Two lakhs is a lot of money for a 55" TV. This is especially true when you can buy a decent 55" LED-backlit LCD TV for 1.5 lakh rupees and thereabouts. The Samsung UA55F7500BR (let's just call it F7500 for brevity), isn't an ordinary 55" LED TV set. It is the latest in the Korean electronics giant's 2013 smart TV range. For the money, it packs in goodies such as a quad-core processor, motion control, face recognition, voice control, 3D capability, and a plethora of other clever electronic image enhancement trickery. The question is, do the performance and smart TV features really justify the Rs 50,000 premium it commands over its plain vanilla 55" counterparts?
Like an Indestructible Painting
If looks were the only criterion for that question, the review would have concluded right here. The F7500 looks positively breathtaking with its surprisingly thin bezel and a svelte silhouette. The 55" glossy panel treads the fine balance between glare reduction and reproducing vibrant colours that pop. You have to be mindful of the lighting conditions of the room, but the glare and reflection gremlins are kept well under control nonetheless. An overall minimalist theme ensures that the humongous panel feels as though its subtended in thin air, thanks to a slim bezel and a low profile stand that hoists the display with a seemingly delicate post bearing a backlit Samsung logo. Although the brushed aluminium stand may look fragile, it weighs in at an impressive 4kg and is quite capable of holding up the 15kg heft of the display. The whole setup may be prone to wobbling, but it isn't as bad as it sounds. So you have nothing to worry about; that is, unless you live on a major tectonic fault line.
The TV looks positively breathtaking
The build quality is impeccable with handsomely finished brushed aluminium evident all round on the bezel, chassis, and the stand. The low tolerance build and machining quality is clearly evident in how well the bezel wraps around the panel. The result is clearly apparent in the significantly reduced backlight bleed, which is all but visible even in a darkened room. The rear half of the chassis is a great blend of high-quality plastic and mostly metal. At 34.4mm, the TV is quite slim as well. Samsung has provided wall mounting holes at the rear, but the retail packaging doesn't ship with mounting brackets. That means, it's upon you to coerce the salesman into throwing in a mounting bracket for free. This is just the sort of TV that looks absolutely elegant when stuck to a wall. The absolute lack of physical buttons anywhere on the TV makes it pretty clear that Samsung's design philosophy for this TV places emphasis on form over function.
The Samsung F7500 has your standard connectivity options covered with four HDMI ports neatly segregated as per device type in addition to one component, one composite, RF (cable), three USB inputs. You also get an Ethernet port, a 3.5mm TRS audio out, digital optical out, and an IR jack to connect the provided extended IR sensor. Don't worry though, because this TV packs in Wi-Fi capability in addition to the standard RJ-45 port. What's missing here is a dedicated DVI or D -Sub input for connecting a PC along with a PC audio jack. One of the HDMI ports (HDMI IN 2) is delineated as a DVI compatible input, but getting 1:1 pixel mapping and full RGB colour spectrum necessary for a PC turned out more convoluted than I had imagined. This is usually achieved in Samsung displays by renaming the input name to "DVI-PC", but the provision to do was hidden deep within layers of the UI in a rather unintuitive fashion. One other bugbear I had with the TV is that the cable bearing smaller IEC C7 connector was just barely enough to reach the power socket that wasn't all that far from the TV. On the bright side, all important connectivity options have been conveniently located at the side for easy access even when the TV is wall mounted.
The TV has plenty of connectivity options—all neatly arranged and easily accessible from the side
Looks Good, Performs Better
Now that we have established that the Samsung F7500 embodies ethereal beauty, you must wonder if the same has been carried forward in the performance aspect too. There's nothing to worry in that respect, because after a really long time testing some mediocre TV sets, this is the first time a flat-panel TV has impressed me as much. I would be lying if I were to tell you that the picture and colour fidelity was perfect out of the box, but that isn't true for any commercial display anyway. However, I was impressed by the fact that the Datacolor Spyder colorimeter and calibration software found the factory-default brightness (45) and contrast (100) settings to be perfect to maintain the ideal display parameters. I had to toy around with the default target colour temperature (6500K) to finally get the correct white point at 7500K, but when I was done calibrating the TV, the end result was downright stunning.
