Does Samsung's new UE65HU8500 Ultra HD TV throw the competition a curve ball?
What is the Samsung 65HU8500?
If CES 2014 was any indicator, like it or not, the curved TV screen is here to stay.Almost all the manufacturers were displaying curved screens of one sort or another but it was Samsung who appeared to be embracing this current trend the most enthusiastically. Whilst the curvaceous shape of their recent OLED TV somewhat dividend opinion, the Korean giant feels that there is genuine demand for curved screens amongst consumers. They claim that not only does the curved screen make for a more aesthetically pleasing TV but they also feel the curve results in a more immersive and improved viewing experience. With the World Cup fast approaching there will be an inevitable spike in TV sales and Samsung are obviously hoping they can 'bend it like Beckham' this summer and beat the competition.The curved screen aside, the UE65HU8500 looks like a very strong Ultra HD contender with all the features that made last year's F9000 so good and a host of new ones as well. Samsung have been working hard on the image processing, looking to improve the upscaling and local dimming, whilst adding new features such as auto depth enhancer. They've also updated the One Connect box, which now includes HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2, HEVC decoding and increased processing capabilities. Samsung's Smart TV platform has also had an upgrade, with added features and a new motion controller. This year will be hugely competitive when it comes to Ultra HD 4K TVs, so does Samsung have what it takes to stay on top?
Design and ConnectionsThere's no denying that the HU8500 is another triumph of industrial design from Samsung, with a striking and highly attractive appearance. Whatever you may feel about the pros and cons of curved screens, the HU8500 will certainly catch people's attention and the overall aesthetic is very classy. The screen is surrounded by a black bezel 1cm wide and around the outer edge there is a silver trim, whilst along the bottom is a small gap where the front firing speakers are hidden. The HU8500 comes with what Samsung refer to as the 'Aero Curve' stand and we really like it, the brushed metal finish and curving shape perfectly compliment the 65-inch screen, resulting in a gorgeous looking TV.
There is an indicator light at the centre bottom, just beneath the company name, and whilst it could be quite distracting, thankfully it can also be turned off. At the right rear is a small control joystick, along with the proprietary input for the One Connect box, whilst on the left hand side is the two-pin power cable connector. At the top in the middle is a pop-up camera that can be used for making Skype video calls and for motion control. The main chassis measures just 2cm deep, although the effective depth is more like 10cm when you take the curve into account. The HU8500 can be wall mounted and Samsung include spacers that can be used with a standard VESA mount but obviously due to the curve it will stand out from the wall slightly.
The HU8500 is another triumph of industrial design and regardless of the pros and cons of a curved screen, it's definitely eye-catching.
We loved Samsung's One Connect box when we first saw it last year, it was an ingenious solution to the issue of future proofing, especially when the standards for Ultra HD 4K were still being agreed. Well the company has made good on their promise with the latest version of this clever device and have even managed to improve it. The One Connect box now includes all the connections, including the Common Interface slot, as well as much of the processing and it can even be used for future evolution kit upgrades. Samsung have also included cooling, so despite all this additional processing power the new box doesn't get hot like the old one did.
In terms of actual connections on the box itself there are now four HDMI 2.0 inputs, which include support for HCDP 2.2, HEVC Codec, 3D, ARC and MHL 3.0. In addition there are all the legacy connections, an aerial socket, two satellite connectors, two USB ports, an Ethernet port, an IR extender, a service port, a 3.5mm audio jack and an optical digital output. One additional advantage of the One Connect box is that it aids cable management as there's only one proprietary connector going to the display itself, which is especially handy if you're wall mounting.
The HU8500 comes with two remote controls, the first of which is their standard black plastic affair, familiar from any number of Samsung TVs including last year's F9000. However this year Samsung are also including 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, fitting comfortably in your hand, it'd 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 HU8500 uses active shutter 3D and comes with two pairs of RF glasses that are very light and have very little tint to the lenses, which means that images in 3D appear more accurate and brighter. However, we did find them to be a little fragile, an unfortunate side effect of their lightness, and we also didn't like the fact that 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 One Connect Box has delivered on its promise, adding HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2 and HEVC decoding this year.
MenusThe HU8500 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 plus 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 sub-menus 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, Smart LED 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).
FeaturesLast year it seemed to dawn on the manufacturers that the sound of modern TVs was getting worse and worse, so there appeared to be a concerted effort to improve things. The addition of greater amplification certainly helps, as does the inclusion of subwoofers and front firing speakers. The larger screen size also aids in reproducing a greater sense of stereo separation and as a result the HU8500 could create a decent soundstage. The Samsung could also go quite loud without distorting and dialogue remained clear, whilst music and effects were well delivered. We doubt that anyone buying the HU8500 will be using it without some form of outboard sound system but 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 and upgrades to the One Connect box, new for this year is a multi-screen feature, faster processing with Quad Core Plus, improved motion and voice control, improved remote app and the addition of a mini Smart Hub along the bottom of the screen. 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. There's even a new Soccer mode for the World Cup, although we would prefer it if they used the term football. You can read our in-depth review of Samsung's 2014 Smart TV Platform here.
