REVIEW: Samsung UE60D8000 3D TV
Name: Samsung UE60D8000
Type: 3D LCD TV
Specs: Click here for full specs
Price: Around £3,350
When it comes to 3D TV, bigger is always better. At 60 inches, Samsung’s UE60D8000 is one of the largest screens you can get in your house before going into 3D projector territory, and is backed by an impressive array of connected TV features. However, it’s also one of the most expensive sets we’ve ever tried, nearly £1,000 more than its 5-inch smaller stable-mate at around a whopping £3,350. Does the TV perform well enough to justify the price tag?
A 60 inch beast, the UE60D8000 manages to offer a gigantic screen while remaining catwalk-slim in profile. Measuring just 30.45mm deep and weighing 24.8kg with its slick, four-pronged silver foot base attached, it’s as pretty to look at as it is svelte and (for its size) lightweight. A thin silver bezel sits around the edge of the screen, rounding off a space aged look, with a glowing Samsung logo (which can be turned off) sitting at the centre of the lower edge. Volume, power and channel buttons sit on the TV’s left hand side, while a wealth of rear-mounted connections, angled in-line with the screen, make it perfect for wall mounting.
A premium set deserves a premium remote control, and the UE60D8000’s weighty, metallic zapper fits the bill nicely. Backlit, with a brushed metal feel to the buttons and slightly raised lines to guide your fingers in low lighting, it sits comfortably in the hand and, when paired with the clear and intuitive UI on show here, makes navigating the set an absolute breeze. One-button access to web connected Smart TV apps and 3D features are appreciated, but as as with the Samsung UE55D8000 and the rest of the 8000 Series, the remote really needs a dedicated button for motion processing settings, as these are the ones that we found we most regularly tweaked, and yet are among the most deeply hidden options on the set.
Samsung don’t scrimp on the connectivity option with the UE60D8000. 4 HDMI ports (one ARC enabled) are supplemented by 3 USB ports, a component port, Optical Digital Audio Out, DVI Audio In, PC Audio In, PC In (D-Sub) and a headphone socket too for good measure. RF connectors and F-connectors for Freeview HD aerials and Freesat HD satellites respectively both also feature. As well as an Ethernet port for wired web connectivity, the TV also comes with built-in Wi-Fi if running the extra cable up to your screen isn’t convenient. Setting up the Wi-Fi connection was simple using the onscreen menu and it maintained a consistent connection when browsing the Smart Hub platform and performing DLNA streaming, which we’ll discuss in more detail in a second.
Both Freeview HD and Freesat HD tuners come built in with the UE60D8000. Paired with one of the slickest EPGs we’ve seen this side of a Sky+ HD set top box, you’re straight into the HD party more or less right out of the box as a result.
For the most part, the UE60D8000 looks a treat when it comes to 2D picture quality, with Samsung cramming in edge-mounted LED backlighting with dimming for deep blacks, as well as their 800Hz Clear Motion system for smooth action, which pairs 200Hz processing with frame interpolation and backlight scanning to hit the claimed 800Hz mark.
As is usually the case with flatscreen HD TVs, the picture needs a fair bit of tweaking before it looks its most natural, pin-sharp best with high-definition content. While there are a handful of decent presets to stick with if you’re not the most confident picture tweaker, thankfully Samsung have filled the set with all manner of imaging controls if you want to really make the set shine, including gamma and white balance controls, HDMI black level response and plenty of digital noise reduction settings.
Once you’ve got it up to scratch, it’s an often stunning HD set. Incredibly bright for a panel this size, colours are punchy and vivid, making our Toy Story 3 Blu-ray test footage really come alive. It’s also a fantastically sharp image too. Viewing our Blu-ray copy of Batman Begins and watching the early training scenes in the snow between Christian Bale and Liam Neeson, the epic mountainside surroundings of the icy scenes shimmered with detail.
Motion processing techniques are always a little bit iffy, but for once, merely sticking to the pre-set Clear Motion Rate “Clear” setting on the UE60D8000 managed to subtly smooth over fast moving scenes without ever leading to that strange floaty effect overusing the technology usually results in. Largely detailed action scenes, like those found in the Lord of the Rings trilogy Blu-rays, looked a treat as a result.
That’s not to say it’s always a perfect image however, and the extra screen real-estate has caused a few problems of its own. The strong backlight can be a little inconsistent in its dimming timing, particularly in darker scenes where it’s presence can intermittently prove unwelcome as it bleeds into both the corners and lower central area of the screen. It’s not an uncommon problem for edge-lit LED displays, but at around the £3,350 mark you’d expect a little better than what’s made the cut here in this set.
