Samsung UN40JU7100 TV Review

The Small Face of 4K - Do You Really Need a Huge Screen to Benefit from 4K?

The Samsung UN40JU7100: Making a case for small-screen 4K.
Samsung

Common wisdom has it that native 4K resolutions only really make a difference on very big TVs sporting screens of 55 inches or more. Samsung, though, has other ideas. 

Its UN40JU7100 TV squeezes 4K’s 3840x2160 pixel count into a screen that’s a mere 40 inches across. So the simple question that needs to be answered as I sit down in front of one of these 4K minnows is whether all those pixels are worth paying up for (the UN40JU7100 costs just under $1,100 at the time of writing) or whether you’d actually be better off saving more than a few dollars by sticking with a similarly sized HD TV instead.

The UN40JU7100 enjoys premium styling with a chamfered, dark silver frame and a striking desktop stand featuring a raised metallic front edge. 

Connections

The external connection box the TV comes with is well stocked too thanks to its provision of four HDMIs, three USBs for multimedia file playback and both wired and wireless network connections. Though please note that you can’t swap this box out in future years for a version containing updated software and, potentially, new connection types like you can with the larger external connections boxes you get with Samsung’s premium SUHD TVs (such as the 65JS9500 reviewed here).

The network ports can both stream multimedia from networked devices or access Samsung’s online services. You can get more of these services on the Sony Android TV platform these days, but Samsung’s Tizen-based system feels more focused on the sort of apps that are actually useful on a TV. These include the 4K streaming versions of Netflix and Amazon. 

Samsung’s Tizen interface is more streamlined, customizable and user-friendly than Android TV too - though it’s not currently as easy to follow as LG’s webOS or Panasonic’s Firefox OS smart systems.

Just a UHD TV, not a SUHD TV

While the UN40JU7100 delivers a native 4K resolution despite its diminutive size, it’s not one of Samsung’s so-called ‘SUHD’ TVs. Which means it isn’t compatible with the new high dynamic range (HDR) picture format and doesn’t enjoy the same level of brightness or color dynamism. But this is no more than you would expect from a 4K TV at the UN40JU7100’s relatively affordable price. 

The UN40JU7100 is, surprisingly for such a small screen, illuminated by a direct LED lighting system. This places the lights directly on the screen instead of ranging them around the edges and should, experience suggests, have a beneficial impact on the screen’s contrast.

One other feature worth highlighting is 3D playback. This may not be of interest to many people I guess, especially on a screen as small as this one. But since Samsung has, as discussed in this separate feature, announced that it’s no longer supporting 3D on the vast majority of its incoming 2016 TVs, if you hold even a small flame for 3D and want a Samsung TV, you might have to rush out and buy one of the brand’s current range.

In action, the UN40JU7100 delivers a picture that’s clearly superior to the vast majority of other 40-inch TVs on the market. 

Picture Quality

Particularly outstanding is its handling of dark scenes, which are shown with a striking combination of deep black colors and strong bright highlights that are comfortably beyond the capabilities of most LCD TVs. Even better, the direct LED lighting helps deliver those deep black colors without them being infiltrated by the sort of backlight clouding irregularities many LCD TVs suffer with. 

It’s great to see, too, that despite the deep black colours you get when using the UN40JU7100’s dynamic contrast system, the image still contains enough brightness to allow the screen to show lots of shadow detailing, giving dark scenes a sense of depth that makes them feel impressively and unusually consistent with the way bright scenes look. 

Color Performance

Where you find good black levels you usually find good colors too, and so it proves with the UN40JU7100. It combines an excellently rich palette for a 40-inch TV (despite not carrying the wide color gamut technologies you get with Samsung’s SUHD models) with huge amounts of tonal subtlety and finesse underlined by the ultra-fine resolution you get with the native 4K pixel count.

That 4K pixel count also makes pictures look intensely sharp and detailed. And yes, I’d say you really can appreciate the difference 4K makes from a pretty normal viewing distance - even if the difference from such a distance lies more in the subtlety of the colour reproduction and the enhanced depth of the image more than it does in the sheer amount of extra detail your eye can see. 

HD-Beating Sharpness

Certainly, no HD-resolution TV can deliver the same degree of sharpness and finesse. And despite the fact that the processing Samsung uses to upscale HD sources to the screen’s UHD resolution is very impressive, you can also clearly appreciate the difference between the native 4K version of a movie (such as Life Of Pi played from one of Samsung’s UHD Video packs) and its HD Blu-ray version.

I have just two issues with the UN40JU7100’s pictures. First, while pictures mostly look exceptionally, HD-beating sharp, some of that 4K sharpness is reduced when the screen has to show motion, presumably due to the screen’s response time not being quite as fast as that of Samsung’s higher-level LCD TVs. 

Using Samsung’s motion processing can improve the motion sharpness, but it also causes a few more unwanted side effects - such as shimmering haloes around moving objects - than I would ideally like to see.

Bigger IS Better

The other issue is that, despite the fact that you can appreciate the benefits of 4K on a 40-inch TV, I would still recommend that you try and get a bigger screen if you really want to get the maximum benefit from 4K. 

The screen is also not really big enough to do justice to 3D playback unless you sit extremely close to it, since while its 3D pictures are of themselves quite good (with high brightness, impressive sharpness and only fairly minimal amounts of the ghosting noise you can often get with the sort of active 3D system the UN40JU7100 uses), the inability of a 40-inch TV to truly fill your field of vision makes 3D images feel like a hole ripped in your living room wall rather than a truly immersive experience.

In other words, much as I like many things about the UN40JU7100 and would certainly recommend it to anyone who just doesn’t feel they have the space to step up to anything bigger, it ultimately left me wanting a bit more. Literally.