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Samsung 55″ TU7100 Crystal UHD 4K HDR Smart TV (2020 Model): Full and Fair Review

Welcome to our review of the Samsung UE55TU7100 which, we think, is the best budget 4K HDR Smart TV on the market today. Without wanting to sound like a cheer-leading squad, the main reason it’s such a good choice is that it comes from Samsung (and no, we’re not being paid by Samsung to say that). Bear with us, and we’ll explain…

We all know that technology manufacturers focus most of their attention on their flagship models. The top end of the market is where they get to show off their latest technology, and flagship success is how they get their name known. But with all the emphasis on flagships, there’s usually not much effort made with the development of the entry-level models.

Samsung seems to be different. We don’t know of many other manufacturers who continually make their core performance and feature set available in their low-budget models. We guess it helps to be the largest producer of TVs in the world. (And it’s not just with TVs. Take a look at the Samsung Galaxy A21 phone, which uses the same Infinity-O display technology as the flagship S20, but costs a fraction of the price.)

The new 2020 version of the TU7100 is a case in point. As you’ll see from our review, there are features which you just won’t find on any other budget 4K TV. We’re going to start by looking at the overall design, which sets us up nicely for the rest of the review. But just before we do that, here’s a section just for the geeks…

Samsung TU7100 Review: What’s In A Name?

If you’ve ever wondered what all the letters and numbers in Samsung’s product names mean, then you’ll find the next few paragraphs useful. If you couldn’t care less, then skip this part!

Samsung TU7100 Model Number
What do all the letters and numbers mean? | Image Credit: samsung.com

‘U’ is the product ID, which is our case refers to a LED TV. ‘E’ is the region for which the TV is intended, showing our review model was built for the European market. ’55’ represents the size class, which is 55-inch. (Note that this is not the actual screen size: our model has a display diagonal of 54.3 inches). ‘T’ is a code for the release year, which here is 2020. Make sure the model you buy doesn’t show R (2019) or N (2018).

Moving on, ‘U’ shows the screen type, which is UHD, and the next two digits ‘7’ and ‘1’ show the series and model numbers. The last two numbers show if the TV is a different version from standard, such as with a white bezel instead of black. ’00’ is always good to see here. There are another four characters which aren’t always quoted (in our review model these are KXXU): the first three are internal manufacturing codes and the last shows the country of origin, which in our case is U for United Kingdom.

So our review model, the UE55TU7100KXXU, is a LED TV built for the European region. It has a size class of 55 (inches) and was released this year. The resolution of the screen is UHD, and Samsung’s internal design code for our model is ’71’. It’s unchanged from the standard configuration, and it was assembled in the UK.

OK, enough geekishness! On with the review.

 

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Samsung TU7100 Review: Design

The sad but true fact is that budget TVs aren’t ever really ‘designed’. The way they look is more just a product of necessity: certain things have to be in certain places. What surprises us with the TU7100 is that Samsung have obviously taken the time to add some design flair. Because this is one of the few budget TVs that actually looks good.

Samsung TU7100 Dimensions
The 55-inch model has a screen depth of under 6cm. | Image Credit: samsung.com

The chassis might be mainly highly-toughened plastic, but it doesn’t look like it. Instead, the overall aesthetic is neat, tidy and quite modern-looking. The raised bezels are suitably thin, although there’s a tiny gap between the bezel and the edge of the display panel, which kind of feels like cheating. (That being said, it’s only noticeable if you’re looking for it, so perhaps we’re being too picky!)

The feet on the included stand aren’t the most subtle, and at first glance it seems they hold the panel too high. However, it turns out the space underneath is exactly the right size for a soundbar, which shows the attention to detail we highlighted earlier. The stand is also hollow, and Samsung’s Clean Cable Solution offers a neat and simple way to route all your wiring through the stand, eliminating annoying and distracting cable clutter.

Overall, we’re very impressed with the design of the TU7100. It won’t win any awards, but there’s a quality that belies the budget price. And that quality continues with the choice of display panel, which is the next part of our review.

