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Samsung UE55F8000 review: Samsung's UE55F8000 has a terrific smart TV system

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The 'Smarthub' is divided into multiple different pages. The On TV page shows a thumbnail of the currently TV show you're watching as well as six images related to upcoming shows that you might want to watch. The system learns over time what you like from your viewing habits, so it's a bit like TiVo in this regard.

Samsung UE55F8000 apps
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The F8500 has apps for iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD and Demand5.

Hop right to the Movie and TV page and you'll find more recommendations, this time for movies and TV shows from Samsung's Video Hub that you might want to watch. Flick right again and you'll find yourself at the Photos, Videos and Music page where you can play or stream your own digital media files from USB drives or networked devices.

Flick back in the opposite direction from the On TV page you'll land on the apps hub. This displays a row of apps selected by Samsung -- below this there's a grid into which you can slot shortcuts for your favourite apps. Scrolling left again takes you to the social page where you're shown recommended YouTube videos, as well video content your mates have posted on social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Samsung's smart TV system is hands down the best out there at the moment. It has the broadest selection of apps, including catch-up apps for all the major UK terrestrial broadcasters, so you get BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, Demand5 and 4oD onboard. There's both Netflix and Lovefilm, as well as Blinkbox for movie rentals. The built-in camera and microphone also mean the TV can be used for making video calls in Skype from the comfort of your couch.

Samsung has improved its media player, too, although it's still far from perfect. It now supports MKV HD video as well as MP4, DivX and Xvid files. The interface for the media player is much slicker and faster to use too. File support in the media player has also improved. It now plays back HD MKV files, along with Divx, MP4 and Xvid videos. However, as on the F8500 I looked at recently, the fast-forward and rewind controls only work when you're playing back content from USB drives, they don't work when you're streaming files across a network. This is something Samsung's engineers really need to fix.

To be fair, though, the whole smart TV system did seem more stable than when I tested it on the F8500, and there was one software update during my time testing the set, so Samsung still seems to be developing it at a reasonably rapid rate.

I still think Samsung should include a proper tutorial that explains all the features and how to use them, as it's easy to get a bit overwhelmed by all the features when you first start.

Audio quality

The F8000's audio isn't best-in-class, but it's definitely one of the better sounding LED sets I've had in for review. It doesn't have the overall depth and warmth of something like Sony's older HX853, but Samsung has integrated a mini woofer system into the bottom of the chassis and this does help it crank out a bit more low end than some of the company's previous sets.

The wide chassis means that the stereo speakers are further apart and this does help it spread out the stereo image a bit helping it to delver a more convincing sound stage.

2D picture quality

The handsome design and clever smart TV system would all count for nothing if this set wasn't able to produce good-looking pictures. Thankfully, the F8000 is easily the best LED set that has ever rolled off the Samsung production line.

Despite the fact you're paying close to two and a half grand for a TV, though, Samsung still can't put a decent preset on the TV. Of the bunch, the Movie mode is the best, but it still drives the backlight too hard, has the sharpness cranked up too high and needs the colours adjusting slightly. Once this has been taken care of the good news is that its pictures are, for the most part, stunning.

Samsung UE55F8000 picture control
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The F8000's pictures are strong by LED standards.

Colours are big, bold and bright, yet have enough restraint to deftly handle skin tones and other tricky natural hues. HD images are razor-sharp and black levels are surprisingly deep for an LED set. Importantly they're also more consistent across the display, although to my eyes Sony's W905A was a little better in this regard. It's not bad at delivering shadow detail, but the software micro-dimming feature does crush this at times, so it's not as strong as Samsung's own F8500 in this regard.

You can dim the backlight at the top and bottom of the display when you're watching a widescreen movie with black bars, to stop the cloudy backlighting you often see in these bars on LED TVs. You have to turn this on and off manually, however. It would have been much cleverer if the TV could automatically recognise the presence of black bars onscreen and do it for you.

Samsung's motion processing is still overly aggressive at the higher settings, though, leading to lots of ugly flickering around moving objects, but on the Clear setting it does a good job of upping motion clarity without suffering from these problems and you can also adjust the de-judder and de-blur settings yourself to get even better results.

Another issue I noticed on my sample was that there was a quarter of a centimetre line across the top and bottom of the screen that seemed to have slightly different lighting to the rest of the display when showing certain colours. It looks similar to the 'crease' that was present on some of Sony's LED models a couple of years ago. It's a fairly minor issue and only really noticeable when the set is showing specific colours on those parts of the display, such as light blue or blacks.

These issues might be niggles, but they do add up and the end result is that when judged overall, I'd prefer to have Samsung's F8500 in my lounge than the F8000. Sure, the F8000 is a tad slimmer and prettier, but the F8500 is a good deal cheaper, yet produces slightly better picture quality.

3D picture quality

In the box you'll find two pairs of Samsung's active 3D glasses. These are a little on the flimsy side, but they're light, which helps them feel a little bit more comfortable to wear.

Samsung UE55F8000 3D glasses
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Samsung's 3D glasses are very light by Active 3D standards.

The F8000's 3D pictures are very strong. Watching Hugo and Prometheus on Blu-ray, there's a very good sense of depth and colours retain lots of punch. Images are almost completely free of crosstalk too. Impressively, Samsung's active glasses produce very little flicker on any ambient light that might be in your room, so they're less tiring on your eyes.

One slight annoyance, though, is that the F8000 seems to keep some motion processing turned on in 3D, even when you've got the setting turned off in the menu. You can see this clearly in the opening shot of Hugo, as it looks too smooth as the camera sweeps into the train station. Many people will probably like the smoother motion it produces, but I'd prefer to have the ability to turn it off and go with the inherent judder of film, even if Samsung had tucked the toggle switch away in an expert menu or something similar.

Conclusion

As an overall package, the UE55F8000 is just about the best LED screen I've come across. Its motion- and voice-control features are still not much more than gimmicks, but the smart TV system is top notch and the set's picture and audio quality is very strong by LED standards. That's just as well, as this is a hugely expensive TV.

Nevertheless, if you mostly use your TV to watch movies in the evening, you'll get better picture results and save yourself some cash by opting for Samsung's incredibly impressive F8500 plasma instead, even if its chassis isn't quite as handsome as that of the F8000.

Editor's note: Review updated 8 July to correct a mistake in the 2D picture quality section.

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