Samsung UNC8000 series

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.

David Katzmaier
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Samsung UNC8000 series overview

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 nonanimated 3D Blu-ray content looks on this set.

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.

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Corner detail

The thin, brushed-metal bezel and transparent edge are slick enough, but we prefer a more understated look.
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Stand detail

The TV is set atop a leggy stand that seems ready to animate and crawl up your wall.
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Side view

In case you want to brag about how thick your TV isn't, the 0.9-inch thick panel will do you proud.
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Remote control

Samsung has a new chrome- and round-edge remote, which reminds us of an overgrown candy-bar-style phone. It looks sexy and feels solid--too bad it's such a pain to use.

The buttons are just poorly differentiated divisions of the flat face, and it's impossible to tell them apart by feel. We constantly had to look down (away from the TV screen) when doing anything more basic than navigating via the cursor controls. We'd trade this remote in for a universal model in a second. Select Samsung phones can apparently control the TV, as can the company's own optional touch-screen remote to better Tweet from your TV.

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3D settings menu

A few options are available to adjust 3D picture settings.
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Back-panel inputs

The input array of the UNC8000 is substantial enough, but the thinness of this TV's panel necessitates a sacrifice. Due to the tiny surface area allotted to the connection bays, most jacks require connection via mini breakout cables.
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Back-panel inputs with breakout cables

Samsung includes such cables (be careful not to lose them!) for composite AV, component video, PC-style VGA, RF, digital optical out, stereo audio out, and even LAN (Ethernet).
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Apps main menu

Most streaming services, like Netflix and Vudu, are grouped into the main Apps menu, along with information, weather and games apps, among others.
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Apps detail screen

Apps are grouped into different categories, and Samsung promises lots more by year's end.
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Main picture menu

Aside from the completely overhauled Apps platform, Samsung didn't change its basic TV control menus at all. That's a good thing. The transparent, blue-highlighted graphics are easy to read and navigate, and response is snappier than last year. Text explanations are present for just about every function.
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Local dimming setting

The UNC8000 employs the first LED-based backlight that can actually dim different sections of the screen by using LEDs arranged along the edge (edge-lit), as opposed to behind the LCD element (full array). Samsung calls it "precision dimming."
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10-point IRE adjustment

Highlights for settings tweakers include a new 10-point system that works pretty well--albeit not as well as LG's.
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2D picture quality

The Samsung UNC8000 is a very good performer overall--just not as capable as Samsung's previous LCD flagships. Its "precision dimming" technology seems to improve black level performance, albeit not to the same plane as the better, full-array local-dimming LCDs (or plasmas). Color accuracy was generally good, minus some bluish blacks; uniformity was a weak point and video processing has a few issues we didn't see in the company's other high-end TVs. (Check out the full review for our impressions of 3D on this TV).

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