Samsung UN55D8000 LED LCD HDTV -First Review
Samsung’s 2011 D8000 LED LCD is their top of the line series, offering the most features and highest performance of any of their 2011 LCD models. The 55-inch, 240 Hz refresh rate design provides excellent screen brightness with outstanding energy efficiency. New for 2011 is an LED dimming circuit Samsung calls “micro dimming” for deep blacks, a QWERTY remote control, built-in Internet browser, updated graphic user interface and improved 2D and 3D performance claims.
Samsung made a number of internal and external changes from last year’s UN55C8000. We liked a number of the new attributes: 3D performance, signal processing, and the wide selection of user picture controls. However, we spotted two performance issues: screen uniformity and poor vertical viewing angle, detailed below.
Cosmetically, Samsung trimmed the frame around the active picture area to an astonishing 0.94-inches, giving this HDTV an almost all-image appearance once powered-up. It is one of the best-looking TV designs of all time. The display sits on a four-legged, chrome-finished swivel stand (included). Samsung cleaned up the rear by making all connections built-in, sans component and composite AV inputs which, like last year, still require included dongles. With a panel depth of just 1.2 inches the 8000 is one of the slimmest sets available.
All the UN55D8000’s inputs are located on the rear of the TV. They include four HDMI inputs, one each component and composite input (as mention, these require the supplied dongle), 3 USB ports, 1 D-sub 15 PC input, F-type antenna input and an Ethernet jack (there is also built-in Wi-Fi).
The new-for-2011 remote control is an asymmetrical, wedge-shaped dual-sided affair. The A-side has the standard TV controls with a numeric keyboard, and the usual source, menu, volume, channel +/-, tools, etc. buttons. There’s a backlight for this side. New for 2011 is an “E-manual” button for an electronic user manual.
Now, we have no problem with a built-in electronic copy of the user manual. However, Samsung has foolishly followed Sony’s 2010 lead and decided not to include a complete printed user manual. In its place is a very sparse 23-page pamphlet that covers heady topics like remote battery insertion and connections. In our opinion, the exclusion of a real manual is inexcusable for a $3600 (retail) TV. Internet connected HDTVs have many controls and we hate the idea of needing to find an explanation of functions by entering the E-manual, then exiting, attempting the function and then reentering the E-manual for more information. Kind of reminds us of shampoo instructions (shampoo, rinse, repeat) and is not idea for the operation of a TV.
To their credit, Samsung customer service says they will send a bound. printed. full 325-page owner’s manual if you call 1-800-Samsung and make a request.
Back to the remote. Flipping it over over reveals a QWERTY keyboard. Most notably, it requires “pairing” to sync to the TV. Samsung’s supplied instruction pamphlet neglected to include the words, “the remote must be within eight inches of the TV to pair with the 8000,” a fact we learned only after failing to get the darn thing to work and making a call to Samsung’s customer service (which happens to be located in the USA). The representative was very well trained and helpful.
Once we got the remote “paired” we had a big problem with the keyboard for entry into the Internet browser. Entering hdguru.com would show up as hddguuruu.com requiring multiple backspaces and reentries. We requested a replacement remote to determine if the double key entry is limited to our sample and we’ll update when we try another unit.
We have other complaints about the QWERTY side. There is no backlight and many of the function keys are so small we couldn’t read them without turning up the room lights. Overall we feel the remote needs to be larger for easier operation and requires larger keys. A nice concept but a poor execution.
The list is quite impressive. It includes Internet streaming (VUDU, Netflix and Blockbuster) and other applications using an open platform. This means new services and apps can be added via a software update. Other capabilities include 3D with new Bluetooth RF-sync glasses , Skype video (with optional camera), a wide array of custom picture controls, fine control of its 240Hz processing, and multiple options for enabling sectional picture dimming.
There are four picture modes, and numerous additional settings including de-judder, color temperature, gray scale (2 or 10 point), gamma, color management, noise reduction and others.
