Samsung UNKU7000 series 4K Ultra HD TV
“Samsung’s brilliant KU7000 TV brings you into the 4K era in style without breaking the bank.”
- Brilliantly intuitive smart interface
- Rich and accurate color
- Sexy design
- Excellent 4K rendering
- Ergonomic, stylish remote
- Average black levels impact contrast
- Flattened shadow detail
- Judder requires motion smoothing
First unveiled at a swanky Las Vegas event ahead of the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, Samsung’s SUHD TVs (no, the “S” doesn’t stand for “super”) are the company’s flagship models, designed to compete with the best TVs on the market. With support for High Dynamic Range and Samsung’s Quantum Dot technology, SUHD TVs take the company’s LED screens to new heights, offering an extremely bright picture and an expansive array of color.
If you don’t have a mint to spend on a new TV, however, there’s a good chance you’ve cast your glance at Samsung’s KU7000 series. The top-model flat screen in Samsung’s lineup without the SUHD moniker — or the premium price that accompanies it — Samsung’s KU7000 series offers a sleek and slim design, a truckload of features, and easy access to all the 4K content you can handle. While it may not be the videophile’s first choice, this TV brings plenty to the table, making it a top option in the expanding 4K TV marketplace.
Out of the box
If style factors in at all in your TV-buying process, you might just fall for the KU7000 at first sight. The sexy front panel is lined with a slim bezel of smoked chrome, while Samsung’s signature shimmering grey backside curves gently outward in textured lines for a thin and stylish profile. A simple two-pronged stand matches the metallic bezel, marking a minimalist theme while also making it easy to fit even larger screen sizes on your TV stand.
Accessories include a manual and promotional materials, a power cable, and Samsung’s curvy new smart remote, complete with two AA batteries.
Features and design
The KU7000 makes for quite a looker on your TV stand – the trim bezel, slight chrome accents, thin profile, and textured back panel keep it looking svelte from any angle.
Taking a closer inspection on the back panel, we’re a little disappointed to see just three HDMI inputs (including one with ARC). Three ports may be par for the course at this price level, but consider how many devices you have to connect and make sure it will be enough. If you’ve got a cable box/DVR, game console and a stand-alone disc player, you’re either done connecting devices, or you will need to get creative by letting your game console pull double duty as your disc player, or consider using an HDMI switcher or A/V receiver to accommodate more devices.
Aside from the three HDMI inputs, connection options proceed as expected, including dual USB ports, composite/component hybrid input, digital optical audio output, Ethernet connection, and a terrestrial antenna input.
The KU7000’s slim depth of just 2.1-inches is achieved largely due to its edgelit backlight system, which lights the panel with side-mounted LEDs as opposed to a full array system, which involves a whole grid of LEDs mounted directly behind the LCD panel. While both styles have their pros and cons, full array displays with local dimming (i.e. the ability to turn off specific zones of backlights at a time) are often preferred by videophiles for their ability to render richer contrast between the lightest and darkest images on screen. (More on that in the performance section.)
The remote is as sleek and intuitive as they come.
You might not miss what you haven’t seen, but the KU7000’s lack of the SUHD moniker means it doesn’t offer the most premium 4K Ultra HD experience available. The SUHD lineup – which starts with the next series up, the KS8000 – adds quantum dot technology and what Samsung calls HDR 1000, which basically boils down to a far richer 10-bit color depth and the best HDR performance Samsung has to offer.
The KU7000 does (somewhat confusingly) incorporate Samsung’s “HDR Premium” technology, which means that, while it doesn’t get nearly as bright as Samsung’s “HDR 1000” TVs, it is compatible with HDR10, currently the most ubiquitous HDR format in streaming and the standard set for 4K HDR Blu-ray discs. The TV leaves out Dolby Vision, another popular HDR format, but if you’re forced to choose between the two, HDR10’s prevalence makes it the more attractive option.
Shiny SUHD technologies aside, the KU7000 does offer plenty of other features for your green, including a quad core processor for zippy response, a locked-and-loaded smart platform (detailed below), and Samsung’s latest smart remote.
The remote is as sleek as they come, with Bluetooth connection and a simplified design that includes ergonomic channel and volume controls (just push down to mute), a smooth and responsive navigation pad, and a few other integral quick keys placed at your fingertips. The home button is front and center, offering quick access to the intuitive smart interface, while all superfluous keys can be accessed using on-screen version of a remote.
Smart platform and interface
The smart interface is the TV equivalent to that kid everyone cheated off in calculus class.
On the smarts scale, the KU7000 is the TV equivalent to that kid everyone tried to cheat off in calculus. In other words, it’s pretty brilliant. Powered by Samsung’s Tizen OS, the latest Smart Hub platform offers all your streaming favorites, including 4K-compatible mainstays like Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube, as well as HD standards like Hulu and HBO Now. While HBO Go doesn’t come pre-loaded, we were able to download it from the app library and were streaming in a matter of seconds.
If Samsung’s app stable isn’t rich enough for you, the TV also plays extremely well with other components — even those not made by Samsung. The KU7000 goes beyond basic HDMI-CEC control to recognize various components right down to the make and model. When you connect your Blu-ray player or cable box, not only will the TV jump to the right input and label it correctly, it will program the remote to cover advanced functions like fast-forward, track advance, and pulling up the on-screen guide. This feature also auto-connects streaming media players, allowing you to instantly add your Roku, Apple TV or Fire TV to the party and use your TV’s remote.
