Last year the highest-rated LED LCD TV on CNET was the Samsung UNF8000 series. We loved its picture quality, design and feature set enough that we were able to overlook its high price in assigning it a strong "buy" recommendation.
This year Samsung has thrown us a curveball. That TV's successor at the top of the non-4K totem pole is the UNH8000 series. But unlike the flat F8000, the H8000 is as bendy as the best from Beckham.
It's available in 65, 55 and 48 inches beginning in March. Pricing was not announced, although if Sony's curved KDL-65S990A (65 inches, $4000) is any indication, the Samsung H8000 won't be cheap.
Samsung says the curve -- which has an identical radius to that of the 4K resolution HU9000 series--provides a "new viewing experience" that's "more uniform from the TV viewer's point." It claims to have "optimized [the] curvature considering viewing distance and size," citing a 10.5-foot average viewing distance (a bit further than the standard 9 feet, but who's counting?). The company even mentions an "image maximization effect," saying that the curve creates a wider field of view for people unfortunate enough to not be sitting in the sweet spot directly in front of the screen.
Despite those claims, the one curved TV I got to extensively test in person, Samsung's OLED, didn't benefit from its concavity. I found myself wishing it was flat.
More important from a picture quality perspective in my book is the presence of the same kind of actual, hardware-based local dimming that helped the UNF8000 excel. It's also worth noting that you can't get that kind of local dimming in a flat 1080p TV from Samsung this year; the step-down H7150 series has Samsung's software-based version.
Of course the H8000 gets all the Smart TV bells and whistles, including a "Multi-Link Screen" that can divide the screen into two separate windows, each showing different content (live TV and YouTube, for example). It lacks the gesture control found on the step-up HU9000, but otherwise its Smart features are very similar.
There's also the same promise of upgrade-ability. While the H8000 has a standard input array -- in contrast to the external One Connect box used on the HU9000 -- it is compatible with future versions of the company's Evolution Kit module.
In a first for curved TVs we know about, Samsung says the set will ship with an adapter that allows it to work with standard wall-mounting kits.
Check out the Samsung TV roundup for more on the company's CES 2014 releases.