What is the Samsung UE55F8000?
The Korean giant has clearly pulled out all the stops as far as this TV goes, delivering a state-of-the-art product that has been conceived to set the standard. Samsung's design team have been busy again, creating a TV that is strikingly beautiful and will no doubt influence a generation of imitators. The specifications are equally as striking, with the UE55F8000 including every feature you could possibly imagine. There's the latest version of Samsung's Smart Hub, there's quad-core processing, 1000Hz Clear Motion Rate, Micro Dimming Ultimate, built-in WiFI, twin tuners, a 5 mega pixel camera, advanced voice and motion control, two pairs of 3D glasses and a new remote app. Blimey with that lot on board, the UE55F8000 is in danger of becoming the first TV to win the Nobel Prize! Right that's enough preamble, let's get down to the brass tacks...
Design and Connections
The UE55F8000 uses a glass fronted panel with a filter to minimise reflections and a borderless design, so what bezel there is only measures 0.5cm. There is a silver trim along the outer edge and a black brushed finish to the rear. Below the screen, in the middle, is a small illuminated Samsung logo that can be turned off if you so wish and on the bottom right is the IR receiver. At the rear on the right hand side are the connections, which can be hidden behind a removable panel and on the left is the two-pin power connection, which also has a removable cover. Also at the rear, below the connections, is a small on/off button and joystick for basic control. The entire panel sits upon the new chrome 'arc' stand, which gives the impression that the UE55F8000 is floating. Whilst it's undeniably attractive, the very nature of the arc stand means the TV can't be swivelled and you do need a wide space on which to place it. In addition there's only 4cm of clearance beneath the chassis, so bear that in mind if you plan on using the F8000 with a soundbar.
The UE55F8000 comes with a comprehensive set of connections and we were pleased to see that there are now four HDMI inputs again after Samsung mysteriously dropped one last year. We were even happier to see that three of them are downward facing, which not only allows for easier wall mounting but also makes for much tidier cable management. Clearly, after investing so much effort into creating the clean design of the UE55F8000, Samsung realised that having cables poking out the side just wasn't a good look. One of the downward facing HDMI inputs supports the Audio Return Channel (ARC) whilst the sideways facing HDMI input sensibly supports Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL). You also get three USB ports, a CI (Common Interface) slot, an optical digital audio out, a LAN socket, a headphone socket and legacy connections using breakout cables. There are aerial and satellite connectors for both FreeviewHD and FreesatHD, along with twin tuners for each, which means if you add a HDD you can create a fully functioning PVR.
Finally there is a 3.5mm connection jack for the IR blaster, which we're glad to say is considerably smaller than last year. As before, once you have paired it with the TV you can use it to convert the second remote into a universal controller. You can then use a menu wizard to set the second remote to control your make of set top box and Blu-ray player, thus minimising the number of remotes lying around. We set the second remote up to control both our PVR and BD player and whilst it certainly worked, we found the implementation a bit slow and the number of available controls is limited.
What Samsung would prefer you to use is the touch pad remote that is also included. This remote uses RF to connect to the UE55F8000 and includes basic controls along with a touch pad. There is also a built-in microphone which is used for voice control and definitely beats shouting across the room. We certainly found the touch pad useful for navigating the Smart TV System but despite offering a graphical representation of the full remote onscreen, we found that for basic controls the old school remote was a lot quicker and easier. Ultimately this remote is a stop-gap to the inevitable time when we all use smartphones or tablets as the primary remote control. The apps for these devices already include all the basic controls, along with a touch pad, a microphone and even a full keyboard.
The UE55F8000 uses active shutter 3D and comes with two pairs of RF glasses that are basically the same as last year, although there has been a slight redesign. The glasses definitely have certain advantages, they are very light and there is very little tint to the lenses which means that images in 3D appear more accurate and brighter. In terms of the negatives, 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. This year the arms are permanently attached, as opposed to last year where you had to attach them yourself. The shape of the lenses has been redesigned slightly but they are still reasonably large and did just about fit over regular glasses. Our real problem with the glasses was the lack of any sides to the frames which meant they couldn't block out ambient light. The glasses provided with the UE55F8000 use batteries but you can also buy an optional USB rechargeable version if you prefer.
