Name: Samsung UE55F8000 3D TV
Type: 55-inch 3D Full HD TV with web connected features, webcam, motion controls and voice activated controls.
Specifications: Click here for full specs
Price as reviewed: Around £2,500
Samsung’s latest edge-lit LED TV has every conceivable feature you could care to find in a modern television, from solid 3D performance through to voice controlled apps and an intelligent, attractive EPG. It’s also pretty darn expensive. Are its many bells and whistles worth the extra cash? Read on to find out!
NOTE: We tested the 55-inch F8000 model. However, with the specifications between this model and the 40 and 46-inch models almost identical, we’re confident that our tests with the 55-inch model will reflect a very similar experience were you looking to pick up one of the smaller televisions instead.
The UE55F800 is a truly beautiful set, with a jaw-dropping design befitting of its price tag. Measuring just under 35mm thick at its plumpest point (and barely 15mm at its thinnest), it’s almost impossibly thin given its huge panel size. The image on screen itself is pushed to the fore thanks to a bezel only half a centimetre thick – the closest we’ve seen a television come to that “bezel-free” dream that all TV manufacturers are chasing at the moment.
Connections on the rear are sensibly accessible from the side, allowing for wall mounting, and can be hidden away with a snap-on magnetic covering panel, which will save from trails of eyesore cabling being visible around the rear should you plan on placing the screen away from a wall.The rear also houses a small control panel on the bottom right hand side should you misplace the sets two remote controls. The topmost edge of the television hides a small retractable webcam that pops out when pressed, smoothly extending to sit flush on the top edge of the screen. The lower edge has a small glowing Samsung logo which, like the boot-up graphic, can be disabled if you find it annoying.If you’re not planning on wall-mounting the set, an attractive curved stand comes with television, arching around the rear of the screen and allowing the television to sit very close to the surface on which it stands, with clearance of little more than an inch. While the stand is stylish and unobtrusive, it’s frustratingly balanced. It seems as if all the weight of the set is taken at the front-most points of the stands feet, meaning can lean forwards and topple over if not placed on a wide surface. Though relatively light at 18.3kg with the stand attached (16.8kg without) it’d still do some damage to the screen if it were to fall this way, so think carefully before placing it down.
A solid 4 HDMI inputs is what we’d expect from a TV of this size and price, with a wide and useful array of ports and connections on the UE55F8000. The inclusion of both Freeview HD and Freesat tuners are welcome, giving plenty of viewing options to buyers.
- Component In (Y / Pb / Pr) x 1
- Composite In (AV) x 1 (Common Use for Component Audio L / R)
- Digital Audio Out (Optical) x 1
- Ethernet (LAN) x 1
- HDMI x 4
- RF In (Terrestrial / Cable Input) x 1
- RF In (Satellite Input) x 2
- USB x 3
- Headphone x 1
- Scart x 1
- CI Slot x 1
- R Out x 1
- Built-in Wi-Fi
2D Picture Quality:
The UE55F8000 has a standard 1080×1920 Full HD 1080p resolution, and with Samsung now testing the UHD waters, could well be the company’s last flagship at this resolution. If that’s the case, it’s a fitting swansong – the image quality here is superb.
Usually we’re ones to knock a television’s preset image settings, but even out of the box the UE55F800 impresses. That’s for the most part down to Samsung’s refinement of their backlight system. Previous Samsung LED models have struggled to deliver a consistent backlight across the frame, and while the rest of the image has been colourful and punchy, dark scenes suffered from light bleed in and cloudy grey patches as a result. Here, the backlight is consistent right up to its maximum brightness setting, allowing those who enjoy a bright, dynamic image to do so without worry.
With this in mind, Samsung have also introduced a new Cinema Black feature to be used when watching letterboxed 21:9 ratio movies. This allows the set to factor in the black bars above and below a picture before applying any edge LED enhancements, giving solid black bars at the top and bottom of a movie, free of grey light waves and pulses.
With deep blacks and rich contrast performance nailed then, Samsung’s stalwart colour accuracy looks as good as ever, with great detail and range in colour tones and subtle shadow details in murkier scenes.
Images are sharp and detailed, crisply bringing out all the finer points of that Blu-ray collection you’ve been building up. Images in motion look good too, thanks to the use of a native 200Hz panel and a scanning backlight. Though Samsung’s more aggressive motion-processing settings still look a little otherworldly, fine-tune them with a customised setting and you’ll find even the busiest action scenes moving buttery smooth.
We’d still encourage you to dial the backlight down a bit though if you want the most natural looking image possible, and it’s a shame that Samsung still haven’t managed to get a really good preset image setting nailed down. A matter of taste we suppose, but expect to do a little tweaking to nail down the most stunning image that this set can offer.
As ever, a HD screen this big will always do best with high-resolution content, and standard definition material can look a little blurry and muddy by comparison. It’s no worse than big screen HD rivals though, and the upscaling attempted here by Samsung makes SD content look as good as is possible.
3D Picture Quality:
Using active shutter 3D technology, Samsung’s flagship offers some of the finest 3D visuals you’ll get inside the comfort of your own home. Watching Pixars Brave 3D, motion processing is now also applied to 3D images too thanks to the quad-core processing engine onboard, removing some of the judder issues that have caused problems on 3D Samsung sets in the past.
Crosstalk issues too are notably reduced, and we saw only one instance in the whole of Brave, with a background moon pictured with a separate shimmery edge. Best of all, the improved backlighting functions of the television and incredibly high brightness levels mean that the dark-tinted glasses barely make an effect on the overall vibrancy of the image.
Two pairs of 3D glasses come with the set, and they’re very light and comfortable, with the watch-battery that powers them sitting in snap-down panel over the bridge of your nose. Ideally we’d prefer bigger lenses to help us from peeking out of the immersive 3D visuals, but the ones on offer here are large enough to sit relatively comfortably over a pair of prescription glasses.
