Samsung has long dominated the mid-range of the TV market, leveraging its significant economies of scale to produce lower-priced models that don't skimp on the features. A good example is the RU7020 which, despite being this year's entry-level 4K TV with a competitive price to match, still retains a comprehensive set of features.

The RU7020 might lack Quantum Dot technology and local dimming, but it boasts a full smart platform that includes a Universal Guide and the Apple TV app, along with HDR10+ support to tease the most out of content that uses the dynamic metadata for high dynamic range (HDR) presentation - that's when those whites are extra bright and blacks extra black. There's also AirPlay 2 and the ability to work with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Design, Connections and Control

  • Dimensions: 1125 x 650 x 59mm
  • Connectivity: LAN; Wi-Fi; Bluetooth; AirPlay 2
  • Ports: 3x HDMI; 2 x USB

The Samsung RU7020 isn't going to set the design world on fire, but no one's expecting high-end styling at this price. You get a simple black plastic chassis that's reasonably slim, with a thin charcoal black bezel. The rear is a textured black plastic, with cutaway sections for the various connections. 

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The screen isn't too reflective, but don't position it opposite a strong light source or window. The TV sits on a pair of black plastic feet spaced at either end, so you'll need a fairly wide surface to mount it on; although you also have the option of wall-mounting using a VESA bracket if you wish to buy one.

The connections are at the rear side of the screen, and it's a pretty decent selection. There are three HDMI inputs, all of which support 4K, high dynamic range (HDR, as mentioned earlier), CEC and HDCP 2.2 (one of those necessary carriers to ensure you can stream 4K broadcast content). One of the inputs also supports ARC (audio return channel), which is handy if you want to push the sound through to another device, such as a soundbar.

Other connections include two USB ports (neither of which can be used for personal video recording (PVR) duties); a terrestrial tuner (there's no satellite tuner); an optical digital output for audio; and a LAN port. There's also built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and AirPlay 2, making for an impressive selection for an entry-level model.

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Unfortunately the included black plastic remote betrays the RU7020's budget status. This zapper has all the keys you'll need to setup and control the TV, as well as providing direct access to Netflix, Amazon and Rakuten. However, the controller itself is fairly small, which means many of the buttons are tiny, making them hard to see in the dark or operate with fat fingers.

Stripped-down HDR experience

  • HDR Support: HDR10, HLG, HDR10+
  • Processing engine: UHD Processor
  • 85% of DCI-P3, 350nits peak brightness

As you might expect from a model this far down the Samsung TV totem pole, the RU7020 doesn't include the AI-enhanced image processing found further up the range. However, there is a processor designed to get the best out of the native 4K panel. Plus the panel itself supports 120Hz refresh for better motion handling.

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The RU7020 uses a VA panel type, which produces deeper blacks but also results in fairly narrow optimal viewing angles. The panel is illuminated using edge LED backlighting rather than a direct array, which means the local dimming is restricted to image processing instead of independently controllable zones. This means the overall dynamic range is restricted, which impacts the RU7020's HDR performance.

The TV supports HDR10, HLG and HDR10+, but it only has a peak brightness of around 350nits and a colour gamut of about 85% of DCI-P3. That's less bright than your phone. It also doesn't support Dolby Vision, but that's the same for all of Samsung's TVs this year.

Accurate and punchy pictures

The Samsung RU7020 delivers a surprisingly accurate picture right out of the box. Which is just as well, because at this price nobody is likely to calibrate. There are calibration controls, though, allowing minor improvements to be made, but overall this TV is capable of some impressively punchy pictures with the minimum of setup.

The default Standard mode makes for good daytime viewing, with its bright and colourful images. Movie mode is a better choice for nighttime viewing, as its blacks appear deeper, the shadows more defined, and colour accuracy superior. This isn't the brightest TV, but it can still cause eye-strain if you crank-up the backlight in the dark.

The lack of a direct backlight and local dimming array means the blacks aren't as deep as they could be, and this is especially evident when watching letterboxed films at night. The black bars are more of a dark grey, although adding some bias lighting behind the TV can help improve the perceived black levels.

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When it comes to standard dynamic range (SDR) content, the RU7020's limited brightness isn't an issue. The TV is still capable of some very nice images, with good highlights that retain detail and natural colours. The processing is also impressive, producing clean and detailed images with native 4K content, and effectively upscaling lower-resolution material.