Samsung TU7100 Review: Display and Picture Quality

The display, along with the picture quality, is of course the most important part of a TV. It’s also the single most expensive component, and it’s here that a lot of manufacturers try to shave costs. Not so Samsung, who have fitted the TU7100 with a beautiful 4K Ultra HD Crystal Display panel. It’s definitely higher-specced than comparable screens at this price-point, but then Samsung produce their own display panels, so they can probably afford the upgrade!

Samsung TU7100 Crystal display vs normal display
The difference in colour and ‘punch’ is Crystal clear (pun intended) | Image Credit: samsung.com

 

Just as a quick recap: Ultra HD (or UHD for short) is the successor to Full HD. UHD has a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, meaning it’s four times as detailed as the older Full HD. 4K is more tricky to define. It used to have a specific meaning in cinema, but now it’s just used to mean any TV with a resolution that can support UHD. True 4K actually has a resolution of 4096 x 2160, but in practice, it’s un-noticeable unless you’re dealing with 100-inch screens.

The term ‘Crystal’ refers to Samsung’s Crystal Processor technology, which upscales lower-resolution media to 4K. This works well enough, but the purists amongst you might prefer it switched off by default. In our opinion, it works best with images that are already sharp, such as Disney or Pixar movies filmed in HD. Here, it can perfectly analyse the data for each incoming pixel, and intelligently decide how to split it into 4 new pixels.

Crystal technology is also at the heart of the Crystal Display, which offers significantly better blacks and a better contrast ratio than we’d expected. The initial impression when you fire up the UE55TU7100 is a picture with just the right amount of ‘punch’. It also seems well-balanced, with a nice neutral tone that doesn’t artificially ‘overcook’ the colours. This is helped, in part, by Samsung conforming to the latest DCI-P3 colour standard, for which it achieves a very commendable 85% of full gamut. You can change the default colour scheme using either ‘movie’ or ‘dynamic’ presets, though our advice would be to leave it be.

The UE55TU7100, being one of Samsung’s cheapest budget models, doesn’t have most of the picture-enhancing features that come with OLED or QLED models. Even so, at its highest definition of 3840 x 2160 pixels, this TV performs better than expected ith HDR (High Dynamic Range) content. There’s no Dolby Vision HDR system, which is a pity as it’s starting to find its way into competing budget TVs. However, Samsung doesn’t offer Dolby Vison on any of its TVs, so it’s no great surprise.

Instead, Samsung offer their proprietary HDR10+ technology, which uses metadata sent out by the broadcaster to constantly fine-tune settings as your content plays. (Samsung call this ‘Dynamic Tone Mapping’.) Compared to standard HDR10, the HDR10+ picture is punchier and more dynamic. It’s one step closer to seeing the picture as it was shot, with no digital compression.

Samsung TU7100 hdr 10+ difference

This clearly shows the difference that dyamic HDR10+ makes to colour and contrast | Image Credit: samsung.com

At the time of this review, HDR10+ content is available from Amazon Prime, Google Play and Vizio, plus a few other providers. Netflix are currently only using HDR10, which is an inferior standard to HDR10+. However, Samsung’s TVs are all backwards compatible, meaning the UE55TU7100 will always stream Netflix at the highest quality available.

New to the 2020 model is Filmmaker Mode (called just Film Mode on Samsung TVs), which is a one-click setting that disables all forms of post-processing. The aim here is to let you view content in the way the filmmakers intended, including with the original aspect ratio, colour gamut and frame rate. This is a very new initiative, which was developed by the UHD Alliance along with leading movie directors, such as Martin Scorsese.

Our overall impression of the picture quality is very positive. The picture quality will never be as good as on TVs using an OLED or good-quality IPS panel, but they typically cost hundreds more. Instead, Samsung have given us the best image quality possible at the price.

Next, let’s find out about the sound.

Samsung TU7100 Review: Sound Quality

This is really the only area where the budget nature of the UE55TU7100 starts to show. That’s not to say the sound is particularly bad: it’s just average, whereas up to now we’ve been expecting outstanding.

