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.
|Models in series (details)|
|Samsung UN46D8000||46 inches|
|Samsung UN55D8000 (reviewed)||55 inches|
|Samsung UN60D8000||60 inches|
|Samsung UN65D8000||65 inches|
|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.
|Remote control and menus|
|Remote size (LxW)||6x2.4 inches||QWERTY keyboard||Yes|
|Illuminated keys||48||IR device control||No|
|Menu item explanations||Yes||Onscreen manual||Yes|
|Other: Back side of Bluetooth remote has screen and QWERTY keypad|
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.
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.
|Key TV features|
|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|
|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|
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.
|Streaming and apps|
|Amazon Instant||No||Hulu Plus||Yes|
|Other: Blockbuster, CinemaNow, Vimeo, MLB TV, ESPN Score Center, Napster, Picasa, Google Maps, Google Talk, numerous games, children's storybooks, exercise guides, other|
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.
|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.