The Smart TV platform has had an upgrade and now includes a motion remote that makes navigation and interaction even easier.
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 HU8500 delivered a very good greyscale performance out-of-the-box, apart from a minor excess of green and a deficit of blue which resulted in a slight yellow cast; whilst the gamma was tracking around our target of 2.3. 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 HU8500 includes both a two- and a ten-point white balance control, so it was a simple task to get all three primary colours 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 mostly tracking around our target of 2.3 and overall this is a reference performance. The CMS employed by Samsung on their TVs is extremely effective and we were 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 amount of under-saturation in 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, with the exception of 75% red, 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 HU8500 certainly didn't disappoint.
Black Levels, Contrast Ratio and Dynamic Range
The only area where the HU8500 showed any real weakness was in terms of its backlight uniformity, which was very slightly patchy in places. It was mostly limited to the bottom left hand corner, so it's possible that this was the result of damage because based on the packaging this sample has been shipped around a fair bit. In addition, our review sample was an early production model so we would expect those that ship to stores to be better. The backlight uniformity for this sample can be evidenced by the ANSI graphic below, which shows measurements for each of the black and white squares. The backlight uniformity was significantly improved by using the Smart LED feature and the Cinema Black mode also proved very effective when watching 2.35:1 ratio movies. The HU8500 was pleasingly free of the two other common issues often found on LED LCD TVs - dirty screen effect or banding; these can be especially annoying so we were glad the HU8500 had no such problems.
Samsung are using a SPVA panel on the HU8500 and in our testing we measured the native black level at 0.08cd/m2 which is very good for a LCD TV. The Samsung includes their Smart LED feature and when activated the measured black levels reduced to 0.01cd/m2 in the low and standard settings and 0cd/m2 in the high setting. The HU8500 is also bright, hitting our target of 120cd/m2 for white easily, which resulted in a very good on/off contrast ratio of 1,500:1 and a suitably wide dynamic range. The ANSI contrast ratio was also quite reasonable, coming in at 1,036:1. 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.Video Processing
The video processing on the HU8500 is especially important because for the time being, all the content you will be watching on it will be upscaled to the native 4K panel. Thankfully the video processing was absolutely superb, with all the content we watched being deinterlaced and scaled perfectly to match the 4K panel. The HU8500 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 HU8500 aced all the other tests as well, delivering an almost flawless performance in every regard.
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 scaled to match the panel 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. Samsung had added a new feature this year called Auto Depth Enhancer which adjusts the contrast of areas of the image to create an added sense of depth. Unfortunately there is no control to turn this feature on and off, so whilst it might be very effective there was no way being able to effectively quantify it's impact.
The increased image processing definitely impacted on the HU8500's input lag measurements and in its calibrated Movie mode there was a delay of 153ms. This be could reduced to 91ms by selecting the Game mode but this is still too high for serious gamers, although renaming the input 'PC' managed to get the lag down to 58ms. This relatively high number is 20ms more than the H8000 and no doubt this increase is a result of all the additional processing; we suspect this will be the case for all the UHD TVs that are currently being launched. This is still on the high side and although it probably won't bother casual gamers it will certainly be noticed by those who play a lot. We actually fall into the former category and thus our meagre aiming skills weren't affected by the lag, instead we just enjoyed the bright and detailed images that filled the 65-inch screen.
- Standby: 0W
- Out-of-the-Box – Normal Mode: 129W
- Calibrated – Professional Mode: 112W
- Calibrated - 3D Mode: 168W
The impressive image accuracy and excellent video processing really paid dividends, with the HU8500 delivering lovely 2D pictures.
Samsung UE65HU8500 Picture Quality - 2DIn terms of its overall picture quality, the HU8500 certainly lays down the gauntlet to the other manufacturers of Ultra HD 4K TVs. The combination of the higher resolution panel, superior video processing and excellent image accuracy resulted in pictures that were genuinely impressive. In fact even standard definition looked good, which is incredible when you consider the screen size and the fact that 93% of the image is being created by the video processing. Obviously when you move up to high definition content, things start to get really impressive and the HU8500 did a wonderful job of squeezing every last drop of detail from the source material and scaling it up the the 4K panel. Whether it was high definition broadcast TV or Blu-rays, the images the HU8500 produced never looked anything other than spectacular, with our recently purchased Blu-ray of the third season of Game of Thrones being a particular stand out. Naturally what little native 4K content we currently have looked absolutely stunning, with an incredible level of detail on display.