The sound output may be up to 20 Watts (RMS) and enhanced with Dolby Digital Plus, but the quality is, frankly, disappointing. The main culprit is the speaker set-up, which uses just two 10W full-range drivers, which fire downwards. As a result, even with the volume full up, the TH7100 struggles to make an impression. And the louder you set it, the worse it sounds as the inevitable distortion starts to creep in.

There is Dialog Enhancement circuitry on hand which helps a lot with midrange detail, and an Adaptive Sound system constantly monitors the audio signal and adds some soft compression which helps to keep the highs and lows in check. If you’re forced to use the internal speakers then it won’t be the end of the world, but this is a TV that cries out for the addition of a soundbar.

We recently looked at the best soundbars for under £100, and something like the Sony HT-SF150 would be ideal. Admittedly that’s at the top end of the budget bracket (about £97), so a cheaper alternative would be any of the well-reviewed models from Majority. We particularly like the Majority Snowdon II, which in our review proved to be powerful and clear, with impressive low-end response. Another great soundbar is the LG SK1D (affectionately known as ‘The Skid’). The link below will take you to our full review.

 

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Samsung TU7100 Review: Auto Game Mode and Game Enhancer

Making full use of all the enhancements and monitoring technology onboard, Samsung have included a bonus for all the casual gamers out there.

Samsung TU7100 Carousel media selection
The Tizen OS interface is one of the easiest and most intuitive to use | Image Credit: samsung.com

 

Auto Game Mode instantly recognises when a gaming console, such as an Xbox, has been connected to the TV and automatically adjusts all the relevant settings for the best possible gaming experience. One of the major changes is that the DNIe chip in the TV is bypassed, which disables some of the video processing thus allowing for a faster video response time.

All of this helps to reduce input lag (down to 9.5ms), which is probably the most important element for gamers. Additionally, Samsung’s proprietary Game Enhancer adjusts brightness and colour on a game-by-game basis to ensure the clearest optics for gameplay. There’s also a clever AI algorithm that analyses the audio spectrum of the game in real time to provide optimised sound.

Auto Game Mode also recognises the difference between playing a game on a console, watching a streaming service like Netflix, and playing a DVD movie. So the TU7100 can automatically switch back and forth between Game Mode and standard video playback mode, meaning there’s one less adjustment for you to worry about. In some cases, navigating to the relevant input on the TU7100 will actually turn on your console: this is an undocumented feature but it seems to work with most Xboxes, which is an unexpected bonus.

We’re not suggesting that the TU7100 will ever replace a dedicated gaming monitor, but if you own a gaming console or occasionally play some online games, you’ll definitely appreciate these two features. At this price point, it’s great to see these included, and it ticks another box on our ‘we love the TU71000’ list.

Next, we’ll take a look at the ways you can control the TU7100.

 

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Samsung TU7100 Review: Remote Control and Tizen UI

First, let’s deal with the worst aspect of control, which is the included remote. To be honest, it’s a bit of an embarrassment, especially when everything else about this TV is trying so hard to win you over.

Samsung TU7100 remote control
The remote control is small, cluttered and has buttons no-one will ever use. | Image Credit: samsung.com

The remote is too small, too complicated, and there are a lot of unnecessary input options which most people won’t use. Samsung produce a much smarter and more stripped-back controller, called the ‘One Remote’, but you need to move up to the TU8000 range before that’s included out of the box.

As you’ll be using the TV remote a lot, the poor layout will quickly become both disappointing and annoying. We suggest switching to a programmable replacement, such as the One-For-All Contour Universal 8, which for half the price of the recommended Samsung remote adds a learning feature and the ability to control up to 8 devices. Of course, the only problem with having one remote that controls everything is what happens when you lose it — but we’re sure you’ll appreciate the immediate benefits anyway!

The included remote doesn’t feature dedicated voice control, but we wouldn’t expect this at the budget level. However, the TV will respond to commands made using an Alexa or Google Assistant-powered speaker provided everything’s on the same network. Some commands are a little restricted, but it’s easy enough to adjust volume, control playback and change channels, which is all you really need.

