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Monday, July 15, 2013

Samsung UE55F8000 review: high-performance TV


The Samsung UE55F8000 is the jewel in Samsung's market-leading TV crown. It boasts a cutting-edge feature set which includes second-generation voice and gesture control, updated smart-TV functionality and a battery of picture technology refinements.

But at £2499 it certainly doesn't come cheap, and it isn't a fancy 4K model: you get the standard 1920x1080 pixels. If this 55-incher looks too rich, the same set is also available as the 46-inch UE46F8000 and the 40-inch UE40F8000, priced at £1899 and £1449 respectively. See also: Group test: what's the best TV?

As befits the rarefied RRP, the F8000 looks reassuringly upscale, with a super narrow bezel and gorgeous minimalist design.

An integrated HD camera pops out of the top of the bezel when required, but is otherwise unnoticeable. Connectivity comprises four HDMIs, three USBs, component and SCART, plus ethernet LAN. Wi-Fi is built-in.

The set also features twin Freeview HD and Freesat tuners, as well as Samsung's Smart Evolution upgrade slot, first introduced with last year's high-end sets.


Should Samsung upgrade the graphical prowess of next year's models, this year's sets should be able to keep pace with new plug-in electronics. Incidentally, an Evolution pack for last year's 7, 8 and 9 series is now available to bring them up to spec with the F8000.

And befitting its fancy functionality, the UE55F8000 also ships with a second (Bluetooth) remote control, with integrated microphone. Beneath the bonnet a quad-core ARM processor is available to speed up navigation and better handle smart-TV interaction.

Samsung has long led the pack when it comes to integrated media services and app content, so there's plenty to explore here. Catch-up TV is available from BBC iPlayer, ITV Player and Demand 5, with support added for YouTube, Netflix, Lovefilm, Dailymotion, Spotify and many others. To keep things fresh, the user interface is now driven by stylised icons.

In addition to revamping its Smart Portal, the F8000 boasts an S Recommendation engine, designed to make viewing suggestions based your (monitored) programme preferences.

The idea is the longer you use it the more effective it becomes; we'll take that under advisement. During our relatively short audition period with the set, its recommendations appeared largely random. And you'll have to be happy letting Samsung know everything about what you watch.

One area where the TV tries to shine is smartphone integration, if Google Android is your choice of smartphone anyway.

Smart Mirroring, aka Miracast, makes it a snap to view the contents of your Android device on the larger screen. You can also send telly the other way, back to the handset, and watch channels from the set's second tuner using Dual View.

Multimedia file support is best in class. File support from local USB, as well as across a LAN, ticks off every useful codec and container, including MKV and FLAC. What's more, the presentation is terrific, with video thumbnails and album art.

Of course, all this fancy techfoolery would be wasted if this big F8000 didn't deliver on the audio-visual front. Thankfully, it does.

Picture quality is outstanding. Somehow, Samsung seems to be able to find fine detail in an image that eludes other sets. Full-HD content from Blu-ray looks mesmerising. The screen is also rewardingly dynamic and beautifully vibrant.

Motion resolution is a full 1080 lines – although care needs to be taken with the set's Motion Plus settings as they can still induce disturbing visual arefacts. We found that selecting either Motion Plus Clear or Custom modes (with de-judder on zero and de-blur between five and seven) gave the cleanest results.

The UE55F8000's 3D performance is top-notch. Samsung's favoured Full HD Active Shutter system looks crisp and bright.

There was some minor crosstalk, but for the most part stereoscopic images are bright with tangible depth.

Two pairs of RF-compatible 3D glasses are supplied. The set's audio performance is above average, with good stereo separation, some reasonable mid-bass and a 20 W/ch amp package that delivers plenty of volume.  

Samsung's voice and gesture control have all been upgraded on the F8000. You can use more conversational English to command the set, along with a wider range of gestures.

There remains plenty of opportunities for misinterpretation though. As a routine user interface, the technology still isn't ready for prime time.

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