As we mentioned, there were some minor backlight uniformity issues but this could largely be addressed by using the Smart LED feature. We found that not only did the perceived blacks improve but any light patches largely disappeared. The only exception was the bottom left hand corner, where a slight light patch could still be seen on widescreen movies. However we could address this by activating the Cinema Black mode, which turns the LEDs off in the areas where the black bars are, thus eliminating this final light patch. We're glad to see that Samsung has made improvement to the Cinema Black mode and it's now a truly useful feature. Samsung's local dimming is amongst the best implemented we have seen, with deep blacks, excellent dynamic range and no perceivable loss of detail. This was evidenced by watching the notorious scene in the last Harry Potter movie where Lord Voldemort's army amasses over Hogworts. It can be a torture test for many local dimming systems but the Samsung didn't break a sweat. Since we were reviewing an early production sample of the HU8500, we would expect the backlight uniformity to be better on the units that actually ship to stores.
As for the curved screen, for the most part we are largely agnostic and certainly during our time with the HU8500 we didn't find it to be either a specific benefit or a particular nuisance. Since the screen itself was reasonably large at 65 inches and since we were in the sweet spot and quite close to the TV, we did sometimes get a greater sense of immersion. Conversely, when there were horizontal lines on the screen, such as the black bars on a widescreen movie, we were also more aware of the curve itself. Certainly the use of a curve on larger screen sizes and with Ultra HD content, where the higher resolution will allow people to sit closer to the screen, could be beneficial, creating a greater sense of immersion. We did however find that the curve itself was useful with off-axis viewing, where the far edge faced the viewer thus reducing the amount the image was washed out. A need to avoid any light sources directly in front of the screen because this will cause reflections that become exaggerated by the curve itself, causing them to be stretched across the screen. However the curve did prove highly effective at combating reflections from light sources that are off to the side, which was handy in our viewing environment.
Samsung 65HU8500 Video Review
Samsung UE65HU8500 Picture Quality - 3DThe HU8500 delivered a fantastic 3D performance that proves Samsung really are at the cutting edge when it comes to active shutter technology, which is just as well because they're actually one of the few manufacturers that still uses this approach. The HU8500's inherent brightness certainly paid dividends with 3D, as did the overall colour accuracy and levels of detail. When you combined these factors with the general lack of tint to the lenses of the glasses, the result was a highly immersive and enjoyable 3D experience. The images looked bright and natural, with plenty of fine detail and great motion handling; whilst the lack of any crosstalk meant that you were never drawn out of the experience by distracting artefacts. The size of the screen also helped when it came to creating a greater sense of immersion, as did the curved shape, which really did give you the feeling of looking into another world. An old 3D classic like Avatar looked absolutely spectacular on the HU8500, whilst a more recent 3D stunner like Gravity was equally as impressive with the detailed space effects beautifully rendered on the big 4K panel.
The 3D performance was superb, with the Samsung able to deliver bright images that were not only accurate but also free of any distracting crosstalk.
- Great blacks and contrast ratio
- Reference greyscale and colour accuracy
- Genuine future-proofing
- Excellent video processing
- Superb Smart TV System
- Effective motion controller
- Minor backlight clouding
- High input lag
Samsung UE65HU8500 (HU8500) Ultra HD 4K TV ReviewIt was never going to be easy coming up with a replacement for last year's F9000, a classy performer that we chose as our Ultra HD TV of the year. However, with the UE65HU8500 Samsung appear to have succeeded and in the process have thrown down the gauntlet for all the other manufacturers in the Ultra HD market sector. The HU8500 takes all the aspects that made the F9000 so good and then raises the bar to deliver a TV that has a winning combination of looks, features and performance. Whatever your opinion of curved screens, and we suspect it will ultimately come down to personal preference, there's no denying that the HU8500 is an attractive design; whilst the One Connect box is a genuinely clever concept. Once you add in the new Smart Controller, two pairs of 3D glasses, beefed up processing and an upgraded Smart TV platform, then the HU8500 becomes even more tempting.
The image processing was as impressive as ever and Samsung had even managed to improve it in places, whilst their local dimming feature remains amongst the best we have seen to date. As we have come to expect from Samsung the greyscale and colour accuracy were superb and as a result, the HU8500 delivered wonderfully natural and detailed images, regardless of the source material. Obviously native 4K content looked incredible but upscaled high definition was equally as impressive and even standard definition was passable. The 3D performance was also excellent, with bright and detailed images that were completely free of crosstalk, resulting in an immersive and enjoyable experience. The only missteps in an otherwise flawless performance were some very slight clouding on the backlight and a high input lag, which might put off serious gamers.
Ultimately the UE65HU8500 is a hugely impressive Ultra HD TV that sets the benchmark for others to follow and given its current price it could prove very difficult to resist. Samsung might very well have a serious winner on their hands and with the World Cup just around the corner, the timing couldn't be better.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level8
2D Picture Quality9
3D Picture Quality10
Ease Of Use9
Value for Money8
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