Let’s kick things off here with the curve. The first point is that the curved screen doesn’t have quite the same impact in terms of making images feel more immersive as it did on the Samsung UE65HU8500. We’ve long felt that curved screens are likely to be most effective only really large screen sizes, and the UE55H8000/UE65HU8500 comparisons bear this out.
We’re not saying the curve has no beneficial impact at 55 inches; there’s still a slightly enhanced sense of depth in the image, and if you’re sat quite close the image feels marginally more like it’s completely occupying your field of view too. But the benefits are reduced, and so don’t provide quite such a potent counter to the key negatives of curved screens: namely distorted reflections of bright objects in the room, and uncomfortable geometry if your viewing angle gets wider than around 35 degrees either side of directly opposite.
This latter situation underlines the point about the curve working better on larger screens, since with the 55-inch screen the area in the room in which people can sit without the geometry becoming a problem is reduced versus the 65-inch model.
Turning to more general picture considerations, once you’ve addressed the preset issues raised in the set up section the UE55H8000 is an excellent performer compared with most other HD TVs on the market.
For starters, it produces an excellent black level response. Black parts of the picture really can look black, with practically no interference from any of the grey misting we normally expect to see with edge LED LCD TVs.
What’s more, with our suggested backlight reductions in play backlight clouding is negligible. In fact, when using the Cinema Black setting on its Medium level and the backlight set to 7 or 8, we didn’t see any clouding at all on our test sample.
Crucially it’s not just the TV’s black levels that impress. The wider contrast performance is also excellent, again hitting new levels for Samsung sets that don’t have local dimming technology. What this means in terms of end results is that the deep blacks are able to co-exist in the frame with strikingly punchy whites and vibrant colours – an achievement that helps the screen deliver excellent levels of shadow detail in even the darkest images.
It’s worth throwing in one further point about the curve here too – namely that while it creates off-axis geometry issues, it actually enhances the contrast and colour saturation you see from wide viewing angles, avoiding the ‘drop off’ in these areas you get with Samsung’s flat TVs.
Turning to the UE55H8000’s colour performance, it must be said that we really did miss the PurColour technology of the HU8500 models. Its loss means there’s clearly less definition in areas of dense similarly-coloured detail such as trees, grass, sand and so on. Plus the colour range isn’t as extensive.
However, if we ignore the HU8500 the UE55H8000’s colours actually look very good by the standards of the TV world in general. The colour reproduction is winningly flexible too; you can if you wish get tones pretty much exactly in line with the Rec709 standard, but the set can also deliver much richer saturations and a wider dynamic range without the image becoming unbalanced or garish. This means the UE55H8000 is able to suit a wider range of personal taste and room conditions than most TVs.
The set’s highly impressive contrast performance, meanwhile, means that the screen does better than the most rivals when it comes to reproducing authentic-looking and subtly blended colours during dark scenes.
Sharpness has long been a Samsung strength, and the trend continues with the UE55H8000. In fact, using the factory preset 50 value, as mentioned earlier, pictures look a bit too sharp, leading to some distracting noise exaggeration. Reduce the sharpness a bit – to 35 or less – and you still get a stunningly crisp and textured picture without the noise.
The sharpness of the picture holds true when watching action scenes too, thanks to the UE55H8000’s impressive motion handling. There’s hardly any blur or resolution loss over moving objects when using Motion Plus on even its relatively low-powered ‘Clean’ level. What’s more the processing power in the UE55H8000 is actually strong enough to support the use of the ‘Standard’ Motion Plus setting, when used with pristine sources, without the picture starting to suffer with unwanted processing side effects like motion flicker or haloing around moving objects.
More signs of the UE55H8000’s processing prowess can be seen in the outstanding way it upscales standard definition sources to the screen’s full HD resolution. It’s excellent at taking noise out of standard def sources before applying the extra resolution, and colours retain their natural feel during the upscaling process too – even though the resulting picture looks noticeably more detailed and sharp.