Editor's note: Samsung has released a patch that is designed to alleviate the problems we experienced during this review. You can read about it. However, as the update is optional for existing users, the review remains as is.
The F8 series sits at the high end of the Samsung product range, set apart from the rest by its implementation of 100Hz Motion Plus technology. The feature list, aesthetics and sound quality are all exceptional. However, the Motion Plus feature has serious problems that actually degrades the image quality, rather than improve it.
For the F8 series, Samsung has changed their usual design, ever so slightly, and the result is quite attractive. In addition to the usual piano black chassis, the left and right sides of the unit are finished in clear plastic much like the Sony BRAVIA X-series. The connections at the rear are easy to access and additional connections on the side of the unit include HDMI and USB for music and photo playback.
The F8 has three HDMI ports in total, two component connections, one composite, a VGA PC connection and an integrated high definition tuner.
The Samsung LA46F81BDX is a 46 inch LCD television with a native resolution of 1920x1080. As we mentioned, its main claim to fame is its 100Hz technology. If done well, it can greatly reduce the motion problems that have plagued flat panel televisions for far too long. PAL televisions are traditionally 50Hz and as such can display video signals at 50 frames per second. In theory, by doubling that frame rate to 100, any jerky motion (called judder) is removed. However, the original video signal is still 50 frames per second so an extra 50 need to be created via interpolation. This can lead to more problems than it is supposed to fix. In addition, removing judder problems also tends to remove motion blur, making images look extremely fake and unsettling.
In use, we found the LA46F81BDX suffers from poor interpolation with a slew of incorrect frames and frames repeated or displayed in the wrong order. Finer details like grain or particle effects also tended to confuse the unit making them morph into distracting moving patterns. We ran our series of tests on the LA46F81BDX numerous times. We watched Blu-ray and regular DVD films, ran gaming tests at 720p and 1080p, and viewed free-to-air digital television. We attempted to find a viable way to correct the problems we were experiencing without simply turning Motion Plus off but were unsuccessful.
Resigned to the fact that Motion Plus does not work as it should, we retested the TV with all 100Hz options turned off to see how well the Samsung performed -- the results were excellent.
We used thevia HDMI to test 1080p and 720p gaming as well as Blu-ray compatibility. The colours and black levels were rich and images looked clear and crisp. There was some over-sharpening at default settings and the contrast needed to be adjusted as well, but these were easily configured.
To test standard definition (576i) we viewed the lobby scene from The Matrix on DVD. Being a 1080p panel, DVDs are not the optimal media but all things considered, the image quality was quite good with far less scaling artefacts than expected.
Considering the 100Hz technology is the selling point of the F8 series, it is unfortunate that it has been so poorly implemented. The score we have awarded the LA46F81BDX reflects its inability to perform as advertised. With the 100Hz feature disabled, it is a truly excellent television and would have received a score on-par with other high-end models we have reviewed. While some would argue that those purchasing this unit will still end up with a great television, we feel that they shouldn't have to disable some of its features to get it and therefore be paying a premium for something they cannot use.