Home Theater Review

 

Samsung UN46C8000 3D LED LCD HDTV Reviewed

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HTR Product Rating

Performance
4.5 Stars
Value
4 Stars
Overall
4.5 Stars

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Samsung_UN46C8000_3D_LED_HDTV_review_resize.gifIn the 3D TV game thus far, Samsung certainly has an advantage in terms of sheer diversity, with models sized from 40 to 65 inches and offerings in the LED, LCD, and plasma categories. In its LED group, Samsung's 8000 Series, which includes screen sizes of 46 and 55 inches, sits near the very top of the line and consequently boasts the full complement of advanced video technologies and features. Samsung sent us the 46-inch UN46C8000 1080p TV. Like most of the current 3D-capable flat panels, the UN46C8000 requires active-shutter glasses and uses frame-sequential stereoscopic 3D technology, in which the TV alternately flashes a full-resolution left-eye and right-eye image. (Later this year, we will see 3D-capable flat panels that use passive glasses, but these displays can only show half the vertical resolution with 3D content.) The shutters in the glasses open and close in sync with the signal to direct the appropriate image to each eye; the IR emitter that syncs the 3D glasses with the TV is built into the UN46C8000's front panel. This TV does not come with any glasses, which will run you $150 to $200 apiece. The UN46C8000 supports 2D-to-3D conversion, allowing you to simulate a 3D effect with standard two-dimensional film and TV content.

Additional Resources
• Read more 3D HDTV reviews by the staff at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Learn more about the new 3D products by reading our CES 2011 coverage.

The UN46C8000 uses an edge LED lighting system and incorporates Precision Dimming technology, in which the LED zones can respond dynamically to the onscreen content, becoming brighter or dimmer and turning themselves off as needed to produce deeper blacks and better overall contrast (this is similar to the local dimming technology we've discussed in regards to full-array LED backlight systems). The UN46C8000 features Auto Motion Plus 240Hz technology to reduce motion blur and film judder, and it includes Samsung's Internet@TV portal, with access to VUDU, Netflix, Blockbuster OnDemand, YouTube, Pandora, and much more through the Samsung Apps Store. The TV has Skype functionality, with the addition of an optional USB camera. You can add the UN46C8000 to your home network via a wired connection, and it's also WiFi-ready (Samsung's wireless USB adapter supports 802.11n and costs $79.99). The AllShare function allows you to stream media content from a PC, DLNA-compliant server, phone, or camera directly to the TV. The UN46C8000 has EnergyStar 4.0 certification and carries an MSRP of $2,799.99.

Samsung-UN46C8000.gifSetup & Features
The UN46C8000 has an elegantly sleek form that distinguishes itself from the traditional glossy black designs without being boisterous. Its edge-lit nature allows the TV to measure just 0.9 inches deep. The cabinet has a brushed silver finish with a clear border, and the silver stand forgoes the square or oval base for a X-shaped, four-legged approach (thankfully, it still swivels). Samsung has redesigned the remote, replacing raised buttons with a nearly flat front face. The result is certainly cool to look at, but it's not terribly practical to use. On the plus side, the button layout is generally intuitive, the flat buttons still provide tactile feedback when you press them, and the remote does have full backlighting. That last one is crucial because the new flat face makes it virtually impossible to use this remote in the dark, since you can't distinguish the buttons by shape or orientation. Unfortunately, the remote is not motion-sensitive: You'll have to search in the dark for the light button along the top panel, and the backlighting turns itself off way too quickly. The remote does not include a QWERTY keyboard to make text input easier when using the Internet@TV portal.

Given the unit's thin form, Samsung had to get clever in its configuration of the connection panel, using single mini-jacks or mini-ports for many connections and including a whole bunch of adapters in the box. The four side-facing HDMI 1.4 inputs and single RF input don't require adapters, but you'll need adapters for the single component video input, the single PC input, and the Ethernet port. The RF input provides access to the TV's internal ATSC and Clear-QAM tuners, and picture-in-picture functionality is available. The connection panel also includes dual USB ports that support video, photo, and music playback, as well as the optional WiFi dongle and/or USB camera. A mini-plug IR jack (called EX-Link) supports RS-232 for integration into an advanced control system.

