With no immediate replacement for the extraordinarily over-engineered 9000 Series on the horizon, Samsung’s waif-thin Series 8 models have become the new LED flag wavers for the brand. At first glance the models look rather similar, but the new Series 8 screens swap the titanium metal back plate for lightweight plastic, and cut corners by confining connectivity to the rear of the screen.
Here you’ll find four HDMI, one of which has ARC (audio return channel), Ethernet LAN port, a VGA PC input, stereo audio minijack, plus SCART and Component (for which you need an adaptor, supplied), plus a digital audio optical output.
This is the first TV we’ve seen from Samsung featuring its new Smart Hub apps portal. Replacing the first gen Internet@TV service, this new platform unites both 3D and media streaming under the same genetically superior umbrella. The Smart Hub Home Page consists of a Live TV window and apps showcase with a width-wide area for content and function icons. Rather cleverly, app folders are provided into which different family members can group their favourites.
There’s no shortage of entertainment here: BBC iPlayer, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Lovefilm are obvious attractions, but there are also games and news apps. You can also Skype video call using an optional webcam.
One defining aspect of smart TV tech is the ability to search and find content. So, at the top of the screen, a My Video search bar is provided which integrates IMDB-like credit info with a video search engine. We keyed in a title of a recent movie, and were quickly offered the opportunity to watch trailers and video reviews on YouTube, or visit its official Facebook page. In the future this may be integrated with a VOD service provider who would offer the film as a streaming rental.
Also included within the Smart Hub is an open web browser. Based on the WebKit engine it includes Flash support for maximum webpage compatibility. Text input is made via a mobile phone-style keypad, which we found clunky and slow. A soft QWERTY keyboard would have been better, or the kind of no-fuss text entry system offered by the Beeb for iPlayer.
2D image quality on this screen is excellent. Black levels are prodigious, colours vibrant and detail high. But you’ll need to experiment to find the greatest clarity. Samsung’s engineers have taken enormous pride in the smooth motion offered by the 55UED8000. Our test footage of criss-crossing windows on a skyscraper should be a picture processing nightmare, but the screen glides around it like a celebrity on ice. A key part of the silicon responsible for this is called Motion Plus.
Without it, motion picture resolution on the TV is poor. But with it engaged, fine detail is retained up to 1080 lines. Care should be taken with the Highest setting as this creates all sorts of predictive artefacting. It’s best to use the Custom setting.
3D looks dramatic. Images offer a wonderful sense of depth, enhanced by the micro-bezel. While there are still elements of crosstalk in the picture, they are appreciably less intrusive compared to first-gen models. One way Samsung has improved 3D is by reducing the depth of the panel itself; made thinner, the viscous liquid crystal within is able to react faster to changes between frames.
Also new for 2011 are glasses which use Bluetooth to sync rather than IR; the brand recommends a viewing distance of between 2-6m. The glasses, which weight just 34.5g, are powered by a small CR2025 button battery which lasts for around 70 hours. Samsung offers ultra-light 3D glasses as optional extras which are rechargeable.
Samsung has pulled out all the stops with the 55UED8000: 3D, Freeview HD/Freesat, net connectivity, media streaming and audacious design. Picture quality is terrific and the new Smart Hub portal offers enormous potential. The screen reviewed here is currently the largest model in the Series 8 range, but a 60in champ is due this summer. If the price or design is not to your taste, the brand’s Series 7 are essentially the same only with a different cosmetic design.
The 55UED8000 is a genuinely stunning TV. With Sharp images, plunging black levels and vibrant colours, it looks divine with Freeview HD/Freesat HD content and Blu-ray. It also offers perhaps the best LCD 3D we’ve seen to date: brighter than plasma, with precious little crosstalk when calibrated sympathetically. Once you’ve experienced connected TV like this, regular telly seems positively archaic.