There's no question that the UE-55D8000 represents the very zenith of modern television technology, it has everything including LED edge lighting coupled with 'micro-dimming' and 800Hz Motion Plus. The UE-55D8000 is also 3D compatible and uses Samsung's latest Bluetooth active shutter glasses as well as incorporating Samsung's new Smart TV internet platform. There are comprehensive calibration controls, as well as Samsung's HyperReal Engine which includes their proprietary video processing and unparalleled levels of connectivity. All this is contained in a super-slim chassis that boasts a bezel that is only 1cm wide but with a screen size of 55", which is currently the largest LED LCD display that Samsung produces. The question is whether this relentless pursuit of technological development and design evolution has resulted in a better TV or just a more marketable TV where performance is sacrificed at the altar of commerce?
Design and Connections
Clearly Samsung's decision to use a silver design scheme is based primarily on cosmetic and marketing choices rather than what is necessarily best for the image. Of course, when it comes to design, a lot depends on personal taste and there are many people who really like the current Samsung design especially, perhaps, wives and girlfriends. Personally we are not such big fans of the design but this is on performance - rather than aesthetic - grounds because the silver bezel can be annoyingly reflective, despite its reduced proportions. During daytime viewing, in particular, the reflections can detract from the viewing experience especially when watching 3D material.
Another area where the Samsung design differs from other manufacturers is with the 'quad' stand which uses four feet rather than a flat base. Once again we are not fans because this particular design places too much weight on specific points which can be an issue with larger displays. We would prefer a flat stand that spreads the weight over a larger area and provides a more level and stable base. Ultimately Samsung has chosen these unique design features in order to make their displays stand out within a crowded market place and in that sense they are successful.
Whilst the UE-55D8000 is a LCD display it uses LED lights along the left and right edges to back light the panel. This allows for a chassis that is incredibly thin, measuring less than 3cm at the top and 4cm at the bottom where the downward firing speakers are housed. It isn't only the dimensions that are impressively slim with the UE-55D8000 weighing only 16kg which is amazing for a 55" panel and should make wall mounting easier. Unlike the D8000 plasmas, which have non-detachable power cables, the UE-55D8000 has a detachable two pin power cable that connects at the left rear of the chassis. The rear of the chassis itself is made of black metal and overall the entire display feels well made and solid.
Concerns over the positioning of the HDMI inputs aside there are certainly no complaints about the number of connections. In addition to the four HDMI inputs, one of which includes an audio return channel, there are also three sideways facing USB ports, one of which can be used with an external HDD. The remaining sideways facing connections include an adaptor port for component video input, the PC audio in jack and a SPDIF digital audio out. Along the bottom there are a number of downward facing connectors including a socket for a LAN cable as well as connectors for both satellite and terrestrial TV, a headphone jack and D-SUB PC input. Finally there are two adaptor inputs for SCART connections but thankfully Samsung includes all the necessary breakout adaptors in the box.
If you have read our reviews of the UE-40D8000 and the PS50D8000 you will know that unlike in the US the D8000s shipped in Europe do not come with the high end QWERTY remote control that is designed to be use with the Smart TV platform. This is a shame, not only because it makes us Europeans feel second class but also because it makes Samsung's excellent Smart TV platform frustrating to navigate using the supplied standard remote control. There's nothing wrong with the standard Samsung remote control, in fact it is quite well laid out, comfortable to hold and includes a backlight but it is hardly worthy of a high end product like the UE-55D8000. In fact we can't help but feel that Samsung have taken a step back here as we rather liked last year's remote control. The current one feels decidedly cheap and plastic by comparison and using it to type into features like the web browser can be time consuming and awkward. Thankfully, there is an alternative available and best of all it's free. If you have a smartphone or a tablet device there is a Samsung application that works with both Apple and Android operating systems that allows you to use it as a controller for your display. The application is easy to setup and use and the addition of a QWERTY keyboard makes typing things in much easier.
