In 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.
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 [email protected] 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.
Setup & 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 [email protected] 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 [email protected] 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.
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.One potential issue with local/precision dimming is that, because the
LEDs are not a 1:1 ratio with the pixels, the lighting effect is
imprecise. You can see glow around bright objects, such as a white logo
or an illuminated face against a black background. With the UN46C8000
set to its default Smart LED setting, I did notice some glow in those
scenes where bright objects are surrounded by black, but it wasn't
excessive and did not hurt the saturation of nearby objects. That said,
I applaud Samsung's decision to let the end user adjust the Smart LED
effect: If the glow is a distraction, the low setting can help reduce
it but will slightly raise the black level in the process. If you'd
prefer an even darker black and aren't bothered by the glow effect,
then the high setting is worth trying out.
In the color realm, the UN46C8000's primary and secondary color points
appear close to accurate, resulting in natural-looking color. Compared
with my reference Epson projector, the UN46C8000's red looked slightly
off, veering toward magenta. The Warm2 color temperature appears to be
fairly neutral with brighter content but grows increasingly cool (or
blue) as the image darkens. Compared with the projector, the
UN46C8000's blacks had a bluish tinge. Skintones generally looked
neutral, and the image didn't have that excessive green push I've seen
elsewhere. If you wish to dial in a more neutral palette, especially
with darker content, I recommend a professional calibration.
Detail is excellent with both HD and SD content. The UN46C8000 has no
trouble rendering the finest details in HDTV and Blu-ray content, and
it also does a good job of upconverting SD sources. In other processing
news, the TV properly deinterlaces 480i sources. It passed all the
tests on the HQV Benchmark DVD (Silicon Optix) with flying colors. With
my real-world Gladiator (DreamWorks) DVD demo--the Coliseum flyover in
chapter 12--one rooftop had a hint of moiré when the film mode was set
for Auto2, but the scene was completely clean with the film mode set
for Auto1. I also found no fault with the UN46C8000's 1080i
deinterlacing; once again, it passed the tests on the HD HQV Benchmark
Blu-ray disc (Silicon Optix), and it cleanly rendered my real-world
demos from Mission Impossible III (Paramount) and Ghost Rider (Sony). I
was also pleased with the lack of digital noise in the image; even with
the TV's noise reduction functions turned off, solid-colored
backgrounds and light-to-dark transitions looked clean.
Using test patterns from the FPD Benchmark Software BD, I found that
Auto Motion Plus can significantly cut down on motion blur. In the
clear AMP mode, the motion-resolution pattern was clear to HD 720 but
not quite as clear at the HD 1080 mark as the best plasmas I've tested.
When I switched to the custom mode and set blur reduction to its
maximum, I saw perhaps a hint of improvement in image clarity, but it
was subtle at best. I also tried turning off AMP and just using LED
Motion Plus, and I saw no discernible difference in image clarity with
the setting on or off. If you're especially sensitive to motion blur,
Auto Motion Plus is the way to go. As for AMP's de-judder function, I
personally preferred either the clear mode or the custom mode with
de-judder set to zero and blur reduction set to 10. These options gave
me the benefit of blur reduction without altering the quality of film
motion in TV, DVD, and Blu-ray content. But, if you like that smoothing
effect, the standard setting did offer reliable performance without
making the image look excessively smooth.
Finally, it was time to test the UN46C8000's 3D performance. I had two
other 3D TVs on hand for comparison: the Panasonic TC-P50GT25 and the
Toshiba 55WX800U. I used Blu-ray 3D content from Ice Age: Dawn of the
Dinosaurs, Monster House, and Monsters vs. Aliens, as well as DirecTV
3D content. The UN46C8000's image brightness, contrast, and detail were
all solid, and the 3D image had a good sense of depth. One potential
performance issue with 3D content is crosstalk or ghosting, in which
left-eye information bleeds into the right eye (and vice versa) to
create traces or ghosts around edges. In this respect, the UN46C8000
performed much better than the Toshiba but not as good as the
Panasonic. Some ghosting was evident with all the different content I
used, but it was never excessive. I experimented with the 3D viewpoint
control to see if adjusting the perspective would eliminate any of the
ghosting effects; I found that, while you could rid specific ghosts by
changing the viewpoint, it usually added new ghosts somewhere else.
