Samsung UE55F8000 LCD TV
The Samsung UE55F8000 is arguably the most advanced Full HD LED TV you can buy today. Gorgeously designed and generously appointed, it’s a screen which will have tech-heads and interior designers dribbling comparable qualities of drool. But while Samsung has clearly spared no expense pampering this Series 8 flagship, which is also available as the 46-inch 46UEF8000 and 40-inch UE40F800, it comes with a think-twice price tag and doesn’t quite scale the height of its flatscreen ambition.
The set itself looks terrific. The super narrow bezel throws all the emphasis on its images and there's only the slightest bulge on the bottom for the illuminated logo. It’s minimalist in the extreme. Connectivity befits this TV toff, with four HDMIs, component and Scart, plus Ethernet LAN and a trio of USBs. Wi-Fi is built-in. The set also features twin Freeview HD and Freesat tuners (the latter requiring an LNB splitter).
The F8000 ships with two remote handsets. In addition to the regular IR remote there’s a fancy-looking Bluetooth touchpad with integrated microphone.
The inclusion of a quad core processor makes the F8000 officially Samsung’s most powerful display to date. The extra processing grunt principally speeds up navigation and is used to improve the interactive user experience. This is significant, as there have been big changes to the brand’s Smart portal, with the introduction of an icon-based front-end. Of course you don’t have to dig too deep to fill your screen with a rash of content icons, but the thing is now definitely easier to browse.
Internet TV services
Samsung leads the field when it comes to Internet TV streaming and catch-up services, including both BBC and ITV players, plus Demand 5, Netflix, LoveFilm, Dailymotion, Spotify and many others. The F8000 also sports social media clients and Skype; an integrated HD camera pops out of the top of the bezel when required.
This big Series 8 screen once again nods affectionately at Minority Report. Although audacious in concept, Samsung’s first attempt at voice and gesture control proved deeply flawed. For the most part it involved shouting ironically at the screen to control volume and gesticulating wildly in front of the camera to channel channels, both thoroughly exhausting activities. This second generation Smart TV shows considerable improvement, although this kind of control still borders on the comical. The camera is certainly more forgiving and you can now use more conversational English to communicate commands.
One area where the TV excels is Smartphone integration. Smart Mirroring, aka Miracast, makes it a snap to view the contents of your mobile device on the large screen. You can also view channels from the set’s second tuner using Dual View.
Multimedia file support is similarly good. The set’s USB media player is able to cope with pretty much anything you throw at it (including MKV and FLAC), all listed with thumbnails of the content. Music files play with album art and a spinning disc graphic. This extensive compatibility extends to files located on a LAN.
The UE55F8000’s picture performance is outstanding. Images combine ruthless clarity with the contrast and vibrancy of a Dulux colour guide. But there are caveats. While there have been improvements to Samsung’s presets this year, once again you’ll need to go off-piste to make the most of this panel. Motion handling is generally compromised on anything other than “clear” or the custom setting (set de-judder to zero and de-blur to five). Opt for standard, smooth or clear motion plus and moving resolution is compromised by ugly artefacts.
The F8000’s black level performance is good, although not as profound as you might hope. When viewed in high ambient light images appear incredibly dynamic; darkened rooms present a slightly greyer experience. One innovation this season that’s genuinely useful is Cinema Black, which avoids distracting backlight spooling by turning off the top and bottom edge-lighting when watching 21:9 ratio movies.
Unlike the majority of its rivals, Samsung seems happy to stick with Active Shutter 3D, and the results here show that loyalty is well placed. The F8000’s stereoscopic performance is largely clean and bright. Having become quite accustomed to the resolution deficit causes by Passive Polarisation, it’s refreshing to see Full HD 3D look this good. There’s still crosstalk to be had if you peer hard enough, but it’s not a distraction. The two glasses supplied are pleasingly light and comfortable to wear.
Despite the set’s thinness, audio performance is above average, the downward firing speakers miraculously create a wide soundstage that doesn’t immediately make you pine for a soundbar.
There’s no doubt that Samsung’s big F8000 is a formidable example of LED TV art. Both in terms of aesthetic design and feature functionality, it’s a front runner, with images that are blisteringly sharp and vibrant.
While the value of voice and gesture control remains debatable, there’s little doubt they’re working better this season. The set’s Smart portal offers everything you could possibly want from a streaming media site, and the provision of dual tuners makes second screening a lot more fun.