From an industrial design standpoint, there are good looking HDTVs and then there is Samsung's latest, the UN55D8000 3D LED HDTV reviewed here. Sadly, the good news stops there for in its quest for beauty, Samsung had to make some pretty big concessions when it came to the UN55D8000's performance. Retailing for $3,599.99 the UN55D8000 is the largest in Samsung's Ultra-Slim Bezel line, which according to Samsung creates a "virtually edgeless picture." One look at the UN55D8000 and you begin to understand what they're on about for it may be one of the truest statements ever muttered by a manufacturer when describing their own product. While there is technically a very narrow aluminum bezel surrounding the UN55D8000's 55-inch diagonal screen it doesn't really register visually; instead it appears as if someone has traced the outer edge of the screen with a Sharpie marker in order to indicate where the picture is supposed to end.
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• Find a Blu-ray player to get the most out of the UN55D8000.
The display itself measures in at 48 and a half inches wide by nearly 28 inches tall and just over an inch deep where the UN55D8000 connects to its aluminum legs (base), which itself is 12 inches deep. The plate that attaches the legs to the display to facilitate table mounting can be removed to assist in wall mounting, which brings the UN55D8000's depth to less than an inch. It was difficult to get a precise measurement of the display's true depth and Samsung doesn't provide one on their website - suffice to say it was narrower than my iPhone when the two were placed side by side. Because the UN55D8000 takes its physical cues from Kate Moss, it should come as no surprise that it doesn't weigh much either, in fact without the stand this 55-inch beauty tips the scales at a meager 36 pounds. Attach its table stand and the UN55D8000's weight jumps to 41 pounds.
Aside from its physical appearance the UN55D8000 is a 55-inch 1920x1080 display with a reported contrast ratio of 25,000,000:1 (Dynamic) and 240Hz refresh rate, though Samsung does tout the UN55D8000's Clear Motion Rate (CMR), which they've attached a number of 960 to. According to Samsung, Clear Motion Rate goes beyond simple refresh rates (of which the UN55D8000's 240Hz is already quite good) and takes into account three factors: panel refresh rate, image processing speed and backlight technology. Using an algorithm that somehow takes all of the above factors into consideration, Samsung has come up with a number or CMR for the UN55D8000 of 960. 960 what? According to Samsung, CMR determines the thinnest line the display is capable of displaying on a moving image, so the thinner the line the higher the CMR number and the better the motion clarity. Of course Samsung is the only manufacturer to use the "CMR standard" because, well, they made it up. The display itself uses LED backlighting though its LEDs are located along the left and right edges of the set, which allows the UN55D8000 to keep its slim physique.
The UN55D8000 is 3D compatible employing Samsung's active 3D technology, meaning active shutter glasses will be required to view 3D content on the UN55D8000, which, since this review's initial publishing, are now included in the box from Samsung. That's right, Samsung now packages every UN55D8000 with two pairs of rechargeable, active shutter glasses. For more on the difference between the various 3D formats as well as how they work, please check out Home Theater Review's The ABCs of 3D: Key Terms You Need to Know.
As far as inputs go the UN55D8000 sports the usual suspects: four 3D compliant HDMI inputs, one component input, one PC (D-sub 15 Pin) input, a PC audio input (mini jack), Ethernet port, three USB 2.0 ports, a digital audio output and a single audio output (mini jack). Other features standard with the UN55D8000 include: Samsung's Smart TV with Apps interface, Built-in WiFi, AllShare DLNA Networking, Wide Color Enhancer Plus, Ultra Clear Panel, ConnectShare Movie, Skype, Anynet+ and Micro Dimming Plus. Samsung's Smart TV is basically their version or way of displaying Apps on your HDTV - Apps that include, but are not limited to: Netflix, Facebook, Twitter etc. The UN55D8000's Ultra Clear panel is said to absorb most ambient light, keeping the UN55D8000 from turning into a mirror when trying to watch your favorite HD programming. ConnectShare Movie is a fancy way of saying you can connect other Samsung devices to the UN55D8000. Lastly, Samsung's Micro Dimming Plus is Samsung's way of controlling the UN55D8000's LED back, I mean edge, lights so that it can boost their output or turn them off completely to preserve the image's integrity by essentially dividing the display into a series of sections and being able to control them independently. Sounds neat, as do a lot of the UN55D8000's touted features, but do they work?
