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Samsung UND8000 review: Samsung UND8000

Samsung UND8000

David_Katzmaier.jpg
David Katzmaier
David_Katzmaier.jpg

David Katzmaier

Editorial Director -- TVs and streaming

David has reviewed TVs, streaming services, streaming devices and home entertainment gear at CNET since 2002. He is an ISF certified, NIST trained calibrator and developed CNET's TV test procedure himself. Previously David wrote reviews and features for Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as "The Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics."

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8 min read

Samsung UN65D8000
8.1

Samsung UND8000

The Good

The <b>Samsung UND8000 series</b> has a unique, visually stunning design that minimizes the frame around the screen for a nearly all-picture look. It produces deep black levels with accurate color, along with excellent video processing and improved 3D picture quality. The Smart Hub Internet portal boasts more apps and streaming services than the competition, along with a functional Web browser, and is easier to use thanks to the included dual-sided Bluetooth keyboard with a screen and QWERTY keyboard.

The Bad

The UND8000 series is extremely expensive and exhibits poor screen uniformity with excessive brightness variation and banding. Details in shadows were obscured somewhat, and the glossy screen reflects a lot of ambient light. Smart Hub lacks Amazon Instant, its search is next to useless, and its interface can be cluttered and confusing.

The Bottom Line

The Samsung UND8000 TV delivers best-in-class looks and features, but its picture quality--thanks to uneven screen uniformity--is ultimately not as good as that of many less expensive models.

The Samsung UND8000 LED-based LCD TV shows the company's considerable technological know-how being brought to bear on a simple design goal: to make the "TV" itself disappear as much as possible when turned on, leaving nothing but the picture. The design is a spectacular success, conveying a look in person that will command attention and be worth the exceedingly high price to a certain subset of buyers with cash to burn. And despite its compact dimensions the UND8000 also manages to squeeze in more features than just about any TV we've ever reviewed.

Another subset of buyers, however, will have a hard time overlooking its principal picture-quality flaw. Its screen lacks the brightness and color uniformity required for peak performance, apparently a casualty of that awesome design. At base, the UND8000 represents a simple choice between a quality picture and the best design and features. We think that the entire set of people who can afford this TV shouldn't have to make that choice, but for now they do.

Editors' note, July 27, 2011: Samsung ran a promotion earlier this year that guaranteed a free pair of 3D glasses with this TV. In July the company canceled that promotion, so we have modified this review to remove references to the free glasses. Individual retailers may offer similar promotions, however. Click here for more details.

Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 55-inch Samsung UN55D8000, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Models in series (details)
Samsung UN46D8000 46 inches
Samsung UN55D8000 (reviewed) 55 inches
Samsung UN60D8000 60 inches
Samsung UN65D8000 65 inches

Design


An almost nonexistent bezel gives the UND8000 an ethereal quality in person.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Design highlights
Panel depth 1.2 inches Bezel width 0.2 inch
Single-plane face No Swivel stand Yes

The UND8000's TV picture comes as close to "naked" as you'll ever see outside a projector. It doesn't have much of anything around the screen, and the measurements are as sexy as any to TV design aficionados: the "bezel" is 0.2 inch by Samsung's count, and the distance from the edge of the picture to the edge of our 55-inch review sample's panel is 0.375 inch according to our tape measure.

We've long lauded the "all-picture" look as the pinnacle of TV design, and Samsung's newest high-end LEDs come closer than any TV so far. In person the image almost floats against the background, and the set's ethereal feel is best conveyed by wall-mounting--and getting as large a size as you can afford. As an added bonus, hanging the UND8000 like a work of art allows you to lose the goofy spider stand.

The main difference between the designs of the UND8000 and the equally thin, and less expensive, UND7000 series is a chrome edge on the former and clear acrylic on the latter (both frame the picture with a thin strip of black inside the edge). We actually prefer the UND7000's transparent version since it looks even slimmer, but the chrome is really sleek too.

