Samsung UND8000 series (photos)

The Samsung UND8000 TV delivers best-in-class looks and features, but its picture quality--thanks to uneven screen uniformity--is ultimately a step backward from many less expensive models.

David Katzmaier
David reviews TVs and leads the Personal Tech team at CNET, covering mobile, software, computing, streaming and home entertainment. We provide helpful, expert reviews, advice and videos on what gadget or service to buy and how to get the most out of it.
David Katzmaier
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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.

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Corner detail

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.
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Stand detail

Samsung's spider-legged stand is still weird.
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Side view

The panel is a mere 1.2 inches deep.
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Remote control

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).
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Basic 3D glasses

Samsung's $50 2011 3D glasses (not included) look and feel just like the 2010 versions, but are now synced with the TV via Bluetooth.
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Optional slim 3D glasses

Here are the optional SSG-3700CR glasses, which are sleeker, lighter, rechargeable, and expensive ($219 list). The hood around the top and sides can be removed for a more stylish look.
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HDMI gets precedence while analog connections are scarce and require breakout cables.
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Breakout cables

Samsung includes the extra cables needed to connect analog gear.
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Smart Hub home page

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.

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Explore 3D app

One available app serves up 3D trailers.
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Yahoo Widgets

The UND8000 also offers a few Yahoo Widgets in an interface that's confusingly separate from Smart Hub.
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Smart Hub Your Video

The Your Video database is sort of an IMDb lite. We wish it integrated better with video-streaming apps like Netflix.
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Video search

We also wish search were better integrated; it hits places like Facebook, YouTube, and Vudu, but not Netflix or Hulu Plus.
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Main picture menus

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.
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3D adjustments

A smattering of 3D adjustments is on tap, including a 2D-to-3D conversion engine.
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10-point white balance

A highly detailed white-balance control helps achieve accurate color.
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Cinema Black

A new Cinema Black setting automatically dims the letterbox bar portion of 2.35:1 movies. It works well, improving perceived contrast and helping mask uniformity issues.
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Micro-dimming LED backlight

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.
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Picture quality

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.

Read the full review of the Samsung UND8000 series.

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