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Samsung UE55ES8000 - Features and first picture thoughts

John Archer

By John Archer

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Samsung UE55ES8000

Summary

Our Score:

9

User Score:

Joining these major newcomers to the Samsung Smart TV scene is a long - arguably bewildering - list of other video streaming and utlility/game/info apps. The video streaming apps now include, we’re pleased to note, Netflix, which joins the more established likes of Dailymotion, MUZU.TV, AceTrax, the Cartoon Network, Vimeo, YouTube, PictureBox, Explore 3D, Boxoffice 365, LoveFilm and, of course, the BBC iPlayer.

Among the non-video apps to catch our eye are an open Web browser, Skype (which is bolstered by the startling quality of the built-in camera), Facebook, Twitter, Picasa and Google Maps. In total there are currently around 195 apps, not including the Fitness video routines, catering for pretty much every taste and eccentricity.

We still feel many of these lesser apps are of very limited interest/usefulness, but the latest interface does a better job of presenting them so that they don’t feel as much like ‘unnecessary clutter’ as they did on last year’s Samsung Smart TVs.

Samsung UE55ES8000

One problem with Smart TV platforms is that some of their features don’t lend themselves to normal TV interfaces. But Samsung’s tried to address this problem too, by introducing a radical new combination of control systems. So extensive and illustrative of the way the industry is shifting are some of these control systems that we’re going to cover them in depth in a separate review in the next day or so. But to give you the basic idea, the UE55ES8000 a) comes with both a normal remote and a second, ‘trackpad’-style remote; b) can respond to a remarkably wide variety of voice commands; and c) can be controlled via the movements of your hand.

For a brief summary of our findings ahead of the more in-depth article, after initial resistance we eventually found ourselves thoroughly seduced by the startling flexibility of the voice control system; we were very impressed by the touchpad remote; but we were thoroughly uninspired by the gesture control approach (though see my comment below). But heck - two out of three ain’t bad. Especially when those two are enough to deliver the first fully integrated, truly ‘next generation’ control system we’ve experienced to date.

While all the Smart TV innovations are fun and exciting, though, it’s with the UE55ES8000’s picture improvements that it really begs for your attention.

The single biggest deal here is the introduction of a dual-core processor, which enables the TV to handle far more picture processing tools in real time than was possible before. Particularly significant is the way Samsung has doubled the number of picture ‘blocks’ analysed by its latest micro dimming system to an extremely healthy 576, to deliver much more accurate and effective lighting of each frame of the image.

Samsung has also done a lot of work to improve its 3D performance, with faster panel driving and crosstalk reduction routines now in play. The boost in processing power also means that you can now apply Samsung’s motion processing to 3D playback as well as 2D - something that has a surprisingly positive impact, as we’ll see soon.

Samsung UE55ES8000

Intriguingly, the UE55ES8000’s specification isn’t necessarily limited to what’s currently ‘under the hood’. For the set has actually been designed to be upgradable in the future, by ‘slotting in’ next-gen chipsets - including, potentially, a quad-core processor. This could greatly enhance the longevity of the UE55ES8000 - so long as Samsung actually produces the upgrade ‘kits’, of course!

Finally settling down to just watch what the UE55ES8000 can do, its pictures immediately look nothing short of spectacular. We’ve often found previous Samsung LED picture generations to look extremely vibrant and dynamic, but - presumably thanks to the much-improved micro dimming system - things are taken to a whole new level here. Especially, crucially, when watching dark scenes, as the set is able to combine deep blacks simultaneously with much purer, brighter whites and colours than any previous Samsung edge LED TV. In fact, we can’t think of any other edge LED TV full stop that can combine light and dark content as successfully as the UE55ES8000.

Making this all the more impressive is the fact that dark areas of the picture also contain plenty of shadow detail, showing that the screen isn’t just ‘crushing’ dark areas to produce its convincing black colours.

Sticking with the screen’s excellent contrast performance for LED technology, we were also generally impressed with how little the screen suffers with the dreaded backlight inconsistency problem that so troubled some users of Samsung’s 2011 screens. Or at least this is the case if you’re careful with how you calibrate the UE55ES8000’s images. Certainly the backlight should not be left any higher its 9 level for 2D viewing, and actually we’d recommend 7 or even 6 if you’re watching in a dark room. With this in mind though, we found 2D moments where we felt even slightly troubled by backlight inconsistencies to be few and far between.

Colours, meanwhile, are outstanding. For a start they enjoy the most natural and wide tonal range yet seen from a Samsung TV - another result, we suspect, of the more localised picture ‘scrutiny’ made possible by the Dual-Core processor. Colours are also effortlessly subtle and expressive when it comes to showing miniscule tonal differences - something that’s particularly evident in the extremely natural look of skin tones.

