Samsung has already been at the receiving end of a glowing TV review this year: the Samsung UE55F8000 wowed us with smarter features and upgrades, and great picture quality.
Now it’s time for the next series down, the F7000, to step into the spotlight. The Samsung UE46F7000 TV shares plenty of features with its more upmarket sibling, but will it share a similar five-star fate? Let’s have a look at what the Samsung UE46F7000 TV can do.
Samsung UE46F7000: Design
The first thing we notice about the Samsung UE46F7000 is the stand. It’s a square metal stand and for that we’re grateful.
The metal arc stand of the UE55F8000 caused quite a stir: it might have looked elegant, but it wasn’t an entirely practical design, teetering precariously over the edges of standard AV racks. The 46in screen feels much safer and sturdier fitted to its more conventional square stand; we definitely prefer this design of support.
The screen itself is a slim and elegant affair, with the 46in LED display surrounded by a super-narrow bezel. Build quality is top class – but we expect no less from Samsung. We also quite like that the glowing Samsung logo is inlaid into the stand rather than in the frame of the TV.
As with the UE55F8000, there’s a sleek retractable camera at the top of the TV – handy for Skype calls, face recognition and Samsung’s motion control feature.
Samsung UE46F7000: Specifications
Head around to the back of the TV, and you’ll find four HDMI inputs – enough to hook up any AV equipment, cable or satellite box and gaming consoles. Other connections include three USB ports, component and composite inputs, an RGB Scart socket, digital optical and headphone outputs, an ethernet port and integrated wi-fi.
Like the UE55F8000, the Samsung UE46F7000 features one Freeview HD tuner and one Freesat tuner with two feeds (making it possible to watch one channel while recording another to a USB-connected hard drive).
We’re also glad to see that the quad-core processor found in the F8000 has made its way into the F7000. A world first for Smart LED TVs, this delivers a faster and better performance when it comes to browsing the web, multitasking, and it gives a better picture performance as well. It’s particularly useful for the smooth running of the new smart features that appear throughout the Samsung 2013 TVs.
Samsung UE46F7000: Smart features
The highlight of Samsung’s smart features is a completely redesigned Smart Hub. It’s a doozie, too: the five-panel carousel is attractive, user-friendly, and as slick as using a smartphone or tablet. Its apps are presented in a neat grid, and animated flourishes when opening and closing make the new Hub a lot more engaging.
Each panel is devoted to a separate category…
Social - Houses the social networking essentials of Facebook, Twitter and Skype. You can also pull up a separate Twitter feed while watching a TV show, and make Skype calls directly from this page with the camera popped up.
Apps - There are plenty of media apps to keep you entertained, such as catch-up TV options with BBC iPlayer, Demand 5 or ITV Player, music on demand from Spotify, and widgets for the latest news and sports.
On TV - Everything related to broadcast TV, with the new panel design ensuring that broadcast TV is an integral part of the smart experience, rather than keeping it as a separate entity. You can access the programme guide, switch to a timeline view, record shows and see previews of what’s on next all from this one panel.
There’s also an S Recommendation feature, which intelligently learns your viewing preferences and offers suggestions of similar shows. We were stuck watching daytime TV during testing, but the technology aims to become more personalised and effective the more you use the TV over long periods of time.
Movies & TV shows - Instead of having to log in to separate accounts for on-demand services (such as LoveFilm, Netflix, Acetrax and so on) and then search for available movies, this panel aggregates all the films and TV shows available, and then you choose which service to stream or download from.
Photos, Videos and Music - Pull up all types of media content from various storage devices accessed via your home network right on to the 46in screen.
And in keeping with the ‘smart’ theme, Samsung is offering a Smart Evolution kit which lets you upgrade the technology involved in picture performance and features every year. This kit – which slots into the back of the TV – is valid for up to four years.
Even better, if you already own a 2012 Samsung set from the 7-, 8- or 9-series, you can upgrade it to include this year’s specifications and features. The module costs around £280.
Samsung UE46F7000: Control
Samsung was putting the finishing touches to the standard remote control during our F8000 review. We’ve finally got the finished product, and we like what we see and feel. The remote is smaller, slimmer, and much more ergonomic than before – and the multi-coloured hexagonal Smart Hub button has been replaced with a standard button. All in all, it’s quick and easy to use.
If you want something smarter and slicker, though, the redesigned Smart Touch remote is a great alternative. It’s intuitive and highly responsive, and using it is akin to swiping across a smartphone’s touchscreen. From flicking through apps or browsing the web, you’ll find yourself swiping away to control the TV in next to no time. One feature we especially like is tracing a channel number on the touch pad to change channels.
Samsung SmartView Control app
If the two redesigned remote controls still don’t take your fancy, you can always download the free control app on to your smartphone or tablet device of choice.
Unlike the AllShare Play mirroring feature, the app is compatible with both Android and iOS products. It’s a good-looking thing, with controls laid out logically, and it’s responsive, too.
MORE: Samsung Galaxy S4 review
There’s a free-form screen to move a cursor around, and you can access smart features and apps with one click. It’s good, but standards have moved on: Panasonic’s updated control app for its 2013 TVs includes all the calibration/picture adjustments found on the TV, and in an attractive layout, too. Samsung needs to step up at this level.
Samsung UE46F7000: Voice and motion control
Samsung has been determined to stick with and improve the voice and motion controls that it introduced in its 2012 range of TVs. We’ve debated the merits and usefulness of these controls before: they’re headline-grabbing and sound cool, but in reality they’re not as intuitive to use as we’d hope – we’re still not convinced that they’d be a natural alternative to using a remote control or your smartphone app to control the TV.
