According to Samsung, it made 90 per cent of the 3D TVs sold in Europe in the first half of 2010. That doesn't surprise us, as the company was one of the first to have 3D hardware ready to sell, and it also launched more 3D models than any other company. Selling loads of something isn't necessarily indicative of quality, so has the company created a raft of brilliant hardware, or just a slew of average TVs?
To get a better idea, we got Samsung to lend us a 46-inch UE46C7000. This £1500 3D LCD with LED backlighting is quite likely to be one of the company's most popular TVs, as it's more affordable than larger models and will fit in more homes.
Thin, light and super gorgeous
As with most LED TVs, the C7000 is ludicrously thin and stylish. Samsung is still at the forefront of TV design, and we're always amazed that each year it produces something new and different to the previous generation. Whatever your current TV looks like, you'll get a kick out of this C7000 -- it's a beauty.
The only downside to its size is that most cables -- except, thankfully, HDMI -- need breakout adaptors. This is because the TV doesn't have much space for full-size cables. These adaptors are all provided, but they do make the back of the TV look a mess and add an extra point of failure to the system, too.
Size is everything
When it comes to 3D, the bigger your TV, the better. 3D works best when the screen is big and close to your eyes. This is because the illusion of depth is lost as soon as your eye wanders outside the boundary of the screen. Sit too far away from a 3D TV and the effect will be lost somewhat. In our testing room, which is far from huge, we found ourselves leaning forward to get a little more of that 3D effect.
If you're room is of medium or large size, then we'd suggest that this TV might not be large enough for your needs. If you're not buying it for 3D viewing, however, this is not such an issue.
Ghosting in the machine
In the past, we found Samsung's 3D TVs suffered more than most with ghosting. With 3D, the image you see is made up of two separate pictures, each with a slightly different perspective. The TV generates the 3D effect by showing these images one after the other, and the glasses shut off all the light to one eye at a time. If the TV can't refresh the on-screen image quickly enough, your left eye will get a fraction of a millisecond to see the image intended for the right eye. When this happens, you'll see ghosting around the picture.
On the C7000, this problem was present, but not too severe. We noticed it most during Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, as Flint and Sam are heading over the hills to the jelly castle. Since the two characters appeared small and in the distance, they suffered very severe ghosting. With other material, it's much less noticeable and unlikely to trouble you all that much.
2D picture quality
A stand-out feature of this TV was its superb picture quality. Give this telly a high-quality standard-definition source and it really shines. HD channels that send upscaled SD material look terrific on this set because there's less compression on these channels and therefore less mess for the TV to descramble.
Even so, feed it a normal, low-quality Freeview channel and it's perfectly happy to show a detailed, colourful and pleasant-looking image. HD channels are, as you would expect, lovely to look at, with loads more detail than standard channels. A Blu-ray source will, of course, top them all. With a good-quality disc, you'll see masses of detail and incredibly rich and vibrant colours. The TV does a really good job here -- its in animation and vivid movies that an LED backlight shines.
The TV does cope well with more reserved material, too. Use the 'movie' mode to add a more muted effect to the pictures, but be prepared for a slightly yellow hue to the image. This might sound unpleasant, but we find it's the best out-of-the-box picture mode for watching films.
Purists should make sure to turn off Samsung's movie motion compensation mode, because it will render the footage low-rent and more like a cheap home video than a multi-million-dollar Hollywood movie.
One other note: when we ran a Freeview HD tuner through to the TV via HDMI, sometimes the TV seemed to mis-process the image for a second or so. This made the incoming video look like film. It was only very brief and didn't happen often, but if you're an external PVR user, it might irritate you.
Sound on the Samsung is a pretty pleasing surprise. We found dialogue was crisp and audible. Of course, these small, built-in speakers have neither the power nor the range to do justice to a movie soundtrack. For that, you need a proper AV receiver and speaker set-up. We'd urge you to consider this, because it adds more to the movie experience than the 3D mode does, in our opinion.
The big problem with LED backlights, specifically the edge-mounted system that Samsung uses, is that they don't always provide a very even light over the panel. This is extremely noticeable with this TV, which has bright patches in the corners, especially in the bottom right and left. We'll be the first to admit that, when watching normal widescreen TV, these bright spots aren't noticeable. The problems come when you want to watch a movie that has black bars on the top and bottom, which is when you'll see the bright spots.
We also noticed that, when switched on, the dynamic backlight caused some problems. It did react incredibly quickly, switching the LEDs off as soon as a completely black screen appeared, but the contrast between an all-black screen and one with some picture elements hits you in the face. Imagine you're looking at an all-black picture one moment, then some titles appear and the LEDs fire up, making the screen go a sort of dull, dark blue from their former inky blackness. It's a problem severe enough to warrant turning off the dynamic backlight.
The good news is, the contrast is high enough on this TV for us to be happy with the dynamic backlight turned off. We suggest knocking the backlight down from the default of 10, to 6, which preserves strong white, but keeps good, dark black levels.
3D and 2D-to-3D conversion quality
The 3D effect of this TV is good, but not as awe-inspiring as Samsung's own 55-inch model. It stands to reason that this would be the case, because there just isn't enough screen real estate to pull you in. Add that to the slight ghosting, and you have a less-than-perfect 3D TV. If you're looking for the best possible 3D experience, this might not be the TV for you. If, however, you're looking for a set that's a good all-rounder, this is likely to fit the bill nicely.
Like its previous Samsung, a 2D-to-3D conversion mode is provided with the C7000. As with the other models, we don't really rate the effect. While it can give things more 3D depth, it's more likely to just give you a headache. The conversion mode makes inevitable mistakes -- it's impossible for a TV to guess where depth should be in a picture, for example. If TVs could do that, there would be no need for special 3D to be made in the first place.
Still no glasses in the box
Like other manufacturers, Samsung doesn't include 3D glasses with its 3D TVs. It does, however, offer various deals to get you started. To find out what deals are running when you buy yours, you should check with your retailer. We're told that vouchers for a free set of glasses are included, but that will obviously change from time to time. Even so, not including a set of glasses in the box is a little mean. It also means that if you want to test 3D straight away, you'll need to spend extra cash up front.
That said, we're sure you could negotiate with your retailer to throw an extra pair of 3D specs in. These TVs are expensive, after all, and retailers aren't likely to want to lose your sale over an £80 accessory.
We won't go over old ground here but, like most other Samsung TVs, you'll find full media playback here, with support for popular video codecs either played from a USB memory stick, or over your home network.
The TV has access to Samsung's Internet@TV service, which will bring LoveFilm and BBC iPlayer to your TV over the Internet. It's a good service, and we're pleased to see it on this set.
There are some worries with this TV, however. The backlight is imperfect, although not dreadful, and we're not big fans of the 3D ghosting. For most types of material, though, this TV is a good performer. It's not that cheap at around £1500, and we can't help thinking this price is inflated by the 3D elements which, honestly, we could do without.
Backlighting and 3D issues aside, the Samsung UE46C7000 is a superb 2D TV, and both SD and HD video look amazing. It's a tough one to call here, but, overall, this is a TV worth considering.
Edited by Emma Bayly