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Samsung UNC8000 review: Samsung UNC8000

Samsung UNC8000

David Katzmaier Editorial Director -- Personal Tech
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.
Expertise A 20-year CNET veteran, David has been reviewing TVs since the days of CRT, rear-projection and plasma. Prior to CNET he worked at Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as the Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics. Credentials
  • Although still awaiting his Oscar for Best Picture Reviewer, David does hold certifications from the Imaging Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology on display calibration and evaluation.
David Katzmaier
11 min read

Among HDTVs we've reviewed, the UNC8000 series is the first 3D TV, the first edge-lit LED-based LCD with local dimming, and the first example of Samsung's Apps for TV platform. It has the company's best LCD picture quality specs for 2010, packs in more features than ever before, and yet manages to measure just under an inch thick. As you can imagine, it doesn't come cheap.


Samsung UNC8000

The Good

Better black levels than other edge-lit sets; accurate color with linear grayscale; numerous picture controls and tweaks; sleek styling with inch-deep panel; superb streaming and widget content via well-integrated Apps platform; 3D compatible; 2D to 3D conversion system works better than expected.

The Bad

Extremely expensive; subpar uniformity and off-angle viewing; lighter black levels than full-array local-dimming sets; black areas tinged bluer; 3D exhibited ghost images along edges (crosstalk); does not include 3D glasses; terrible remote.

The Bottom Line

Its 3D is still a work in progress and its 2D picture quality comes up short of the best available, but the high-end Samsung UNC8000 series still offers superb features, solid performance, and unique style.

The verdict? We haven't been able to compare the Samsung UNC8000 to any other 3D TVs in the lab, and until we do, our evaluation has more caveats than an ad for allergy medication. That said, 3D on this TV (with this firmware version), though definitely an impressive technology demonstration, won't satisfy videophiles, and at times even made us feel queasy. We'll take 2D Blu-ray for now, thank you, although we're interested to see how nonanimated 3D Blu-ray content looks on this set.

Speaking of comparisons, in 2D mode the UNC8000 had a hard time keeping up with the better local-dimming LED-based LCD TVs available, although it does own the edge-lit crown for now. The Apps platform is probably the company's biggest win on this set, proving to be well-integrated, snappy, and chock full of useful content. Of course, it's also available on plenty of cheaper Samsung TVs. All told, despite its cutting-edge features and design, the high-end UNC8000 left us wanting better picture quality to justify its high price.

Editors' note, August 25, 2010: This review had been updated to reflect improved 1080p/24 performance after a firmware update, as well as the addition of Hulu Plus and other new Apps. The rating has not been modified.

Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 55-inch member of the Samsung UNC8000 series, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have identical specs and should provide very similar picture quality.

Models in series (details)
Samsung UN46C8000 46 inches
Samsung UN55C8000 (reviewed) 55 inches
Samsung UN65C8000 65 inches


Silver-and-chrome is the new black.

Design highlights
Panel depth 0.9 inch Bezel width 1.25 inches
Single-plane face No Swivel stand Yes
Other: Stainless steel-colored bezel, transparent edge, 4-leg chrome-colored "X" stand

Samsung has officially abandoned the reserved, buttoned-down, black-bezel look this year, and the UNC8000 series is a shining example. It surrounds the picture with a thin bezel of burnished silver edged with clear plastic, set atop a leggy stand that seems ready to animate and crawl up your wall. In case you want to brag about how thick your TV isn't, the 0.9-inch panel will do you proud. You'll either love or hate the styling of the UNC8000, and though we appreciate non-conformity as much as the next reviewer, we don't love it.

The thin, brushed-metal bezel and transparent edge are slick enough, but we prefer a more understated look.