There are also adjustments for gray scale, color points and gamma, although all require precise test equipment to set properly. We recommend hiring a qualified ISF calibrator with high quality test gear (those cheapo do-it-yourself kits don’t cut it) or simply leave the gray scale controls at factory default in the Warm 2 setting (they were very accurate with our review sample, measurements are listed below).
The motion estimation/motion compensation (ME/MC) circuits perform two functions, reducing motion blur and smoothing native 24Hz-based content. With 24 Hz-based content found on Blu-ray discs and a number of scripted TV shows, you may engage the anti-judder circuit without activating the anti-blur circuit. The result will be smooth motion as the TV repeats the same frame ten times, eliminating uneven/jerky pans known as “judder”. With the anti-blur circuit in the “off” position motion resolution drops to 330 lines (per picture height). Engaging anti-blur will increase the motion resolution to 1080 lines PPH while at the same time inserting synthesized frames that give a video a look often referred to as the “Soap Opera Effect” or SOE. Many viewers find SOE objectionable (though some folks love it). It’s your choice, though personally we don’t like the SOE so we kept the anti-blur control set to “off”.
There are a host of controls geared to producing deeper blacks by reducing the light output of the LEDs, or in some cases shutting them off, and another control that simultaneously increase the white level. All these controls help the image achieve a higher contrast ratio, but it comes at the expense of burying black and light details. They’re labeled, Dynamic Contrast, Shadow Detail, Motion Lighting, Cinema Black, Black Tone, Smart LED and HDMI Black Level. We made our picture evaluations with all set to the “off” position except HDMI Black level which we set to “Low” (update: the 8000 automatically sets this control with video sources such as a Blu-ray player, regardless of what the menu reads, according to Samsung TV labs, we corrected the the text to reflect the actual setting)
The “Movie” picture mode comes closest to the ideal settings for the UN55D8000, so we stuck with it throughout our testing except to measure maximum image brightness, where we used the Showroom mode labeled “Dynamic.”. The 8000 passes the Energy Star 4.0 certification, which requires the “Standard” mode as the default “Home” setting. The entire Energy Star program is befuddling and in our opinion arbitrary, with upcoming elements soon to have profound a profound impact on image quality and consumer choice as it pertains to TVs. We plan to cover the issues in a future article.
Back to our measurements, the 8000 read blazing 87.34 ft. lamberts in the “Vivid” mode and a bright 41.17 ft lamberts using our calibrated “Movie” mode settings. LED LCDs are the most energy efficient TVs on the market and this Samsung was no exception, using just 86 watts with the IEC test disc (again in the “Movie” setting). Be aware the UN55D8000 is one of the most expensive TVs on the market today, currently selling for $2699.66 on Amazon, due in part to the cost of the LED edge lighting. So if you are expecting a return on your investment because it’s energy efficient, you may be in for a long wait.
The long list of picture controls made tweaking the settings a time consuming affair.
Standard Defintion Tests
Like last year’s C series 8000 model, the UN55D8000’s signal processing does an excellent job upconverting standard definition 480i signals to 1080p, acing all the HQV SD tests including detail, jaggies, waving flag jaggies, 3:2 pulldown detection and multi-rate film cadence. Only the mixed video titles with required a switch over to Film Mode “Auto 2” position, while other film mode tests require “Auto 1” to pass. We find this a minor bug and recommend sticking with Auto 1 for standard definition content.
There were a few minor problems worth noting. With 480i content you must have the image expanded, cutting off about 2.5% of the picture (with HD content you can engage the “Screen Fit” mode with 1:1 aspect ratio).
The user menus for the Noise Reduction modes always cover about 75% of the image, making the determination of which setting to use very difficult. We would like to see Samsung give these adjustments the small setting bar at the bottom as it does with the other adjustments.
High Defintion Tests
Checking the HQV Blu-ray test disc, the UN55D8000 passed all the tests (noise reduction, deinterlacing, jaggies and film resolution loss) although we again had to move the control to the Film Mode Auto 2 to eliminate some noise in the last test. We never saw noise in any observations of real content, returning the control to position “1” for all our content viewing evaluations.
