The Samsung UNJU7100 series

 
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The Samsung UNJU7100 series

03/08/2015 10:37:49

THE GOOD The Samsung UNJU7100 series is the company's least-expensive TV with true local dimming, leading to very good picture quality with relatively deep black levels. Its color is accurate and video processing is among the best on the market. Unlike most Samsung 4K TVs it has a flat rather than curved screen. The redesigned Smart TV system and remote are simpler than ever to use, its cutting-edge connectivity and other features can be upgraded in the future, and its design is strikingly beautiful.

THE BAD It's still relatively expensive, and its overall picture quality falls short of some less expensive TVs.

THE BOTTOM LINE The Samsung UNJU7100 delivers the same high level of picture quality as some more expensive models, and beats most competitors for style and features.

 

Samsung sells more 4K, aka UHD (Ultra High Definition), TVs than anyone, and has more different 4K models in its 2015 lineup than ever before. The choices can be bewildering, perhaps intentionally so, but once I got a look at the company's full lineup I penciled in this TV right here, the JU7100, as closest to that elusive sweet spot between price and picture quality. After reviewing it, I'm changing pencil to pen (er, words on your screen).

The JU7100 is still expensive, but not totally outrageous. It lacks the curved form of even more expensive Samsungs, and it also fails to qualify for the company's high-end SUHD moniker, newfangled nanocrystals and all. It doesn't support the kind of next-generation content those SUHD sets do, but given how long it's taking normal 4K content to get going, I think it'll be a few years at least before such support is worth the extra money it requires.

I compared the JU7100 directly to Samsung's JS8500 SUHD, and the picture quality of the two TVs with today's content, including 4K, is extremely similar despite the big price difference. Both put out impressive image quality, although neither could match the performance of Vizio's even-cheaper M series.

So maybe you're thinking: "Hey, Katzmaier, I know you like those Vizios, but I just don't want a Vizio. What 4K TV should I buy instead?"

For you, hypothetical dude who won't buy a Vizio yet doesn't want to spring for something even more expensive (ahem: SUHD) I currently recommend the Samsung UNJU7100 series. It balances a not-too-crazy price with commendable picture quality, beautiful design, oodles of features and a healthy dose of future-readiness, for what I'm guessing will be Samsung's best 4K TV value of 2015.

Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 65-inch UN65JU7100, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.

Design

You have to hand it to Samsung for continuing to innovate its TV designs within the narrow space afforded by today's thin frames and sleek stands. The JU71000 is a great example, with a pleasingly dark metallic bezel that angles forward from the screen like a sharp-edged picture frame. I actually like the look a bit better than the JS8500 SUHD set, but of course it's all a matter of taste.

Interestingly the two Samsungs come with identical-looking stands: metal-faced, low-slung pedestals that make the TVs appear to float above the tabletops. I vastly prefer them to the splayed-leg jobbies Vizio foists upon its 2015 TVs.

The JU7100 has a direct LED backlight, not an edge-lit one, making it somewhat thicker than most recent-vintage Samsungs, including the JS8500. That's a minor disadvantage in my book, not least because nobody watches TV from the side. If you're keeping track, the Sony XBR-65X850C is slightly thicker and the 65-inch Vizio M a tad thinner than the 65-inch UNJU7100.

Last year I called Samsung's remote the best TV clicker I'd ever used. The stripped-down wand found on the 2015 models simply isn't as good, and I actually prefer LG's clicker this year. Yes, Samsung's remote does offer that sweet, sweet motion control -- where you can whip a pointer around the screen just like a Nintendo Wiimote -- and it still has Samsung's awesome twist, where simply laying your finger on the capacitive button summons the pointer and a menu.

Again there are two different ways to move around: motion control with the pointer, and clicking from one item to the next with a traditional four-way cursor. But the new control separates them too much, placing the cursor control below the pointer, and the presence of two separate "OK" buttons complicates matters. I often had to glance at the remote, and ended up using motion control less, defaulting most often to the traditional cursor. It didn't help that the JU71000 remote, unlike that of the JS8500, has no backlit keys.

Samsung also removed too many of the dedicated buttons, including voice search, rewind/fast-forward and, the "keypad" button. Yes the new remote is aggressively lean and small, its motion control precise and slick, but I miss the old one.

The new menu system, however, is a big improvement. Just laying your finger on the touch-sensitive pointer button is enough to summon a basic menu. Icons appear on the top, bottom and left of the screen for "Menu/123," "Smart Hub" and volume, respectively, allowing you to dive into overlays for each while the main video continues playing.

 

 

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