Standard definition content is upscaled nicely on the UE60D8000 though, which usually proves to be a challenge on a screen this size. Instead, images are never stretched uncomfortably, and clever smoothing techniques make even the lowest bitrate footage perfectly watchable.
Samsung throw in two pairs of their newest 3D glasses with the UE60D8000. These use Bluetooth rather than infra-red to sync with any 3D content onscreen. On one hand, it’s frustrating that any older Samsung specs you may have lying around are made redundant by the new standard, but on the other the new specs are far lighter than many rival’s pairs, and don’t suffer nearly as badly from flickering and ambient light interference as the preceding pairs from Samsung. They’re still expensive at £100 a pair, but, again, at least you’re getting two sets here.
3D visuals really knock you out on a screen this size. It’s hard to explain the importance of a big screen when it comes to immersing yourself in 3D visuals, but with so much of your peripheral vision dominated by the screen itself, it’s easy to get lost in the eye-popping action. Using our test copy of Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams through a PS3 console, we were totally enveloped in the subterranean, stalactite filled adventure. Thanks to the strong backlight on show here even the movies moodier, darker cave-bound scenes retained great detail.
It’s a pity though that the screen suffers from the same crosstalk issues that many 3D sets we’ve tried also fall foul of. Ghosting is a regular annoyance when watching 3D content, and while it’s not a deal-breaker, it’s a nasty side effect that’s arguably even more prominent with a screen this size.
Surprisingly good for a flatscreen, the UE60D8000 offers a fair amount of boom and bite from its stereo speakers. Thanks to the sheer size of the screen there is fairly decent stereo separation on offer, with a comprehensive set of equaliser settings making dialogue sit cleanly at the fore of the soundscape.
Samsung also throw in a few pseudo surround-sound settings too, including SRS TruSurround HD adding to the width of the image. As ever, bass response is lacking in a screen this thin. You’re never going to match the audio quality of a dedicated home cinema set-up (it would be a ridiculous oversight were you not planning on pairing this premium set up with at least a soundbar), but the UE60D8000 offers audio quality as good as you’re likely to receive from a flatscreen telly.
Smart Hub and Media Playback
Once you’re connected to the internet with the UE60D8000, heading over to the Smart TV apps hub shows off a welcoming, intuitive web-connected set up. As well as being the area from which you access networked media files or those stored locally on a plugged in USB drive, it also features well over 30 apps, from VOD services like LoveFilm, iPlayer, YouTube and Vimeo to social networks such as Twitter and Facebook and Skype messaging. There’s even a fully open web browser based on the WebKit engine.
Since the last time we had a Samsung smart TV in our office for testing the company have also added a dedicated 3D on demand channel called 3D Explore. Much of the content is free and a perfect way to showcase your set’s 3D abilities while you grow your catalogue of 3D Blu-ray titles. As it’s mostly trailers and documentaries on show here it’s not full of Hollywood blockbusters, but we were happy to see a number of familiar IMAX-like historical titles making an appearance, free of charge.
Media playback, via a USB stick or DNLA networking, remains as comprehensive as you’d like. Be it SD or HD file types, lossless audio or dirty CD rips, the screen had no issues whatsoever handling whichever format or codec we threw at it.
We’ve been impressed with the Smart Hub before, and that feeling remains with the UE60D8000. Consolidating media playback and web connectivity into one place is a sensible choice, and as the Smart TV platform is growing, Samsung appear to have mastered the art of fitting all the new apps in seamlessly. Where it does suffer though is at pulling off onscreen text-entry, needed quite regularly to scan and search the platform. It’s fine to click through individual letters to put in the odd Wi-Fi password, but if you’re leaving messages on Facebook or searching YouTube regularly it’s a bit of a chore. An input method similar to that which Sony use on their PS3 (similar to the text/dial lettering and numbers seen on a home landline phone) would be a simple way to alleviate this problem.
Without question, the UE60D8000 is a fine TV. Apart from a few backlighting issues its 2D and 3D visuals are up there with the best of them, and in Samsung’s ever more powerful Smart TV app hub, it’s got one of the best web-connected feature sets to boot too. Text entry is a chore, and audio quality is still mediocre at best, but these are problems not unique to Samsung’s 8000 series, but the flatscreen market as a whole. While these few foibles are admittedly minor, when you consider the fact they’re in a £3,350 set they get a little harder to stomach. Contrary to the constant stream of junk emails I receive, an extra 5 inches is not worth hundreds of pounds, and here it’s one of the only clear advantages over Samsung’s own smaller, cheaper offerings. An impressive set then, but unless that extra screen real estate is a must have, you’d save yourself a pretty penny by opting for the marginally smaller UE55D8000 instead.