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UN46C7000 review/calibration report
Recently I had the opportunity to spend some time with the brand new, 3D capable Samsung C7000 series LED LCD at Cleveland Plasma.
The C7000 has a very sleek look and extremely thin profile, though the reflective screen picked up quite a bit of glare when the room was well lit. The LED backlight extinguishes after the set gets a 0% black signal for more than a few seconds; and when that happens, the blacks are amazingly dark. Anything above a 0% signal, even on just a small area of the screen, causes the LEDs to light up and makes the blacks glow in a light controlled room. That is the main disadvantage to the C7000's edge lit LED technology compared to the local dimming LED technology of the B8500: one small area of picture content causes the entire screen's black level to glow, instead of just the area near the picture content as on the B8500. When the C7000's LEDs are lit, it is possible to see a bit of unevenness across a black screen. The corners were slightly brighter than other areas, and there were a few cloudy or milky looking areas; though overall, it did not look as severe as what I saw in last year's B7100. Whites were pretty uniform from one side of the screen to the other, but not quite perfect: I could see a very slightly cooler tone to the whites on the left side of the screen. That is probably not enough to be noticed by most home theater enthusiasts, even picky ones, unless they watch a lot of hockey.
What could bother some owners, however, is the C7000's poor off axis performance. Colors and contrast both wash out noticeably just a couple of feet from dead center. My wife commented that, even though she could see a large shift in the picture when moving to the opposite side of the couch, once she viewed it for a few minutes it was no longer distracting. On the other hand, maybe there's a way to use this on date night. After all, you don't want her to suffer through an entire movie with washed out colors; if you snuggle close, you'll both be in the sweet spot...
I started the calibration by taking measurements of how the C7000 performed in it's most accurate picture preset, movie mode. The results are shown in attachment 1.
There are some very important additions to the C7000's picture adjustments in movie mode. These extra controls allow an incredible amount of fine tuning. The first new adjustment I ran across in the advanced menu was "shadow detail", in addition to the more familiar "gamma" adjustment. This control can be used to boost dark objects without making the overall image look washed out, which was one weakness of last year's model.
"Expert pattern" engaged some useful test patterns, though that will not be too exciting to those who already own a good test disc.
"RGB only mode" provided color isolation, which is a much more accurate way to set the color adjustments than using the colored filters supplied with test discs.
But the control that will really light the flame of your hidden calibrator side is the all new for Samsung 10 point white balance/gamma adjustment. It works in conjunction with the more familiar white balance cuts and gains. After calibrating gamma, shadow detail, brightness, contrast, and conventional white balance adjustments, this control can be used with calibration gear to iron out color emphasis at certain brightness levels and correct the brightness ratio as the set transitions from dark to bright images. The 10 point adjustment worked pretty well; it was less quirky and more predictable than LG's 10 point adjustment, but it's steps were too coarse at the lower adjustment points. At positions 1 through 3, one click of the adjustment would cause too large of a shift in actual output, leaving some unevenness in the low end of the grayscale tracking. But it was still a huge help; the 10 step adjustment combined with the shadow detail control to give much better visibility in dark scenes than I have ever seen from a Samsung flat panel.
There were full CMS adjustments available when "custom" was selected for color space. These adjustments work properly and are a model the rest of the industry would be well served to study.
There were also selections for "LED Motion Plus" and fine tuning for the 240Hz Clear Motion, which I felt could give the right balance between smooth panning and the despised soap opera look.
The C7000 has special processing to display regular program material in 3D. I did not get to test this feature because the glasses were not available, though I did experiment a bit and found that when the 3D mode was engaged, the movie mode was unavailable. This means that when watching in 3D, the colors and overall calibration of the image will not be as accurate.
After calibrating all of the C7000's advanced picture adjustments with CalMAN Pro software combined with Chroma5 and Eye One Pro meters (measurements shown in attachment 2), I settled down to watch some familiar Blu Ray 1080P/24 demo material in a dark room. Things looked very impressive right from the start. Contrast was great, with lots of "pop" and impact in brighter scenes. Colors looked fairly natural and vibrant, though I did feel that skin tones looked a tiny bit purplish. That was totally eliminated with a slight tweak to the red CMS adjustment and measurement verification. With the final tweak performed, the C7000 made a tremendous impression. The image was as smooth and natural as I have ever seen, and colors were true and rich. The image had great depth, without even getting into the 3D processing. Contrast was good, but not as good as on a local dimming LED model like the B8500 or a Kuro plasma. The measured ANSI contrast ratio of 2220:1 puts it in the same league as the Sharp 700un, which is very good for an LCD. Shadow detail was superb, besting the B8500 by a significant degree. Compared to a Pioneer 9G Elite Kuro, which I feel is the best flat panel display I have seen, the image was smoother, with very slightly richer colors, but poorer contrast and less pop in dark scenes.
The C7000, like some other Samsung displays, does not seem to handle RGB colorspace via HDMI correctly. Color decoding and gamut measured significantly different (poorer) when I switched from YCbCr to RGB via HDMI. That could be an issue with certain pattern generators, video game consoles, or DVI based sources. Attachment 3 is the result; the only difference between it and attachment 2 is that the pattern generator was changed to one that was set to output RGB colorspace rather than YCbCr.
I thought I saw occasional, very brief moments of motion blur; but, like the LG LH90, it was not enough to be distracting to me. Likewise, with test patterns and program guides, the "flashlighting" of the LED backlight can draw attention to itself; but with regular program material, I never noticed any pumping or fluctuation.
The C7000 is a further refinement of the B7000, with some significant new adjustments and the addition of the all new 3D capability. Calibrate it thoroughly, watch it on axis, and tilt it down if it's mounted high. It has more than enough light output to cope with bright rooms, though be careful to position it to minimize glare.
While I still prefer local dimming LED technology to edgelit LED technology, the C7000 is a fantastic set and a calibrator's dream.
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