When the Samsung UE46D7000 3D TV left our offices, we had a little cry. We hate to see winners of our Editors' Choice award leave the building. But that grim cumulonimbus had a silver lining: Samsung promised to let us see a similar but larger TV from its D8000 range.
The 55-inch, 1080p, LED-illuminated UE55D8000 LCD TV is built around the same technology as the D7000 model. But it has a slightly different design and the larger screen affects its 3D and Freeview performance, so it's well worth a proper look, especially as it costs a whopping £2,500 or thereabouts.
The main difference between the D8000 and D7000 ranges is the design. We loved the D7000's thin bezel and clear plastic edge -- they made the TV look like it was floating in the air. But some may prefer the D8000's design, which offers a silver metal bezel instead. Although the D8000's silver bezel makes it look very different to the D7000, we were still utterly blown away by the impact that the thin edge has on this television's pictures.
Below the screen, there's an illuminated Samsung logo. The company tells us that some people love this feature. We assume they're all Samsung employees, though -- we can't see any normal person getting excited about it. We're glad you can turn off the illumination but it didn't distract us enough to warrant hunting through the menus for the off button.
Samsung's old online portal bore the appallingly ugly moniker Internet@TV, which gave no real information on what the telly actually did with the Internet. Now the company's TVs have a 'Smart Hub' instead, which makes fractionally more sense. The Smart Hub is where the telly makes recommendations about online content and programmes that might appeal to you.
The Smart Hub is home to apps too. These are either provided for free or for a small charge. At this point, there are a few games, various information apps, and tools like Skype and Facebook to get you networking in a sociable fashion.
The TV also features built-in Wi-Fi. We managed to connect the TV to our network easily, so we could access all of the online services without messing about with an Ethernet cable. This is a blessing, especially as most people won't have a router behind their TV. The only downside is that, when streaming content, the Wi-Fi connection is another thing that can go wrong, and the speeds will probably never be brilliant.
Every kind of broadcast covered
Both the D7000 and D8000 range have built-in Freeview HD and freesat HD tuners. This is great, as, if you don't live in a Freeview HD area, you'll still be able to get high-definition services via satellite.
Freeview HD will prove the easiest service to use for most people, though. It offers easy access to hi-def channels in HD-enabled areas, requiring nothing more complicated than a normal aerial and the TV's standard tune-in service.
When you come to set up the TV, it will ask which services you want to tune in. We really like this approach, because it enables you to opt out of analogue tuning, which is now a waste of valuable tuning time in many parts of the country.
Stonking image quality
As with the smaller D7000 TV we saw, the UE55D8000 offers among the best picture quality we've seen from an LCD set. The problem is, however, that this TV's larger size shows up more flaws in Freeview and even Freeview HD material.
But the UE55D8000 truly shines with HD content from a games console, Blu-ray disc, or online service like Microsoft's Zune store. We tested the Spider-Man 3 Blu-ray on the TV, and found the image to be utterly alluring and packed full of detail. Most impressive, though, was how true the TV was to the original Blu-ray image. The original film grain was visible, which might not be to everyone's taste but shows that the TV is representing the signal as it was burnt to Blu-ray.
If you want to see a smoother image that doesn't have any perceivable grain, the TV can arrange this, courtesy of its digital noise-reduction system. We tested this on Spider-Man 3, and the very noticeable grain was reduced to the point where it was almost invisible. The overall image quality wasn't too badly compromised either, although there was a slight softening of the picture.
We aren't so keen on the TV's motion-smoothing correction, though. As such features go, this TV's version is as artefact-free as we've ever seen, but we still find the process of making film look like video quite unpalatable. You may feel differently, though. Fortunately, you can turn the motion-smoothing feature on or off, as you see fit.
As much as we liked the 3D performance of the 46-inch D7000, we were even more impressed by 3D content on this set's larger screen. When buying a 3D TV, forget everything your partner's ever told you -- every inch counts and size really does matter. Even with a large TV like the UE55D8000, we still find you need to sit quite close to the telly to get the best out of the 3D image -- 3D is most impressive when it fills as much of your field of vision as possible.
As with the D7000 TV, we noticed some minor ghosting around 3D images in the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Blu-ray. This ghosting can be slightly distracting when it rears its head, but Samsung's minimised the problem to the point where many people won't notice it.
When watching 3D material, pictures remained bright and vibrant, and colours didn't seem to suffer too much. That's very good to see.
We believe Samsung has the best and most comfortable 3D glasses of any manufacturer. The company also has some new models on the way that are even lighter, and look more like normal glasses than any other type we've seen. The new versions will also have an optional dock that can charge up to four pairs at once. We've tried a pair of these on, and found them to be pretty brilliant.
We do have one issue with the current glasses. If you're sitting in a normally lit room, you may notice reflections on the very edge of the glasses It's not a major issue, though, because, when you're watching TV, you won't really be paying much attention to what's happening in your peripheral vision.
We love the Samsung UE55D8000 almost as much as we loved its D7000 sibling. We're less enamoured with the design of this model, although it's still stunning. The real problem for most people will be the price. There's no getting around the fact that £2,500 is a colossal sum for a TV. Still, if you can afford it, this TV will bring you considerable quantities of pleasure. We're giving it our highest score and a heartfelt recommendation.
Edited by Charles Kloet