Samsung's logo along the bottom edge makes the frame bulge a bit--we wish it could have branded the TV without the bulge. The logo illumination can be defeated. Since there's no room on the front of the bezel for buttons, Samsung placed touch-sensitive controls on the side and a display pops up on the screen alongside the buttons; a cool touch, so to speak, but not as sensitive as we'd like.


Samsung's logo bulge and four-legged stand are our least favorite parts of the UND8000's appearance.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Remote control and menus "="">Other: Back side of Bluetooth remote has screen and QWERTY keypad
Remote size (LxW) 6x2.4 inches QWERTY keyboard Yes
Illuminated keys 48 IR device control No
Menu item explanations Yes Onscreen manual Yes

The remote included with flagship Samsung TVs like the UND8000 is a flipper. The top side of the wedge-shaped rectangle offers standard TV controls that shoot infrared commands to the TV, while the bottom gets a full QWERTY keypad along with a screen, and works via Bluetooth (which doesn't need line-of-sight).

Our first experience with the new remote was frustrating: its screen said "need pairing" and despite our best efforts, which included initiating pairing while holding it close to the TV (as suggested by HD Guru), reinserting the batteries, and cursing, we couldn't get it to work. So we consulted Samsung and, after a reset sequence (simultaneously pressing @+Backspace on the QWERTY side; then Mute, 0, Mute, 0 on front side; then pairing by simultaneously pressing Sym+Tab on QWERTY side while holding the remote behind the TV, within a few inches of the back left side), it finally paired. Samsung says a firmware update eases pairing, so hopefully our issues won't plague all users of the remote.


Flip the remote over to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard on the back.

We liked the clicker more than the QWERTY remotes included with Vizio's current models or Sony's Google TVs, but that's not saying much. The screen is its best feature, allowing you to see what you're typing without having to look up at the TV. Spacing and key action were improvements on the other two. Unlike the flipper found on the Boxee Box, Samsung's remote can sense which side is up and automatically deactivates the bottom side.

While we appreciated the little thumb touch-cursor control better than Sony's when using the browser, it was still quite difficult to control. The lack of backlighting on the QWERTY side was a major flaw--it was simply impossible to use the remote in the dark--and all told we actually liked using our Android phone as a remote best of all (see the "Streaming and apps" section below).

Samsung's 2011 TV menus have been refreshed and also feel a bit snappier than before. The main column of adjustments, formerly transparent, is now bright opaque blue on the D6400, with rounded edges and good-sized text. Each major menu item gets a text explanation and many are accompanied by helpful little illustrations.

Features

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Key TV features "="">Other: Optional 3D glasses include SSG-3100GB (nonrechargeable, $50), SSG-3300CR (compact, rechargeable, $130), SSG-3300GR (rechargeable, $130), SSG-3700CR (rechargeable, ultralight, $150); optional Skype camera/speakerphone (STC1100, $170); supports USB hard drives
Display technology LCD LED backlight Edge-lit with local dimming
3D technology Active 3D glasses included No
Screen finish Glossy Internet connection Built-in Wi-Fi
Refresh rate(s) 240Hz Dejudder (smooth) processing Yes
DLNA-compliant Photo/Music/Video USB Photo/Music/Video

From Samsung's perspective, the main step-up feature that differentiates the UND8000 series from the UND7000 models is local dimming from its edge-lit LED backlight. Samsung calls it "micro dimming" this year, and says it uses more zones than on the UNC8000 from 2010--not divulging how many--and touts a new light dispersal plate said to improve picture uniformity. It doesn't work very well as far as we can tell, however.

As we mentioned above, Samsung no longer offers free 3D glasses with this TV. Retailers may offer promotions at their discretion, but since Samsung doesn't pack the glasses in with the TV, you'll have to check with the retailer first.

The UND8000 series is incompatible with 2010 glasses models. Bluetooth does make the new glasses easier to use, and they keep sync much better than the old infrared versions.

We applaud the inclusion of built-in Wi-Fi with this Samsung, saving the cost and hassle of the $80 dongle.


