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Samsung UE55ES8000 TV review
What is it?
Samsung's 55in flagship TV for 2012, complete with 3D, a super-slim design, 'next-gen' Smart TV features, and a revolutionary new operating system.
It looks gorgeous, its 2D and 3D pictures are both excellent, its Smart TV features are mostly good, and two of its three new systems for controlling it work unexpectedly well.
The gesture control system needs a lot of work, there's some backlight bleed when watching 3D, and the provided picture presets could be better.
The bottom line
Samsung has delivered 2012's first truly 'next gen' TV in both performance and feature terms.
Samsung's UE55ES8000 is set to stun as soon as it comes out of its box. For somehow Samsung has managed to hang its vast 55in screen within a frame less than 1cm wide, and a chassis barely 30mm deep. It looks impossible - but there it is.
Making the lack of bodywork supporting the screen all the more remarkable is the fact that Samsung has crammed so much cutting edge technology into it. For a start, it's got a dual-core processor, giving the set much more processing power than any of its predecessors for handling both Smart TV and picture quality duties.
It's also got a significantly ramped up version of Samsung's Smart TV system, including such new services as Netflix and three dedicated content 'zones': Family Story, Fitness and Kids.
Of these, Family Story is likely to have the widest appeal. It lets you establish a 'closed network' with friends or family members for sharing photos, messages/memos and diaries, with other invited members of the network able to join via other Smart TVs, laptops, and Android laptops and smartphones.
The Fitness zone, meanwhile, delivers a surprisingly rich environment for gym-haters to improve their fitness. You can set up as many as 10 fitness profiles for different members of your household, with each profile initially recording weight, height and Body Mass Index (BMI). Then you can choose from a selection of fitness routine video clips, with the calories associated with each routine displayed at the head of each video. This way the TV can track how much work you've done, how many calories you've burned, and thus your potential weight loss, ultimately providing some nicely presented progress charts.
The system does not, of course, track your eating habits, so the automatic aspects of its health tracking can't be completely accurate. But we can certainly imagine stay-at-home exercisers finding the system helpful and even a touch addictive.
The growth in its Smart TV platform and its integrated web browser has persuaded Samsung to experiment with some alternative control systems for the UE55ES8000. Two of these - voice control and a trackpad remote control option included free with the TV - work startlingly well, with the accuracy of the voice recognition system when speaking words and phrases for online search fields being surprisingly good.
A gesture control system, on the other hand, is much less successful, proving too fatiguing and too finicky to be practical in its current form.
The UE55ES8000's dual-core processor has a startlingly profound effect on the set's picture quality, delivering clear improvements over Samsung's 2011 TVs. Particularly dramatic is the step forward where 3D is concerned, with the UE55ES8000's 3D images looking brighter, more colour rich, more detailed and HD, and far, far less plagued by crosstalk noise.
As for 2D images, the most significant improvement is in the contrast range. The UE55ES8000's extra processing power lets it individually assess twice as many parts of the image as last year's models when attempting to judge the best edge LED lighting settings. And the results are potently evident with pretty much everything you watch, be it in the extra punch images generally have, the extra shadow detail in dark scenes, the richer look to bright colours, or the black level the TV can achieve (so long as you ignore all the provided picture presets and manually reduce the backlight to below its '10' level).
It's a relief to discover, too, that the rich contrast visible during dark scenes isn't spoiled badly at all by the sort of backlight consistency problems that Samsung edge LED TVs have sometimes suffered from. Again, you have to reduce the image's backlight setting way downwards from the preset levels to get the best backlight consistency, but the improved local dimming technology means this doesn't cost the image too much punch.
The only unavoidable backlight problem occurs when watching 3D, where the extra brightness required causes the backlight to throw out quite obvious light 'jets' in each corner during dark scenes. Samsung believes it can improve this problem, and we'll update this review if they do!
HD pictures look spectacularly crisp and detailed too, and unlike many LCD TVs, they suffer only relatively little with resolution loss over moving objects. Standard definition images are upscaled well too, with good sharpness and relatively little noise. Even poor-quality sources streamed from the internet usually end up looking passable once Samsung's scaling has done its work.
Supporting the UE55ES8000's mostly outstanding images is a respectably clean and smooth audio performance that improves on the thin and unconvincing audio generally heard from ultra-slim TVs. That said, there's no deep bass, and action scenes tend to sound pretty flat and thin - but no more so than on almost all other slimline TVs.
While the UE55ES8000's sound might not be revolutionary, other aspects of it certainly are. Its online services and user interfaces, in particular, represent a real leap forward for Smart TV technology, while the introduction of dual-core processing takes Samsung's picture quality to a new level (once you've calmed its backlight down).
At £2,500 the UE55ES8000 may be beyond many people's budgets, but it's certainly an exceptionally strong statement of intent from a brand clearly hellbent on ruling the new Smart TV world.
Screen size: 55in
Screen technology: edge LED
3D ready: yes
Full HD resolution: yes
Online services: yes - Smart TV
Connections: four v1.4 HDMIs, two USBs, component video, D-Sub PC input, composite video input, RF input, RGB Scart, PC audio input, digital audio output, stereo audio input, headphone output
Dimensions (on stand): 1230.3mm(w) x 722.3mm(h) x 30.8(d)mm