Samsung's high-end 3D LED: Impressive but not videophile-grade

Its 3D is still a work in progress and its 2D picture quality comes up short of the best available, but the high-end Samsung UNC8000 series still offers superb features, solid performance, and unique style.

The first 3D TV we reviewed, Samsung's feature-laden and uniquely styled UNC8000, still left us wanting more. Sarah Tew/CNET

Among HDTVs we've reviewed, the UNC8000 series is the first 3D TV, the first edge-lit LED-based LCD with local dimming , and the first example of Samsung's Apps for TV platform. It has the company's best LCD picture quality specs for 2010, packs in more features than ever before, and yet manages to measure just under an inch thick. As you can imagine, it doesn't come cheap.

The verdict? We haven't been able to compare the Samsung UNC8000 to any other 3D TVs in the lab, and until we do, our evaluation has more caveats than an ad for allergy medication. That said, 3D on this TV (with this firmware version), though definitely an impressive technology demonstration, won't satisfy videophiles, and at times even made us feel queasy. We'll take 2D Blu-ray for now, thank you, although we're interested to see how non-animated 3D Blu-ray content looks on this set. (See more on 3D picture quality after the jump).

Speaking of comparisons, in 2D mode the UNC8000 had a hard time keeping up with the better local-dimming LED-based LCD TVs available, although it does own the edge-lit crown for now. The Apps platform is probably the company's biggest win on this set, proving to be well-integrated, snappy, and chock full of useful content. Of course, it's also available on plenty of cheaper Samsung TVs . All told, despite its cutting-edge features and design, the high-end UNC8000 left us wanting better picture quality to justify its high price.

Read the full review of the Samsung UNC8000 series.

3D picture quality: Due to a lack of test patterns and other suitable reference material, we did not perform a calibration of the Samsung UNB8000's picture settings for 3D sources. Our observations are limited to the material noted below, observed via the default Movie mode in a dark room with a pair of the company's SG-2100AB glasses. This is the first 3D TV we've had in our lab, so we will not make any comparisons to other models until we have them in-house. We used the newest firmware available at press time (identified as version 1014.0 on the company Web site, but as 001011 in the TV's menu). Samsung has updated the firmware to affect 3D performance at least once already, and we expect more updates to come. The following are the experiences of the author, and your mileage may vary even more than with 2D evaluations. Here's what he's seen so far; we'll update this evaluation when we can view more content and make more comparisons.

The Samsung UNC8000 produced a convincing 3D effect on "Monsters vs. Aliens," the only currently available 3D Blu-ray. The made-for-3D animated children's title conveyed a sense of depth on our 55-inch TV that was undeniable. Asteroids, leaves, blowing snow, and other prominent foreground objects often appeared to float in front of the screen, and we were routinely impressed at the depth of field we saw in some long shots. Combined with the color, detail, lack of noise and other picture quality pluses characteristic of Blu-ray, it was an impressive technology demonstration.

On the whole, we enjoyed the experience for its novelty, but if we had the choice between watching it in either 2D and 3D, we'd choose 2D. 3D on the Samsung wasn't as immersive as we've seen from theatrical presentations. We place some blame the smaller screen size, but the presence of crosstalk was another distraction: it appeared as ghostly images on the edges of objects, such as the General hovering in his jetpack in Chapter 4; his legs and the struts on the pack appeared to have ghostly doubles, for example (adjusting the 3D viewpoint control wasn't much help, as it just seemed to move the crosstalk to different objects). We also had a hard time getting used to the differences in depth, particularly along the edge of the screen; the image would pop out at times in a way that was unnatural and jarring. We also felt queasiness after viewing sometimes, again, something we didn't feel in the theater.

Conversion from 2D to 3D worked better than we expected, but still not very well, especially compared with the 3D Blu-ray. Snipes, channel logos and onscreen menus gave the strongest impression of depth, followed by the foreground in the bottom part of the screen. The most enjoyable content maintained a steady camera with little movement, and still images or shots of photos in documentaries seemed to work well. Quick cuts, on the other hand, became jarring quickly, and when we cranked up the Depth control we actually experienced mild vertigo. The entire image at times seemed to be plastered on an undulating canvas, randomly closer in some parts and farther away in others. In total, we again preferred to leave the glasses and 2D conversion turned off, although some viewers might like it.

 

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