Samsung's 2011 3D glasses like the slim SSG-3700CR shown here (not included) utilize Bluetooth technology to sync with the TV.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Streaming and apps "="">Other: Blockbuster, CinemaNow, Vimeo, MLB TV, ESPN Score Center, Napster, Picasa, Google Maps, Google Talk, numerous games, children's storybooks, exercise guides, other
Netflix Yes YouTube Yes
Amazon Instant No Hulu Plus Yes
Vudu Yes Pandora Yes
Web browser Yes Skype Optional
Facebook Yes Twitter Yes

Unlike the UND6400, the UND8000 does include two separate application and widget interfaces: the main Samsung Apps Smart Hub and, yes, Yahoo Widgets. The latter is currently restricted to just five choices (Yahoo Weather, Finance, News, Flickr, and Twitter), although the new "Yahoo Hot Apps" label on the remote gives us the impression more will be forthcoming. We wonder whether Amazon Instant Video, currently missing from both Yahoo and Smart Hub, will be made available soon.

Smart Hub is basically the same as we described on the UND6400 and on Samsung's Blu-ray players, so check out those write-ups for details. We found its interface crowded and the Search and Your Video functions, while ambitious, disappointing since neither integrated with apps like Netflix and Hulu Plus.

Samsung throws in a Web browser on higher-end models like the UND8000. It's superior to the browser in Sony's EX720 or the PlayStation 3, but not as good as Google TV's. It's fine for light use and viewing most Web pages, although complex ones (Gmail) and videos caused it to slow down, lose functionality, or crash. We tried loading Hulu.com, for example, and it simply didn't work, but reading a review on CNET was easy enough...although the video played only sound. The little pointer on the remote was a pain to use but better than tabbing around, while response times and load times were slow in general.

Samsung's remote app on our Android phone worked quite well, with excellent response times and most of the functionality we wanted. We liked the easy access to apps and the ability to input text searches using the Swype keyboard, but its best feature is changing context according to what you're doing--hitting the Smart tab, for example, brought up a simplified interface that we actually preferred to Smart Hub on the TV. Sure, you have to look at the touch screen, as opposed to feeling your way with the remote buttons, but we still liked using it better than using the QWERTY remote included with the TV.

New apps launched in the last couple weeks include Events (a ZIP-code-based local events search) and the games Dream Day Wedding, Fishing Star, Happy Fruits, and Pac-Man (the last three at $4.99 each). We also noticed an Internet radio app called vTuner.


Among the numerous Smart Hub options is a Web browser.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Picture settings
Adjustable picture modes 4 Fine dejudder control Yes
Color temperature presets 4 Fine color temperature control 10 points
Gamma presets 7 Color management system Yes

As usual Samsung provides one of the best suites of picture adjustments for both 2D and 3D sources, delivering extras like adjustable custom dejudder, a 10-point grayscale, and color management that many TVs lack. Three local dimming (Smart LED) settings are available on the UND8000, and there's a Cinema Black setting that automatically dims the letterbox bar portion of 2.35:1 movies.

When this review first posted we wrote that picture settings can't be adjusted in Netflix, but that's incorrect. Calling up the Tools menu and then pressing the main menu button brings up picture adjustments in Netflix. Vudu's picture can also be adjusted, although we didn't try other services.

3D settings are the same as last year, and provide plenty of control as well. You can use the 2D-to-3D conversion system with streaming services and other sources we tried.


Local dimming on the UND8000 comes in three strengths.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Connectivity
HDMI inputs 4 Component video inputs 1
Composite video input(s) 1 VGA-style PC input(s) 1
USB ports 3 Ethernet (LAN) port Yes

Like past superthin Samsung TVs, the D8000 is light on analog connections and those it does have require breakout cables (included). We'd like to see a headphone jack, but the third USB might make up for the lack if you're using the Wi-Fi dongle and you like to stream media via USB.


HDMI gets precedence while analog connections are scarce and require breakout cables.

Performance
(How we test TVs)

The Samsung UND8000 doesn't deliver the kind of picture quality we expected from a flagship HDTV at this price level. Its Achilles' heel is poor uniformity, which affects many categories of performance by unevenly lighting the screen. Black levels and color in the central screen area subject to calibration and measurement were excellent, but if you consider the entire screen this thin TV falls short of other edge-lit LED models, including Samsung's own UND6400 series.