The Picture menu offers a choice of four types of Viewing Mode - Standard, Natural, Dynamic and Movie. The latter is designed to approximate industry standards and thus it should offer the most accurate out-of-the-box setting. Both the Picture Mode and the Sound Mode can be accessed directly using the Tools button on the remote control. There are also all the usual basic controls that you would expect to find on any LCD TV such as Backlight, Contrast, Brightness, Sharpness, Colour and Tint. From the Picture menu, you can access sub menus for Picture Size, 3D, Advanced Settings and Picture Options. You can also apply your calibrated picture mode to other inputs, although it didn't appear to copy the white balance or colour space settings.
Within Advanced Settings there are also all the key calibration controls, starting with Gamma which globally adjusts gamma across the entire image. Then there's 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.
Finally, there's 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). This allows for the accurate calibration of the colour gamut by adjusting the luminance, saturation and hue of the three primary colours (red, green and blue) and the three secondary colours (cyan, magenta and yellow).
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 parallax), the amount of 3D Depth, L/R Change which swaps the images for each eye, 3D-2D which shows 3D content in 2D, 3D Auto View which automatically selects the correct 3D Mode when it receives a 3D input and 3D Light Control.
Audio and Features
Despite delivering the best Smart TV system last year, Samsung were clearly not content to sit on their laurels and they have made a number of improvements for 2013. The inclusion of a powerful quad-core processor significantly boosts the performance of the UE55F8000 with faster access to Smart features, higher quality video streaming and true multitasking capabilities. The internet and app response times are lightning fast and you can watch TV while simultaneously taking a Skype call or carry on viewing your favourite programme whilst using an app. It is now even easier to toggle between apps, online services and on-air TV, for a truly seamless TV experience.
Voice interaction lets you interact with your TV by simply talking to it using natural speech via the touchpad remote. You can control your TV, run applications or combine it with Samsung's S-Recommendation technology for a truly personalised TV experience. Just ask the TV to find you something to watch and it will search live TV and online content and make recommendations based on what you like. Using everyday language you can easily search for content by actor, title or genre. As an alternative, motion control lets you simply wave at the TV and take charge. You can change channels and the volume level with ease, swipe though the 5 panel Smart hub and grab and select the content you want just like you would on any smart mobile device. New two handed gestures recognise natural movements enabling you to zoom in and out and rotate images, making interaction much easier. Whilst both these technologies are a definite improvement on last year, we found that just grabbing the remote was still the quickest and easiest approach.
Moving on to colour gamut and it was a similar story thanks to the highly accurate Movie mode. The Custom Colour Space setting is a highly effective Colour Management System (CMS) providing control of the three primary and three secondary colours. With just a few minor adjustments we were able to get all the luminance measurements spot on, as were the hue measurements. In fact the only remaining error was a small under-saturation in red which you would never notice on actual viewing material. All the colours were hitting their target coordinates for Rec.709 and the overall errors were all less than 2 and most were less than 1, which again is essentially perfect.
These days the level of video processing in modern TVs tends to be excellent, so it makes more sense to comment on the areas where a TV disappoints, rather than going through all the tests it excelled at. In the case of the UE55F8000, the overall performance was absolutely superb, as we have come to expect from Samsung. The UE55F8000 proved extremely competent at deinterlacing and scaling standard definition content, with clear and crisp reproduction of fine details and no unwanted ringing. The UE55F8000 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 UE55F8000 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. In fact we found the overall motion handling to be quite impressive for a LCD TV and we measured 400 lines of resolution on the FPD Benchmark test, so even fast moving sport looked quite good. Of course once you use Motion Plus the resolution increases to the full 1080 and it would certainly be highly effective for video-based content like sport. However as always, we strongly recommend not using Motion Plus for film-based content.
