alt

THIS IS A PARTIAL REVIEW.
The complete product review (and the whole issue in which it features) can be purchased here.
This digital edition can be downloaded to your iPad or Android tablet (using the free Zinio app) or can be viewed through your web browser on a PC or Mac. The print edition is in all good Australian newsagents now.

 

After enjoying Samsung’s plasma range-topper, we turn to the ES8000 series, the new top-of-the-line range of LCD TVs. Here we spend some time with the 55-inch version, the UA55ES8000.


Equipment
This television continues Samsung’s gradual movement towards TVs without frames. Okay, it has a frame, but a nicely thin one. In total the distance between the edge of the picture and rest of the world is just 9mm. Four of those millimetres are occupied by the curved metal surround, while the other five consist of black glass surrounding the picture.

Most TVs have their thin bezels, if any, at the top and sides. This one has an identically narrow one at the bottom.

We don’t normally say much about the sound of a TV’s built-in speakers, but given that this one’s sound system must necessarily be downwards facing, they sounded surprisingly acceptable.

The TV comes with an elegant metal-frame stand — one that does not swivel, and is pleasingly slender at just under 31mm thick.

The TV is a full-HD one, of course, with active 3D technology. The company doesn’t seem to be emphasising 3D much this year in its press material (Samsung didn’t mention 3D once at its main Sydney launch of the 2012 TVs, at least until the Q&A), but it has nonetheless been beavering away with improvements, not least with one of the most important: the price of the eyewear. Rather than the $100 to $150 per glasses pair and the one (or none) that you commonly get in the box with the TV, Samsung includes two sets in the box, and they cost just $29 a set if you want more. These use Bluetooth linking to synchronise their flashing with the left and right pictures sequence shown by the TV.

Samsung has fiddled with its connections a little this year, dropping back the number of HDMI ports to three and providing proper RCA sockets for component video (and the accompanying stereo audio). It has also eliminated the computer-style D-SUB15 input. But there are three USB ports — one can be used for recording or timeshifting TV programs using a standalone hard-disk drive. Another can be used for playing back assorted media, or for plugging in a mouse or keyboard for controlling some of the advanced features.

But you don’t need a USB port for a Skype camera — because one is built in to the TV. This resides in a small raised section above the centre of the screen, and also has a couple of microphones optimsed for sofa distances.

This camera is for more than just Skype. Likewise the microphones. As with the previous review of the plasma TV, you can control the TV with hand gestures, or with your voice. Which, you’ve got to admit, is something really very new.

You also get a regular remote control, of course, which operates in the usual infrared way, plus a ‘Smart Touch’ remote, which has a touch pad at its centre and talks via RF.

Plus there are apps for iOS and for Android. If you have a recent model Samsung Galaxy SII or Tablet 10.1 (or, presumably, later), the device can operate as a second screen. We tested the iOS remote app, which worked well enough on an iPhone and an iPod touch, but not on a first-gen iPad.

Performance
The auto set-up procedure for this TV was sensibly organised, and included setting up the motion and voice control functions if you want. You can run those later if you like.

But let’s deal with the picture first. Samsung still presents as edgy and harsh... for no reason other than poorly-chosen default picture settings. The colour, brightness and contrast controls are okay — pretty decent in fact, with no crushing at either end of the brightness scale, and lovely colour accuracy. But the ‘Sharpness’ defaults to ‘50’ on a scale of 100. On an HD test pattern there was an enormous amount of ‘ringing’, with white ghosts around black edges. Winding it back to 0 made the picture smooth and beautiful, instead of edgy and irritating.

There was one more change required for full-HD viewing: the aspect ratio. The TV defaults to 16:9 mode for TV, for HD TV and for 1080 content delivered via HDMI, including 1080p/24 from Blu-ray. That mode whacks in several per cent of overscan — resizing the picture upwards so that the incoming pixels aren’t mapped 1:1 to the screen pixels. So you need to change the aspect to ‘Screen Fit’.

 

THIS IS A PARTIAL REVIEW.
The complete product review (and the whole issue in which it features) can be purchased here.
This digital edition can be downloaded to your iPad or Android tablet (using the free Zinio app) or can be viewed through your web browser on a PC or Mac. The print edition is in all good Australian newsagents now.