Flat screen TVs never perform that well in the audio department; when they’re this thin, where are the speakers to go?
The UE55F8000 is a breath of fresh air in this regard then. With dedicated bass speakers, it sounds far richer than previous sets of this ilk, offering deeper, punchier sounds and a wide soundscape that nearly matches the scope of the picture on screen.
You’d still do well to match the telly with a soundbar or home cinema set-up, but for once it won’t be painful to your ears if it isn’t.
Web Connected Smart TV and EPG features:
Packing in both Wi-Fi connectivity and an Ethernet connection, it’s easy to get the UE55F8000 hooked up to your home network, letting you access a wide variety of Smart TV content and apps.
It’s a radical overhaul for the company’s Smart TV service too. As well as connecting up with your household’s other smart devices (which we’ll talk about in the ” Remote Controls, and Motion and Voice Activated Controls and Smartphone Apps” section of this review), Samsung have given the interface a drastic makeover, increasing the homescreen count from one to five.
These homescreens each focus on different aspects of the TV’s capabilities. The first is dedicated to live TV, offering a picture-in-picture view of the channel you’re currently watching, as well as recommendations based on your viewing habits similar shows as thumbnails surrounding it. Access to the Guide, Timeline and Recorded TV (shows are stored on a connected USB device) sit on the bottom.
The second screen focuses on On Demand TV and movie streaming services, and again offers recommendations based on your viewing habits, improving over time. As it stands, it can be confusing figuring out which service the recommendation comes from (it’s a pain to have the premium Acetrax service pop-up when we’re only looking for Netflix content), and though a cool feature, it’d benefit from being able to limit the sources the Samsung guide trawls through.
A third screen offers social feeds, aggregating Twitter and Facebook accounts into one place, and giving priority to video content shared on each site that can be played back on the TV. Also present here (once you’ve accepted the option to install it) is a Skype app, and with the built-in webcam, your set is turned into the sort of video screen that’d make Marty McFly envious.A fourth screen allows access to music, video and photos shared on your network or a locally connected device, displayed in all their glory on the big screen. Recorded TV shows can again be accessed from here too.
A final fifth screen offers a grid-like interface for accessing dedicated apps, covering everything from health and fitness videos to Spotify, a web browser (which is among the best we’ve tried on a TV), and a great selection of video services on offer including Netflix, LoveFilm, BBC iPlayer and iTV Player, as well as Samsung’s own 3D channels. A surprisingly robust app store lets you add more apps to this hub, including TV-optimised versions of popular mobile apps like Angry Birds
It’s an intuitive layout that can be controlled in a variety of ways as we’ll detail next, making for the most attractive and speedy Smart TV interface we’ve yet had the pleasure to try.
Remote Controls, and Motion and Voice Activated Controls and Smartphone Apps:The UE46ES7000 comes with not one, but two remote controls.
One is a standard remote with rubber buttons, including shortcut keys for accessing Smart TV features, as well as playback controls for videos and ARC-connected HDMI devices. It’s comfortable and sensibly laid out, and Samsung have sensibly removed the rarely-used “Family Story” shortcut button. It’s a shame that there’s no dedicated button for accessing aspect ratio, leading to a lengthy trawl through menus to get to it, and the same goes for the Game Mode. Also missing is the backlight, which featured in last year’s flagship set’s remote, though arguably it’s battery draining excess anyway.
The second remote control is smaller and more squat, and is similar to that which can be found with the ES7000 models. It features far less physical buttons in favour of a touch panel. It works surprisingly well, particularly when using it like a laptop trackpad for browsing the TV’s web connected features. It also features a built-in microphone, meaning you can use the TV’s voice-activated controls without shouting across the room, or over the volume of the set itself. However, it’s not as instantly familiar an experience to use as the standard remote, and, just like last year, we still found ourselves using the regular remote more often than the touch-enabled one.
Two returning features from last year’s flagship sets are voice and motion controls, working in tandem with the remote’s built in mic and the screen’s built-in camera. Both have been improved, but neither is again perfectly implemented yet. Waving a hand to activate a text entry box is far less finicky than navigating with either remote, and is a nice way to guide the cursor around the screen, making it the lesser of two evils here. You still wouldn’t want it to be the primary mode of control, and the screen still gets confused if you stand up or stretch, thinking it needs to turn on the motion controls. Voice commands are still ropey too – shows on the screen can annoyingly activate the trigger word, bringing up menus accidentally, while the speech recognition still makes plenty of mistakes. We still think it’s the future of TV control, but it’s just not quite there yet.
More successful are the Android and iOS apps, which work best on a Samsung mobile phone, but now also offer iPhone functionality too. With them you can stream video from one of the TV tuners to a tablet or smartphone, control the TV from an app or share content from the phone to the TV. Unfortunately, there’s no single all-encompassing app yet that covers all features, meaning you’ve got to use a handful in order to get to all the features. iOS apps are still missing a few features, but Samsung promise to add more features as time goes on. All in, the tablet/smartphone controls are more useful than the gesture and voice counterparts at this stage.
The UE55F8000 is a real stunner, with magnificent picture quality, surprisingly good speakers, a raft of useful control schemes and a host of well thought out web-connected features. It is prohibitively expensive though, and we’d happily save some cash by ditching the voice and motion gesture controls until they’ve been perfected. Also of note is the slightly worrying stand design – we’re sat looking at the screen as we write this and are still worried it may topple over if brushed against with a modicum of force. But these flaws, on the whole, are minor when put against the many superb features on offer here. If you can afford it, we can’t recommend this TV highly enough.
By Gerald Lynch | May 8th, 2013