The UE-55D8000 includes a pair of Samsung's new SSG-3100 active shutter glasses that use Bluetooth rather than infra-red to sync with the display. This approach proved to be very successful and meant that there were no syncing problems with the UE-55D8000 when you looked away or even when you left the room. The downside is that Samsung's 2011 3D displays are not compatible with the infra-red glasses they used last year. We generally like the design of the Samsung active shutter glasses and they are comfortable to wear even for long periods of time, they can be worn over normal glasses and are designed to stop light from coming in from the sides. Our only real criticisms relate to the size of lens which could be bigger to improve your field of view and the fact that there is no frame along the bottom of the lenses which tends to let some light in.
The Sound menu contains a fairly comprehensive choice of modes such as Movie, Music, Standard, Clear Voice etc. as well as controls for Sound Effect, 3D Audio, Broadcast Audio Options, Additional Settings, Speaker Settings and the ability to set a delay to the SPDIF optical output. The sound produced by the UE-55D8000 was very mediocre which, considering the depth of the chassis and the location of the speakers, should come as no surprise. Unfortunately poor sound quality is one of the sacrifices you must make if you want a display this thin because even the best engineers in the world can't change the laws of physics. The System menu contains controls for the Time, Language, Eco Solutions, Subtitles, Digital Text, Security, PIP, Screen Burn Protection and is also where you can turn off the illuminated logo on the front of the bezel. As with all previous Samsung TVs it is here, hidden away in the General sub-menu, that you will find the Game Mode. Quite why Samsung persists on putting the Game Mode here rather than with the other modes in the Picture menu remains a mystery but if you want to use the Game Mode this is where you will find it.
Within the Advanced Settings sub-menu there is Black Tone which is best left off as it crushes shadow detail, as is Edge Enhancement that adds unwanted ringing, Dynamic Contrast which varies the Contrast on-the-fly to try and thus boosts the dynamic range, Shadow Detail which raises and lowers gamma near black on the greyscale, Gamma which globally adjusts gamma across the entire image, Flesh Tone which primarily adjusts the luminance of magenta, Expert Pattern which provides a series of test patterns and RGB Only Mode which allows you to see each of the three primary colours individually and is a useful for checking correct colour decoding. In Movie mode most of these controls default to off which is good as we recommend that you leave them that way. Also within Advanced Settings is an option called Colour Space which gives you a choice between Auto, Native and Custom; if you choose Custom you have access to a full Colour Management System (CMS) which will allow for accurate calibration of the colour gamut. There is also a choice of a two point White balance control or a ten point White Balance control which will allow for very accurate calibration of the greyscale. Whilst the display doesn't have ISF certification, Samsung are to be congratulated for including such comprehensive calibration controls.
The final sub-menu within the Picture menu contains all the 3D related controls and can be accessed directly by using the 3D button on the remote. This sub-menu allows you to choose the 3D Mode (2D to 3D, Side by Side, Top and Bottom etc.), the 3D Perspective (which adjusts the 3D perspective), Depth which only affects the 2D to 3D mode, L/R Change which swaps the images for each eye, 3D-2D which shows 3D content in 2D and 3D Auto View which automatically selects the correct 3D Mode when it receives a 3D input. The UE-55D8000 allows you to save all the settings (including White Balance and Colour Space) for each input individually, which is a very handy function as it allows you to correctly calibrate each input specifically for the device that is connected to it.
Samsung has previously used processing provided by HQV in their displays but for their 2011 line-up they have started using processing software which was developed in-house and now sits within the HyperReal Engine chipset. Thankfully, despite this change, the quality of video processing on Samsung's 2011 displays remains excellent and in fact Samsung often provide video processing chips to third parties.
As always we started the video processing tests with the SMPTE colour bar on the PAL and NTSC HQV benchmark discs which the UE-55D8000 had absolutely no problems with, correctly scaling the full 576i and 480i images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. The UE-55D8000 also performed superbly when it came to video deinterlacing with jaggies only appearing when the line was at a very acute angle in the first test. In the second test the motion adaptive deinterlacing was also excellent with only very slight jaggies appearing on the bottom most extreme of the three moving bars. The UE-55D8000 had no problems displaying all the fine brickwork in the detail tests and quickly locked onto, and displayed, a solid image in the film detail test (provided the Film Mode is enabled). However, as we expected based on our experience with other Samsung displays, the UE-55D8000 incorrectly displayed film material with scrolling video text when Film Mode was set to Auto1 but had no problems when it was set to Auto2. We're not entirely sure why Samsung includes two film modes but according to the manual Auto1 is optimised for viewing film material so we generally used that setting but if you experience any problems with video text over film try changing between the two settings. In the cadence tests the UE-55D8000 had no problems correctly detecting both the 2:2 (PAL - European) and 3:2 (NTSC - USA/Japan) tests, producing rock solid images that were free of artefacts.
