It was a pleasure meeting Chris from Cleveland Plasma and calibrating the Samsung B7100 for review!
Although Samsung refers to this as an "LED TV", that term is misleading. Actually, it is an LCD TV with an LED edgelit backlight.
I was impressed with the new Sammy's thin profile and high tech design, but of course I was most interested to see it's best performance and compare it to a calibrated Panasonic 800u THX plasma, which I am very familiar with.
First impressions before I did any calibration work:
Brightness uniformity was good on a white field, with just a slight darkening at each of the 4 corners. This was not much different than other LCDs I've calibrated.
Color washed out off axis as on other LCD displays, with red becoming a little orangish and green a little yellowish off to the sides.
Black uniformity was not that great; it had some blotchiness and cloudiness in some areas.
Attachment #1 is the measured performance in standard mode before cal, at default settings.
I started by going into the service menu and calibrating and unlocking the calibration day and night modes, but then I noticed that they had much higher black levels than other modes like Movie mode. Even though this is not a local dimming backlight model, it does dynamically dim the backlight with low APL signals in all modes except the calibration day and night modes. I thought the much improved blacks were too valuable to sacrifice, so I decided to concentrate on calibrating movie mode. Attachment #2 is uncalibrated Movie mode. The blacks went from typical LCD quality to, IMO, 8G Kuro quality. The cloudy spots were much less apparent and no longer a problem in most situations.
Movie mode calibrated well in the user menu. Grayscale tracking was good though not exceptional; on par with other Samsung LCDs. Gamma started high on the low end because it came out of black slow like a CRT, but it averaged about 2.15 the rest of the way. I could have made it over 2.2 the entire way, but then it would have been even higher at the low and and shadow detail would have been very hard to see. The color gamut calibrated nearly perfectly! The only 2 colors with dE higher than .5 were red and blue, and they were both not bad. Color luminance was exceptional with careful calibration of the CMS. The dynamic backlight action after calibration in Movie mode was fast and unobtrusive. I got 58 ft-l of light output, which is good for a moderately bright room. Resolution was excellent at 1080i and 1080P. I did not test lower resolutions.
The subjective look was stunning! This set has tons of "pop", and it has beautiful color. It looks very crisp and detailed. Since it came out of black slowly, dark objects are just a bit too dark, but that's very forgiveable considering how great it looks overall.
I then calibrated the Panny 800u's THX mode, which made a huge improvement over the uncalibrated THX mode. After cal the 800u put out 40 ft-l on a 100% white window. We looked at the same scenes on both sets. I know we compared 58 ft-l to 40, but I didn't want to handicap the Sammy by reducing it's light output. After all, that's one of it's most important advantages; it wouldn't be fair to take that advantage away.
The Samsung had more apparent contrast ratio. It was easy to see the difference; it just won that contest hands down.
The Samsung appeared a bit sharper and had more vibrant colors. Flesh tones were neither too sunburnt nor too pale; they looked perfectly natural. However, it's high low end gamma meant that shadow detail was harder to see than on the Panny, which errs in the opposite direction (the 800u comes out of black too fast). The Panasonic has a natural, forgiving look that is easy on the eyes but not as involving. Overall I preferred the Samsung because of it's higher contrast ratio, higher light output which makes it more versatile and well suited for bright living rooms, and superb color. But I still like the 800u; it's natural, easy going look and lower price are important.
Attachment #3 is the measurements of the Samsung's calibrated movie mode.