Unboxing the UN55D8000 is a job for two people, not because the display is heavy, but because it's so thin and that once in hand it feels like you could literally fold it in half like a sheet of paper. Attaching the included base isn't difficult and in mere minutes my wife and I had the UN55D8000 out of its box and onto our Omni+ Vent table ready to connect to the rest of our home theater system.
Because of the UN55D8000's thin profile and side mounted HDMI inputs, my reference Transparent HDMI cables didn't work and I had to substitute in HDMI cables from Planet Waves, which featured 90-degree connectors and slightly narrower plastic surrounds compared to my Transparent HDMI cables. I connected my Sony universal 3D Blu-ray player, Apple TV and Dish Network HD DVR to the UN55D8000 via one-meter runs of Planet Waves HDMI cable.
Once everything was connected, it was time to get down to the business of calibration. Out of the box the Samsung will lead you through a few setup procedures that take no time at all and are necessary to ensure the UN55D8000's proper performance. The most important of these steps is the first one asking you if the UN55D8000 will be displayed in a store or in a home. Be sure to select "home", trust me. Once the initial setup procedures are out of the way it was time to pull up the UN55D8000's on-screen menus, which I must say are among the best in the industry. Right off the bat I disabled any and all dynamic contrast modes, auto motion or smooth motion processing, localized dimming - the works. Why? Because these features and features like them don't really enhance the visual experience the way manufacturers think they do; instead they alter it and in some ways downright ruin it. Furthermore, with respect to the UN55D8000's dynamic contrast modes, smooth motion processing and localized dimming - they're completely noticeable - in a bad way. The UN55D8000's localized dimming makes the display appear as if it can't make up its mind as to how bright it wants to be at any given moment, especially when viewing broadcast or streaming content.
Once the UN55D8000's many "features" were disabled, I inserted my Digital Video Essentials disc on Blu-ray and began calibrating the display. Out of the box the "Standard" picture mode is a pretty good jumping off point and required the least amount of tweaking using the DVE disc. I also went ahead and reset my levels and re-calibrated the UN55D8000 using Monster's HDTV Calibration Wizard disc to see if I could achieve similar if not identical results with a more cost effective solution, which I did.
Once calibrated, I connected the UN55D8000 to my home network via its built-in WiFi, which is more than just a little handy. Connecting to my home network was a snap and once connected allowed me to pull up the UN55D8000's dashboard, which keeps your source material visible in the upper left corner while showing you a bevy of options both App and straight Internet based in the UN55D8000's remaining real estate.
At this point I should probably talk about the UN55D8000's remote for a second. It's double sided and has a slight slope to its shape. On one side rests the UN55D8000's controls such as channel, volume etc. On the other side you'll find a full, though not full-size, QWERTY keyboard. I'm beginning to think that more and more remotes will feature QWERTY keyboards, though I've yet to encounter one that I like. The UN55D8000's remote comes the closest for me; however its shape is awkward and while I know why the remote has a slope to it - to facilitate typing - who is Samsung kidding? Plus, for whatever reasons these multi-tasking remotes seem to be more directional (though Samsung begs to differ) and require more force in order get them and the display to play nice with one another.
I began my evaluation of the UN55D8000 with a little NBA playoff action between the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls. Right off the bat what grabbed me most was the UN55D8000's ability to render colors so vividly. Colors, especially primary colors, were rendered brilliantly yet managed to feel natural at the same time. Fine details, such as the weave and subtle striping of the players' uniforms, were rendered with ease and visible from my viewing position roughly 10 feet away. Skin tones looked natural and possessed an appropriate amount of detail without looking overly sharp or worse - glossy. Contrast was great until I started focusing on some of the darker regions of the image in which case it was more or less average. Noise was kept to a minimum (remember, I was relying solely on the UN55D8000's internal video processing) and edge fidelity, again in the lighter regions of the image, was appropriately sharp. Motion was smooth and didn't require any fancy image interpolation or processing to remain smooth in the face of some of the more rapid whip pans and fast break shots.
Read more about the UN55B8000's performance on Page 2.