(March 30, 2010) Samsung’sÃ‚Â 55″ UN55C8000 ($3499 retail, $2849 Amazon) falls in the comfortable middle of its 2010 3D LED (LCD) line, though it has a higher rated contrast ratio than the upcoming more expensive, wafer thin (.3″) C9000 series.
The C8000s are the only Samsung 3D LED models to feature “Precision Dimming”, (commonly known as local dimming) and adds 240 Hz refresh and slim .9″ depth.Ã‚Â Due to a panel uniformity issue in our factory loaner test unit, we limit this first look to its 3D features and performance.
This 55″ set has a thin (1″) bezel with a brushed aluminum type finish. It includes a chrome finished swivel quad leg table stand and a backlit remote. All inputs are on the rear of the panel (four HDMI, one composite video with L/R audio, twin USBs and an Ethernet jack). Due to the thin panel design, Samsung abandons the standard Ethernet, analog audio/video, sub-D 15 pin PC and component video jacks, substituting miniature jacks and supplied connection Ã¢â‚¬Å“dongles.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The C8000Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s product sheet states it “Delivers 3D action and 240 Hz smooth motion,Ã¢â‚¬Â but while the set includes both features, they are not active at the same time. With 2D sources the set refreshes with 240 frames per second using motion estimation/motion compensation to create interpolated intermediate frames from 24, 30 or 60 frame per second content. In 3D mode the C8000 displays 120 active images per second (60 per eye) with black frame insertion between active image frames. The sequence: left image, black frame, right image, black frame, left image etc.
Due to the dearth of 3D content with “Full HD” (1920 x1080 each eye), our source material consists of two Blu-ray discs: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Monsters and AliensÃ¢â‚¬Â and Panasonic’s 3D demo disc. Other available demo material features “Side by Side” 3D, which is half HD resolution (960 x1080) per eye and includes Cablevision’s 3D telecast of the Rangers vs. Islanders’ hockey game recorded on a DVR and series of clips from 3D Guy. The 8000 and all other Samsung 3D HDTVs accept 3D “Side by Side” content loaded on a USB drive via its USB port.
Samsung 3D displays incorporate new controls not found on any of its 2D displays, including 2D to 3D conversion (more on this later), 3D Auto View mode (sets 3D format if content is encoded with necessary meta data), Picture Correction (reverses left and right eye images if content was recorded reversed), and 3D Viewpoint (pushes forward or back the 3D effect, we call it horizontal parallax shift).
Normally this control is set to “0″; it has a range of -5 to +5. Increasing the control moves the image forward (at the cost of increased crosstalk, more on this later) while decreasing the control pulls it back. A potential use is to compensate for a 3D image mastered for a larger screen. Lowering the control may aid in reducing eye fatigue for the small percentage of viewers who have “stereo eye convergence” issues.
Viewing native 3D content requires Samsung’s 3D glasses, enabling the 3D mode on the TV and of course, native 3D source material, which for now consists solely ofÃ‚Â Ã¢â‚¬Å“Monsters vs. AliensÃ¢â‚¬Â available exclusively in SamsungÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s two pairs of glasses 3D starter kit (link).
The $349 starter kit is free with the purchase of a Samsung 3D HDTV along with the purchase of the BD-C6900Ã‚Â 3D capable Blu-ray player or its 3D Home Theater System HT-C6930. To help Samsung 3D set owners obtain content, we arrangedÃ‚Â for a download of 3D Guy’s “3D Girls” video and other samples through our sister website HDGuru3D (link, 3D Content button on top).Ã‚Â Copy the 3D demos to a USB drive, insert it into the USB port on the rear of the TV, choose the USB input as the source and the “side by side” setting on the 3D menu and watch. Panasonic 3DÃ‚Â sets do not support this USB 3D content.
We began our set evaluation with the motion resolution in 3D mode. The Samsung retained all 1080 lines of resolution in the presence of motion. We also tested image brightness in 3D mode. Only two picture setting modes are available when 3D is engaged: Standard and Movie.
