can be activated to reveal its full widget.
The interesting issue about these yahoo widgets is that more of them are expected to be available shortly - thus making this Internet-TV mix experience even more of a reality. Further more, Samsung has recently included amazon and Blockbuster video-on-demand services as part of its Internet-enabled TV content.
As stated earlier on, UNB6000 entry-level Samsung LED TVs lack this rich suite of internet-enabled content but Samsung still includes its InfoLink service; this is a sort of very basic form of Internet TV. It can only display news, custom stocks, and local weather information. The news feeds are provided by 'USA Today' and can sit in the corner of the screen like a ticker, or be expanded to let you read numerous top stories in a variety of topics. InfoLink was first seen last year on Samsung LN-A650 series LCD HDTVs.
Another distinct difference between the entry-level and the more expensive Samsung LED TVs is that the latter can stream videos, photos, and music from DLNA-certified devices via the network connection, apart from their USB ports; the latter can play multimedia contend from a USB thumbdrive or a USB mass storage devices, digital cameras and MP3 players.
Other Features include:
Design: All UNB6000 and UNB7000 Samsung LED TVs sets are characterized by Samsung unique red Touch of Color (TOC) styling.
This adds a subtle red border into the glossy black bezel, thus complementing the overall black finish of these sets, while a transparent edge surrounds all four sides for an even more stylish look.
Transparent is also the accompanying swivel pedestal stand with a red trim to complement the red border around the LCD frame. The transparent support column creates a pleasing effect that visually separates the black panel from the matching black base.
A stylish transparent edge complements the Samsung LED TV TOC Bezel
In the case of the UNB8000 Samsung LED TV premium series, the TOC finish on the set bezel takes a deep piano black color fading into distinct chrome and finishing as a clear prism for an even more elegant look and feel.
While the finish on the UNB8000 seems set to provide that 'extra' touch of class over the rest of the Samsung lineup, yet we still find the red touch of color on entry-level and step-up series extremely stylish. Admittedly, red is not for everyone and the main issue here is that you do not have much of a choice as this is the only color available on the less expensive Samsung LED TV series. The only exception is the retailer-specific Series 7 UNB7100 which as already indicated earlier on, comes with gray coloring.
If you like the subtle red color and your room decor can take it, these Samsung LED TVs with their red TOC will surely render a unique touch of class to your room.
Differences in the design between the three series are minimal - to the point that it is rather difficult to differentiate between different models in this respect unless you have an eye for detail. For example, the frame around the UNB6000 LED TVs come with a slightly thinner outer transparent edge than that of the UNB7000 series; this together with the lack of beveling on the glass surface of the UNB6000 transparent pedestal stand are the only design features that separate the B6000 from the B7000 range.
Ultra-Clear Screen: As has been typical of Samsung during these last two years, all Samsung LED TVs come with a shiny screen surface - termed Ultra-Clear Panel. Often a hotly debated issue, this glossy screen makes these sets resemble more plasmas than conventional LCDs, and like plasmas may render viewing under bright lighting a bit of an issue as reflections from light sources can be distracting - especially during dark scenes.
This is the trade-off for having a glossy panel. The truth is that if you really want to enjoy the very best picture, then you need to enjoy your TV viewing in a controlled light environment - and this applies to any HDTV irrespective of the screen finish.
At the same time, we cannot but remark that the Ultra-Clear panel found on these Samsung LED TVs is capable of doing a very good job in preserving black levels in dark scenes even under bright lighting - with an image that looks brighter and that exhibits fuller color clarity. shiny screens apart, the Samsung Ultra-Clear screen is capable of doing a much better job than most similar flat-panel TVs from top brand within the same class.
Connectivity: Samsung LED TVs come with a most complete suite of connectivity options despite that at 1.2-inch thick, there is not much space left for connector placement. However, you need to be rather selective with your AV cables as cables with a larger diameter than 14mm will not fit in the shallow connection bay.
These LED HDTVs are characterized by four HDMI ver. 1.3 inputs with CEC support, placed vertically along the side - labeled 1 to 4 with HDMI 1 being used also as a DVI input.
You also get two USB 2.0 ports with media playback (movie) support, one component video input which also accepts composite video (on the Y/Video input), an optical sound output, an analog audio output, PC input, an audio input for PC or DVI, Samsung's ex-Link (a USB type port used for servicing), antenna in and an Ethernet port. Unfortunate there is a bit of a downfall with the sallow connectivity bay used on these Samsung LED TVs. To start with, there is no S-video input and analog video connectivity is minimal.
Also, the analog audio out comes only in the form of a 3.5mm jack. OK, this is more of a headphone output but should you need it to connect to your AV receiver, then you require an additional adapter to connect to your home theater receiver - unless your AV system supports optical audio input.
120Hz/240Hz Operation: Entry-level B6000 and step-up series B7000/B7100 Samsung LED TVs come with 120Hz refresh rate and dejudder processing. Move up the Samsung LED TV lineup to the B8000 premium series of LED HDTVs and instead of the 120Hz, you get 240Hz refresh rate. The latter higher refresh rate enjoys similar advantageous to 120Hz except that it provides additional processing to further eliminate annoying artifacts and making the processing look more natural.
Termed 'Auto Motion Plus', this higher refresh rate is brought about by interpolating frames between real content for a smoother movement when viewing fast-motion video sequences. There are four pre-set settings to choose from in addition to an 'off' setting; the latter is important as the extra smoothness brought about by the 120Hz/240Hz refresh rates is not for everyone in that some may consider this extra smoothness when viewing movie content as unnatural.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of misconception surrounding the subject of this higher refresh rate. It is not the scope of this Samsung LED TV review to go into the details of higher refresh rate and dejudder processing but it is important to note that the resultant smoothing action applies mainly to film-based (24 frame-per-second) content as it helps eliminate judder (jerky movement) due to the use of 2:3 pulldown processing otherwise necessary with 60Hz HDTVs.
