The F8000 Series is Samsung's top-shelf 1080p LCD television for 2013. Consequently, this TV is loaded with all of the company's best technologies and features. I'm especially happy to see the return of local dimming to this edge-lit LED model. In last year's top-shelf ES8000 Series, Samsung decided to omit local dimming of the actual LEDs and instead use a form of electronic dimming within the image, which hindered the display's performance in the areas of black level and especially screen uniformity. The company has wisely re-thought that decision and returned to a true form of local dimming, which has proven to be hugely beneficial.
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The F8000 Series includes screen sizes of 46, 55, 60, 65, and 75 inches. We reviewed the 55-inch UN55F8000, which is currently selling for $2,499.99 via Samsung's website and other retailers. In addition to its edge-LED design with Precision Black local dimming, this 1080p TV uses Samsung's Ultra Clear Panel to reject ambient light and Clear Motion Rate 1200 to reduce motion blur and film judder. This is an active 3DTV that comes with four pairs of 3D glasses. The TV sports built-in WiFi, a quad-core processor, and the Smart Hub Web platform, which has evolved into one of the best TV platforms for searching and accessing Web content.
Setup & Features
The UN55F8000 boasts a sleek, very attractive design, with just a hint of brushed-charcoal bezel around the 55-inch screen. A brushed-silver accent runs around the sides of the TV, matching the unique arched stand. The TV weighs just 37 pounds and measures 1.4 inches deep without the stand. The input panel includes four HDMI ports (one supports ARC, another supports MHL), one shared component/composite mini-jack, a standard A/V input, and an RF input to access the internal ATSC and ClearQAM tuners. There's no dedicated PC input. An Ethernet port is available for a wired network connection, as are three USB ports for media playback and the addition of USB peripherals like a keyboard. Built-in Bluetooth also allows you to wirelessly connect a keyboard, and the TV has an integrated camera that pops up from the top center of the panel. Samsung's EX-Link port is available for integration into an advanced control system, and the TV supports Samsung's Evolution Kit, which allows you to upgrade the TV via an expansion slot.
You'll also notice an IR output on the back panel, and a glance at the supplied accessories reveals an IR extender cable. The UN55F8000's On TV service allows you to very easily set up the included Smart Touch RF remote to control your cable/satellite set-top box. The On TV interface, which is part of Samsung's redesigned Smart Hub, allows you to view a grid of your service provider's program guide to browse and tune to desired channels, as well as colorful graphics for currently playing and upcoming shows. The Smart Touch remote takes a minimalist approach in terms of hard buttons, but it does include options for volume, channel, power for the TV and STB, DVR, Guide, and Exit, among others. In the center of the brushed-silver remote (which is backlit) is a touchpad for navigation. The More button pulls up an onscreen virtual remote through which you can directly input channel numbers, jump to recent channels you've viewed, and access other TV-related controls like Tools, PIP, etc. In years past, Samsung also included its standard IR remote with the top-shelf TVs, but this year, the Smart Touch remote is the only one in the package. While I did miss some of the dedicated buttons on the old IR remote, I found the Smart Touch remote to be very simple and enjoyable to use, easily the best touchpad I've tried in terms of speed and responsiveness for general and Web navigation. Smartphone and tablet owners can also use the free SmartView control app for iOS/Android, which will control your set-top box and includes a virtual keyboard for text input. As is so often the case, the virtual keyboard does not work within apps like Netflix and YouTube.
Speaking of apps, let's talk about the redesigned Smart Hub interface. The new layout consists of five pages: On TV, Apps, Social, Movies & TV Shows, and Photos, Videos & Music. Apps is where you'll find icons for all your favorite Web services, like Netflix, Pandora, Hulu Plus, VUDU, HBO Go, Facebook, Twitter, and many more. A Web browser is available that, thankfully, supports Flash and is very speedy in page loads and navigation. Through the Samsung Apps Store, you can add free and fee-based services. The Social page allows you to integrate your social-media services, along with Skype, into one page. Obviously, the inclusion of the built-in camera makes using Skype a breeze, and the camera can also be used for motion control of the TV and the My Mirror function with the various fitness apps. Photos, Videos & Music is where you can access your personal media files via DLNA or USB. The TV has good file support, including AVI, MKV, MOV, MP4, VOB, WMV, AAC, FLAC, M4A, MP3, OGG, WMA, JPG, PNG, and BMP. The UN55F8000 also supports Miracast so that you can view your tablet or smartphone screen on the larger TV screen via WiFi Direct. Finally, the page called Movies & TV Shows highlights content that's available across the different VOD platforms. Select a certain title, and the interface reveals multiple VOD services where that title is available for rent or purchase, with pricing. Many Web platforms now include these smart search tools, but this is by far the most intuitive and attractive one I've yet used. This statement really applies to the entire Smart Hub experience. I really like the new layout; it's clean, easy to navigate, and filled with helpful tools to unite your movie and TV watching in an intuitive way.
Motion and voice control are available again this year, and both are improved over last year's implementations. I still don't see much point in the motion control, but the voice commands are actually starting to become useful - not necessarily for things like volume and mute, which are just as easily accomplished via the remote, but for search options through the new S-Recommendation tool. Both the Smart Touch remote and the TV have microphones. Press and hold the remote's Voice button and ask a general question like, "What football games are on right now?" The TV will scan your program guide to find the content. It worked quite well. There's also a Recommendation button on the remote that will pull up banner along the bottom of the screen with content recommendations.
In the area of picture adjustments, Samsung has included pretty much everything you need. The company added a new picture mode called Natural that doesn't exactly fit my criteria for that adjective and only includes access to the most basic picture adjustments. The Movie mode is still the best preset from which to start, although the Standard mode - while dim out of the box - can be calibrated to serve as a good bright-room mode. (A professional calibrator can also customize Cal-Day and Cal-Night modes through the service menu.) Advanced picture adjustments include 2p and 10p white balance, flesh tone adjustment, an advanced color management system for all six color points, seven gamma presets, and digital/MPEG noise reduction. As in previous models, the Auto Motion Plus menu is where you can make adjustments to affect motion resolution and film judder. The Clear mode reduces motion blur without changing the quality of film sources, the Standard/Smooth modes add frame interpolation to reduce film judder, and the Custom mode lets you independently adjust the blur and judder tools. Within the Custom mode, you can also enable the LED Clear Motion control that adds backlight scanning to further reduce blur. Finally, the Smart LED and Cinema Black controls apply to the local-dimming function. Smart LED adjusts the aggressiveness of the local dimming, with options for High, Standard, Low, and Off (Standard is the default, and we'll discuss performance in the next section). Cinema Black turns off the LEDs in the black bars of a 2.35:1 film to make them completely black.
The Sound menu includes five sound modes, with Auto Volume to help reduce level differences between content. Using the TV's internal microphone, you can set up custom sound profiles based on your room's ambient noise and your hearing abilities. These modes can be helpful, but you still shouldn't expect miracles in terms of sound quality from the tiny down-firing speakers. The TV offers Dolby Digital Plus and DTS 5.1 decoding of internal audio sources, and you can set up the TV's optical digital audio output for PCM, Dolby Digital, DTS, or DTS Neo 2:5 (these settings only apply to internally decoded signals like QAM/antenna signals and streaming sources signals, not to HDMI sources, which are only output as 2.0 PCM).
Read about the Performance, the Competition and Comparison and the Conclusion of the Samsung UN55F8000 on Page 2 . . .