The Samsung UA55ES8000 is a TV of startlingly good looks, due largely to the very thin boundary — on all four sides — around its 139cm display panel. This edge is only 9mm wide, finished with a metal frame.
The TV offers full high-definition resolution and 3D. Since the 3D is active, this mode provides the full vertical resolution. Samsung has pushed down the price of the 3D glasses to under AU$30 per set; two pairs are included with the TV.
The TV is networkable, and has built-in Wi-Fi in addition to the Ethernet port. All of the connections are at the right rear, in contrast to the left rear on almost all other TVs.
A camera and microphones are built in to in a small, integrated housing on top of the screen. This can be used for Skype, but it also supports the new motion- and voice-control features. The regular infrared remote control is supplemented by a new touch pad-style remote. This uses RF, so it doesn't need to be pointed. It can be programmed to control a DVD/Blu-ray and a personal video recorder. A battery-operated IR blaster is included with the TV to carry the commands to those devices.
Samsung TVs come with the "Sharpness" control set at 50/100, which makes the picture look extremely harsh, especially with Blu-ray and other HD content. The best setting is 0. The default aspect ratio of 16:9 should be changed to "Screen Fit" when you're playing Blu-ray. The former scales up the picture by a few per cent, pushing its edges off the screen. Doing this to 1080i or 1080p content can lead to nasty interference patterns on some content.
We also preferred the picture with Samsung's motion-smoothing/judder-removal system switched off. This worked well enough at getting rid of judder, but left "heat haze" distortion around moving objects on the screen.
It's worth going through those steps, because then you're left with top-notch picture quality, with good blacks and great colour. Even in a fully dark room, the localisation of backlighting to the bright objects on a dark background was quite precise. There was a little breakthrough of the backlight at the corners, but it was hardly objectionable.
The 3D was very impressive somehow, despite the awful measurement on a static test pattern (this had perfect rejection for each eye of the black content belonging to the other eye, but scored a poor 50 per cent with white leaking into the wrong eye's view). This worked extremely well with Monsters vs. Aliens and with live-action 3D, but there were some sequences in Happy Feet Two that exposed the crosstalk. This was because penguins have bold black-and-white patterns, and the very deep 3D of this movie resulted in very different left- and right-eye views. Yet, even with this, there was still plenty of depth in the image.