Both features have benefited from the quad-core processor, though, as it’s a smoother experience than it was last year. The motion control was much more responsive than the review sample we had of the UE55F8000, with the camera picking up hand movements easily, even if we were gesturing with hands while talking or just checking Twitter updates on our phone.
It made two-hand gestures to zoom and rotate pictures easy too, as well as moving across the panels of the Smart Hub with a flick of the hand. We like the responsiveness, but if you don’t want the motion controls activating when you’re deeply engrossed in watching a film (or if you habitually leap up and flail your arms about while watching sport), we’d recommend closing down the camera.
We’ve struggled with voice commands in the past – and we continue to do so. Simple commands of changing the channel or volume are easily executed, but more complex commands are hit-and-miss.
And we found the on-screen guide’s instructions to press the mic button on the Smart Touch remote and when to speak frustrating, as it was unresponsive and would confuse our actions. Panasonic’s new voice control for 2013 is a better alternative: it’s more responsive, less fussy with voice commands and, quite simply, it works.
Samsung UE46F7000: Sound
Flat-screen TVs have traditionally sounded weedy. The higher-end UE55F8000 tries to mitigate this by adding two 10W woofers alongside two standard 10W drivers – and they add considerable weight and warmth to the set’s sonic presentation.
The UE46F7000 has to make do without the woofers, however, so is restricted to just two 10W drivers. There isn’t, therefore, the muscular weight of UE55F8000 –nor is there the comfortable roundedness of the Philips 47PFL6008’s sound – but there is enough punch to action-movie gunshots and the like, and dialogue is clear and direct.
If you’re considering the UE46F7000, we’d also steer you towards looking at a soundbar to match. If you’re on a tight budget, try the LG NB3520A (£250); if you can stretch a little further, go all the way and invest in the Sonos Playbar (£600).
Samsung UE46F7000: Picture
This is a great screen. Play the Blu-ray of Looper, and the screen is filled with superb detail and definition. The glare of a sunset on Emily Blunt’s face looks natural, while the fading green and brown grass in the field where Joseph Gordon-Levitt carries out his hits looks dry and crackly. It’s a crisp picture, with objects etched out neatly without anything looking overly sharp.
The colour palette is balanced, too – previous Samsung sets had a tendency to favour a more dynamic picture quality – but the 2013 sets have a very natural tone so far.
There are layers of subtle detail here that convey a wonderful sense of depth to the picture, be it revealing detail in shadows or the texture of clothes of varying material. And motion handling is smooth, too – there’s no need to add additional processing as the Samsung doesn’t have any obvious issues across the screen.
The UE46F7000 does have a slightly reddish tint, which isn’t hugely detrimental: the colours look deep and vivid. However, blue skies with fluffy white clouds have a hint of pinkness to them, and Bruce Willis’s skin tone looks just a bit too ruddy and tanned.
There’s no loss in overall insight, it’s just the way the designers have gone – the Panasonic TX-L47DT65B, for example, goes in the opposite direction with a slightly yellow palette.
There’s scope, as always, to tweak the picture quality in the Samsung’s settings. Even after setting the picture up with a THX Optimizer disc, we found ourselves toning down both the backlight and colour levels just a touch.
Next to the crystal-clear images of the Philips 47PFL6008 and the Panasonic TX-L47DT65B, the Samsung was starting to look just a touch less sharp and less defined in black areas, and it is slightly noisier than either of those sets, too.
We set the Black Tone control to its lowest setting for a deeper black palette, and turned up the sharpness – this doesn’t affect other aspects of the picture, but it livens up the image considerably, with the Samsung now outshining the Philips, and running neck-and-neck with the Panasonic.
These characteristics follow through with both broadcast channels and DVDs, too. There’s the obvious difference in quality between standard- and high-definition channels, but overall the Samsung is a joy to watch.
We found ourselves drawn into daytime TV programmes and reruns of American sitcoms (yes, really), and the Samsung certainly has a talented upscaler – Seven Psychopaths on DVD was full of subtle detail and gentle colours. It’s a dynamic, exciting watch.
Our only main gripe with our review sample UE46F7000 is a patchy backlighting effect at the bottom-left corner of the screen. Aside from this, we found it hard to choose between this screen and the rival Panasonic TX-L47DT65B on picture performance alone.
Samsung UE46F7000: Active 3D
The UE46F7000 is an active 3D TV and the pros and cons of active 3D tech become immediately apparent. In the ‘for’ column, the picture depth is dramatic and exciting, and we find ourselves fully immersed in the 3D version of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. There is an inevitable dimming when putting on the glasses, detail is retained and fast motion is stable.
Niggles? The active-shutter glasses did strain our eyes a touch. There are two pairs included with the UE46F7000 may be light, they don’t sit particularly comfortably. Active or passive 3D is a personal preference, but the comfort of passive might just outweigh the drama of active in the long run.
Samsung UE46F7000: Verdict
To answer the question we posed earlier: yes, the Samsung UE46F7000 most certainly shares a five-star rating with the UE55F8000. In fact, the F7000 might just edge it out of the limelight, if only because of the sturdier and more practical stand design.
Samsung does have some fierce competition when it comes to usability and voice interaction in particular however, now that Panasonic has expanded its smart features repertoire. But for the breadth of smart content available, and the fine quality of its picture, this UE46F7000 is a strong contender if you’re after a new TV this year.