Editor's note 1 May 2014: After the original version of this review was published, Samsung informed us it had sent us a pre-production sample. It has now sent us a final production sample to test and we have updated the review and score to reflect its performance.
The UE55H8000 is the range topper in Samsung's Full HD LED line-up this year, and although it's pricey, it still sits directly below the company's wallet busting Ultra HD sets. Its curved screen immediately makes it stand out from the crowd and Samsung also claims there are picture benefits to the curve, including improved viewing angles and better contrast.
It's packed with plenty of extras including micro-dimming for deeper black levels, 1,000Hz processing for smoother motion and Samsung has even improved this set's 3D support compared to last year's models, despite the fact interest in 3D seems to be on the wane. If you're not fussed about Ultra HD -- and there are reasons why you probably shouldn't be at this screen size -- then the H8000 looks like a tempting, albeit expensive option for AV connoisseurs.
Samsung has only made minor tweaks to its menu system this year, but we're not bothered by this as it's still one of the best you'll find on any manufacturers' TV. It's easy on the eye, the menu layout is still excellent and transitions are smoother than a Barry White ballad thanks to the set's beefy quad-core processor.
The range and ease of use of the picture controls is impressive too, and I like the handy hints boxes that are displayed as you move between each setting. It's a nice touch that will make the wealth of options seem slightly less daunting for those who don't often venture into their TV's settings menu.
Unlike last year's F8000, which this model replaces, the H8000 doesn't have a camera built-in so you can't control it by waving your hand around in a "Minority Report" style. That's no loss really, as the system didn't work well enough on last year's model to actually be useful. You can still search for stuff by voice, by pressing the microphone button on the updated remote, but the results are hit and miss.
What's more successful is the new remote control. Samsung obviously liked LG's motion controller so much that it's made one of its own. The new remote allows you to select menu options or type on onscreen keyboards just by waving the remote around in the air. Interestingly, the central four-way direction pad is touch enabled, so you can still navigate menus by swiping around on this pad. It's faster and easier to control most of the system via motion instead, however. The remote also looks very stylish and its sculpted shape makes it comfortable to hold and use. Samsung has finally added buttons for fast forward and rewind controls as well.
There are a few tweaks here and there to the look of the menus. The TV guide has had a slight update and remains quick and easy to use to find the shows you want to watch.
There are a few tweaks elsewhere including an attractive barrel-roll animation on channel names as you flick between channels, and a much improved onscreen remote control for when you need to access more buttons than are available on the motion remote.
Design and connections
Samsung's talent for creating beautiful TVs is one of the key reasons why it has overtaken the likes of Sony to become the world's leading manufacturer of TVs. The H8000 shows that it's lost none of its touch in this area. This TV looks drop-dead gorgeous. It really is stunning, from its thin arced stand to the super narrow bezel surrounding the screen. Some people may not like the curve, but there's no doubting that it adds a certain futuristic feel to the whole design simply because it's different to what has gone before.
If you're worried that the curve will stop you from mounting this TV on a wall, don't be, because Samsung includes an adapter kit so you can use a standard wall mount with this set.
When it comes to connecting up your AV kit, there are plenty of options provided. The four HDMI ports are mounted on a panel, set in from the right-hand side of the screen, while at the bottom you'll find component and analogue audio inputs. This model has an optical audio output, and as there are twin tuners for both terrestrial and satellite you'll find two satellite ports sitting alongside the RF input. As well as playing back media from drives plugged into its three USB ports, you can also add a hard drive to turn it into a full blown PVR because the twin tuners mean you can record one channel while watching another.
Samsung drastically redesigned its smart TV system last year with stellar results, so this year it's gone for more subtle tweaks rather than a major overhaul. The good news is that it still remains perhaps the best smart TV system around at the moment. App support is excellent with all the big name VOD services present, including BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD and Demand 5, as well as Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Samsung has improved its Tivo-like recommendation engine that suggestions stuff you might want to watch. This year it's also streamlined its Social and Digital Media Player pages into a single screen in the smart TV interface. Also new is a banner that pops up to give you quick access to commonly used apps or channels when you initially press the Smart Hub button on the remote.
Another enhancement is the new split screen view. This shows live TV or other video feeds on one side of the screen and the Web browser or smart apps on the other. It looks great, but I'm not sure most folks are going to get much use from it.