Will Full HD TVs be overthrown in the 'resolution revolution'?
What is the Samsung 55H8000?
With all the manufacturers placing greater emphasis on Ultra HD 4K this year, there's a danger that their Full HD line-up might get left behind.It's understandable that if you want consumers to move to the higher resolution format, you need to find ways to entice them. The more features and design differences you include on your Ultra HD TVs, the more likely people are to make the switch when they ultimately upgrade their current set. However for the majority of people, Full HD 1080p remains the most likely TV purchase for the time being, especially in the smaller screen sizes. So it's important that manufacturers don't leave Full HD behind in their rush to join the 'resolution revolution.'Thankfully this doesn't appear to be the case where Samsung are concerned and their latest flagship Full HD LED LCD TV - the UE55H8000 - certainly looks well specified on paper. It's curved screen and overall design are very similar to the Ultra HD HU8500 and it includes Samsung's new smart platform, smart controller and evolution upgrade path. There's no One Connect box but it doesn't really need it and no built-in camera but you can always add one if you want. Otherwise the H8000 looks like business as usual from the Korean giant, so lets put it through its paces.
Design and ConnectionsThe H8000 comes in 48, 55 and 65-inch screen sizes and sports a very similar design to Samsung's latest Ultra HD TVs, thus it uses a curved screen. The logic of curving a 48- or 55-inch LCD screen notwithstanding, the overall look remains both striking and attractive. The screen is surrounded by a black bezel that is 1cm wide and around the outer edge there's a silver trim, whilst along the bottom is a small gap where the front firing speakers are hidden. The overall build quality is very good but there is a slightly 'plastic' feel to the construction and a general sense that the H8000 isn't quite as high-end as it ultra resolution sibling - the HU8500.
There's an indicator light at the centre bottom, just beneath the company name, and whilst it could occasionally be distracting, it can also be turned off. At the right rear is a small control joystick, whilst on the left hand side is the two-pin power cable connector. The main chassis measures just 2cm deep, although the curve will make it effectively deeper than that, and it can be wall mounted using provided spacers but obviously due to the curve it will stand out from the wall slightly. The H8000 comes with what Samsung refer to as the 'Arch Curve' stand which clearly retains some 'quad stand' in its design DNA.
Unlike on the higher resolution HU8500, there is no built-in camera because Samsung have found in their market research that people aren't really using them. However if you do want to add a camera, it's available as an optional extra. The H8000 doesn't use a One Connect box either, so the connections are at the rear left of the panel, where you'll find four sideways facing HDMI 1.4 inputs. In addition there are all the legacy connections, an aerial socket, two satellite connectors, three USB ports, an Ethernet port, an IR extender, a service port, a 3.5mm audio jack and an optical digital output.
Just like the HU8500, the H8000 comes with two remote controls included, the first of which is Samsung's standard black plastic controller, which remains well designed and simple to use. The second is their new Smart Controller, which includes a motion sensor, a touch pad, video control keys and a microphone for voice control. This small controller is very ergonomic in its design, fits comfortably in your hand, is easy to use and very effective. However we would be remiss if we didn't point out that it's very reminiscent of LG's Magic Motion remote.
The H8000 uses active shutter 3D and comes with two pairs of RF glasses included. These are very light, making them comfortable to wear for prolonged periods, and have very little tint to their lenses, which means that images in 3D appear more accurate and brighter. However, they can be a little fragile, an unfortunate side effect of their lightness, and you also can't fold the arms of the frames in. The lenses are reasonably large and fit over regular glasses but the lack of any sides to the frames means they can't block out ambient light, making them susceptible to flicker.
The H8000 comes with all the features you expect from a flagship TV.
MenusThe H8000 uses Samsung's standard menu system, which remains sensibly laid out, intuitive to use and easy to navigate. It's also very responsive thanks to the Samsung's quad core processing and each page provides some useful guidance for what the various settings are supposed to. The Picture menu provides all the important controls for image accuracy , including the Picture Modes, as well as the Backlight, Contrast, Brightness, Sharpness, Colour and Tint controls . From the Picture menu, you can access submenus for Picture Size, 3D, Advanced Settings and Picture Options; whilst you can also apply your calibrated picture mode to other inputs.
In the Picture Size sub-menu you can select the aspect ratio, which you'll have to do because there's no dedicated button on either remote, whilst in the Picture Options sub-menu there are controls for Colour Tone, Digital Clean View, MPEG Noise Filter, Motion Plus and Cinema Black. In the Advanced Settings sub-menu, you'll find all the key calibration controls, including Gamma, White Balance and Colour Space. There's a choice of a two-point or a ten-point White Balance control which should allow for a very accurate calibration of the greyscale. The Colour Space gives you a choice between Auto, Native and Custom; if you choose Custom you have access to a full Colour Management System (CMS).