There’s also enhanced Bixby connectivity, so you can use your Samsung smartphone to control your TV. However, in practice, we don’t know anybody who will admit to using Bixby, so we’re not sure how effective this feature is.

However you choose to control the TU7100, you’ll end up navigating via the Tizen UI, which is one of the better smart TV interfaces available today. It has a neat and intuitive UI which displays all your regularly-used apps and streaming services in a carousel. Our one complaint is that, over time, the UI can become sluggish — there’s a lag which at some times is very noticeable (and very annoying).

Sadly, there’s nothing that can be done to change the root cause, which is the installed CPU. It’s just not powerful enough, but fitting the next-level-up chip would push the price up too far. We can’t say we’re too keen about the decision to stick with the lesser-powered chip, but there are some ways to minimize the lag. Samsung have a troubleshooting page which offers some solutions, but they effectively boil down to “switch it off then switch it on again”, which is no real help.

Instead, try this, which we know from experience helps. Turn off picture sharpening, LED Clear Motion and anti-flicker. Then disable startup (autorun) for apps such as Smart Hub, and also disable autorun of the last used app. You can switch these features on as and when you need them, but having them all start when the TV powers up is overkill for the processor.

Gripes aside, the Tizen UI is easy to navigate, and most settings are where you’d expect to find them. The streaming service library is also one of the better ones available in the UK. At the time of writing, our review model came with access to at least the following (which are all subject to change):

Catch Up TV: BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, My5, UKTV Play

Streaming Services: Netflix 4K, Prime Video 4K, Rakuten, Britbox, NOW TV, BT Sport, Apple TV, Disney+

 

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Samsung TU7100 Review: Connectivity

Connectivity is on the sparse side, but there are enough inputs and outputs for general day-to-day use. First up, we have integrated Wi-Fi (version 5) along with an RJ45 interface for hardwired Ethernet connection. Wireless connectivity is completed by Bluetooth (only at version 4.2) and Apple Airplay 2, which lets you stream and share content from Apple devices. The same functionality is also available with any Samsung devices that use SmartThings technology, such as Galaxy smartphones and tablets.

Samsung TU7100 Back panel connectivity
The uncluttered back panel offers easy access to all the I/O sockets | Image Credit: samsung.com

 

On the easily accessible back panel are the main I/O sockets, which amount to an RF antenna socket, an optical audio out, a CI+ 1.4 TV viewing card, two USB sockets and two HDMI sockets. Even at the budget end of the market, its rare for a TV to be released with so few HDMI sockets: three is the absolute minimum we’d expect.

Here’s the reason for our little gripe: one of the HDMI 2.1 sockets is eARC-enabled, which allows you to transmit high-quality audio that satisfies the thirsty bitrate requirements of Dolby Atmos and DTS. This is great, except if you connect a soundbar to take advantage of eARC, you have no choice but to use up one of the HDMI inputs, leaving just one free.

The workaround is to connect your soundbar using the optical audio socket, thus freeing up the HDMI connection. The audio will still sound great, but you’ll lose the option to use Dolby signal processing at it’s highest resolution. It’s not a deal-breaker, but we’re still surprised that Samsung haven’t realised the problem exists. Ah well, maybe in the 2021 version…

Samsung TU7100 Review: Final Thoughts

With technology, it normally goes that you get what you pay for. But in the case of the UE55TU7100, your money stretches just that bit further. For the price, this TV is pretty-much unbeatable. We’re happy to forgive the ‘meh’ audio, the slightly laggy (but otherwise excellent) Tizen OS interface and the lack of a third HDMI port.

Where this TV excels is in the core task of delivering a better-than-decent picture for a budget price. As a main TV it will perform competently, and as a TV destined for a bedroom or chill-out den it’s pretty much ideal.

Usually at this point, we’d recommend a couple of alternatives, but we can’t find a model that gives anything near the same bang-to-buck ratio. And so we’re happy to stand by our initial statement: the UE55TU7100 is, we think, the best budget 4K HDR Smart TV on the market today.

