Hands On Review: Samsung UN60D8000YF LED LCD 3D TV
More than the sum of it's parts
Buying a television in 2011 is much more involved than just selecting the best-looking picture to watch Jersey Shore on. A TV today is the sum of its parts, and the parts in question on this Samsung 8000 series LED LCD TV are pretty awesome.
First off, this TV, despite being an impressive 60-inch model, is about as thin as a dinner plate. It sports an extremely narrow bezel making it practically all picture. The stand, if you choose to use it, is a sleek X-shaped foot in a shiny chrome finish to match the TV bezel. Like many stands these days, it swivels to allow you to angle it toward the viewers.
The remote is also a design innovation, and a practical one as well. It’s a two-sided remote with standard numbers and control buttons on one side and a QWERTY keypad on the other. The standard remote portion connects to the TV via regular old IR, but you can sync the keypad side via Bluetooth to make the smart TV features easier to operate.
One of the ways Samsung was able to achieve such a cookie-thin design was the use of edge-lit LED technology rather than full-array LEDs. In edge-lit TVs the LEDs are arranged around the perimeter of the set and a system of light conduits channel the light to all areas of the screen. Even being edge-lit, Samsung was able to design local dimming into the set, so the light level will actually respond to differing picture conditions on the screen and dim accordingly. This aids contrasts a great deal.
As a 3D TV, this set is in the active shutter camp, which means that the glasses include LCD shutters that blink open and closed in sync with the left and right images alternating on the screen. The TV doesn’t include glasses in the box, but a current promotion will get you two of the best-looking 3D glasses I’ve seen plus 3D versions of Megamind and the Shrek 4-disc pack. The glasses are light, small and connect to the TV via Bluetooth, which I find more reliable than IR. They charge via USB cables that plug into the back of the TV.
Finally, this TV comes with one of the best smart TV systems on the market. Samsung calls it the Smart Hub, and it offers a broad assortment of apps in an easy-to-use interface that makes it very tempting to dump the cable service and go streaming only.
The Samsung TV’s menu, despite having a very strong selection of picture setting options, is easy to use. It looks like the GUI has been redone since last year, and it’s also fast so you can move through your adjustments quickly.
The picture performance on this LED was mostly very good, though there were a few issues that I noticed from time to time. First the good, the TV sailed easily through all the video processing, deinterlacing etc. test patterns I ran on it. Colors and black levels required only a little adjustment to get them to near perfect levels. If you want the best picture with little effort, then pick Movie Mode, but the TV gives a professional calibrator plenty of settings to tweak. The overall look was great; however, the TV did show some of the uneven light distribution that often comes with edge-lit LED TVs. The TV’s black level varied toward the edge of the screen. This effect was noticeable on some test patterns, but not particularly apparent in regular content. Occasionally I’d notice some light banding effects that seemed to be due to the LED pattern.
As mentioned earlier, this is a smart TV with a similar, but improved online feature set as last year’s models. With built-in Wi-Fi making your network connection is easy. Samsung calls its internet feature Smart Hub, which is basically a landing page from which you can launch various apps. The app selection (in the hundreds) is probably the largest in the TV industry right now and includes everything you’d expect including Netflix, Vudu, Skype and Facebook plus lots of games and weird stuff.
The QWERTY keyboard makes entering text easier, but getting the remote’s Bluetooth connection to sync took a couple of tries. Be persistent, because once it works, it works well.
You can also play your own PC-stored content on this TV via your home network and a DLNA connection. Included in the feature set is a web browser, and it works, but standard web browsing is still a chore compared to a PC or even a tablet.
On the 3D front, the TV performs very well. Unlike with passive-3D systems, Samsung’s active 3D allows full 1080p resolution to reach each eye. This produced some of the sharpest 3D images I’ve seen on a TV. At the same time I did see a little ghosting. On a few underwater scenes in an IMAX-produced movie the effect was very strong, but was not apparent in Avatar or Despicable Me.
If you have an Android table or smart phone, Samsung offers a great app for controlling the TV. I used the app on a Samsung Galaxy 10.1 tablet, and it worked well. For most people this won’t replace their remote, but it’s a good accessory remote.
Overall, this is one of the most satisfying TVs I’ve used recently. Aesthetically, it’s gorgeous, the picture looked great in most viewing situations, and the combination of extra features fills out the total package.
Full specs can be found here.
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