While Samsung's Movie mode delivered the most accurate picture prior to our adjustments, it was still overly blue with too-bright gamma and crushed shadow detail, albeit with extremely dark blacks. In the course of our calibration we were able to basically nail color accuracy, even in near-black, and improve shadow detail and gamma somewhat, the former at the expense of some black level. The TV's excellent showing in our tests, as with previous Samsungs (and LGs for that matter), is mostly a result of superb picture control options. Too bad there's no control for screen uniformity.

Our image quality tests involved watching a Blu-ray copy of "Tron: Legacy" on the following lineup.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Comparison models (details)
Samsung UN55C8000 55-inch edge-lit LED with local dimming
Samsung UN46D6400 46-inch edge-lit LED
LG 47LW5600 47-inch edge-lit LED with local dimming
Sony Bravia XBR-52HX909 52-inch full-array LED with local dimming
Vizio XVT553SV 55-inch full-array LED with local dimming
Panasonic TC-P50GT30 50-inch plasma
Pioneer Elite Kuro PRO-111FD (reference) 50-inch plasma

Black level: The UND8000 is certainly capable of producing some of the deepest black levels of any TV we've tested in the middle of its screen--which is, again, where we perform all of our measurements--but its poor screen uniformity causes the outer edges to be significantly brighter. Overall it still ranked among the darker displays to our eyes, for example in dim scenes like the push toward the televisions in Chapter 2, falling short of only the Sony and the Kuro and outdoing the others, including the local-dimming Vizio.

We noticed the loss in black level on the outer portions of the screen quite often in program material. During the bike chase later in the chapter, for example, the edges were brighter and tinged bluer in numerous areas, most noticeably in the shadows under the overpass and the truck, the night sky, and Sam's leather jacket. A similar effect was visible in the dark canyon walls of Chapter 8. Blacks and dark areas on the outer thirds of the UND8000's screen were significantly lighter than on most of the other sets in our lineup.

The UND8000's Cinema Black setting, which basically turns off the top and bottom sections of the screen that correspond to the horizontal letterbox bars in 2.35:1 aspect ratio (CinemaScope) movies, worked well. It improved perceived contrast while masking (pun intended) uniformity issues--indeed, letterbox bars on the Samsung were darker than on any other comparison model.

In short, the UNC8000's black-level performance depended, more than with any TV we've tested in the last few years, on where we were looking on the screen. See the "Uniformity" section below for more.

Despite solid gamma measurements, overall shadow detail in the central area of the screen was still among the worst in our lineup. Near-black areas like Sam's jacket at the 13:39 mark appeared obscured somewhat, although some detail was still visible. We didn't play too much with the various local-dimming modes, except to verify that they didn't affect uniformity much, but in the end we preferred the significantly deeper blacks afforded by leaving them on versus the shadow detail gains made by disabling them.

Like the D6400, the D8000 turned off its entire backlight completely at times, but we didn't find the effect as distracting because it took longer to do so. The black screen at the beginning of Chapter 10, for example, caused the D6400 to turn off while the D8000's backlight stayed active.

Color accuracy: The UND8000 performed well overall in this category. The skin tones of Sam and Alan in Chapter 3 and Chapter 19, for example, looked as accurate as on our reference, as did the green trees and the pale face of Quorra in Chapter 19. Saturation was very good and we appreciated that near-black areas didn't veer far into blue. The exception, again, came toward the edges of the screen, where blue crept in and tainted colors in midbright and darker ranges.

Video processing: The UND8000 evinced excellent performance in this category. We really appreciated its ability to adjust dejudder to preserve the cadence of film while reducing blurring. In our tests it handled 1080p/24 properly in Custom mode with Judder reduction set at zero and delivered full motion resolution with blur reduction at 10. A variety of other settings are available if you like some smoothing introduced, and all of them preserved the excellent motion resolution (although, as usual, the visible benefits of said preservation were very difficult to see in most material).

