The Samsung UND8000 LED-based LCD TV shows the company's considerable technological know-how brought to bear on a simple design goal: to make the "TV" itself disappear as much as possible when turned on, leaving nothing but the picture. The design is a spectacular visual success that will command attention and be worth the exceedingly high price to some buyers with cash to burn. And despite its compact dimensions, the UND8000 also manages to squeeze in more features than just about any TV we've ever reviewed.
Other buyers, however, will have a hard time overlooking its principal weakness: picture quality. Its screen lacks the brightness and color uniformity required for peak performance, apparently a casualty of that awesome design. The UND8000 represents a simple choice between a quality picture and the best design and features. We think that buyers who can afford this TV shouldn't have to make that choice, but for now they do.
We've long lauded the "all-picture" look as the pinnacle of TV design, and Samsung's newest high-end LED comes closer than any TV so far. It doesn't have much of anything around the screen, and the measurements are as sexy as any to TV design aficionados: the "bezel" is 0.2 inch by Samsung's count, and the distance from the edge of the picture to the edge of our 55-inch review sample's panel is 0.375 inch according to our tape measure.
The remote included with Samsung's flagship TVs like the UND8000 is a flipper. The top side of the wedge-shaped rectangle offers standard TV controls that shoot infrared commands to the TV, while the bottom gets a full QWERTY keypad along with a screen, and works via Bluetooth (which doesn't need line-of-sight).
The new Smart Hub is the home page for all apps and provides shortcuts to local streaming sources (music, photos, and videos via DLNA and USB), inputs, and even a schedule manager. It delivers a wealth of options, albeit on a crowded screen that's intimidating at first.
There's some ability to customize the Hub, but we were disappointed that we couldn't remove icons for AllShare, Channel, and others we didn't want.
The UND8000 also gets a Web browser, a feature not available on the cheaper models (aside from the UND7000). The browser is serviceable but slow.
Samsung's 2011 TV menus have been refreshed and also feel a bit snappier than before. The main column of adjustments, formerly transparent, is now bright opaque blue on the D8000, with rounded edges and good-size text. Each major menu item gets a text explanation, and many are accompanied by helpful little illustrations.
The main step-up feature that differentiates the UND8000 from the UND7000 models is local dimming from the edge-lit LED backlight. Samsung calls it "micro dimming" this year, and says it uses more zones than on the UNC8000 from 2010--not divulging how many--and touts a new light dispersal plate said to improve uniformity. The plate doesn't work very well as far as we can tell, however.
The Samsung UND8000 doesn't deliver the kind of picture quality we expected from a flagship HDTV at this price level. Its Achilles' heel is poor uniformity, which affects many categories of performance by unevenly lighting the screen. Black levels and color in the central screen area subject to calibration and measurement were excellent, but if you consider the entire screen this thin TV falls short of other edge-lit LED models, including Samsung's own UND6400 series.