The UE-55D8000 also performed extremely well in tests on the HQV Blu-ray benchmark disc and with the player set to 1080i the UE-55D8000 correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests. The UE-55D8000 had no problems handling 24p material either, reproducing the test images smoothly with no judder or other artefacts. In fact, the only high definition test that the UE-55D8000 performed poorly on as the one showing video text overlaid on film based material but once again switching to Auto2 fixed this.
Finally we moved on to the Spears and Munsil test disc which contains a number of very useful test patterns to measure the overall performance of the display and needless to say the UE-55D8000 sailed through all the cadence and deinterlacing tests. We find that the ‘Image Cropping’ test is useful for checking if there is any overscan and the ‘Luma Multiburst’ is handy for making sure that the full 1920x1080 resolution is being displayed. These tests are particularly useful for demonstrating why you should always use the Screen Fit aspect ratio instead of the 16:9 ratio. If you leave the UE-55D8000 set to the default 16:9 ratio then the image is cropped by up to 30 pixels and the scaling involved results in reduced resolution that is easy to see on the multiburst test. It is therefore important to make sure you use the Screen Fit picture size with high definition material in order to see all the detail in the image.
In addition we were able to use the ‘Dynamic Range High’ test to check we have the contrast set correctly on the UE-55D8000. As long as you didn't have the contrast set too high the headroom performance from reference white (video level 235) up to peak white (video level 255) was excellent with and no signs of clipping. On the ‘Dynamic Range Low’ test the UE-55D8000 also correctly showed detail down to a video level 17 and reference black below that to video level 0 which confirmed that we had also correctly set the Brightness control. This test also showed why you should leave the Black Tone and Dynamic Contrast controls off because engaging them immediately resulted in lost video levels at the bottom of the dynamic range.
In previous reviews of Samsung LCD displays we had discovered that using the custom settings on the Motion Plus frame interpolation control could provide some benefits. Samsung claims that the UE-55D8000 ships with a 200Hz 'Auto Motion Plus' system but unfortunately in testing we found that it suffered frequent artefacts when handling fast motion. Despite trying different custom settings for judder and blur we found that the resulting images had a 'soap opera' quality to them and ultimately we left it off. Rather confusingly there is also a control called LED Motion Plus which can be either set to on or off. Whilst this did initially help with motion we once again found that it also introduced artefacts and we ultimately left it off too. In fact we found that the UE-55D8000 handled motion reasonably well without the use of any of its additional interpolation systems and LED dimming functions so we found it best to avoid them.
In Game mode the input lag on the UE-55D8000 measured between 45 and 70ms which is something of a disappointment and whilst it might be acceptable to the casual gamer will almost certainly be too slow for the more serious enthusiast. Apparently the Game Mode is optimised for use with an X-Box 360 so if that is your game platform of choice you might find the input lag is a little lower. As mentioned previously the Game Mode itself is hidden away in the General sub-menu of the System menu.
Considering the screen size of the UE-55D8000 it was surprisingly energy efficient, which just shows the benefit of using LED lighting on LCD panels. The consumption figures in Movie Mode using 0, 50 and 100 IRE windows were 69 watts, 98 watts and 112 watts and in standby the usage was less than 1 watt. The average power consumption when watching actual full screen material in Movie Mode was about 100 watts which is excellent. You could improve these numbers still further using some of the eco functions but why compromise picture performance when the energy consumption is already this low.