FeaturesSamsung have taken great strides in improving the sound quality of their TVs and the H8000 is another good example of how much better built-in audio has become. There's no doubt that the addition of greater amplification certainly helps, as does the inclusion of subwoofers, but it's the use of front firing speakers that really makes a difference. The larger the screen size, the greater the sense of stereo separation and, the 55-inch version of the H8000 we reviewed, could certainly create a decent soundstage. The Samsung could also go quite loud without distorting and dialogue remained clear, whilst music and effects were well delivered. So whilst we would always recommend using an outboard audio solution for a high-end television, if you do decide to use the built-in speakers you shouldn't be disappointed.
Samsung's Smart TV platform was probably the best on the market last year and so comprehensive that we struggle to see how the company could really improve it. However nothing stays still for long in the TV market and whilst the new platform isn't vastly different from last year, Samsung have made numerous upgrades to improve both the features available and how you interact with it. Aside from the previously mentioned Smart Controller, new for this year is a dual-screen feature, faster processing with Quad Core Plus, improved motion and voice control and the latest version of Samsung's remote app. The Smart Hub itself has also had a slight facelift, with all the photo, video, music and social features being combined in one multimedia screen, thus making room for a new screen dedicated to games. You can read our in-depth review of Samsung's 2014 Smart TV Platform here.
The out-of-the-box measurements on the H8000 were very impressive.
As is aways the case with Samsung TVs, the best out-of-the-box choice is the Movie mode, which will deliver a performance that matches the industry standards as closely as possible for a factory setting. A list of suggested settings based on the measurements taken during the review can be found here.
As the graphs above show, the H8000 delivered a very good greyscale performance out-of-the-box, apart from a minor excess of green at the higher end of the scale; whilst the gamma was tracking around our target of 2.2. The colour gamut performance was also impressive, with all the colours measuring close to their targets and combined DeltaEs (errors) all below the visible threshold of three. Overall this is an excellent performance and given the available calibration controls we would expect to improve this still further.
The H8000 includes both a two- and a ten-point white balance control, so it was a simple task to get all three channels to measure in equal amounts. This resulted in errors that were well below the acuity of the human eye, delivering a smooth transition from black to white that was free of discolouration. The gamma was still tracking around our target of 2.2 and overall this is a reference performance. The CMS employed by Samsung on their TVs is also extremely effective and we were quickly able to deliver a reference performance when measured at 100% saturation.
All the colours were hitting their respective coordinates for Rec.709 precisely, whilst white was also measuring exactly at its target of D65. There was a tiny error in the hue of red but this certainly wasn't visible and, just like the greyscale, this is a reference colour performance overall. This impressive level of colour accuracy continued when we measured at lower saturation points and all the colours were at or very near their targets. We have come to expect a high degree of accuracy from Samsung TVs when it comes to the greyscale and colour gamut and the H800 continues this tradition.
Black Levels, Contrast Ratio and Dynamic Range
The only area where the H8000 showed any real weakness was in terms of its backlight uniformity, which was a little patchy in places, although this was only evident on very dark scenes when watching at night. However, we were reviewing an early production sample but, having now seen full production models, the backlight uniformity has been significantly improved. The overall uniformity for our H8000 review sample can be evidenced by the ANSI graphic below, which shows measurements for each of the black and white squares. The H8000 was pleasingly free of the two other common issues often found on LED LCD TVs - dirty screen effect and banding. These can be especially noticeable on football broadcasts, where the camera pans across the pitch or in areas of uniform colour such a sky, so we were glad the H8000 had no such problems.
Samsung are using a SPVA panel on the H8000 and in our testing we measured the native black level at 0.09cd/m2 which is good for a LCD TV. The H8000 is also bright, hitting our target of 120cd/m2 for white easily, which resulted in a very good on/off contrast ratio of 1,333:1 and a suitably wide dynamic range. Surprisingly, the ANSI contrast ratio was actually higher, coming in at 1,660:1. The use of a SPVA panel may deliver better blacks than an IPS panel but it also results in a narrower optimum viewing angle. Anything outside a 90 degree radius began to look a bit washed out, so correct placement will be critical, especially since the panel can't be swivelled. However the curved nature of the screen does actually help in this aspect because when viewing at an angle the far edge of the screen is curved towards the viewer and thus isn't as washed out.
The video processing on the H8000 was excellent and the Samsung proved extremely competent at deinterlacing and scaling standard definition content, with clear and crisp reproduction of fine details and no unwanted ringing. The Samsung also had no problems detecting both 3:2 and 2:2 cadence correctly and, as long as the Auto2 Film Mode was selected, scrolling video text over film was also delivered perfectly. The quality of the video deinterlacing at 1080i50 was just as good as it was for standard definition and there were no apparent issues with 24p content. All this content was perfectly replicated and the motion handling also proved to be quite impressive for a LCD TV. However if you watch a lot of fast moving sport, then you might consider the Motion Plus frame interpolation feature, although as always we would never recommend using it with film-based content. Since the H8000 uses a curved screen, it also includes the Auto Depth Enhance features that adds depth by adjusting the contrast of different parts of the image.