More information on this issue is available in our article on LCD response time; this article also discusses motion blur and 120Hz operation.
Additional Picture Adjustments: Typical of Samsung, these LED TVs come with a myriad of picture settings in addition to the usual standard adjustments for contrast, brightness, sharpness, color, and tint.
Starting with, there are four adjustable picture modes - Dynamic, Standard, Natural, and Movie - with independent memory inputs. This greatly eases optimization of picture parameters specifically for different connected devices.
Five selectable settings are available for color temperature that can be further customized via the 'White Balance' menu, while additional picture adjustments are also available under the 'Advanced Settings' menu.
These include a black level adjustment that affects shadow detail; a dynamic contrast control that adjusts the picture contrast on the fly; Edge Enhancement to selectively sharpen image detail; a flesh tone setting to enhance the pink flesh color on the screen; a seven-position gamma adjustment to control the progression from dark to light; three Color Space settings - including a custom setting - to adjust these Samsung LED TVs color gamut; three varieties of digital noise reduction, including an automatic setting; a film mode to engage 2:3 pull-down and that works also with 1080i sources; and xvYCC Color to increase the color space when watching movies from an external compatible high definition source.
There are also six aspect ratio modes - including 'Wide Fit' mode which enlarges the aspect ratio of the picture to fit the entire screen and a 'Screen Fit' mode that lets you display 1080i and 1080p content directly on the screen on a pixel-by-pixel mode without any cutoff (overscan).
These Samsung LED TVs also come with a Blue Only Mode setting - available under the Picture Options menu which is helpful in adjusting the color and tint to the preferred values by switching off the red and green colors.
This makes for a more exact calibration of these Samsung LED HDTVs by providing a blue filter effect without using an additional blue filter.
The whole calibration process requires a color bar pattern. This means that you need a setup disc as further detailed on our site here to get access to a standard color bar pattern.
An alternative option to the setup DVD is to make use of the test pattern you get late at night on some TV stations once their programming is over.
Setting up the color and tint levels with the blue mode is very easy once you have a suitable color test pattern even though Samsung states that this is for AV device measurement experts.
Adjusting Color & Tint using the
Once you activate the Blue Only mode, the white and blue bars on the SMPTE test pattern shown here would both appear blue. The whole issue is to get these as close a match as possible.
Original SMPTE Color Test Chart
Go to the Color adjustment, and adjust the color control until you notice that the two big blue bars on the far right and far left side of the screen match the intensity of both of the smaller horizontal blue boxes just directly below the bars.
Next step is to adjust the Tint (green/red) setting. Adjust the tint level until the intensity of the other two large blue bars to either side of the center black bar (note that during the Blue Only mode, the yellow, green, and red bars in the test pattern will show as black since the red and the green are switched off), is in line with that of the corresponding smaller blue rectangles directly below.
You will notice that color and tint are interactive; moving one control also affects the intensity of the other control - meaning that all four blue bars will be affected. Proper color/tint setting is achieved once all four vertical boxes appear as solid blue bars, with no visible distinction between the bars and the rectangular boxes underneath.
If there is one thing that surely does not match these Samsung LED TVs cutting edge display technology is their sound. All TVs in the 2009 lineup come with down-firing speakers - delivering 10W per channel for sets up to and including 46-inch models and 15W per channel for the 55-inch versions.
Down firing speakers always carry a disadvantage over front-facing ones and this year implementation over these Samsung LED TVs is no exception and surely not a match to the best that the latest display technology can offer.
The issue with this year 'thin' LED TV lineup however is that the new ultra slim design imposes additional limitations over speaker placement and size than previous years with the result that sound seems to be a little worst than before. Mind you, sound quality 'per se' is not bad in itself and does not deteriorate with an increase in volume, but to enjoy these Samsung LED TVs at their best, a proper surround sound system is necessary.
Top in the list is an 'Energy Saving' mode with its four different settings in addition to 'off', and which adjusts the brightness of the TV to reduce the set power consumption.
Equally important is the E-manual on the provided thumbdrive and the possibility to download firmware updates directly to these LED TVs (when connected to the Internet) instead of having to visit the Samsung website on your PC and then transfer the software update using a thumbdrive.
Samsung also provides a basic picture-in-picture feature. In view that these Samsung LED TVs come with one tuner, you can only use the PIP feature together with an external source. More specifically, you can view TV broadcasts on the PIP screen (sub-picture) only when the main picture is from an external device connected to HDMI, HDMI/DVI 2, HDMI 3, HDMI 4, Component1, 2 or PC; it does not work the other way round.
The menu system on these Samsung LED TVs is that same as that used on 2008 sets. As expressed elsewhere on this site during our 2008 product evolutions for Samsung HDTVs, the Samsung menu system is surely one of the best - with big, highly legible text placed against a transparent background. Navigation is easy and intuitive while helpful explanations are available along the bottom of the menu screen. One welcome extra over last year menu system is a built-in 'product guide' that takes you through the load of features available on these LED LCD HDTVs.
Like the menu system, the backlit remote control is almost the same as that of 2008 models with big bottoms that are easily identified by their shape and size even in a darkened environment. A dedicated Tools button on the remote also gives you direct access to the E-manual, sound, video controls and timer.
An extra addition to this year lineup is that Samsung is providing a second 'pebble' shaped mini remote with its step-up and premium series that enables the user to handle basic functions - mainly power On/Off, channel selection, and volume adjustment.