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Samsung UE55ES8000 review

John Archer

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Reviewed:

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Samsung UE55ES8000
  • Samsung UE55ES8000
  • Samsung UE55ES8000
  • Samsung UE55ES8000
  • Samsung UE55ES8000
  • Samsung UE55ES8000
  • Samsung UE55ES8000

Summary

Our Score:

9

Pros

  • Stunning design
  • phenomenal feature count
  • Excellent 3D and 2D performance

Cons

  • The gesture control system is currently unhelpful
  • Occasional backlight bleed, especially with 3D

Key Features

  • 55in LCD TV with edge LED lighting
  • Active 3D playback
  • New Smart TV platform
  • Built-in camera
  • Voice and gesture control systems
  • Manufacturer: Samsung
  • Review Price: £2,499.00

Part of us has been giddy with excitement about the arrival of Samsung’s new flagship TV on our testbenches, but part of us has also been dreading it. For while some of the stuff the 55in UE55ES8000 is capable of really captured our imagination when we saw it in action at the recent CES in Las Vegas, the thought of the sheer amount of time we’d need to explore every nook and cranny of these new features was frankly intimidating.

Happily the majority of the ‘legwork’ part of the UE55ES8000 reviewing process is now behind us, leaving us free to just focus on feeling excited by it. And if anything, our excitement levels are even higher now we’ve spent a few days with the TV than they were before we got it.

The UE55ES8000 sets your pulse racing from the off thanks to its stunningly thin chrome-like bezel, and cool ‘bulges’ at the centre of its top and bottom edges containing a built-in camera and cutely illuminated Samsung logo respectively.

We guess you could argue that the UE55ES8000 doesn’t really advance the cause of TV styling all that much from Samsung’s 2011 range. But frankly, it doesn’t need to. Seeing 55in of screen clad in so little bodywork is a trick that never gets old.

Samsung UE55ES8000

The UE55ES8000’s connectivity is predictably expansive. HD and 3D sources can be piped in via any of four side-mounted HDMIs, while the set’s massive multimedia potential is unlocked via a pair of USBs, a D-Sub PC port, a LAN port, and built-in wi-fi.

The USBs are able to play a wide array of video, photo and music files, with the same files also playable via a connected, DLNA-ready PC. The USBs can also be used, as you would expect with a modern flagship TV, to record from the integrated Freeview HD tuner.

The real core of the UE55ES8000’s multimedia experience, though, comes via its Wi-Fi/LAN connections. For it’s through these that you can delve into the latest version of Samsung’s Smart TV online platform.

The improvements Samsung has wrought here are obvious as soon as you hit the cool new colourful ‘Smart Hub’ button on either of the two remotes you get with the UE55ES8000 (more on these later). First, the graphics used for the icons on the screen look much more attractive and ‘HD’ - a result of them using a full HD 1080 resolution rather than the previous 720-line mode.

Second, while the general layout is broadly the same as last year’s, the central row of icons has been enlarged and now contains a trio of key new services: Family Story, Fitness and Kids.

Probably the single most innovative of these is the Family Story. This enables you to set up a ‘private’, pin-protected network with other Smart TV, Smart device or PC users of your choice - likely family members - for easy sharing of photos, calendars and memos. It’s a bit faffy to set up and at the time of writing it’s usefulness is currently limited by the fact that the PC and Smart device apps for the service aren’t live yet, while our test sample is pretty much the only ES8000 sample in the UK until the range officially launches towards the end of February! But the potential of the feature is clearly huge; it even caught the imagination of this writer’s mum, for heaven’s sake, and there isn’t much technology that does that!

Samsung UE55ES8000

The Fitness section is essentially an aggregation of fitness-related apps available on Samsung’s Smart TV system. However, it goes further than that by letting you to set up user profiles to which the provided activities can be attached.

This is a great touch, of course, because it allows you to follow your progress and have the TV provide you with a readily visible, automatically updated record of your fitness activities. Charted are your BMI measurements, your exercise progress in minutes and calories, and your ‘achievements’, which are chiefly based around weight loss goals. The system handily tells you how many calories you need to burn to produce a certain weight loss for your body mass, while the exercise apps consist of videos of exercise regimes for you to follow, with the number of calories each exercise ‘clip’ will burn displayed next to its title.

All this information is all very nicely presented, and really gives you that sense of almost hour by hour progress that’s so key to a successful fitness or weight loss regime.

Obviously there’s no way of recording your food intake on the Fitness system, so it’s not a total weight loss/fitness solution. But it goes further than expected, all the same.

The Kids section of the latest Smart Hub is a little less meaty than the other two, comprising a (currently smallish) selection of videos from the Canimals Animation series, and a rather more useful sticker book, into which parents can add ‘well done’ stickers to reward their childrens’ behaviour.

The presentation of this area is suitably child-friendly, and our own children certainly seemed to enjoy the challenge of earning stickers for the ‘cool’ onscreen book. This area definitely needs more content and activities before it really becomes exciting, but the core ideas seem solid enough.

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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