3D movies like Avatar and Alice In Wonderland have proved to be real cash-cows at the cinema, so it was only natural that 3D technology would find its way into the home. Samsung was quickest off the mark, launching the world’s first 3D Blu-ray player, home cinema system and TVs.
Samsung’s 3D TV range includes an impressive eight models, including six LED sets and two plasmas, but here we’re taking a look at the 46-inch model from top-end Series 8.
Being a Samsung product, design is high on the agenda and the UE46C8000 is so spectacularly gorgeous that you might be tempted to leave your other half and move in with it. Most eye-catching is the silver brushed metal bezel that surrounds the screen, but the new Quad Stand, illuminated Samsung logo and wafer-thin depth of just 23.9mm will have visitors swooning like teenage girls at a Justin Bieber concert.
Due to the set’s unbelievable slimness the connections are mounted sideways on the rear panel, and some of the ports require adapters. But that doesn’t mean that Samsung has skimped on sockets. You get four HDMI v1.4 inputs, all of which support 3D signals, and one of them also offers an Audio Return Channel for sending sound back to a compatible AV receiver. Among the other sockets are component, DVI/PC inputs, optical digital audio output and a common interface slot.
This TV is absolutely crammed with features, leaving us wondering what else Samsung could possibly squeeze into next year’s models. 3D is the star attraction, and it supports any format you throw at it - side-by-side, top & bottom, line-by-line, vertical stripe, checker board and frame sequential (the system used by 3D Blu-ray). However, to enjoy it you’ll need to buy a pair of Samsung’s 3D glasses for around £99 (rechargeable) as they’re not supplied. The TV talks to the glasses from a transmitter built into the screen.
Cleverly, the set can turn 2D pictures into 3D, so if you fancy seeing what Avatar might look like when it’s launched in proper 3D, then this set can make it happen. On the flip side, it will also display 3D material in 2D by showing only the left eye’s image.
The two USB ports allow you to plug in memory devices and play back most video codecs and containers, including DivX HD, XviD, WMV9, MPEG1/2/4, MKV, AVI, MP4, ASF, 3GPP, VRO and VOB, as well as MP3 and JPEG files. Incredibly you can even plug in an external HDD and add PVR functionality.
The multimedia fun doesn’t stop there. Hook up the set’s Ethernet port to your internet router and you can explore a range of "apps" on Samsung’s superb Internet@TV feature (including YouTube and Twitter) and even make Skype calls. Thanks to the AllShare DLNA feature, it’ll also play music, video and photos from PCs on your home network. It’s a shame there’s no built-in Wi-Fi like Samsung’s 3D Blu-ray player, but wireless connectivity can be added with an optional USB dongle.
Scarily, these are just the highlights of the monumental feature list. It also boasts a Freeview HD tuner, Samsung’s 3D HyperReal Engine - a powerful picture processor with 200Hz and a scanning backlight for smooth motion - and a Smart LED mode that controls and optimises the edge LED backlight. Picture pedants will flip out at the plethora of other image tweaks on board.
With such a wealth of features on board the UE46C8000 is a complicated TV to use, and it’ll take you weeks to get your head round everything. But basic navigation is a breeze, thanks to the gorgeous menu design and terrific remote, which is styled in brushed silver to match the TV.
Picture quality is astounding with any source. 3D pictures, in this case Monsters Vs Aliens on Blu-ray played on Samsung’s BD-C6900 deck, bring the expected wow factor, adding immersive depth and layering to the image. Even through the glasses, the image is bright, vivid and detailed and you’ll be surprised by the quality of 2D to 3D conversion.
But 3D playback isn’t without problems - despite the inclusion of circuitry designed to reduce the "crosstalk" interference that can blight 3D pictures, there’s still a lot of ghosting and blur that sometimes leaves your eyes unsure of what to focus on.
In every other respect however, picture quality is stunning. 2D Blu-ray pictures and Freeview HD sizzle from the screen with vivid colours and razor-sharp detail, while SD sources scrub up nicely. Blacks could be deeper and there’s some noise in places, but on the whole the Samsung is a sublime picture performer.
The set boasts a trio of SRS sound modes (TheaterSound, TruSurround and TruDialog) which do a great job with TV fare, but they fail to deliver the requisite bass and surround expansion for movies.
Although it’s expensive and 3D has a few teething troubles, the UE46C8000 is something special. 3D is just one of many reasons to recommend it - the amount of other features is staggering and if you can find a better looking TV we’ll eat our 3D glasses.