Samsung UN55ES8000F LED TV Review
Samsung’s ES8000 has easily the most daring new features on the TV market at the moment, which is why we gave it our Innovator of the Year award for 2012.
Samsung positioned the ES8000 as its high-end flagship for 2012, and it shows. The TV comes with a staggering amount of extra features and interface options: a traditional remote, Samsung’s new smart remote, and an IR blaster are all in the box. In addition, users will find voice and motion controls and a built-in camera. These are easily the most daring new features on the TV market at the moment (which is why it won Innovator of the Year for 2012). To the best of our knowledge, no other company has yet attempted to integrate voice recognition and motion tracking software into a television. The ES8000 also boasts dual-core processors, which handle various tasks to boost its internet speed and browser interface, as well as speeding up most of its interface-based processes.
With all of this new and rather flashy technology, it seems more important than ever that this expensive high-end series from Samsung have the bite to match its bark: namely, that it balances function with all of its form in order to back its MSRP of nearly $4000. At such a price, it’s hard for a customer review to be unbiased—after all, if you spend that much on a TV, you’d want it to be the best of the best. Has Samsung jumped the gun on this technology, or is it truly the revelation of TV control that it ought to be?
A TV with such expansive technology deserves an equally innovative appearance.
We were surprised, and skeptical, when we reviewed LG’s 47LM6700 earlier this year and saw its sci-fi, futuristic build. It appears that Samsung has taken a step in a similar direction with the UN55ES8000. It’s not out-of-this-world looking, but the stand is very non-traditional—an open platform consisting of two adjoined metal branches.
The panel itself is very thin and features a nearly invisible bezel, which serves as a sort of optical illusion, making the TV’s screen look bigger than it is. The only noticeable breaks in the perfect rectangular screen are directly on the top, where the imbedded camera and microphone rest, and directly on the bottom, where a gently glowing protrusion reads “Samsung.”
It’s a smart—if bold—design. We wonder how this minimalist set would look in Grandma's Victorian-style living room. A wise man once said that a TV should disappear when it isn’t on. We're thinking perhaps the ES8000 is more likely to outshine everything else in your living room or bedroom, even while it’s off.
The UN55ES8000 features a broad range of connectivity options, placed smartly to the back and side of a recessed, L-shaped cutout on the back of the TV to optimize accessibility. Along with 3 USB and 3 HDMI ports, users will find horizontally-inclined ports for analog audio out, DVI audio in, and the split composite AV input mentioned above. Along the underside of this L-shaped cutout, the ES8000 has input ports for a service update (EX-LINK), a cable (RF) in, a full component AV input, and a LAN (ethernet) input.
Smart TV Features
Extensive menus, a web browser, and a decent selection of apps will keep you busy even when you can’t find something to watch.
The extra features on the ES8000—voice control, a touch pad remote, motion sensing—would probably never have been developed and implemented into the TV’s infrastructure if not for the major innovations happening in the way of smart TVs and their transformation from passive to active viewing devices.
The days of falling subject to the whims of broadcast devices—satellite or cable—are over. Sure, plenty of people still have and use these—and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, the array of content available on internet-ready TVs has become a major selling point for big names like Samsung, Sony, LG, and Panasonic.
There’s so much content available through Samsung’s Smart Hub that we’d need a separate article to really detail it for you. In short, however, it's front and center as a reason to invest in the ES8000.
Those voice and gesture controls, however, were hit-or-miss in our trials. It seemed a bit odd talking to a TV, yelling commands instead of just pressing a button on a remote control, but we eventually got the hang of it. It's a learning curve that the manufacturer is well aware of: When our staff met with some of Samsung’s engineers, they cautioned us that learning to properly use the voice and motion commands would take a little time.
Are all the eggs in one feature-filled basket?
As one might expect, we went into testing the Samsung UN55ES8000 with a touch of skepticism. The TV allows for motion-based control, has a built-in camera and microphones, functions with voice commands, and still has two traditional remote controls. In other words, it's got a lot of fancy extra features that are useful, but would ultimately be wasted on a TV that couldn’t do what TVs do best: display content with accurate color, contrast, and smoothness.
So we were naturally pleased to discover during our testing process that this TV is... quality. It tested with a surprisingly deep black level and a strong peak brightness, giving it a sizable and impressive maximum contrast ratio. On top of that, it only had minor color temperature errors and tested with an accurate color gamut. To top if off, smooth color curves mean all of the colors of the rainbow are going to get equal weighting and credence.
For its $3799 MSRP, a lot of what you’re paying for is extra features. But it’s good to know there’s a strong TV underneath the apps, voice commands, and microphones.
Despite our negative past experiences with 3D, the effects shown off by Samsung’s flagship LCD were quite impressive.
So far, 2012 is looking like a great year for 3D. We were pleasantly surprised by the 3D effects of LG’s LM6700 back in March, and from the looks of the ES8000’s 3D showing, Samsung is throwing its hat into the ring as a competitor for the best commercial 3D available.
The UN55ES8000 handles 3D in the same way as Samsung's other 3D-enabled 2012 models. The TV comes with 4 pairs of active-shutter 3D glasses, which must be assembled and packed with batteries before they’ll link to the TV via Bluetooth. Pressing the “3D” button on the remote will shift the TV from 2D to 3D mode, which can then be viewed through an “activated” pair of 3D glasses.
The 3D we saw on the UN55ES8000 was quite good. Background settings had depth: Subjects in the middle area of the depth field seemed to inhabit their own plane between the background and the 3D effects.
You’ll be quite pleased with this TV, no matter how you interact with it.
At its current MSRP of $3799, the Samsung UN55ES8000 might seem overpriced, but there are some things to consider before staking that claim.
Testing the ES8000’s core performance—outside of its innovative new interfacing features—yielded impressive results. It’s got a great handle on color and contrast and vies for dominance with the stronger core performers of 2012. Add to that its streamlined appearance, stylish stand, and more or less invisible bezel, and you already have yourself an aesthetically and objectively sound television.
But it also comes packaged with an awful lot of available internet content, which the well-organized Smart Hub presents to the user after uttering just a few words: “Hi TV! Smart Hub.” Feeling a little unsure as to the effectiveness of the ES8000’s voice-and motion controls? The engineers we met with acknowledged a learning curve phase, so we imagine that whether these are useful features or marketing gimmicks will ultimately depend on the user, based on this knowledge.
If you’ve got the cash and want to get a jump on Samsung’s 2012 flagship, you’ll likely be quite pleased with this TV.
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