In case of regular TV sets, this calibrated image depends on the colour profile residing on the PC, and that means you can't have the same picture when the TV is hooked up to any other device, such as a Blu-ray player or a video game console. It's a good thing then that the Samsung F7500 isn't a regular TV set. The advanced picture options afforded by the TV allow adjustment of individual RGB values without affecting the white purity. This flexibility allows you to fully calibrate this TV to perfection on a hardware level using a colorimeter. In simple terms, that means the calibrated image won't be restricted to the PC and will instead be available on any device that you connect it to. In fact, I could see no perceivable difference between the PC-based software colour profile and the hardware calibration I had tried out in my second run. To put it in a nutshell, although the premium you pay for these features may seem excessive, but it's instances such as these that fully justify the extra cost.
At 34.4mm, the TV is quite thin
All this was amply reflected in my display test suite. Although Samsung hasn't disclosed information on the colour depth of the panel or the look-up table, the stepping evident on the greyscale gradient test showed signs of dithering and FRC. Nevertheless, the gradient flowed evenly and had no signs of colour cast. The F7500 did well in the difficult viewing angle test as well, which means it's hard to notice any colour shift and other LCD gremlins under real-world conditions even under acute viewing angles. The contrast gradient test is where the panel shone the most. Everything from the darkest shades to the brightest red gradients were easily discernible. I surprisingly didn't have to tweak any settings to get perfect sharpness and gamma settings, which is a feat worth mentioning. Although nothing I did could get the TV to resolve the last two white saturation values (253 and 254), the superlative black level performance more than made up for it. Everything from the darkest shade of black to the lightest was rendered with utmost perfection. This makes it one of the few LCD panels to sport an enviable greyscale performance and black detail.
As expected, the Samsung F7500 was consistently impressive throughout my Blu-ray test suite. The TV's ability to resolve black detail shone through in The Descent, where the dark environs of the underground cave system didn't faze the TV at all. The Suck Blu-ray is marked with an interesting cinematography that experiments a lot with greyscales and a wild variation between desaturated and overly exaggerated colours. The F7500 managed to hold its own and capture these nuances beautifully, without making the scenes look gaudy and lacking in detail. The excellent greyscale performance was amply evident in the Sucker Punch and Pandorum Blu-rays as well. The Resident Evil: Extinction and Doomsday Blu-rays are known for their impeccable detail levels, and the TV easily managed uphold this fact by rendering every bit of it faithfully. The TV was more than capable of capturing the colour fidelity in the Scott Pilgrim Blu-ray as well. Long story short, if you want to watch movies, the Samsung F7500 handles colours and greyscales equally well to serve as a TV of choice for the purpose. Mind you; while this TV is excellent as LCD TVs are concerned, just don't expect Plasma-like performance.
The F7500 employs 3D glasses bearing the active LCD shutter technology. I personally prefer passive polarised 3D glasses, because the active ones tend to cause flicker, which is disorienting. This observation is subjective because I'm quite sensitive to the phenomenon, while many don't have issues with it at all. Having said that, the 3D performance was pretty good thanks to the ability of the TV to support 120/240Hz refresh modes, in addition to an interpolated 800Hz mode. You have all the standard options of selecting different 3D rendering modes and the ability to vary the depth as well. The sheer size of the panel and the lack of a pronounced bezel enhance the experience, and allows the 3D effects to pop out even better. All my personal hatred for the technology notwithstanding, the F7500 handles its 3D quite well. The 2D-to-3D up-conversion mode works just as advertised, but the effect as expected isn't as good as the real deal. The four battery-powered active 3D glasses bundled with the TV are delightfully light and managed to fit comfortably over my spectacles.
Not That Smart Really
In case you're wondering, don't worry I haven't forgotten the fact that this is supposed to be a smart TV. Representing Samsung's 2013 Smart TV range, the F7500 bumps up the last year's dual-core processor to 1.35GHz quad-core muscle. The idea is to deliver more powerful apps and complex UI animation while keeping the experience smoother. The extra horsepower has also been harnessed to optimise motion and voice control, in addition to better face recognition that works in tandem with these features. Samsung touts the upgraded SOC to deliver better multi-tasking and faster web browsing experience while also promising an improvement in contrast and colour enhancement, motion control, upscaling, 2D to 3D conversion and other picture enhancement algorithms.
