In 2009 it was 3D. In 2012 it was 4K. The past year the big movement for TVs are curved screens. First arriving in OLED displays, now most manufacturers put a curve into their highest-end displays. The biggest question has always been: why? Movie theaters have used curved screens but often that is to compensate for pincushioning in projection lenses. With TVs it has to be something else, and there have been many suggestions about the benefits and drawbacks.
After spending three weeks watching the Samsung UN55H8000 I can say that I am neutral on the curve. I usually don’t notice it when watching. With some reflections it makes them better, while others it can make worse. Take the curve out of the equation and the UN55H8000 is a fantastic set. It has accurate colors, a good local dimming system and contrast ratios, and useful SmartTV features. It offers an image that will make anyone happy no matter what they think of the curve.
|Display Type:||LED LCD|
|Inputs:||4x HDMI 1.4a, 1x Component, 2x Composite, 1x RF|
|Outputs:||1x Optical, 1x 3.5mm Audio|
|Streaming Services:||Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vudu, Amazon Instant Video, HBO Go|
|Display Size:||48.5" x 29.9" x 9.3"|
|Display Weight:||41.7 lbs.|
|Review Date:||December 17, 2014|
|Price:||Check on Amazon|
What I cared about more than the curve of the screen was the electronics behind it. As their top 1080p display this year, it pulls out all the stops. The H8000 has all the features you want: edge-lit LED with microdimming, a true 240Hz screen, a 3D color management system and 10-point white balance controls, 3D with four pairs of glasses included, and SmartTV features that are quick to respond.
Once you unpack and hook up the Samsung UN55H8000 you are going to like what you see on the screen. The images that it put out look flat out great. Colors are great and pop off the screen without being inaccurate and over-saturated. You can just take the Samsung out of the box, set it to movie mode and the gamma to -1, and you’ll have a great picture.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is the best black torture test I have. As Voldemort and his minions gather on top of the hill overlooking Hogwarts, most LCDs cannot do the scene justice. You usually see everything break down into a murky mess where a fog seems to cover everything. On the Samsung you can make out all the details in the the characters while still having deep blacks. As they start to bombard Hogwarts the dynamic lighting lets those be bright while the rest of the image remains dark.
Later in the same scene Harry Potter provides a good test to see how well the dynamic lighting work. Fred and George Weasley are on top of the school while explosions light the sky and cause the dynamic lighting to trigger on and off. On displays with poor dynamic lighting systems this is easy to notice. On the H8000 it lights up quickly, and then slowly fades back into darkness. It could fade a bit faster, but if it goes too fast then you notice it happening. The way that it is handled makes it invisible unless you know to look for it so the dynamic lighting works well. The fireworks scene in Skyfall also looks excellent.
The best looking Blu-ray on the market in my opinion is Samsara. On the Samsung UN55H8000 this disc comes to life. The flyover of the temples in Burma just sucks you in with deep, earthy reds and lush greens that fill the forest. King Tut’s mask is detailed, with a rich gold color and a metallic sheen. Far and away the stand-out scene is that of the monks blowing their horns. As the camera pulls back and reveals more of the frame the image looks as 3D as you can get without wearing glasses. The monks stand out against the background and it looks fantastic.
With 3D the Samsung is OK but has the inherent issues of an LCD TV. The integrated Netflix app can stream 3D so I used Art of Flight as a test. Many images look good but other suffer from crosstalk artifacting. With four included pairs of glasses it is easy to watch 3D if you want, and the 3D quality is good for an LCD but behind a 4K passive 3D set or a plasma.
Watching football through the antenna the blur reduction does a good job of improving motion. The H8000 can produce plenty of light for a room filled with windows during the day. Football looks good but it also led me to find an artifact on the H8000 that I had not seen before. 720p signals from ABC and Fox were fine but 1080i has an interesting hiccup. Every so often the image would slow down for part of a second, then speed up to catch up. Audio didn’t change, but the image did. It happens less often if you turn Auto Motion off but still would happen sometimes. I never saw it with progressive content, so if you only use progressive signals you might never see it.
The Samsung SmartTV features, Smart Hub, continue to improve as well. The interface gets faster, with quick access to what you have most recently used. The faster processor means that apps load quick even compared to an external box like the Roku 3. It has a large selection of apps with the most important ones being there: Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus, Spotify, and even HBO Go.
Navigating the Samsung Smart Hub uses a normal keypad or with the included motion control remote. You can point and click the icons on screen or you can maneuver using your thumb. I’m still old school and like to use clicks to select instead of pointing the remote, but the small form factor of it fits well into your hand.
The H8000 also lets you listen to the TV using Bluetooth. Inside of the system its label is for Bluetooth headphones, but it also supports Bluetooth soundbars as I tested it with the Vizio S4221W-C4. It connects fast and an external sound bar sounds much better than the internal speakers. Using Bluetooth doesn’t offer the same quality of using HDMI ARC or even Optical output, but does work without wires. You can also pair the H8000 with Samsung’s Shape speakers to provide better audio quality.
When it comes down to the curve, I wind up falling on the side of not caring about it. It isn’t that is bad or good, but more that it is neutral in my viewing. When it comes to reducing reflections I find that it can reduce some reflections, it also creates different reflections than a flat screen. In a dark room I only notice it with cinemascope content where I can detect a slight curve at the black bars. As far as being more immersive or sharper due to the curve matching the natural curve of your eyes, I did not see that. With a larger screen size and sitting closer it may, but it doesn’t for me.
Page 2 has more details on the calibration, but the short version is that there is no reason to pay to have the H8000 calibrated. It improves it but in ways that your eyes will never notice. There are no major flaws, and few minor ones, to distract. The contrast ratio measures better than any other LCD has in my testing. Full details are on the calibration page, but the H8000 is nice objectively and subjectively.
Beautiful Inside and Out
There is not much I can complain about with the Samsung UN55H8000. The picture is one of the best LCDs I have seen and looks that way without any work. It has all the features you want, plenty of HDMI inputs, and all the streaming content most people will need. Beyond that it looks fantastic sitting in your living room. I was hesitant coming into reviewing the H8000 because of the curve, but because of the picture quality of the set I didn’t think about it much after I first watched it.
If you’re going to pick apart something about it, it is only what cost the curve adds to the display. The Samsung H7150 series is nearly identical in specs and runs $300 or so less for the same screen size. It won’t look as good turned off, but the picture quality when turned on is most important. I don’t know for sure how the H7150 performs, but I know that the H8000 performs beautifully and is an LCD I can happily watch day after day.
|Pros:||Almost flawless image, best LCD contrast ratio I have measured, no calibration needed for best performance|
|Cons:||1080i bug using antenna, negligible benefit to the curve|
|Summary:||Ignore the curve and the Samsung UN55H8000 is one of the best looking LCD sets I have used. It is incredibly accurate, has deep black levels with local dimming, and has a plethora of streaming content. The curve looks great when the TV is off, but when you are watching it doesn't really add much of a benefit. The only real negative is the price because of the curve.|