Yet more good news concerns the UE55ES8000’s sharpness. HD images look phenomenally detailed, crisp and replete with texture. Indeed, it’s hard to think of any other brand other than, perhaps, Philips that’s able to deliver such an emphatic sense of the ‘HD advantage’.
Not that the UE55ES8000 only likes an HD diet, mind you. It’s also one of the best 55in standard definition upscalers we’ve seen, managing to add sharpness and detail to the image while simultaneously suppressing noise and retaining colour integrity. Even notoriously poor-quality standard-def channels like Investigation on Sky manage to look genuinely enjoyable.
Contributing to the image’s sharpness is the screen’s excellent motion handling. There’s less blur than there was on last year’s Samsung screens, which by default means there’s also less of it than on the vast majority of LCD TVs generally. Even better, the extra processing power available to the UE55ES8000 means that Samsung’s motion processing systems are much more effective than they ever have been before, proving able to reduce blur and judder without causing nearly as many unwanted side effects as has previously been the case.
Certainly we found ourselves using the set’s MotionPlus system (albeit only on its relatively low-power Clear setting) much more than we ever have before.
We actually found MotionPlus particularly effective when watching 3D, now that the high-powered processing has made this possible. Having less judder in the image makes 3D viewing notably less tiring, as well as making the full HD advantage of the UE55ES8000’s active 3D system more instantly obvious.
It’s not actually the motion handling that’s the star attraction of the UE55ES8000’s 3D pictures, though. In fact, that honour could belong to any of three other 3D attributes.
First, crosstalk is massively reduced from Samsung’s 2011 3D TVs. In fact, it’s almost completely gone, generally only cropping up over very distant and very bright objects.
The impact this has on the UE55ES8000’s 3D pictures can’t be overstated, as it allows you to appreciate much more clearly the outstanding amounts of detail and sharpness in full HD pictures from 3D Blu-rays. With everything from Tangled to Avatar and Thor we saw details in the picture that we honestly hadn’t felt aware of before.
Also contributing to the amount of detail in the 3D image is their outstanding brightness and colour vibrancy. Putting on one of the two pairs of free, stylish - and light - 3D glasses results in much less of a reduction in brightness than we usually see with active 3D technology, enabling 3D images to deliver almost as much snap and punch as 2D images can. The fact that Samsung has been able to achieve this without compromising on crosstalk is pretty remarkable based on our previous experience with active 3D screens.
Aside from there still being room for a marginal further improvement where crosstalk is concerned, the UE55ES8000’s 3D pictures only suffer one real irritation. Which is that while watching dark scenes, the high brightness level the screen employs when in 3D mode causes quite obvious jets of light to appear in all four corners of the screen.
You can reduce the backlight level if you wish, just as you do to remove such consistency problems during 2D viewing. But of course, brightness is more important to the 3D picture on account of the active shutter glasses, so knocking down the backlight level feels like more of a sacrifice than it does in 2D mode. (see my comment below for an update on this issue)
We were also a little troubled by how exposed the new Samsung glasses are to light interference from either side of your head. This is easily avoided if you watch in the dark, though - and it’s been suggested to us that there may be a tweaked design of the glasses in the offing.
The last thing we tested on the UE55ES8000 was its input lag. And while we were satisfied as console gamers with the 38-40ms figure we measured during the majority of our tests, we were a little surprised to also register an occasional measurement of nearer 70ms. Since we had the screen in its Game mode (a mode that’s still bizarrely hidden within the ‘General’ section of the ‘System’ menu) and had all the screen’s processing turned off when we performed this test, it’s unclear where these occasional lag ‘spikes’ might be coming from. Samsung is investigating, and if they come up with anything interesting, we’ll let you know.
Let’s not let any of these negatives leave a sour taste in the mouth, though. The bottom line here is that with all the evidence duly weighed and considered, the UE55ES8000’s pictures - at least once you've calibrated them away from the often rather over-aggressive presets - can overall be considered outstanding, regardless of whether you’re watching 2D or 3D.
Sonically the UE55ES8000 is the best sounding ultra-thin TV Samsung has made. This does not mean, it must be said, that the UE55ES8000’s audio is particularly brilliant; it’s certainly very limited in terms of the volume levels it can attain. But there’s a decent sense of clarity and a pleasantly rounded tone that suffers noticeably less with shrillness and muddiness than last year’s ultra-thin Samsung screens.
The UE55ES8000 marries ‘impossibly’ lovely looks with more ground-breaking features than we’ve arguably ever seen on a single TV before. And then it chucks in some superlative 2D and 3D picture quality for good measure.
In doing all this it delivers a much bigger leap forward from last year’s Samsung models than we’d expected, as well as setting the bar intimidatingly high for the rest of the 2012 TV jetset.