Our tests indicate the Movie mode is closest to the ideal settings of the standard user picture controls. We found that without glasses the image brightness measured 44.67 ft lamberts in the 3D “Standard’ mode and 43.20 ft lamberts (w/o glasses) in the “Movie” mode. Activating the glasses and placing one lens in front of our Konica/Minolta Ã‚Â LS-100 light meter yielded a measurement of 14.60 ft lamberts (Standard) and 13.84 ft lamberts (Movie). All these readings are quite low for an HDTV and indicate the need for a dim viewing environment at the factory default settings.Ã‚Â Readers that insist on a brighter looking image can increase the level of overall brightness be resetting the TV’s “Gamma Control” from factory default center (2.2) to maximum, which will produce a significantly brighter image at some cost to accurate image reproduction.
Two new factors must be considered when evaluating 3D images: crosstalk and flicker.Ã‚Â Your brain creates the 3D illusion by combining a left and a right eye Ã¢â‚¬ËœviewÃ¢â‚¬Â that the set displays sequentially. Without 3D glasses the resulting picture appears as a blurry, double image.
The performance goal of a 3D display/glasses combination is to never allow the right eye image to be seen by the left eye and vice versa. Crosstalk, seen as an unintended ghost image, results when leakage occurs and the wrong eye sees the wrong image.
This phenomenon is most noticeable when high contrast occurs between objects in the foreground and background.Ã‚Â For example, a player or referee in a 3D hockey game wearing black against the white ice.
Flicker appears as pulsing of the image, especially in bright areas.
The good news is that, unlike SonyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s store demos of its LED LCD the Samsung UN55C8000 was flicker-free. On the other hand, we observed many instances of crosstalk. For example, at 3 minutes 54 seconds into Ã¢â‚¬Å“Monsters and AliensÃ¢â‚¬Â left and right ghosts appear of a black church against a sky backdrop (see photo of how it appears to one eye through the 3D glasses).
In the short Ã¢â‚¬Å“Bob’s Big BreakÃ¢â‚¬Â included on the Ã¢â‚¬Å“Monsters vs. AliensÃ¢â‚¬Â disc, crosstalk is often visible next to Dr. Cockroach’s antenna. We never observed crosstalk during our evaluation of Panasonic’s TC-P50VT20 (link).
We also sampled Panasonic’s demo disc and noted crosstalk in the coral reef segmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s underwater fish scenes (currently our favorite demo because the fish seem to be floating in the room in front of the screen).
Is crosstalk a byproduct of 3D LED LCD technology? Based on the evaluation and comparison of a single model we cannot draw such a conclusion; however, the Panasonic plasma produced a crosstalk-free 3D experience using some of the same content.
2D -> 3D
The Samsung 3D ready sets have the ability to convert normal 2D content into what we like to call “genuine simulated 3D”. The conversion adds depth to the image, though it is highly dependent on the material. Some content looks more impressive than do others. Our two favorites for conversion to date are the new Star Trek Blu-ray and the NCAA playoffs.Ã‚Â Both provide great depth from a flat image, although we have not seen any object appear in front of the screen ( which is called negative Z axis) and don’t know if it is possible.
The “depth control” produces the illusion of increasing the space between objects appearing at the screen plane and the background.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Overall we foundÃ‚Â this feature adds dimension and immersion to 2D content, but it never appears as dramatic as native 3D content. I believe some owners will greatly enjoy the effect and use it often. We’ll continue to experiment with it and in the upcoming full review plan to list other programs that the feature improves.
The Samsung produces a fine 3D experience in terms of depth, clarity and immersion and we appreciate the 2D->3D conversion, however we found the crosstalk to be a distracting annoyance to an otherwise exciting experience. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll produce a full review incorporating ourÃ‚Â full menu ofÃ‚Â 2D performance tests once we determine whether the uniformity issue is limited to our review sample or is endemic to the design, so please stay tuned.
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