Picture Quality - 2D
When watching material during the daytime the UE-55D8000 was capable of producing some surprisingly effective blacks and whatever filter Samsung are using on the screen it clearly works. However, when watching material at night, the UE-55D8000's LCD nature showed through with some rather disappointing blacks. The UE-55D8000 uses something we refer to as 'global dimming' which basically means that when the display isn't receiving a signal it turns all the LED lights off resulting in a completely black screen. This is useless for watching actual material of course but it does allow for inflated and completely meaningless on/off contrast numbers. Of more use is the ANSI-contrast ratio and on the UE-55D8000 we measured 0.09 cd/m2 for black and 143.48 cd/m2 for white which resulted in an approximate ratio of 1,594:1. To be fair this is pretty good and is a reflection of the excellent dynamic range that the UE-55D8000 is capable of.
Unfortunately there were a couple of areas where the performance of the UE-55D8000 was not so good, specifically relating to off-axis performance and backlight uniformity. The off-axis performance was quite poor and moving only a few feet off centre would result in a loss of contrast and a blue tint to blacks. To be fair this is a limitation of vertical alignment LCD panels and careful positioning can help mitigate the problem. Of a far greater concern was the backlight uniformity, which was a major issue on the UE-55D8000. In our review of the UE40D8000 there were problems with clouding but none of the banding and uniformity issues reported on the forums. However these problems were very much in evidence on the UE-55D8000 with obvious banding at the edges and very poor backlight uniformity. This was especially noticeable on such a large screen and the banding could easily be seen even in bright scenes which is a shame because these issues let down what is otherwise a very good image. The reason for these problems is almost certainly the use of edge lighting to accommodate the ultra-slim chassis and is a clear example of aesthetic design taking precedent over performance.
Another issue that has been reported in both the forums and other reviews is that of unwanted noise reduction that can't be defeated. Once again we noticed this problem on the UE-40D8000 but perhaps due to the size of the screen this was more obvious on the UE-55D8000. The noise reduction was more evident on film content with a lot of grain but it seemed to give everything a slightly processed look that was unfortunate.
Picture Quality - 3D
In fact we found that perhaps because the UE-55D8000 is an LCD display there was considerably more crosstalk than we had seen on the 3D plasmas we had reviewed recently including Samsung's own PS51D8000. As was the case with the UE-40D8000 the amount of crosstalk could be reduced by experimenting with the 3D Optimisation control in the 3D menu. However there was a clear trade off between reducing the amount of crosstalk and blurring the background image, so whatever setting you choose will largely be a result of personal taste.
We found 3D gaming to be quite enjoyable and whilst there was still some crosstalk the UE-55D8000 handled motion reasonably well and produced images that had plenty of depth. However when compared to watching a movie we did find game play to be far more fatiguing but perhaps this is because viewing a film is a more passive activity.
The supplied glasses worked flawlessly and thanks to the use of Bluetooth we never lost sync with the display. The glasses were reasonably light and comfortable to wear but we were aware of flicker on occasion, although to be fair that is largely a limitation of the technology. The glasses were quite good at keeping light out from the sides but, due to the lack of a frame on the underside of the lenses, we found they tended to let some light in there. There was no indicator light to show that the glasses were on so the only way to make sure was to wear them.
The layout of the Smart Hub is split into different areas and at the top centre of the screen is the Your Video feature. This combines both a search function with a database and is a genuinely useful tool because of a number of unique functions included by Samsung. Firstly if you are searching for a specific film, for example, the Your Video feature will look in the EPG, the internet, any Video On Demand (VOD) services available and on any attached storage devices. The fact that it searches the EPG is very useful because it means if a particular film happens to be broadcast during the week ahead then the Your Video search will tell you. Secondly it automatically searches for the highest resolution version available which is useful with content on places like YouTube.
The Recommended area runs horizontally across the centre of the Smart Hub screen and is where some of the more frequently used icons such as LoveFilm, iPlayer and Skype are featured. Samsung produces an add-on for Skype that includes a camera and microphone that can be purchased separately. It is useful that Smart Hub includes BBC's iPlayer but it would be nice to see some more catch-up services added and hopefully Samsung will include additional services later. There is also a folder for Social TV applications including social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. One very useful feature in this area is the Explore 3D application which allows you to download 3D content including trailers, documentaries and videos.