Remote control and menus
Remote size (LxW) 8.4 x 2.2 inches Remote screen N/A
Total keys 49 Backlit keys 49
Other IR devices controlled No RF control of TV No
Shortcut menu Yes On-screen explanations Yes
Other: Optional touch-screen remote (RMC30C2, $350)

Samsung has a new chrome- and round-edge remote, which reminds us of an overgrown candy bar-style phone. It looks sexy and feels solid--too bad it's such a pain to use.

The buttons are just poorly-differentiated divisions of the flat face, and it's impossible to tell them apart by feel. We constantly had to look down (away from the TV screen) when doing anything more basic than navigating via the cursor controls. We'd trade this remote in for a universal model in a second. Select Samsung phones can apparently control the TV, as can the company's own optional touch-screen remote to better Tweet from your TV.

Aside from the completely overhauled Apps platform, Samsung didn't change its basic TV control menus at all. That's a good thing. The transparent, blue-highlighted graphics are easy to read and navigate, and response is snappier than last year. Text explanations are present for just about every function.

We're fans of Samsung's standard menu array, and appreciate the faster response time.


Key TV features
Display technology LCD LED backlight Edge-lit with local dimming
3D compatible Yes 3D glasses included No
Screen finish Glossy Refresh rate 240Hz
Dejudder (smooth) processing Yes 1080p/24 compatible Yes
Internet connection Yes Wireless HDMI/AV connection No
Other: Built-in 2D to 3D conversion system; Optional 3D Starter kit (SSG-P2100T, $350); 3D glasses (SG-2100AB; $150/pair); Wi-fi USB adapter (WIS09ABGN, $80)

The UNC8000 employs the first LED-based backlight that can actually dim different sections of the screen by using LEDs arranged along the edge (edge-lit), as opposed to behind the LCD element (full array). Samsung calls it "precision dimming." See Performance for our impressions and comparisons to other backlight schemes, as well as for details on 1080p/24 testing.

Otherwise, the 8000's feature set is similar to Samsung's step-down 3D-compatible LCD TV, the UNC7000 series. Unlike Panasonic's 3D plasma, neither of the Samsungs include 3D glasses--the $350 Starter Kit available now has two pairs plus the "Monsters vs. Aliens" disc. Samsung will offer rechargeable and kid-sized glasses shortly, and like all first-generation glasses they will not work with other brands, although they will work with both plasma and LCD 3D TVs from Samsung. Third-party glasses are just a matter of time, however. Samsung (along with Sony and Toshiba) offers 2D-to-3D conversion; Panasonic does not.

Wi-Fi connectivity, available built-in on Sony's high-end models as well as Vizio's Via TVs, is missing on the Samsung. You'll need to buy the USB adapter or employ a third-party wireless bridge.

A few options are available to adjust 3D picture settings.

Streaming media
Netflix Yes YouTube Yes
Amazon Video on Demand Yes Rhapsody No
Vudu video Yes Pandora Yes
CinemaNow Yes DLNA compliant Photo/Music/Video
Blockbuster Yes USB Photo/Music/Video
Other: Hulu Plus, Dailymotion; SynchTV Kids; Napster

As of press time the ever-evolving Samsung Apps platform is the only one available with Hulu Plus, although Vizio and Sony Internet-compatible TVs are slated to get the subscription streaming video service this fall. Even after that happens, however, we're betting Samsung will still offer the largest number of video streamers thanks to options like Dailymotion, CinemaNow, and Blockbuster, which are not yet found on other TVs.

The Samsung Apps platform provides access to more streaming media services than competing TVs.

No major video services go missing, and audio is covered by both Pandora and Napster. With the exception of Amazon VOD and Synch TV Kids, which take the form of Yahoo widgets for some reason, all of the streaming services are integrated into Samsung's main Apps platform.

In brief testing of each we had no problems with the Netflix, Vudu, and Amazon streaming services (we didn't test Blockbuster). Response time and video-audio quality were par for the course, and we appreciated that picture settings, including custom dejudder, were available for streaming video--although 2D-to-3D conversion was not. We did not test streaming of music, photos, or video via USB or DLNA.

