Samsung has seemingly teetered on the edge of going OLED for the past few years, but its 2016 TVs remain #teamLED through and through. As per your average episode of Mr. Robot, the KS7000 comes with a whopping great plot twist.
This TV is the junior member of Samsung’s elite SUHD squad, and it’s just possible that this is the sweet spot of all the Samsung offerings. Bottom of the top tier this remarkable set may be – but in our book, that translates as top tech for less.
What a lot it’s got
When we say top tech, we mean a 4K Ultra HD resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, for starters. Then there’s the increasingly important High Dynamic Range (HDR). This TV has a 10-bit panel and a peak brightness of at least 1000 nits (one nit is the brightness of a candle). It also uses the BT.2020 (very wide) colour space. All of which are extremely big telly ticks – big enough, indeed, to mean that the KS7000 qualifies for a UHD Premium sticker, the industry standard for serious TV specs.
Not only that, but Samsung has liberally sprinkled its own magic into this special TV. The KS7000 uses ‘Quantum Dot’ technology, another name for the Nano Crystal tech we saw in 2015, which promises over a billion colours – 64 times more than conventional rivals, according to Samsung.
A ‘Boundless’ frame (Samsung speak for a very thin bezel) means there’s not much to distract you when you’re looking at that all-important picture. This is a slim set, too, thanks to the edge-lit LCD panel and the external One Connect box, which houses most of the inputs (four HDMI, three USB). Just one cable goes from the box to the screen itself, which makes for an impressively neat unit.
And every effort has been made to ensure the TV is pretty all the way round, in what Samsung calls a 360-degree design. We’re not quite sure how valuable it is to have no visible screw holes at the back of the TV, but it does at least show Samsung’s impressive dedication to attention to detail.
Samsung has improved on last year’s Tizen-based operating system, which was aesthetically similar to LG’s lovely WebOS interface, but in practice lacked its rival’s smoothness and refinement. The revamped interface is much better. Everything still revolves around a pop-up bar, which houses all the apps and menus – only this year it's a lot more intuitive to click around. It’s much faster, too – waiting time is the death of any operating system, and it has been minimised.
The redesigned Smart remote control is a little on the simplistic side, but it is more ergonomic and nicer to handle than Samsung’s previous efforts. And you also get a One Connect box for all your HDMI, USB and other conenction needs.
Time to play. We begin with 4K, streamed from Netflix. The picture is as sharp as you like, but we’re most impressed by this TV’s subtlety – this image is far from the artificial, etched quality you get with shop demonstrations. There’s enough definition to count the individual raindrops on a windscreen, plus the clarity needed to make out the accompanying condensation.
Things take a step up even from that stunning picture when we move on to 4K on UHD Blu-ray. For this, it has the advantage of HDR, and we are very impressed by the contrast offered.
What you get with the UHD Premium certification, it seems, along with the high levels of sharpness and clarity, is remarkable subtlety. Instead of simple solar brightness and abyssal blacks, you get fine increments of shade. Shadows offer different levels of murkiness.
The same subtlety applies to colour. Skin tones are realistically varied, as is the paint on cars, with all their varying angles. The subtle colour delivery not only makes for a more convincing image, it also helps to add a sense of depth. And, talking about depth, here’s no 3D here, as Samsung has decided to kill off the feature.
On to ‘mere’ Full HD Blu-ray, and the KS7000 proves to be an excellent upscaler. There is, of course, a drop off in quality from a 4K feed, but the TV does a good job with Fargo of defining tyre tracks on snow, while retaining the subtlety of contrast and colour. Even without the benefit of HDR, the subtleties in the drape of clothing are rendered with strong dynamism and convincing depth.
Standard definition is somewhat fuzzier, as expected, but we’re impressed by how well the KS7000 copes. It is perfectly watchable. Despite the massive drop in detail, sharpness is impressive, and there’s little evidence of picture noise. But you’re not going to be watching much in SD, now. Are you?
Invest in sound
If we had to pinpoint an area of weakness, we would nominate the sound. While it’s balanced and has a decent weight, never approaching the sort of hardness we’ve heard from many slim TVs, it is not the most substantial.
It’s more than good enough for everyday viewing, but if you’re after a fuller movie experience, we might suggest some reinforcement in the form of proper speakers, or at the very least a soundbase or bar. And, at the relatively bargain price that you can pick up this TV for, it makes sense to put aside just a bit more for decent sound.
Samsung UA55KS7000 Verdict
Samsung has made use of its momentum from 2015 with the first crop of this year’s models – and the result is nothing is nothing short of spectacular. The UA55KS7000, as the entry model in Samsung’s top tier of sets, is something of a televisual bargain, with most of the benefits of a truly top of the range TV at a fraction of the price.