As usual, Samsung provides just about every picture adjustment that the enthusiast or professional calibrator could want in a higher-end TV. In addition to four color-temperature presets, you can precisely adjust white balance via RGB gain/offset controls or a 10-point white balance control. There's a seven-step gamma control, and you can choose between multiple color spaces: auto, native, or a custom mode that lets you independently tailor the six color points. The menu also includes adjustments for fleshtone, digital/MPEG noise reduction, and edge enhancement, as well as Expert Pattern and RGB Only modes designed to aid in the setup process. The Smart LED control lets you dictate how aggressive you want the Precision Dimming function to be: You can turn it off (although I can't imagine why you would), or you can set the effect to low, standard, or high. Standard is the default setting, and I found this to be perfectly acceptable: The low setting makes blacks look a little lighter but reduces the glow effect around the LED zones, while the high setting can produce a darker black but results in more noticeable glow around edges (we'll discuss performance in the next section).

The UN46C8000 has a true 240Hz refresh rate with 2D content, and this year's Auto Motion Plus 240Hz menu has more customization than previous models, with options for off, clear, standard, smooth, and custom. The standard and smooth options use varying degrees of frame interpolation to produce smooth motion, with no film judder. The clear mode is a good choice for someone who wants the benefit of blur reduction but does not like way frame interpolation changes the look of film content. The new custom mode allows you to separately tailor the blur reduction and de-judder functions, adding or subtracting from each to produce the desired effect. (Again, we'll discuss performance in the next section.) If you'd rather not engage Auto Motion Plus, Samsung also includes a setting for LED Motion Plus, which flashes the LEDs to reduce motion blur. This control now sports three settings: normal (which handles the entire screen area the same), cinema (which is designed to make the middle of the display area clearer), and ticker (which focuses on the top and bottom of the display area). Finally, the UN46C8000 has six aspect ratios, including a screen fit mode that displays images with no overscan.

Since this is a 3D TV, the video setup menu includes a section dedicated to 3D setup and adjustment. You can select a 3D mode (with eight options: off, 2D to 3D, side by side, top & bottom, line by line, vertical stripe, checker board, frame sequential), enable 3D to 2D conversion (where only the left-eye image is displayed), adjust the 3D viewpoint to compensate for an off-center seating location, adjust the image depth when converting 2D to 3D, and perform 3D picture correction and optimization. By default, the TV is set up to automatically detect and display a 3D signal, offering an onscreen prompt to put on the 3D glasses. This occurred flawlessly with both Blu-ray 3D and DirecTV 3D content. When the TV detects a 3D signal, it automatically switches to a special 3D video mode, in which many picture controls are still adjustable. This allows you to separately calibrate the 3D picture, which is helpful because the 3D glasses noticeably alter the image's brightness and color. In 3D mode, you can choose between two picture modes (standard and movie), and you can make all of the basic and most of the advanced picture adjustments. You can't access the Eco mode, 10p white balance, or LED Motion Plus (which is enabled).

On the audio side, the TV's setup menu includes five preset SRS TheaterSound modes, balance, a five-band equalizer to further tweak various frequencies within each mode, SRS TruSurround HD, SRS TruDialog to improve vocal clarity, and an Auto Volume function that reduces level variations between TV shows and commercials. The speakers' sound quality and dynamic ability were better than I've heard from recent uber-thin models, but naturally I still recommend that you mate the TV with an external sound system, even if it's just a sound bar.

Once you add the TV to your network via the wired or optional wireless connection, the Internet@TV portal is easily launched via a button on the remote, and your main source continues to play in a small window at upper left of screen. The interface is intuitively designed, the system responds quickly to remote commands, and navigation within the apps themselves is logical and simple. The Apps Store is also easy to use and provides a degree of flexibility and customization that you won't currently find in other TVs' Web-based platforms.

Performance
Thus far, I haven't found edge-lit LED/LCDs to be the ideal choice for the serious theaterphile--primarily because the models I've tested have all had average black levels and blatant brightness-uniformity problems that hurt their performance with darker film material, especially in a dark room. The UN46C8000 is the first edge-lit model I've tested to use Precision Dimming, and it makes a world of difference. Because of its ability to independently adjust the LEDs in each zone and shut them off as needed, this TV produced deep blacks in my demo scenes without forcing me to turn down the backlight and limit overall brightness. The result is an image with excellent contrast that can look good in a bright or dark viewing environment. While the black level wasn't quite as deep as the best plasma and local-dimming LED models I've tested in the past, it was still beyond reproach, and the UN46C8000 also did a very good rendering fine black details.

Read more about the performance of the Samsung UN46C8000 on Page 2.
continue to page two
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