Hulu Plus also evoked mostly positive impressions. Video quality was very good to excellent overall, depending on the source, navigation was snappy and we liked the built-in search (aside from the tedium of entering terms using the TV's remote) and the App's general interface.

Hulu Plus has a great interface and very good image quality, but we were irked that we couldn't change the picture controls.

The one big problem we had with Hulu Plus, however, was lack of picture control. No control options were available, and the picture looked stuck in the default Dynamic setting--otherwise known as Torch Mode, with overly bright highlights, oversaturated, inaccurate colors and the telltale smoothing effect of dejudder. We assume Samsung will update the App to include some picture controls in the future, but as it stands we prefer to get Hulu Plus from an external source (like the Blu-ray player), where picture controls remain an option.

Check out our hands-on impressions of Hulu Plus on the Samsung CD-C6900 Blu-ray player for more info.

Most streaming services, like Netflix and Vudu, are grouped into the main Apps menu, but Amazon is not.

Internet apps
Yahoo widgets Yes Skype Yes
Vudu apps No Weather Yes
Facebook No News Yes
Twitter Yes Sports Yes
Photos Picasa/Flickr Stocks Yes
Other: At press time, Samsung Apps platform includes 12 games, 13 Yahoo widgets, 2 weather services, 2 photo services, and more

Samsung wants you to think of its Apps platform much like a certain other Apps store from Apple. The TV version from Samsung is a far cry from the iPhone version today, but does offer a solid variety of options. Currently the accent is on games and information widgets like weather and sports, and key names like Facebook (present on Vizio's platform) are missing. On the other hand, we expect Samsung to release updates throughout the year, and the company plans a major upgrade in July 2010.

The platform also incorporates most of the Yahoo widgets available on previous models, which are also accessible from the main Apps menu relatively seamlessly. The widget experience is much, much better than in the past, owing to faster load and response times. Now the widget taskbar comes up almost immediately, and navigating between widgets and within a widget itself is a breeze.

As previously announced Samsung offers Skype on the C8000 as long as you purchase the Freetalk TV Camera ($149). We hadn't tested this service by press time.

New apps are divided into different genres, like Video and Lifestyle, and downloading them works much like it does on a PC or a smartphone.

Picture settings
Adjustable picture modes 4 Independent memories per input Yes
Dejudder presets 3 Fine dejudder control Yes
Aspect ratio modes -- HD 4 Aspect ratio modes -- SD 4
Color temperature presets 3 Fine color temperature control 10-point system
Gamma presets 7 Color management system Yes
Other: Numerous 3D controls; New 10-point color temperature system; 3 LED dimming settings; three black-frame insertion settings; RGB filters and built-in test patterns

Samsung has officially retaken the picture settings crown from LG this year. Highlights for tweakers include a new 10-point system that works pretty well--albeit not as well as LG's--in addition to a dejudder control system that does work better than LG's (albeit not as well as Samsung's own system from last year). A few internal test patterns are on deck, as well as red, green, and blue color filters, all to aid would-be calibrators. You can also change the dimming to more- or less-aggressive methods or change how the TV handles black-frame insertion, which is designed to reduce blurring. See performance for more details.

Samsung offers a smattering of settings for both native 3D content and 2D-to-3D conversion. With the former, you can fool around with "3D viewpoint," said to adjust perspective, whereas the latter provides a "depth" setting that gives a similar adjustment option. It's also worth noting that engaging 3D changes to a separate set of picture settings, and removes some of the options available in 2D mode (like Eco settings, aspect ratio adjustments, black-frame insertion options, and more).

A new 10-point white balance setting enables even better calibrations.

Other features
Power saver mode Yes Ambient light sensor Yes
Picture-in-picture Yes On-screen user manual No
Other: Basic on-screen "HD connection guide"; onscreen troubleshooting; Sound-only option

Not much goes missing here, although we'd like to see a real onscreen manual, as opposed to the simplistic "connection guide." The troubleshooting section is nice, but is mostly geared toward easing the job of customer service reps tasked with diagnosing owner problems over the phone. We like the option to turn off the screen manually, leaving just the sound, which cuts power use down to 34 watts.