Still, it's nice that Samsung allows you to change the viewpoint to
accommodate your seating position, which is a function I haven't seen
in other 3D TVs. I also experimented with the UN46C8000's 2D-to-3D
conversion and found it to be more effective than the Panasonic
implementation. Using the Corpse Bride Blu-ray disc (Buena Vista), I
set the 3D image depth to its maximum and felt that the TV created a
reasonably realistic 3D effect. It's obviously not as good as you'll
get with a true Blu-ray 3D disc, and I personally would prefer to watch
2D in 2D; but, if you're intrigued by the idea of 2D-to-3D conversion,
the Samsung version is effective. Finally, it's worth noting that, of
the three 3D TVs I've reviewed thus far, the Samsung glasses were the
most comfortable to wear for an extended period of time.
As I mentioned above, the UN46C8000 does exhibit some ghosting with 3D
content. Also, a lack of brightness uniformity was evident. With white
and gray test patterns, certain portions of the UN46C8000's screen were
brighter than others. The outer edges look brighter than the middle of
the screen. However, this was difficult to see with real-world signals,
especially brighter HDTV and movie content. Where brightness uniformity
is usually a problem is in darker scenes; but, in this case, Precision
Dimming often rendered that problem moot because the LEDs shut off. In
the instances where I could see a lack of brightness uniformity in
darker signals, the screen didn't look as blatantly patchy or splotchy
as I've seen in other edge-lit models. With my review sample, in 2.35:1
movies like Casino Royale (Sony) and Pirates of the Caribbean (Buena
Vista), the bottom two corners were a little brighter than the rest of
the black bars, and I occasionally saw a hint of banding in slow-moving
pans. Again, the Samsung does a much better job in this respect than
other edge-lit models, but this is not a problem you generally
encounter with plasma or full-array LEDs.
The UN46C8000's viewing angle is not as good as a plasma, nor is it as
good as the last few LCDs that have passed through these doors. The TV
produces a watchable image at wide angles, but the picture loses more
saturation than I'd like.
The UN46C8000 has a reflective screen that's designed to reject ambient
light and help blacks look darker in a well-lit viewing environment.
While the screen is successful in that regard, it's still highly
reflective, which can make it difficult to see fine black details
during the day. You'll want to be mindful of where you position this TV
in relation to windows and other light sources.
Competition and Comparison
Compare the Samsung UN46C8000 with its competition by reading the
reviews for the Panasonic TC-P50GT25 3D Plasma,
Samsung PN58C8000 3D Plasma
and UN55C7000 3D LED LCD,
and the Sony KDL-55HX800 3D LED LCD.
Learn more about 3D HDTVs by visiting our 3D HDTV section.
The UN46C8000 is one of those TVs that's just easy to like. It produces
an attractive image with little adjustment out of the box, but it also
has the tools you'd need to calibrate an even better-looking picture.
The TV is loaded with worthwhile features, from [email protected] to Skype
capability to WiFi readiness to DLNA media streaming. And let's not
forget the sleek, stylish cabinet design. Of course, these perks don't
come cheap. The UN46C8000's $2,800 MSRP falls at the higher end of the
price spectrum for a 3D TV around the 46-inch screen size, but its
street price is closer to the $2,000 mark. In the 3D realm, Samsung's
biggest competitor may be...Samsung. While I have not personally
reviewed Samsung's 3D-capable plasmas, it has been my and other
reviewers' experience thus far that plasma delivers a better 3D
experience, particularly in terms of crosstalk. Samsung's C8000 3D
plasma line has gotten some great reviews for its 3D performance, and
you can get more screen size for your money. If 3D is your primary
reason for a new TV purchase, then you might want to give the plasma
line a look. However, if you're shopping for the complete TV package
and have your heart set on a super-thin LED design, the UN46C8000 will