Unlike many older TVs (even from Samsung) the KU7000 looks very close to its max performance right out of the box in Movie mode. Samsung even automatically disengages the image enhancement features we usually need to turn off manually like dynamic contrast, and motion enhancement (Auto Motion Plus). Still, we made subtle adjustments to get the most from the TV, including bumping up the brightness for better shadow detail, backing down some of the green tint, and, surprisingly, adding in a couple of points of motion enhancement (which we’ll detail below) to help out with judder.
We always like to begin on a high note, and an easy starting point is the KU7000’s brilliant 4K Ultra HD detail. While it’s true that 4K support is essentially wasted on small displays (unless you sit obscenely close), at 55-inches (the size we reviewed) and above, those new to the 4K game will be wowed.
Brightness: 48-50 (depending on room lighting)
Tint: G47 – R53
Apply Picture settings: All Sources
Digital Clean View: Off
Auto Motion Plus: Custom — Judder reduction (+2), LED Clear Motion — Off
HDMI UHD Color: Off
HDMI Black Level: Low
Dynamic Contrast: Off
Color Tone: Warm 2
RGB Only Mode: Off
Color Space: Auto
Simply typing 4K into the YouTube app offers a feast for the eyes, as delicate blades of grass, spider-webbed waterscapes, and wide vistas overlooking oceans sprawl before you. The ocean scenes are particularly impressive, revealing details like rippled waves and micro-sized seagulls diving into the water far at the horizon’s edge. Similarly impressive detail can be revealed from 4K Blu-rays, or tapping into Netflix’s 4K library. Character close-ups in shows like Luke Cage and Daredevil divulge the subtlest of details in each character’s face, from the pores on their nose, to each individual eyelash.
While the KU7000 can’t match the breadth of color afforded by its quantum dot TVs, it still offers rich and accurate colors across all content. Going back to Luke Cage, we were especially drawn in by some of the differences in mood as scenes transformed from the deep yellow of a club, to the bluish neon of a laboratory, to the clear open shots of daylight on the streets. In our YouTube 4K excursions, too, we were treated to myriad colors, from sapphire oceans to teal mountain lakes, burnt red canyons, and the golden glow of aspens in fall.
Turning away from 4K wonders, the best compliment we can give this middle-priced TV is that it doesn’t do anything especially poorly. Black levels are a bit of a struggle for this TV, as it tends to crush darker images into mere profiles. To amend the situation, and coax out decent detail in the shadows, we were forced to raise the Brightness past its optimal level, which quickly turns blacks into charcoal grays. The good news here is the TV is able to keep light blooming out from the edges of its screen to a minimum, even in a totally dark room. But the lack of major contrast between the darkest and brightest images takes away a bit of that wow factor, especially in movies like The Martian or Pacific Rim, where darker scenes offer the most punch.
The other real struggle for the KU7000 is judder with 24 frames-per-second (FPS) content – it’s 3:2 pulldown chops don’t seem to be on the same level as Samsung’s premium tier TVs, and it doesn’t help that this is a 60Hz panel. Luckily the KU7000 offers customizable motion enhancement on a 10-point scale. Our sweet spot was at two points, which removed the most egregious stutters when panning, without making everything look like Days of Our Lives on speed.
The KU7000 also has trouble with off-angle viewing. The issue is pretty commonplace in middle-tier LCD displays, which is one reason picture quality enthusiasts often preferred plasma panels (when they existed). However, while colors fade quickly when you stand or move to the side, it’s no worse than most LCD TVs we find at this price point.
Samsung offers a one year warranty on its TVs, which is also only valid when the warranty card is “properly completed,” along with proof of purchase via the original sales receipt. The warranty extends to repair or replacement of defective parts or (at its own discretion) replacement of the product. Repairs must be carried out by Samsung authorized service centers. You can read more about the warranty here.
If you’re new to the 4K game, and not one too get upset about a few fine performance drawbacks, you may well be blown away by the KU7000. The smart platform is perhaps the best in the field, the remote and interface are intuitive and fun to use, and the TV will look super classy in almost any setting.
What are the alternatives?
Those looking for deeper black levels and better contrast may want to check out Vizio’s 2016 M-series, which features a new tablet-style remote and more advanced HDR support offering both HDR10 and Dolby Vision, all of which is powered by a full array local dimming backlight system. The Sony XBR-X750D is also a contender with four HDMI ports, a 120Hz native panel, and solid black levels, contrast, and color.
How long will it last?
With 4K and HDR10 support, Samsung’s latest is relatively future-proof for the next few years, and it should offer the durability afforded by a middle-rung TV from a top manufacturer. That said, if you’re looking for a more impactful HDR experience, you may feel the need to upgrade again when models with 10-bit color depth and higher nit counts (i.e. brighter displays) become more affordable.
Should you buy it?
Yes, but keeping in mind the caveats mentioned above. If you’re looking for a stylish TV with brilliant 4K detail, plenty of features, and intuitive day-to-day use, the KU7000 is a great choice. If, on the other hand, you’re busting to join the next wave in advanced color depth and brightness levels, you may want to jump to the SUHD line — or simply hold off for a year or two.
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