As usual with Samsung we needed to place the UND8000 in Auto 1 Film Mode to get it to deinterlace 1080i film-based material properly.

Uniformity: Apparently Samsung had to make some serious uniformity sacrifices to achieve the UND8000's amazing design. In dark and even midbright scenes roughly the left and right thirds of the screen appeared significantly brighter then the middle third, becoming gradually brighter toward the edge. They showed a cloudy look in dark scenes, while the extreme edge of our review sample had particularly bright lines about a third of the way up the left side and again along the bottom.

We also noticed faint vertical and horizontal bands across most of the screen, particularly in middark raster patterns (10 percent to 45 percent). These issues were visible in some scenes as well, such as the canyon walls in Chapter 8 or the dark background as the camera moves at 52:49, 1:11:28, and 1:55:50.

The other edge-lit LEDs, namely the Samsung UNC8000 and UND6400, as well as the LG LW5600, looked significantly more uniform overall. We noticed more blooming on the full-array Sony and Vizio sets than on the UND8000, but the other uniformity flaws on the latter were much more noticeable. We've heard similar complaints about the UND8000's uniformity from readers and professional reviewers, so we doubt they're restricted to our review sample.

From off-angle the UND8000 lost black level and thus color fidelity at about the same rate as the other Samsungs and the Vizio, while the LG performed worse and the Sony performed better.

Bright lighting: The glossy screen of the UND8000 appeared identical to that of the UND6400, and both were worse than any of the others in our lineup at reducing glare from bright reflections. On the other hand the UND8000 excelled at preserving black levels under the overhead lights, beating the rest of the TVs in that category. As usual the matte LCDs, namely the LG and Vizio, were the best overall at bright-room performance.

PC: The Samsung was basically flawless in this category. Via VGA edge enhancement was nonexistent after auto adjustment, resolution was perfect, and there was no flicker visible.

3D: The 3D image quality of the UND8000 was very good overall and a night-and-day improvement over last year's UNC8000. In fact, as far as 3D goes it outperformed all of the other sets in our lineup, including the Panasonic TC-PGT30 plasma.

Watching "Tron: Legacy" we noticed that crosstalk was less prevalent overall on the UND8000 than on the others. In difficult white-on-black areas like the superimposed "1989" in Chapter 1, and in Chapter 9 with the bright piping against Quorra's dark suit as she looks in the mirror, and the legs of the table in Sam's room, the double-image of crosstalk on the GT30 was a bit more obvious than on the D8000. Note that in the GT30 review we originally gave the Panasonic the nod, but further viewing swayed us toward the Samsung.

Black levels and contrast when viewed through the 3D glasses were superb, again outclassing any of the other displays. The TV's uniformity issues were also less apparent when viewed through the dimmer glasses.

We did notice that smoothing appeared despite setting Auto Motion Plus to Custom/Dejudder Off; to eliminate smoothing we had to disable AMP completely.

Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.004 Good
Avg. gamma 2.1577 Good
Near-black x/y (5%) 0.3116/0.3294 Good
Dark gray x/y (20%) 0.3116/0.3301 Good
Bright gray x/y (70%) 0.3126/0.3298 Good
Before avg. color temp. 6815 Poor
After avg. color temp. 6491 Good
Red lum. error (de94_L) 0.0491 Good
Green lum. error (de94_L) 0.6731 Good
Blue lum. error (de94_L) 0.3917 Good
Cyan hue x/y 0.2265/0.3305 Good
Magenta hue x/y 0.3207/0.1532 Good
Yellow hue x/y 0.4182/0.5064 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
1080i Deinterlacing (film) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 1200 Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 1200 Good
PC input resolution (VGA) 1,920x1,080 pixels Good

Power consumption: We did not test the power consumption of this size in the Samsung UND8000 series, but we did test the 55-inch model. For more information, refer to the review of the Samsung UN55D8000.

Samsung UN55D8000 CNET review calibration results

Samsung UN65D8000
8.1

Samsung UND8000

Score Breakdown

Design 10Features 9Performance 6
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