The bottom half of the screen includes the icons for the Allshare networking functions as well as USB media playback of Photos, Music and Videos. You can also access the Guide (EPG) as well as the Channel tuning options and the Sources. As we mentioned earlier there is a PVR functionality which can be controlled using the Schedule Manager and any recordings can also be accessed via the Recorded TV icon. The functionality is a little limited but it's still a nice feature to have, although it isn't really a substitute for a dedicated PVR. Finally there is a Web Browser which can be a bit laborious with the supplied remote control but much easier if you use the control application available for iPhones, iPads and Android smart devices.
- Excellent out-of-the-box greyscale
- Reference greyscale after calibration
- Excellent Colour gamut after calibration
- Impressive array of calibration controls
- Superb video processing
- Well designed and responsive menu system
- Freeview/Freesat HD tuners
- PVR functionality
- Well implemented Smart TV platform
- Bluetooth 3D glasses
- Built-in WiFi
- Very uneven backlight uniformity
- Undefeatable noise reduction
- Poor performance with off-axis viewing
- Silver frame is too reflective
- HDMI inputs too near the edge of the screen
- Supplied remote control is a disappointment
- Noticeable crosstalk in default 3D mode
Samsung D8000 (UE-55D8000) 3D LED LCD TV Review
The 3D performance was not as impressive as we've seen in Samsung plasmas and there was more crosstalk in evidence than we would have liked but this might be because the UE-55D8000 is using a LCD panel. However the amount of crosstalk could be reduced by adjusting the 3D Optimisation control and the impact of the 3D image definitely benefited from the larger screen, borderless design and brighter image. The new active shutter glasses were also largely a success and thanks to the use of Bluetooth we never had any problems with syncing. The glasses were also light and comfortable to wear but the lenses could have been larger and sometimes let a little too much light in.
If there is one feature on the UE-55D8000 that really stands out it is Samsung's new Smart TV internet platform. There is no doubt that Samsung's version of Smart TV is the best that is currently available, offering clever features and decent content. The Smart Hub home page is well designed, sensibly laid out and uses applications and icons that will be familiar to anyone with a smartphone. There are VOD and catch-up services and whilst we would like to see more, we're sure Samsung will add further services in the future. One useful video feature is the Explore 3D application that provides access to additional 3D content. The Your Video feature is a very effective search and database function that will look for video content in the EPG, the internet, any VOD services and any attached storage devices. The Samsung Apps store is easy to use and allows you to add applications and customise your own home page. Parents can also set up logins in order to restrict access for children. There is a full web browser, social networking applications - such as Facebook and Twitter - as well as Skype, although you will need to buy the camera microphone attachment to make calls. The built-in WiFi is also a nice touch and the networking, streaming and connectivity is excellent. It is a shame that Samsung doesn't include the QWERTY remote control that the D8000 series has in the US because typing in with a standard remote is frustrating but there is a free application for smartphones and tablets that is quite effective.
By far and away the biggest problem with the UE-55D8000 was the backlight uniformity, which was a serious issue with obvious banding at the edges and significant clouding. This was especially noticeable on such a large screen and the banding could easily be seen even in bright scenes, which is a shame because these issues let down what is otherwise a very good image. The reason for these problems is almost certainly the use of edge lighting to accommodate the ultra-slim chassis and it's a clear example of aesthetic design taking precedent over performance. Another issue related to off-axis performance which was also quite poor and moving only a few feet off centre would result in a loss of contrast and a blue tint to blacks. Finally the UE-55D8000 suffered from unwanted noise reduction that can't be defeated. This noise reduction was more evident on film content with a lot of grain but it seemed to give everything a slightly processed look that was unfortunate.
Some of the other issues are minor and more a question of personal taste but we would like to see the HDMI inputs positioned further from the edge of the screen and the silver bezel could be too reflective at times. As always we would prefer it if Samsung included the Game mode in with the other picture controls and at 40-70ms the input lag is too high for serious gamers. Overall the UE-55D8000 is a very capable TV with much to recommend including an accurate image, excellent video processing and a state-of-the-art internet platform. It is also capable of reasonably good 3D thanks, in part, to the larger screen size, brightness and borderless design. Unfortunately, problems with backlight uniformity and banding were especially obvious on a screen of this size and because of this we are unable to award a badge.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
3D Picture Quality
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
Our Review Ethos
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