The F8000 is the flagship of, coming with all the Smart Hub bells and whistles that Samsung can pack in, plus more.
Samsung has enhanced its software offering on its 2013 smart TV range, with natural-language voice commands, gesture control and much more. As the flagship range, the Series 8 gets "the works" when it comes to these enhancements, even down to the built-in camera on top of the TV.
The F8000 comes in a few different sizes: 75-, 65-, 60- and 55-inch models are all available. We tested the 55-inch model (the UA55F8000AM) — one of the friendlier sizes for the average living room. As the flagship for Samsung, all sizes come with both motion control (thanks to a built-in camera) and voice control via the new-look smart remote.
Features and design
Set-up was quite simple, as well. Out of the box, the 55-inch version weighs just under 17kg. Attaching the stand (accomplished by attaching eight screws) adds another 1.5kg, so set-up was easily accomplished by one person, although we’d recommend getting a friend if you’re trying to assemble one of the larger units.
The packaging is a masterpiece of design — everything apart from the panel and the stand can be found in just two accessory boxes, and there are only two pieces of styrofoam to keep everything in place. Packing up the TV for return was a truly simple task, and was a pleasant change from the usual TV boxes, where you have bits and pieces of weird-shaped foam left over at the end.
One thing worth mentioning is the base. Because of the broad build of the curved base, you'll need a longer-than-usual TV stand: roughly 1.2m across and at least 31cm deep. For our test, this involved some improvisation on the set-up — a big piece of plywood clamped across our too-small entertainment centre. The design of the base does make for a stylish appearance, though; the panel seems to float about the base.
The camera flicks out of the top, a little like a periscope, and you can leave it down if you’re not into the motion control or don’t want your TV watching you.
The F8000 comes with both the standard TV-style remote and the new, redesigned smart remote. You’ll need to sync the smart remote by removing the back and pressing a button. This proved easier said than done; the rear of the remote was so tricky to get off that for a while, we assumed we doing it wrong and were about to break it.
There are four HDMI ports at the back, including designated ports for MHL and ARC devices. You’ll also find three USB ports (including one 5V one for powering USB hard drives) and optical, component and composite plugs. These latter two use special adapter cables that you’ll find in the accessories box.
The F8000 also has the port for the Evolution Kit hardware upgrade when that becomes available for the 2013 range next year.
Samsung's Evolution Kit promises regular processor upgrades.
The new-look smart TV hub for Samsung works around a number of "home screens". The default is On TV, where you’ll find the EPG, plus a list of any TV episodes you’ve recorded to a hard drive via the PVR function, as well a simple overview of shows that are on right now.
On Apps, you’ll see both the recommended apps and the ones you’ve actually downloaded. iView, SBS on Demand, Plus 7, Quickflix and more are all available by default.
Social is where you can install apps, such as Facebook and Twitter. We’ve always seen these sorts of things as having limited appeal, but Samsung at least includes Skype, which — when coupled with the camera and voice control — may appeal to some.
Finally, there are Photos, Videos and Music, where you can access any of the files stored around your home network.
The catch-up TV apps load quickly, and have a easy navigation across the range — they don't feel bolted on or alien to the regular navigation style of the TV.
The TV easily connected to devices around our network, and played from nearly every source we had, although we had to fiddle with the WDTV Live device a little for the files on it to be recognized as playable. Everything else — NAS, PC, laptop — all connected automatically.
Voice and motion control form a big part of the smart offering from Samsung. The voice control actually works better than anticipated — just touch the Voice button on the remote, and start speaking. Simply saying a phrase, such as "put on The Voice" (no accounting for taste), has the TV search its EPG, and automatically switch to the right channel. Trying it with a show that wasn't airing at the time gave us results from ABC's iView catch-up service, which was both unexpected and impressive.
You can even be quite vague. Asking "what's on at 7 o'clock" will find you everything showing during that time slot — from there, you can even schedule a show to watch (or even record) later.
We did experience a few moments where the voice control seemed to kick in unexpectedly — without touching the remote, the voice indicator would jump up on the screen and ask us to repeat ourselves, even though we hadn’t been attempting a voice command. It wasn’t clear why this was happening, but it only happened three or four times over the course of the review period.
The motion control was slightly less exciting, but still worked quite well and in much the same way as a Kinect. It did occasionally get a little "jumpy"; we found that drinking from a bottle in front of it got interpreted as a "thumbs up", letting the F8000 know that we were making that show a favourite.