David Horn

February 12, 2012, 3:42 am

I'll believe it when I see it. Even the most expensive Samsung LCDs struggle with flesh tones and require incredibly careful calibration to achieve anything remotely passable.

I'm staggered that they're not set up properly at the factory - after all, the LCDs can't differ from each other that much and it wouldn't kill Samsung to at least come up with a passable calibration out of the box.

Came very close to taking one of their £1000+ LCDs back to the shop and claiming against the credit card as not fit for purpose because it was so bad, not inclined to think they've improved in the six weeks since.

Moogle Stiltzkin

February 12, 2012, 7:47 pm

is it possible to stream MKV bluray videos to this Samsung UE55ES8000 HDTV ? could you elaborate more on the options of how this would work. I don't mind saving up to buy this kind of TV, but i don't want to be screwed over to find out it can't do that. I have a QNAP NAS where my backup media is located which i've encoded into MKV. So i want to stream it to possibly this HDTV using this setup QNAP NAS < router < homeplug < 2nd homeplug < the Samsung HDTV

Is this possible ?

Goodmane

February 13, 2012, 4:07 am

@ Moogle Stiltzkin

I don't know sorry. But I've tried so many combinations of media center. None of them are upgradeable and flexible out of the box. I feel heartache for anyone still trying to find a one box solution that isn't a PC. My point is even if the TV can do it all, in 5 years, what if you need it to do something else?

The only way you can win in the long run ( I believe) is bite the bullet and put in a HTPC with wired gigabit (running outside the house if necessary). My 200Mb homeplugs couldn't transfer files faster than 20Mbps! With wire I get speeds 20-40x faster. I can play blu-rays over the network without converting, and it obviously plays all sorts of mkv and any future file will be okay too.

If you go this route, I'd recommend Media Portal (free) for TV, mkv movie playback, music, radio, news, iplayer, youtube, itunes trailers, remote control management and photos. TotalMediaTheatre for blu ray playback over network or disc, and obviously you can stick in Skype and a (e.g. Logitech) web cam. Also don't forget the possibility of emulator software so your HTPC acts as a console.

End result is you spend say £500 on the pc but get a cheaper TV since you only need the image quality not the network features.

Ed

February 13, 2012, 3:11 pm

Trouble with that logic is that the TVs with the best image quality also tend to be the ones with all the extra features too.

As for media boxes in general. A PS3 is a good start but there are plenty of other boxes that'll play most of your files, and they only cost £100 or less. HTPCs are great but they're a lot of work and plenty of other solutions offer close to the functionality.

I agree about wiring up your home, though speaking from personal experience, it can set back your decorating schedule by quite some time. Also, homeplugs are fine for most people - fast enough for HD video and reasonably fast file transfers.

John Archer

February 13, 2012, 3:23 pm

Just thought I'd mention here that Samsung has already been in touch to say that it believes it can improve the backlight bleed issue with 3D and the gesture control system before the TVs formally go on sale in the next couple of weeks or so.

If we can get one of these updated TVs, we will update this review based on what we find.

John Archer

Betheleni

February 13, 2012, 6:15 pm

@ Moogle Stiltzkin

Hi Moogle, I don't know much about NAS etc but I do know from my Samsung UE55D8000 which I purchased last year that it does not support wirelessly streamed mkv files. It accepts MP4 and avi but refuses to play when it receives the mkv files. I have to copy the mkv files to a usb thumb drive and plug it in to the tv then it works fine. I use twonky for everything else streamed wirelessly from my mac, video, music & pics etc. I'm not sure whether this newest one has been updated for wireless mkv, I know a lot of people were asking for it on the forums.

Moogle Stiltzkin

February 13, 2012, 6:30 pm

well the review says it has a dualcore cpu so i assume that would be sufficient to play 720p and 1080p content (for a 51'' screen though 1080p will be the more preferable choice). Also you mentioned the future, well i also noticed it was mentioned about being able to upgrade to quad core cpu in a future kit :X sounds future proofed to me in terms of horse power.

You don't need a NAS to test what i'm suggesting. Try and setup media share on your desktop PC, using say windows media for example to create a shared media.

You also don't need a homeplug to try out this theory either. plugging directly from your desktop, or router into the hdtv will be pretty much the same even (except for the wired performance of course, but i can worry about that later).

Can it access the media shares on the PC ? and can it play MKV blurays ?

Please kindly test if it can do that :} thx.

james1000

February 13, 2012, 6:31 pm

Not sure Im comfortable having a tv that both watches and listens to me whilst hooked up to the net. If I purchased one of these first thing Id be doing is covering up the camera, doing the same for the mic may proove more problematic.

