Samsung UE40C7000 3D television
Major TV manufacturers, such as Samsung, often have two complete range upheavals a year. That is, they release a new collection of TVs, often with improved features and functionality, bi-annually and generally in line with the changes in a super-fast moving industry.
However, Samsung itself abstained last year. Everybody expected the company to hit the market in Autumn/Winter 2009 with updates to its amazing B7000 and B8000 series of LED TVs, but nothing came. Nada. Nil.
The global recession was blamed by most. Some even speculated that the manufacturer couldn't immediately improve on the current range. We have another theory ... Samsung was waiting for 3D.
The 40-inch UE40C7000, the first 3DTV to hit the market, is as ground breaking as an industrial digger. It so benefits from such a swathe of technological advancements that it is a massive evolutionary step. It is a TV that's well worth waiting for.
Physically, it borrows much from Sammy's previous generation of LED TVs, and also has a similar backlight system. Where some manufacturers (and Samsung, initially) adopt rear-firing LED bulbs behind the action - giving them the ability to switch zones of them on and off to control extreme brightness and black levels - the C7000's are side-firing. This affords the screen a slimness a Girls Aloud'er would, literally, die for. And, thanks to cunning filtering systems between the pixels and the front glass, contrast levels are at similarly high numbers to its rear-firing cousins - the best of both worlds.
The TV's rear end may not be as pretty, but what it lacks in aesthetics it more than makes up for in socketry. Its four HDMI inputs are of the latest flavour (v1.4) allowing them to be completely compatible with 3D gadgetry. And there's a couple of USB 2.0 ports and a set of Component video ins for those with a hankering for retro kit.
But, tasty looks and pluggable holes aside, it is when the TV is switched on that you get the money shot. It is such a capable performer with normal standard definition TV broadcasts and Blu-ray that 3D is in danger of becoming little more than an amusing sideshow. Indeed, the 40C7000 even has a Freeview HD tuner, so you might initially be more enamoured by free BBC HD, ITV1 HD and Channel 4 HD programming, and the picture performance on those (ignoring any broadcast bitrate issues) is exemplary.
It's the panel's colourfield that immediately stands out. One benefit of deep black levels - for which this TV is wholly capable - is that they enhance hues. Reds and greens are especially vibrant and searing, even after a thorough bout of calibration. You can tone them down, but why would you? Vibrancy doesn't always mean unrealistic, and we favour a tasty colourscape.
However, bar the Freeview HD upgrade, a size zero waistline, plentiful connections, and natty pictures were all features of the previous range of sets - they won't be the reason you'll be willing to part with extra wonga for this generation. So naturally, it's 3D that will attract most to give the C7000 series a look over its older brethren and shelf-space peers. And, thankfully, it's a feature that will wow from the off. It may be a gimmick at this stage, but so was the Nintendo Wii when it first arrived, and look at that particular kit's success.
In fact, the Wii is a good analogy for 3DTV in general. Both are best suited to event participation. You will not sit alone in front of the Sammy telly watching Monsters vs Aliens (again, as there's little other content at present). Nor will you use the 2D to 3D conversion processing more than the initial "hey, look at Moira Stuart, her hair looks like it's coming at me" (that said, it does make football look interesting, if not truly 3D). Nope, you'll invest in more pairs of glasses, sit down with the family or invite a few pals around and enjoy the "event" together.
It'll be costly - as they are of the active shuttered-lens kind, the glasses cost £100 per pair for battery-operated ones, £150 for rechargable - but we can definitely rate the experience. It works. With everybody sitting around watching 3D Blu-ray, a movie takes on a much more immersive quality.
There are caveats: you'll also need a 3D Blu-ray deck or PS3 (when the next firmware update for 3D video arrives), and the effect really only works its best magic when there's little ambient light, but we're converts.
Of course, with little content around and Blu-ray movies being exclusive to different TV manufacturers for the time being, there's not going to be much to do with the 3D button on the C7000's remote, but that'll soon improve and you can be safe in the knowledge that it is an amazing TV regardless.
Samsung has even improved its Internet@TV service in an attempt to emulate the success of Apple's App Store, and offers BBC iPlayer, LoveFilm video-on-demand and other exciting widgets and add-ons (some free, with paid ones to come), so, considering the Freeview HD too, you'll never be short of 2D content. And then there's full-on media streaming via DLNA from a remote source such as PC or NAS box, or the ability to play HD file types through the USB ports. In short, it's so feature-laden that you'll be capably amused until more 3D games and Blu-rays arrive.
Indeed, while the 3D revolution has finally arrived and, certainly, the 40C7000 will get more press for its 3DTV moniker than anything else, it is such a capable television anyway that its 3D readiness is merely the icing on the cake.