You can record programmes from the UE55C8000’s built-in Freeview HD tuner to USB drives too. These drives are supposed to be a minimum of 4GB, though actually, I got a 2GB stick to work! Handily the recordings are of the direct DVB-T2 tuner stream, so as you would expect, there doesn’t - to my eyes, at least! - appear to be any loss of picture quality in the recording process. Though oddly, it did seem to me that recordings sounded fractionally more hissy - an artefact, perhaps, of the playback engine. But anyway, it’s a really minor point from which I’m going to move swiftly on.
The USB recording system is reasonably flexible, with around 60 per cent of the stupidly large collection of USB sticks I’ve amassed over the years working fine. Panasonic’s new USB-recording TVs, by comparison, only appear to reliably work with a particular pair of Buffalo HDD drives.
An entirely predictable limitation of the USB recording system is that you can only play back the recordings you make on the same TV you used to make them; you can’t pass episodes of programmes around to your friends. It’s worth noting, too, that the TimeShift mode, as Samsung calls it, only operates for a maximum of 90 minutes.
As I’d expect of a premium, cutting edge TV in 2010, the UE55C8000 has some pretty major league multimedia credentials. It can join up with a DLNA-enabled PC, for ‘live’ streaming, and in conjunction with the USB ports, the TV supports a huge array of audio and video codecs, including DivX HC, XviD, MPEG4, JPEG, H.264 BP/MP/HP, WMV v9, AC3, AAC, MP3, and DTS core. Because I know how important this can be to some of our readers, I’ve scanned the relevant page from the manual for your delectation.
Still further multimedia action comes courtesy of Samsung’s AllShare system, which allows you to connect the TV with mobile phones and other network-capable devices. If this works with your phone, for instance, it could be used to view call arrivals, SMS messages, and schedules set on your phone.
And still we’re not done with the UE55C8000’s multimedia talents. It also supports Samsung’s Widget-driven Internet@TV online platform.
The presentation of this system has been greatly improved from last year’s service, but if I’m honest, I did feel that the available content was a bit more limited than I’d hoped for.
Highlights include the inevitable YouTube, plus rovi TV listings, Twitter, the Picasa online photo album site, and perhaps best of all, Skype - provided you add an external camera, of course. Even the UE55C8000 hasn’t managed to build in a camera for you!
Samsung has also now developed the 'Apps' online feature it was really just trailing on last year’s TVs, with apps already available from the likes of AccuWeather, USA Today, the History Channel, and Getty Images. Plus there’s a small group of extremely basic games. However, I felt a little disappointed by how shallow these apps are, and wouldn’t envisage myself using more than one or two of them on any remotely regular basis.
Of course, though, the 55C8000’s multimedia content is completely open to changes and expansion in the months to come, given the TV’s updatable structure.
With so many multimedia features at your disposal on the 55C8000, it’s a relief to find that Samsung has refined its onscreen menu system well to cope with the multimedia load, with all your multimedia options being accessed via an attractive and logical circular, pseudo 3D menu structure.
To conclude this lengthy multimedia section, I do find it a bit of a shame that Samsung couldn’t have built wi-fi into a £3,000 TV as standard. Or even included a wi-fi USB dongle for free. But there you go. I guess if you can afford £3k on a telly, you can probably also find a few bob more for a dongle.