Samsung UN55H8000 Curved LED TV Review
Ahead of the curve in more ways than one
The Samsung UN55H8000 (MSRP $2,899) is a high-end Full HD 1080p option that's smart, 3D capable, and curved. This series, which boasts refresh rates of 240 Hz, also comes in 48- and 65-inch varieties. The 55-inch version is available for $1,999 right now, which definitely sweetens this already saccharine pot.
After a whirlwind of lab tests we can confidently confirm that, besides a couple of minor flaws, this HDTV delivers a great picture. The impressive image is complemented by cutting-edge features a la Samsung's Smart Hub, and a sexy, silver outfit. So what's the catch?
The only real drawback here is the price, which is steep compared to some of the competition. For example, you could secure Sharp's 4K-capable, 60-inch UQ17U for the same price, or go much bigger with Vizio's 65-inch M Series ($1,499) or Samsung's own 64-inch H5000 plasma ($2,099).
Of course, if flat TVs just don't turn your head anymore, it's worth noting that the H8000 series is currently the only non-4K option for a curved LED TV on the market.
Blue-ribbon picture quality, but a couple of flaws
Samsung's 55-inch H8000 stepped into our bevy of lab tests with real swagger. This curved LED performs with serious panache, and though it has a few drawbacks, it's an excellent television in terms of picture quality.
Compared to its peers, the H8000's black level production is decent, but not excellent. In Movie mode, the TV produces deep-enough shadows for a pitch-black viewing environment, but performs best with a little ambient lighting. I tested a commendable amount of luminance (light output) also, which creates both pros and cons. The TV is capable of a bright, flashy image, but the curve of the panel causes some uniformity issues and hotspots in the corners. Hints of the backlight bleed through on black and dark gray areas, which is especially crippling for letterbox or 4:3 content. Fortunately, the TV has a setting called Cinema Black that helps to darken letterbox areas—we recommend turning it on.
In terms of color performance, the H8000 continues to deliver. I measured very accurate colors, and was also impressed by what I saw while watching Blu-ray content. Like other Samsung LEDs, the H8000 allows the user to select between Auto, Native, and Custom color spaces. The default Auto setting matches the HDTV standards very accurately, while Native expands the colors mildly. Purists may rather avoid the latter, but I found the wider color space approximated the appearance of the more colorful movie content you see in theaters without tremendous detail loss. On the other hand, certain content (like cartoons or video games) can look a little garish with the extra color.
I was expecting great things from this TV in terms of motion. Samsung claims that the H8000 has a native 240 Hz refresh rate, which means the screen should refresh four times as often as a run-of-the-mill HDTV. Unfortunately, this doesn't always translate into flawless motion. First of all, this above-average refresh rate causes Samsung's on-board motion processing, Auto Motion Plus, to render movement too aggressively, overly smoothing from frame to frame. Secondly, it means that without motion assistance, some scenes are rendered in such impressive detail that the outliers look worse than they normally would by comparison; most details remain impressively sharp throughout motion, which tends to highlight the ones that don't. The H8000's motion is still above-average, but the algorithm that operates it is not always ideal for film content and certain TV programs.
Like other curved TVs I've tested, the viewing angle here is a little narrow. Naturally, the real advantage of the curve comes from watching right in the middle of the screen, but in practice you're not always going to watch by yourself. Family and friends on the far ends of the couch may find that their view of the action is decidedly sub-optimal. This makes wall-mounting the H8000 an even trickier decision, as it's possible you'll end up battling constrained viewing angles more often than you'd like.
For an even deeper dive on what the Samsung H8000 can do, check out our full lab results and calibration settings on the Science Page.
WHOA, THIS TV IS CURVED!
... Now that I've gotten that out of my system, I can go on to tell you that I think the H8000 is a good-looking receiver, even if it handily breaks tradition. Hyper-narrow black bezels cling confidently to the edges of the screen, and they're kissed by silver highlights that wrap the perimeter. The stand is a matched metallic hue, and follows a slightly more aggressive curve, softening the panel's undulation by comparison.
As usual, utility elements like on-set control buttons and video connections are hidden on the back, leaving the face plate free of blemish. This charcoal-colored surface yields up four HDMI inputs, three USB inputs, LAN (ethernet) in, a coaxial jack for cable/antenna hookups, digital and analog audio out, IR out for the included IR blaster, and an RS-232c control port. There are also splitter cables for composite (AV) or component inputs.
Alongside the panel and stand, Samsung throws in a whole box of goodies. This "Accessory Kit" contains the TV's two remote controls, the traditional black, plastic wand and the new Samsung Smart Control, a mouse-like controller that's great for browsing the smart content. You'll also find an IR blaster for cable programming integration and set-top-box control, and four pairs of Samsung's Active 3D glasses.
The Smart Hub still earns an A
Considering its premium pedigree, it'd be downright silly if the H8000 didn't give users access to smart content and 3D capability. I've had plenty of chances to check out this year's Smart Hub, and it remains a streamlined, content-focused experience on the H8000.
Once your H8000 is online, press the Smart Hub button on either of the included remotes and you'll see a string of apps lined up horizontally along the bottom of the screen. You can select from this quick bar, or navigate to the full Smart Hub screen, which allocates content into four separate pages: Movies & TV Shows, Games, Apps, and Multimedia. Highlights of the Smart Hub include the TV's ability to integrate information from your cable or satellite provider, and a slew of new, premium-branded games that you can play with an optional controller, or even a bicycle peripheral. You can read all about it here.
For picture quality fanatics, the ins and outs of the H8000's on-board menu software are probably equally as interesting as the TV's internet content. You'll find the usual toggles for backlight, color, contrast, and brightness in the Picture section, as well as a wide swath of fine-tuning controls in the Advanced menu. White Balance contains options for 2- and 10-point grayscale tracking correction, and the TV's color can be customized and calibrated in the Color Space menu. A setting called Smart LED controls the aggressiveness of the TV's micro-dimming—we highly recommend leaving it on to get the best contrast performance.
A very solid TV—but you're paying for the curve
If reviewing multiple curved TVs has taught me anything, it's that the design flourish adds notably to the price you pay. The UN55H8000 is quite expensive at an MSRP of $2,899—even the current sale price of $1,999 is steep compared to competition from Sharp, Vizio, and Sony. On the other hand, the H8000 is a slightly better performer than those three televisions.
While it's worth keeping in mind that you're paying for curvature with no conclusive evidence that it improves the viewing experience, it's not an outrageous price boost, especially if you just really want a curved TV. The 55-inch H8000 lives up to its price tag with commendable picture quality, great smart features, 3D functionality, and a bevy of extra accessories. It may not be the pinnacle of value, but this TV still delivers a premium experience that's matched by its svelte, unique appearance.
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