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Samsung UNC8000 review: Samsung UNC8000

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.

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