Features

  • 4K UHD resolution (3840 x 2160 pixels)
  • Crystal Display gives a great contrast ratio
  • HDR10+ is a noticeable improvement over HDR10
  • Crystal Processor upscales all media to 4K
  • Best-in-class Tizen OS v5.0 interface
  • Game Enhancement Technology for minimum lag
  • Latest eARC technology available through HDMI 2.1

FAQs

We’ve noticed a recent increase in the number of Google searches regarding the UE55TU7100 and other TVs in the TU7100 range (although the 55-inch remains the most popular screen size). To save you looking these up individually, here are the most frequently asked questions along with our answers. If you have any further queries about the Samsung TU7100, or perhaps you have some tips that you want to pass on, please get in touch using our comment box or the social media icons to the right of this paragraph.

What is the difference between 4K HDR and UHD?

There is a definite difference between 4K HDR and UHD in that they’re two different technologies, but there’s also a similarity as they’re both to do with the quality of the picture. 4K and UHD are interchangeable terms that define the maximum resolution of a TV’s display, which in the case of UHD (Ultra High Definition) is set at 3840 x 2160 pixels. This is four times as many pixels as the older version — Full HD — meaning the picture will be up to four times sharper.

HDR, which stands for High Dynamic Range, is a way to make the display more accurate, with a bigger range of colours and contrast available to each pixel. TVs that can play HDR content accurately will always have a better picture than TVs that don’t, irrespective of whether they have a 4K or UHD resolution.

Are Samsung Crystal TVs any good?

Compared to most budget TVs, Samsung’s Crystal TVs are a good choice as they offer a brighter and higher-contrast picture. The display won’t be as colour-accurate or as detailed as on Samsung’s more expensive OLED and QLED TVs, but a TV with a Crystal display is probably the best budget model you can buy today.

Crystal also refers to Samsung’s upscaling technology, which uses Artificial Intelligence to turn lower-resolution video into Ultra HD. The result, in most cases, is a sharper picture although this sometimes looks too artificial, especially with old media.

What are the best settings for Samsung 4K TV?

Although the default settings are perfectly OK for general use, there are some tweaks to ensure you get the best settings for Samsung 4K TVs. The first setting to check is the performance mode, which should be set to ‘Home’ but might be set at Retail or Store Demo. If so, the colours and contrast will be too high which will make everything look too artificial. To select Home Mode, do the following:

From the Smart Hub select Settings, then choose System. Now go to Expert Settings, and then navigate to Usage Mode. From here, check that the mode is set to Home Mode. If not, choose it and then exit.

For some Samsung 4K TVs, such as the QLED, serif and Frame models, there are two settings that adjust the picture quality on an ongoing basis. You may decide to turn these off, although there is no ‘best’ option here. The settings are Intelligent Mode and Adaptive Brightness. Additionally, there are some other picture settings that are worth tweaking.

Start with the Settings Menu as before, but this time select the Picture Settings option. Now select Picture Mode, and make your personal choice (we suggest sticking with the Standard option, but you’re free to select one of the more processed presets).

Staying in the Picture Settings option, select Special Viewing Mode. This will give you three options: Sports Mode, Game Mode and HDR+ Mode. Sports Mode is great for fast-moving content, as it activates a faster motion response. However, you should probably leave it switched off for non-sport media. Game Mode puts the TV into a special low input latency mode, which is perfect for gamers who need microsecond-perfect response times. Attaching a games console usually triggers this mode automatically.

The third and last option is HDR+ Mode. Content transmitted in HDR (High Dynamic Range) will trigger a normal HDR10 mode. However, selecting HDR+ will make the TV adjust the brightness and contrast of each frame using special metadata sent by the provider.

How do I enable UHD on my Samsung?

UHD (Ultra High Definition) is usually enabled by default on all Samsung TVs that offer Ultra HD resolution. If you try playing Ultra HD content, your TV should adjust to maximum resolution automatically. It is possible to turn this off and force your TV to only use a lower resolution, but this is usually only used for diagnostic purposes. Our advice is to leave these settings at default.