The camera enables video calling over Skype and is crucial for Kinect-esque motion control as well
In reality, the interface is nearly smooth, but it isn't as fluid and stutter free as, say, what you'd expect from an expensive quad-core phone. However, this hardly stands out as being debilitating or annoying as the motion control aspect of the TV. Despite varying the lighting conditions, the feature never worked reliably for me. The system is enabled by a slick, retractable camera and is reminiscent of the Kinect. Ideally, holding your hand in front of the TV should allow it to recognise your face and segue from regular to motion-based control system, but the transition is never as smooth as advertised. Various gestures such as selection, dragging, scrolling, swipe to skip between screens and pinch-and-rotate functions weren't always reliably executed and were quite slow and laggy to boot. It works as a novelty and it's great to impress guests with the thumbs-up-to-like-FB-posts gimmick, but I don't see it being used on a daily basis otherwise. In fact, I find the whole exercise imprecise, irritating, and rather time-consuming and inefficient to bother with it on a full time basis. The voice control feature, on the other hand, may not be 100% perfect, but it works well enough for its basic commands, as long as the ambient noise is under control. It's a nifty feature, nonetheless, to jump between different menus and home screens in the least amount of time.
That's partly because the touchpad-enabled remote is such a delight to use. This tiny remote has just the essential few buttons arranged intuitively, with clever tactile demarcation that's good enough to let you use it in the dark. This is a good thing too, because the remote isn't backlit either. While it bears the important Volume, Channel, Power, Menu, Return, and other crucial context-sensitive buttons, the touchpad at the centre takes care of the navigation and selection duties. The whole setup is efficient and effective enough for one to forgive Samsung for the abysmal motion control system. My only grouse is that it's quite easy to inadvertently press the history shortcut on the touchpad, but this isn't something that can't be fixed by a quick press of the Return button.
The UI is slick
UI and Apps
The slick and intuitive UI is another reason why this works as well as it does. The Smart Hub neatly segregates apps, TV programming, social networking and local content into separate homescreens, all of which can be navigated through with consummate ease. Unlike what one would expect from Samsung, the UI looks pretty clean with a pleasing minimalist aesthetic theme running across it. Smart Hub consists of three main screens where you can access the Smart TV features. These include the Apps, Social, as well as Photos, Videos and Music screens. The Apps screen didn't seem customisable, but it can show a maximum of 30 apps at a time.
Strangely, there's no mention of the size or type of storage included to handle apps. The rep, however, informed me that all 2013 Smart TVs come with 4GB of inbuilt memory for this purpose. However, when I checked the TV status, I could see 1.63GB of free space, with a total of 278MB being used at the time. That means the TV uses quite a bit of space for the UI and firmware itself. The social panel opens access to Facebook and Twitter, but you're better off on your smartphone, unless you plan to purchase a wireless keyboard to pair with the TV. The final screen allows you to wirelessly access photos, videos and music from your home network or from storage devices hooked up to any of the USB ports.
The apps and social networking features are nothing special. I found the Facebook and Twitter app too unintuitive and boring to be of any use. The YouTube streaming service works just as advertised, but isn't exactly revolutionary. The ability to use the camera to make video calls over Skype, right from the Social home screen is a neat feature, though. While the international version of the latest Smart TV range features adaptive learning algorithms that tailor suggestions in the Smart TV hub according to your viewing behaviour, this interesting feature, sadly, hasn't been advertised in the Indian version. Unfortunately, I couldn't verify this feature because technical issues (not with the TV) prevented me from doing that.
The Smart Hub segregates different content into separate home screens
The phenomenal USB media playback is the veritable silver lining to the F7500's mediocre Smart TV credentials. This is by far the only default TV media player that not only plays well with NTFS and virtually every video and audio format out there, but also runs FLAC files with aplomb. Kudos to Samsung for incorporating a media player that performs just as well, if not better than third-party solutions.
Verdict and Price in India
At Rs 2,09,900, the Samsung UA55F7500BR Smart LED TV isn't exactly cheap. To be honest, the Smart TV features, motion and voice control gimmicks, and social networking integration don't really justify a purchase decision on their own. However, I believe the stellar picture quality, design, and build more than makes up for the extra fifty grand this TV commands over the outgoing non-smart 55" LED-backlit TV. This is one of the few TVs that's pretty good out of the box and it gets even better when calibrated properly. What's more, the ability to adjust individual RGB values without affecting the overall white purity makes it all the more ideal for videophiles who value colour accuracy and seek ultimate movie performance. If you have two lakh to spare and seek a TV for the ultimate cinema this side of a plasma panel, the F7500 is right up your alley.