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.
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|
|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 UNC8000 series
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.
|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
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.
|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.
|Amazon Video on Demand||Yes||Rhapsody||No|
|Other: Hulu Plus, Dailymotion; SynchTV Kids; Napster|
With thousands of streaming channels and a built-in tuner to enjoy free over-the-air channels, the TCL Roku TV makes it easy to cut the cord.
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.
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