Color was close to the Rec. 709 standard (noted in parenthesis) measuring:
Red x0.647 y0.333 (x0.64, y0.33)
Green x0.296 y0.602 (x0.30, y0.60)
Blue x0.151 y0.054 (x0.15, y0.06)
Black level is dependent on setting of the dynamic black circuits. Activated they can shut off the LED edge lighting providing a completely black image. If set to the “off” position the minimum black level measured 0.015 ft. lamberts, not terrible but not nearly as deep as we’ve measured with plasma technology such as the recently tested Panasonic TC-P50ST30, which came in at 0.008 ft. lamberts and sells for less than half the price. The 55-inch version of the ST30 is still about $1,000 less.
Gray scale in the Warm2 mode was so close to ideal we doubt if anyone would see a visual benefit to a full gray scale calibration (assuming other samples are as accurate). The 8000 measured 6521K at 20 IRE (x0.312, y0.330) and 6521K at 80 IRE (x0.312, y0.330)
Prior to our review, reports appeared on the Internet indicating the component video input would not accept signals above 480i. We tested component video inputs with our Sencore 403 signal generator and Panasonic BDT-350 Blu-ray player and found the complaint erroneous. The 8000 accepts 480p, 720p, 1080i and 1080p/60 signals via component video cable, although we recommend connections via HDMI for the best signal quality (analog cables exhibit the loss of high frequencies seen as fine detail as cable length increases). HDMI cables do not. http://hdgurucom.wpengine.com/all-hdmi-cables-are-the-same-or-are-they-full-test/4373/
Samsung made 3D performance improvements over its 2010 LCD models. The result is a vast reduction, but not Ã‚Â complete elimination of, crosstalk (seen as ghost images). We observed crosstalk only on our toughest 3D tests which include the church exterior near the beginning of Monsters vs. Aliens and African Safari on DirecTV N3D. The TV and glasses now use radio signals to sync up. This allowed the active shutter glasses to operate continuously regardless if we faced the TV. We sampled the new standard (regular battery) and deluxe (rechargeable) 3D Samsung glasses and found both lighter and far more comfortable than last year’s models. We never observed any picture flickering during our tests.
With bright, well-lit scenes found in most scripted TV series, the UN55D8000 produced outstanding high definition images with vivid colors, high contrast and (with the Auto Motion Plus ME/MC 240 Hz circuit engaged) no visible motion blur. However there were two problems we encountered that knocks down our overall rating of this display. They are vertical dispersion and screen uniformity.
There is a very noticeable drop of in image contrast, seen as a drop in brightness and rise in black level, whenever we stood up from our 9-foot viewing distance. This is a concern for anyone wanting to mount these TV at anything other than eye level.
The other problem is the lack of screen uniformity, which was quite disturbing in dark scenes. Above are examples of this using frames from Minority Report and the splash screen of our 2010 Panasonic BDT-350 Blu-ray player. Another example, Chapter 8 at 26:23 in I Am Legend with Will Smith walking around inside the abandoned building. The lack of uniformity reveals itself in three ways: five dark vertical strips (see Panasonic splash screen above), a lightening of the right and left edges (slightly more prominent on the left) and at times some faint horizontal brighter stripes we believe are the light wave guides.
When testing this issue with our signal generator using a full raster pattern, the unevenness can be seen with signal up to 75 IRE (out of 100 maximum), though they’re most noticeable below 50 IRE. Critical viewers could find this issue to be a major annoyance with select movie content, while folks that aren’t as picky may not care.
The Samsung UN55D8000 has a lot going for it, Internet applications, thin bezels, excellent signal processing, accurate color, and good 3D performance. However we find the poor uniformity a deal breaker for readers seeking the highest quality HDTV. Taken as a whole we award the Samsung UN55D8000 ♥♥♥ (3 out of 5) rating.
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