The Samsung handles motion fairly well thanks to that 120Hz LCD panel, although you may experience a bit of judder or blur in some scenes, although how much varies from person to person. Auto Motion Plus can be useful for improving the motion with sports, but don't be tempted to use it with movies, unless you want them to look like cheap video.

If there's one area where the RU7020 really stands out it's in terms of its input lag, which is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it 10ms in Game mode. This remarkable response time is undoubtedly due to the minimal processing in the TV, as it's the lowest number we've measured to date. It also makes this TV an ideal choice for gamers, with detailed images and decent motion handling to ensure an enjoyable gaming experience, with no danger of image retention or screen burn after a marathon session.

Comprehensive smart features

•    Tizen OS 

The Samsung RU7020 might be an entry-level model, but you'll find that hard to believe when using the smart platform. It boasts the same Tizen-powered operating system, apps and smart features as Samsung's high-end models. It also appears to have sufficient processing power, with a fast and responsive user interface.

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There's a launcher bar along the bottom and a second layer for quickly accessing additional related content. There's also a comprehensive set of streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Now TV, Rakuten, YouTube, UK TV catch-up services, and even Apple TV. Where appropriate all these apps support 4K and HDR (including HDR10+ for Amazon and HLG for the BBC iPlayer).

For 2019 Samsung has introduced the Universal Guide, which curates all your favourite games, movies, sports, and streaming services into a single user-friendly interface. The guide then analyses your viewing habits, creating a single 'For You' page with content to suit your tastes. It's a useful feature given the wealth of content available, but not all services have signed up for it.

Unlike models further up the range, the RU7020 doesn't have Bixby built-in, but you can still control the TV using your voice (to a limited extent) because it works with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and even Siri (thanks to AirPlay 2).

Any issues? 

The Samsung RU7020 might support HDR, but its capabilities in this department are fairly minimal. The tone mapping does its best to squeeze HDR content into the TV's restricted dynamic range and colour gamut, but with limited results. The peak brightness isn't much higher than with SDR and the colours are also similar, so HDR lacks the impact you'd find from a more expensive and higher-end set.

The absence of a direct backlight or genuine local dimming means the specular highlights don't really pop, while the shadows lack detail. The colours are also less saturated, so you're primarily left with the increased resolution to do the heavy lifting with detailed and clean images. There is also a degree of blooming around bright images - that's when the way LCD-LED panels' backlights bleed into dark areas of the picture - which is exasperated at wider viewing angles.

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The inclusion of HDR10+ certainly helps on any content to which it's applied, but unfortunately at the moment that's limited to Amazon Prime and a few 4K Blu-ray discs. The second season of Jack Ryan certainly benefits from the addition of dynamic metadata, with more precise highlights and better defined shadows. However, the limited brightness and less saturated colours are hard to ignore, making the RU7020 a better choice for non-critical viewing in a bedroom, or maybe as a TV primarily for gaming.

The Samsung RU7020's picture isn't the only aspect of the TV that lacks AI enhancements, there's no machine learning wizardry when it comes to the sonic delivery either. The result is a fairly simple audio system based around a pair of full-range drivers and 20W of amplification. This is the one area that truly reveals the TV's position at the bottom of Samsung's 4K range, with a harshness to the sound quality that's missing from more expensive models. There is a clarity to the sound, but also a hardness in the midrange and a sharpness to the higher frequencies.

Verdict

The RU7020 isn't perfect, but when you consider all the features Samsung has managed to squeeze into its reasonably attractive exterior, you'll be hard pushed to find better at this price.

The overall performance is good, with a surprisingly accurate picture and image processing that manages to effectively upscale lower-resolution material without resorting to the AI enhancements that you'll find in much pricier tellies. The motion handling is good, too, and while the blacks sometimes struggle with more challenging material, the pictures are often detailed and punchy.

When it comes to HDR the TV's budget status is more obvious, though, with limited brightness and colour depth making it hard to do HDR justice. There are other areas where the RU7020's entry-level position becomes more obvious: from the perfunctory remote control to fairly harsh sound quality. However, an input lag of just 10ms is sure to please anyone looking for an affordable gaming TV.

So come Black Friday or during any other promotional period, remember this: just because you have a limited budget doesn't mean you have to make do with limited features.

The Samsung RU7020 is available in six screen sizes: the 43-inch 43RU7020; the 50-inch 50RU7020 (as reviewed); the 55-inch 55RU7020; the 65-inch 65RU7020; the 70-inch 70RU7020; and the 75-inch 75RU7020.