For reasons best known to themselves, Samsung continue to hide the Game mode away in the General sub-menu within the System menu. We measured the input lag at 112ms without the Game mode activated but even with it on we were measuring the input lag at 77ms, which is way too high for any serious gamer. However we found that if you renamed the input as 'PC', that clearly by-passed some additional processing and got the input lag down to a far more reasonable 41ms. Whilst this may be too high for hard core gamers with cat-like reflexes, it is about average these days and should be low enough for most people. Overall we found gaming to be highly enjoyable in both 2D and 3D, thanks to the large and detailed images, lack of crosstalk in 3D and effective motion handling.
- Standby: 0W
- Out-of-the-Box – Standard Mode: 90W
- Calibrated – Movie Mode: 110W
- Calibrated - 3D Mode: 180W
Samsung UE55F8000 Picture Quality 2D
The black levels produced by the UE55F8000 were excellent for a LCD panel and as a result it was capable of a strong contrast ratio and impressive dynamic range. We also found the shadow detail to be excellent and the Micro Dimming Ultimate worked very well, helping to render dark scenes that retained decent blacks without sacrificing the details in the shadows. The better blacks are in part because Samsung use a VA panel but the trade-off is that the optimal viewing angle is not more than 90 degree from centre. Given that you can't swivel the new arc stand, careful positioning is important to get the best out of the UE55F8000. Cinema Black is a new feature for 2013 and the idea is to turn off the LEDs in the bars of 2.35:1 films, in order to make the bars blacker. Whilst this feature certainly works, only use the Low setting and make sure you turn it off when not watching 2.35:1 content, otherwise the brightness of the image will fluctuate as the LEDs turn on and off, depending on how dark the top and bottom of the image is. In the past, Samsung has been criticised for introducing backdoor noise reduction, even when all the noise reduction features had apparently been turned off. We're pleased to report that this year, there was evidence of any noise reduction when all the controls were off, so hopefully Samsung has got the message.
In general we found motion handling to be very good for a LCD TV and without engaging Motion Plus, the UE55F8000 could still handle fast motion very well. However if you do watch a lot of fast paced sports you could use one of the Motion Plus settings but, as always, we would recommend leaving it off for film based content and 24p Blu-rays. When it came to Blu-rays, the UE55F8000 could really show what it was capable of with beautifully detailed and fully rendered high definition images. We watched a number of recent purchases like Argoand the UE55F8000 did a wonderfully job of reproducing the deliberately grainy cinematography. Old favourites like The Dark Knight and I Am Legend also looked superb, with plenty of fine detail and natural looking colours. Our only minor complaint was that on occasion we could see some minor motion artefacts, especially judder, with 24p content. Of course you could engage Motion Plus and we found that the Clear setting helped without really losing the film-like motion we would expect from a Blu-ray.
Samsung UE55F8000 Picture Quality 3D
When we moved on to 3D Blu-rays, things got even better and there was almost no crosstalk and the image had an incredible sense of detail and depth, with many objects having a real three dimensional 'pop' to them. This dimensionality was undoubtedly enhanced by the borderless design and the 3D images just seemed to fill the space in front of you. The smooth motion handling and lack of judder or flicker were also impressive but the motion was a little too smooth. There was clearly some backdoor frame interpolation going on, even with Motion Plus turned off and whilst most won't notice it and many will like the effect, as purists we would prefer the option to turn it off completely.
During the testing, we watched a number of 3D Blu-rays, including the recently releasedMonsters Inc., along with old favourites like Avatar and Hugo. Whilst they were never anything but spectacular on the UE55F8000, resulting in a hugely enjoyable 3D experience there was always the feeling the image was too smooth and a little too processed, losing some of its film-like quality. This was especially true of Hugo, which is obviously live action and the motion had a slightly unnatural fluidity, rather like The Hobbit at 48FPS, although not quite that bad. In much the same way as many people loved the The Hobbit at a higher frame rate, we're sure people will rave about the 3D image on the UE55F8000 and we respect that but would still like the option to turn all the processing off.