The H8000 delivered a sizeable input lag of 120ms when in the calibrated Movie mode but thankfully things improved dramatically when the Game mode was selected. This brought the input lag down to 34ms which whilst not the lowest we've measured - Sony appear to be the leaders in this area at the moment - should be low enough for all but the most demanding of gamers. Unlike the HU8500, renaming the input didn't make any difference to the lag but 34ms is amongst the best we have measured recently. Certainly we didn't notice any appreciable delay when gaming on the H8000 and overall we found it to be quite responsive, although our reactions might not be as cat-like as many others. If you sat quite close to the display, the curved nature of the screen could also help to make the gaming experience slightly more immersive.
- Standby: 0W
- Out-of-the-Box – Normal Mode: 101W
- Calibrated – Professional Mode: 106W
- Calibrated - 3D Mode: 132W
The image quality was excellent, with only some minor clouding to spoil the party.
Samsung 55H8000 Picture Quality - 2DThe H8000 is capable of an excellent 2D picture thanks to its prowess in all the areas that constitute an agreeable image. The colours and greyscale are spot-on, the level of detail is exceptional and the video processing is first class. As a result whether you're watching standard or high definition content, the H8000 can deliver a wonderful picture that excels in all the key areas. Of course it's with high definition content that the Samsung really gets a chance to shine and a catch-up session of Marvel's Agents of Shield showed just how good a 1080i picture can look. Once we moved on to Blu-ray the results were just superb, with natural and detailed images that took full advantage of every pixel in the high definition panel. The motion handling was also very good for a LCD TV and film-based content looked excellent whilst even fast-paced sports was still very watchable on the H8000.
The use of a curved screen didn't really add much value on a 55-inch display and we definitely felt that to be truly immersive a curved screen needs to be quite large, at least 65 inches. However we did find that as long as there wasn't a light source directly opposite the screen, it could be quite effective at limiting reflections and it could help with off-axis viewing. The one area of weakness was a slight unevenness in the backlight uniformity but since our review sample was an early production model, we would expect that to improve. The also H8000 doesn't include Samsung's Smart LED feature which is a shame because it really helps with the perceived blacks but its absence is consistent with last year's F8000 model. However the local dimming was very effective, expertly handling our usual assortment of torture tests.
Samsung 55H8000 Video Review
Samsung 55H8000 Picture Quality - 3DThe H8000 proved to be another 3D winner from Samsung, delivering a wonderfully immersive and hugely entertaining experience. The basic accuracy of the image was just as applicable to 3D as it was to 2D and the resulting pictures looked suitably natural, whilst the panel's inherent brightness paid dividends. The active shutter glasses worked extremely well, delivering 3D images that were free of any distracting crosstalk or other unwanted artefacts. We had no problems with flicker, as long as there weren't other light sources in the room, and the lightweight nature of the glasses made them comfortable to wear for long periods. Which is just as well as our 3D Blu-ray of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug arrived whilst we were testing the H8000 and we took advantage of this opportunity to watch the second chapter in the rather unnecessary Hobbit trilogy. The 3D images were lovely, with plenty of detail and depth, no visible artefacts and colours that accurately represented the film's heavily manipulated digital grading. Peter Jackson moves his camera far more than is usual for a 3D movie but the H8000 handled all the motion well and Smaug the dragon was a wonder to behold in all his 3D glory.
The 3D performance was excellent with bright, accurate and crosstalk-free images.
- Good blacks and contrast ratio
- Reference greyscale and colour accuracy
- Excellent video processing
- Superb Smart TV System
- Effective motion controller
- Low input lag
- Build quality could be better
- No built-in camera
- Relatively expensive
Samsung UE55H8000 (H8000) Curved Full HD LED TV ReviewThe Samsung UE55H8000 is the kind of accomplished TV that we have come to expect from the Korean giant, with an irresistible combination of style, features and performance. Whilst you can debate the viability of a curved screen on a 55-inch TV, there's no denying that it looks striking. The build quality is good, although perhaps not as impressive as the higher resolution HU8500 and the feature list is excellent. There's no One Connect box but you don't really need it and there's still a comprehensive set of connections. There's no built-in camera, although you can always add one if you want, but the H8000 includes two pairs of 3D glasses, Samsung's new smart controller and their upgraded smart platform.
The image accuracy out-of-the-box was excellent and the inclusion of a comprehensive set of calibration controls meant that the H8000 could deliver a reference level of picture quality. Images were detailed and natural looking, whilst the motion handling was good for a LCD TV. The black levels and dynamic range were also reasonable and the video processing was excellent. The 3D was equally as impressive with bright, detailed and accurate images that had plenty of depth and were pleasingly free of unwanted artefacts. The power consumption was low for a screen of this size and at 34ms, the input lag was among the lowest we've measured. The H8000's only real misstep was in terms of its backlight uniformity, which was slightly patchy in places. However this was an early review sample and full production models have significantly better backlight uniformity.
It's good to see that Samsung are still trying to deliver excellent Full HD TVs, even as they gear up to push Ultra HD in a big way this year. The UE55H8000 isn't cheap, especially as UHD TV prices fall, but it represents a solid and effective all-round performer. So if you're in the market for a Full HD TV, we would certainly recommend that you add it to your short list.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level7
2D Picture Quality8
3D Picture Quality9
Ease Of Use9
Value for Money8
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