Moogle Stiltzkin

February 13, 2012, 6:33 pm

PS: you do realize there are newer homeplugs out than yours ? E.g. the newer 500 Mbps homeplugs

http://www.smallnetbuilder.com...

Even if it can't achieve the max 500 Mbps, as long as it streams fine without stutter, does it really matter ? All you need it for is just stream media so that it's watchable without stutter.

Moogle Stiltzkin

February 13, 2012, 7:02 pm

I was reading here
http://forums.whirlpool.net.au...

they seem to indicate that streaming directly to some samsung hdtv models without a media streamer seems possible, using dlna from say a NAS, directly to the hdtv.

if the tv doesn't support the format, some dlna software like servioo can perform the transcode.

However do you have the spec sheet for this tv, whether it supports h264 and mkv natively ? Because looking at the price tag, this should be something they ought to add if they haven't :x for it to truly be a good media streamer feature for HDTV. Otherwise that ethernet plug would just be a wasted if you end up having to use a HTPC and display whatever you want to watch via hdmi, rather than stream content over the ethernet from a NAS located in a different area :X via homeplug.

breathe

February 14, 2012, 3:40 pm

Moogle
I havent tested mkv files specifically, but the Samsung I bought last year (UE40D7000) streams files from my nas drive with no problems (wired) and I had it hooked up to test it over wifi for a while and it handlied everything i threw at it with no problems (web browsing was a little slow and clunky though but I dont wanna do that on my tv anyway).
I cant see this TV 'needing' a dual core processor specifically to stream HD but no doubt it will be useful for additional picture processing and other things. I think the file support is there
I like this TV!!

Just found some info for Samsungs All Share. Pages 259 to 261 of this manual shows the files types supported:

http://downloadcenter.samsung....

Moogle Stiltzkin

February 14, 2012, 6:32 pm

Good find breathe, this was exactly what i wanted to know.

MKV/h264/AC3/AAC/DTS !!!

the mp4 container doesn't support dts, then again who cares. mkv is better anyway :}

The worrying bit is regarding subtitle support. It doesn't mention SSA (sub station alpha) which is a popular subtitle type used by the anime fansub community :X hm .....

If you do run some tests, try test using an anime MKV with SSA subtitles :}

Moogle Stiltzkin

February 14, 2012, 6:34 pm

Interesting to note as well, for H264 it only supports upt Level 4.1 encoding quality. Something to note :X

Goodmane

February 15, 2012, 2:46 am

@ Moogle, sorry if I was overbearing. But that last point re: 4.1 h264 etc. That's the kind of thing I got fed up with. I'm not saying htpc is for everyone, just its good if you want to do a lot.

Other issues for me which were hard with everything else but easy with a pc were wake on lan, so the PC is awake when you want it to stream, the difficulties and questions with transcoding (e.g. if there's a problem, is it my CPU, my network or codecs?), transferrability of files / recorded tv (e.g. my Android phone plays the same recorded .ts tv files over the network from Media Portal with freewares ES File Explorer & MX Video player, whereas sharing Microsoft .wtv or dvr-ms files with a TV client is a no-go area. Finally, just take a look at what's possible re: your movie/music collections and fanart. Media Portal and xbmc are both good examples. Here are some from MP.

http://www.team-mediaportal.co...

http://www.team-mediaportal.co...

Moogle Stiltzkin

February 15, 2012, 6:48 pm

Well tbh i do agree with you that htpc for now remains the sure fire choice for codec and subtitle compatibility.

Sadly my family doesn't live having one in the living room :X no room anyway for it.

Currently i'm using homeplug > popcorn hour A100 > Yamaha A/V Receiver > HDTV LG (no it doesn't have the plex client. It's an older model just prior to the PMS goodies...)

the a100 is slow as hell :/ so just wanted to cut out a media streamer from the loop and just stream directly to tv.

Looking at the spec sheet Breathe kindly linked, everything seems okay except for

1. no SSA sub support
2. H264 support only up to LV4.1 encoding setting

I can most probly live with point 2, but point 1 is a real sore point, especially since i watch a lot of anime.

I wonder whether Samsung would be inclined to add SSA support sometime in the near future ? and if not, whether a Sony Bravia with a similar spec will have SSA support in addition to h264, mkv, mpeg4 and DTS as well :X

Moogle Stiltzkin

February 16, 2012, 3:07 pm

servio is a dlna software streamer which apparently can be installed on my QNAP, to stream content from my NAS directly to the Samsung HDTV.

Sadly it doesn't support SSA/ASS subtitles neither ....

converting SSA/ASS to txt, and remuxing is hardly a good solution -.-; as it's more work.

At this rate it's gonna be media streamers or a htpc in order to get the full spectrum of video/audio/subtitle support i need :{

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