- Impressive blacks and contrast ratio
- Much improved backlight uniformity
- Excellent greyscale and colour out-of-the-box
- Reference greyscale and colour after calibration
- Excellent video processing
- Comprehensive calibration controls
- Quad-core processing
- Well designed and responsive menu system
- Reference Smart TV System
- Very effective remote app
- Beautiful design
- Twin tuners for both Freeview and satellite
- Downward facing HDMI inputs
- Built-in WiFi and camera
- Touch pad remote control
- Two pairs of 3D glasses
- Occasional motion artefacts with 24p content
- Undefeatable frame interpolation with 3D content
- The 'arc' stand needs a wide surface and can't be swivelled
Samsung UE55F8000 (F8000) TV Review
The UE55F8000 comes with two remote controls, a fairly standard black plastic affair and a rather more attractive brushed aluminium touch pad remote, with a built-in microphone for voice control. Also included are two pairs of battery powered active shutter 3D glasses that look similar to last year's model but have had some minor tweaks here and there. As before, we like the lightweight nature of the RF glasses but the lack of shielding at the sides can be an issue with ambient light. Around the back is a comprehensive set of connections and we were pleased to see that the number of HDMI inputs has been increased to four. We were even happier to note that three of the HDMI inputs now face downwards which, combined with an additional cover, allows for some very tidy cable management.
Setup couldn't be easier and thanks to the inclusion of quad-core processing the UE55F8000 is incredibly fast and responsive. Setting up the tuners took no time at all and thanks to the built-in WiFi we were connected to our network in a matter of minutes. The menu system is the same basic design that Samsung have been using for the last few years and it remains one of the best - clearly laid out, intuitive to navigate and very responsive. As we have come to expect from Samsung, the calibration controls are comprehensive and offer a high degree of accuracy.
Samsung has made some changes to their Smart Hub platform and, incredibly, managed to improve on what was already the best system on the market. The breadth of content and features available is just jaw-dropping and thanks to the quad-core processing, it's not only fast but also capable of some impressive multi-tasking. The built-in camera is now 5 mega pixels, works very well in low light conditions, offers improved motion control and can be neatly popped inside the chassis when not in use. The voice control is also much improved, recognising natural speech, using the microphone in the remote rather than shouting across the room, and talking back to you. The remote app is also a vast improvement, immediately streaming live TV to your device and allowing full control plus a microphone and keyboard - very impressive.
Moving on to the sound quality and Samsung are clearly aware of the limitations of slim TVs and have been working hard to improve the performance in this area. The addition of greater amplification helps, as does the wider chassis at the bottom where subwoofers have been included. You can't ultimately cheat the laws of physics but the UE55F8000 is capable of a reasonable audio performance, with clear dialogue and wide soundstage. We measured the input lag at 77ms in Game mode but found that renaming the input to PC reduced the lag to 41ms. Whilst we would prefer to see the lag lower, this is about average these days and certainly low enough for the casual gamers amongst us.
When it comes to image accuracy the UE55F8000 is at the top of the class, with a very accurate out-of-the-box performance in Movie mode and a reference performance after calibration. Samsung has also made great strides in terms of backlight uniformity, with the UE55F8000 delivering an even image that looked good both during the day and at night. The black levels, contrast ratio and dynamic range were also very good for a LCD panel and the video processing was excellent. The 2D performance was generally superb, regardless of the content and there was no evidence of any unwanted noise reduction. The overall motion handling was very good and we saw no signs of the frame skipping we noticed last year, although we did see occasional motion artefacts with 24p content.
In terms of the 3D performance the UE55F8000 was generally very impressive, especially with Blu-rays. There was almost no crosstalk and the image had a wonderful sense of detail and depth, with many objects having a real 3D 'pop' to them. This dimensionality was undoubtedly enhanced by the borderless design and the 3D images just seemed to fill the space in front of you. The smooth motion handling and lack of judder or flicker were also impressive but the motion was a little too smooth. There was clearly some frame interpolation going on, even with it turned off and whilst most won't notice it and many will like the effect, as purists we would prefer the option to turn it off completely.
The Samsung UE55F8000 represents the current state-of-the-art when it comes to TV design - in terms of looks, features and performance. With this model Samsung has set the bar incredibly high and it'll take something very special to knock it off its pedestal. Yes it isn't cheap but, frankly, you get what you pay for and if you're looking for the best then the UE55F8000 should be at the top of your list.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
3D Picture Quality
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.