Review Price £1,999.95
Samsung kicked off the whole 3D 'ruck' last year in typically bold style with its C8000 TV series. This combined sensational design with cutting-edge 3D tech and a much-improved online service. Which is, um, exactly the deal on offer from this year's D8000 series, as it happens!
Don't take this to mean that Samsung has just been sitting on its hands since the C8000s were launched. On the contrary, in surprisingly many ways the D8000 series - as represented here by the huge 55in UE55D8000 - is a sizeable step forward from its predecessors.
This is particularly true where design is concerned. For Samsung has sensibly realised that forever focusing on trimming down its TVs' rear ends doesn't necessarily make much sense when you consider that most normal folk spend the vast majority of their time watching their TVs from the front. The result is a TV that's slightly deeper around the back than last year's models, but which has practically no bezel at all. Honestly.
The 'frame' around the 55in screen measures a mere 5mm across, making it easily the slimmest bezel we've seen. It's a marvel of engineering that becomes even harder to get your head round when you consider that the 55D8000 is driven - as with last year's Samsung C8000 series - by edge LED lighting. In other words, somewhere under that minuscule, metallic bezel Samsung has found the space to tuck all the lights it needs to drive a 55in screen. The mind truly boggles.
As well as making the 55D8000 stand out from crowded TV shelves, the nearly bezel-free design also, of course, enables the 55D8000 to occupy spaces that other 55in TVs might struggle to fit. Our experience with various 3D TVs to date, moreover, suggests that trimmer bezels can enhance 3D's potential to immerse you in the worlds on show. We're not entirely sure why this might be so, but suspect it has something to do with the way normal, chunky TV frames tend to create a false, two-dimensional border to the three-dimensional image shown inside.
The UE55D8000 is Samsung's flagship 2011 TV (last year's C9000 flagships are continuing rather than being replaced), so it's no surprise to find it brimming with features. The highlight of which - from this writer's point of view, at least! - is its new 'Smart TV' functionality.
We're only too aware that not everyone is exactly bubbling over with excitement at the arrival of Smart TVs, with their online, apps-based functionality, feeling that they're an unnecessary complication of a TV with something that can be done better on other types of device. But while it's not perfect, we honestly think that a few hours spent with the UE55D8000 could be enough to change many naysayers' minds.
For starters, there's the Smart Hub. This new onscreen menu, accessed via a dedicated button on the remote control, gives you access to the myriad sources the TV supports from a single, beautifully designed, graphics-heavy and 'hi-res' portal screen. You can get directly to video, photo or music files stored on any USB sticks you might have slotted into the TV's three USB ports; you can jump straight to the built-in HD tuners (both Freesat and Freeview are supported); you can explore the contents of a DLNA PC if you have one networked (either via Ethernet or the 55D8000's built-in Wi-Fi system); you can head off onto the Internet via a built-in browser; or you can delve into Samsung's new, improved, apps-driven online service.
There's also a new Video section that gets its own space on the Hub and allows you to access information on most of the films you can think of, recommend films to friends, and even track down streamed screenings of a film (though this side of the service wasn't fully supported on our pre-official launch sample).
There's even a Universal Search tool that can be set to trawl the Internet at large as well as just all of your local 'on TV' content.
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