HDMI inputs 4 side Component video inputs 1 back
Composite video input 1 back S-Video input 0
VGA-style PC input 1 RF input 1
AV output(s) 1 audio back Digital audio output 1 optical back
USB port 2 side Ethernet (LAN) port Y
Other: Dongles required (included) for many connections

The input array of the UNC8000 is substantial enough, but the thinness of this TV's panel necessitates a sacrifice. Due to the tiny surface area allotted to the connection bays, most jacks require connection via mini breakout cables. Samsung includes such cables (be careful not to lose them!) for composite AV, component-video, PC-style VGA, RF, digital optical out, stereo audio out, and even LAN (Ethernet)--most are tagged with a warning that could have originated from a botched dialogue translation in the game Lineage: "Insert securely lest should be detached in set." Only HDMI and USB can be connected sans an extra cable, and even then Samsung advises you keep cable/thumbdrive width below 0.55 inch.

The input bay of the C8000 seems uncluttered enough...

...until you decide to attach a few analog devices and an Ethernet cable, that is.


3D picture quality: Update August 25, 2010: Since this review first published, Samsung has updated the firmware on the UNC8000 series more than once. According to our observations of the latest version available via the TV's internal download (version 2010/05/17_001021 according to the menu), however, the comments below still apply. For more comparisons see our reviews of other 3D TVs.

The Samsung UNC8000 produced a convincing 3D effect on "Monsters vs. Aliens," the only currently available 3D Blu-ray. The made-for-3D animated children's title conveyed a sense of depth on our 55-inch TV that was undeniable. Asteroids, leaves, blowing snow, and other prominent foreground objects often appeared to float in front of the screen, and we were routinely impressed at the depth of field we saw in some long shots. Combined with the color, detail, lack of noise and other picture quality plusses characteristic of Blu-ray, it was an impressive technology demonstration.

On the whole, we enjoyed the experience for its novelty, but if we had the choice between watching it in either 2D and 3D, we'd choose 2D. 3D on the Samsung wasn't as immersive as we've seen from theatrical presentations. We place some blame the smaller screen size, but the presence of crosstalk was another distraction: it appeared as ghostly images on the edges of objects, such as the General hovering in his jetpack in Chapter 4; his legs and the struts on the pack appeared to have ghostly doubles, for example (adjusting the 3D viewpoint control wasn't much help, as it just seemed to move the crosstalk to different objects). We also had a hard time getting used to the differences in depth, particularly along the edge of the screen; the image would pop out at times in a way that was unnatural and jarring. We also felt queasiness after viewing sometimes, again, something we didn't feel in the theater.

Conversion from 2D to 3D worked better than we expected, but still not very well, especially compared with the 3D Blu-ray. Snipes, channel logos and onscreen menus gave the strongest impression of depth, followed by the foreground in the bottom part of the screen. The most enjoyable content maintained a steady camera with little movement, and still images or shots of photos in documentaries seemed to work well. Quick cuts, on the other hand, became jarring quickly, and when we cranked up the Depth control we actually experienced mild vertigo. The entire image at times seemed to be plastered on an undulating canvas, randomly closer in some parts and farther away in others. In total, we again preferred to leave the glasses and 2D conversion turned off, although some viewers might like it.

2D picture quality: The Samsung UNC8000 is a very good performer overall--just not as capable as Samsung's previous LCD flagships. Its "precision dimming" technology seems to improve black level performance, albeit not to the same plane as the better, full-array local-dimming LCDs (or plasmas). Color accuracy was generally good, minus some bluish blacks; uniformity was a weak point, but after a firmware update video processing handled 1080p/24 sources correctly.


Samsung UNC8000

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 9Performance 7