Part 2

See Part 1 - Review: LG 55LM9600

Samsung have come to dominate the consumer Electronics space in recent years and unpacking the second of the Big Three TV’s for review their latest high end 55-inch LED monster TV’s highlighted why. The 8 Series Samsung TV, of which our review unit was part of, has more features and capabilities than the Space Shuttle. It is super slim, and very attractive, on its silver U shaped stand. The Samsung Series 8 has a slim bezel, as well as a clever integrated camera on the top surface for Skype video conferencing, as well as some innovative gesture control features.

Samsung Series 8 LED TV

The Samsung series 8 TV has every feature, gizmo and capability you can think of, as well as a few you never considered. The Samsung Series 8 55-inch includes three styles of control, the standard handheld remote control, although the included remote is far from ordinary, the Samsung remote has very few buttons and actually operates like a mouse pad on your laptop. There is also a standard fully buttoned remote, for those who are not keen to mouse about. In addition there is full gesture control, and to add to the options, full control using your voice.

Some may ask if these gimmicks or truly useful. In our testing we found the new touch-pad remote to be a little tricky. The touch control was not really that sensitive and overshooting and struggling to control fairly simple features like channel or volume became a little challenging. As we spent more time with the remote we did get better. The gesture control was dependant on angle to the TV and once the novelty wore off, was a little bit of a chore. It was far simpler to use the full button remote, and quickly get where you wanted to go. Voice interestingly was really good. As long as you remember to wake up the voice control with “Hi Samsung”. In the final analysis nothing was as intuitive or as simple as using the standard full button remote.

The Samsung Series 8 includes a really powerful media hub and interface. Higher end TV’s today are internet enabled as a standard feature, and the Samsung is probably the smartest of the lot. The Smart interface which includes Web Browsing, Apps, Media Hub integration, and playback of Movies, audio files, and pictures, as well as lots and lots of other features, is excellent. Many features such as Netflix integration and other streaming services may not make sense in South Africa for now. We did try some of the free content from Samsung directly, but our ADSL line struggled with the task. This made media streaming frustrating, roll on faster internet.

We did find that the browsing, YouTube playback, and other features were well thought out and easy to use. Of the three TV’s we tested, the Samsung had the most useful interface as well as the largest range of apps with the widest functionality.
Setting up the Samsung was simple and intuitive. The initial impression on HD TV was very positive. The Samsung Series 8 panel is bright, very sharp, and has great punch. Initially the TV was set to the standard setting. After allowing the TV to settle in, we found the standard picture quality was set far too bright and vivid. This setting may be great in bright rooms and showrooms, but in the home environment the Samsung’s picture could become a little tiring. Changing to the Movie setting moderated the brightness and vividness to a great extent. We did find that the movie setting was too warm overall, and gave a slight sepia tone to all pictures. Unless you like a bright cartoony look to everything, don’t go near the vivid setting.

After much fiddling with the extensive settings, I called in the picture tuning experts. They were able to reset the TV to ISF standards, , and then our true testing began. Once properly set up the Samsung Series 8 picture was outstanding, blacks were deep and colours true. HD movies were a pleasure to watch, and Standard definition TV was flattered. Overall the Samsung is an excellent TV with a sharper more finely detailed picture than the other two tested.

There was a slight lack of uniformity or light blotching on the screen which was just visible in really dark scenes, or when the TV picture went from light to dark. This blotching was better than on the LG, but far more noticeable than on the Sony. The best test of this phenomenon is to pause on a black screen on a normal TV picture. Coupled with that was a distinct step or delay in brightness change when titles came onto a dark background after a movie. These effects overall were slight, but were noticeable, and did reduce the impression of smooth inky black backgrounds on some content.

Overall the Samsung was a top notch performer. The Samsung Series 8 has the best Smart features of the test trio, with a fast intuitive menu system complete with great functionality and feature set. In the critical picture stakes the Samsung was competitive. The brightness and sharpness of the screen was the best of the bunch. Out of the box the Samsung was vivid and exiting to watch, unfortunately in a slightly darkened room this vividness quickly became fatiguing.

The extensive onscreen controls allow you to fine tune the picture and properly calibrate the TV, and this makes a world of difference. Once calibrated the picture, in all modes, is outstanding, with vivid colours dark blacks and excellent contrast. It is unfortunate that Samsung don’t get this right from the start. The LG and Sony need minimal tweaking to obtain their best picture.

The included 3D glasses are light and cool looking. A total of four pairs of active glasses are included and they really work well. 3D on the Samsung is engaging and clear. The only real issue is subtle flicker from the active glasses, especially if there is a white or light background around the TV. As always, 3D works best if you are fairly close to the TV, and the room is darkened a little.

If features and usability are important, then the Samsung stands out from the test pack. The ability to upgrade the already impressive processor is another unique feature, and overall the Samsung Series 8 is an outstanding TV. The picture quality out of the box is good, but by the standards of the competition in the review set, the picture is far too vivid and bright, the best part is that it can be adjusted.

Good looking well-made TV
Extensive Smart features that are easy to use
Bright Sharp picture
Upgradeable processor and software

Standard settings make the picture too vivid and bright
Calibration is needed for best picture
Slight unevenness on a dark screen, with minor screen blotching

Review unit model number: UA55ES8000M

Steven Ambrose – Executive Editor, CEO of the technology and strategy consulting firm Strategy Worx and a major gadget geek. A chartered accountant by training Steven sports a history spanning from heading statups to divisions of major multinational corporations, he ran and wrote for from 2006 to 2010, and now consults on technology and its impact on business as the brainchild and CEO of Strategy Worx. For more immediate comment, views and discussion follow him on Twitter