Samsung UN55H8000 Curved TV Review
By Chris Heinonen on
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.
More people have commented on the look of the Samsung UN55H8000 than any other thing I have reviewed. From friends and family to babysitters and our cleaners, everyone asked me about it. Not only is it curved, but it is thin with an attractive stand that looks nice in a room. A flat panel stood out and looked great in a living room a decade ago, but now that everyone has a big flat panel in their house it doesn’t anymore. Based on the comments I received is under a month, a curved screen will stand out now like a flat panel did a decade ago.
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.
All calibrations are done using SpectraCal’s CalMAN software using an i1Pro2 spectrometer and a C6 colorimeter. I target the Rec.709 color gamut that is the HDTV standard and the BT.1886 gamma target. APL 25% patterns are used as they work equally well on an LCD or other technologies and most closely mimic the average picture level of film content. Testing for deinterlacing and chroma resolution are done using Spears & Munsil HD Benchmark Version 2 and the Oppo BDP-103D Blu-ray player.
Pre-calibration the Samsung UN55H8000 is almost perfect when set to movie mode with the gamma at -1. I look for the BT.1886 gamma curve which isn’t supported in any preset but this comes closest. I disable most features but leave the dynamic lighting enabled since I use APL test patterns instead of full-screen that allow for all the LEDs to turn off.
As we see, there are no real flaws in the image. The grayscale and gamma are close to our targets. Blue shows a dE2000 error of almost 3.0 at 80% and 90% and that is almost the only color issue you can see. The most impressive thing is the contrast ratio of almost 30,000:1. I use APL patterns, which keeps the level of light constant across test patterns. Because of this, for LED lighting tricks to work they have to be able to dim an area of the screen without turning the lights completely off. It isn’t as accurate as an ANSI contrast would be but it is better than full field.
This is the best contrast ratio from any TV using APL with dimming enabled. By comparison the Vizio 32” M-series measured 52,000:1 using full-field patterns but only 2363:1 using APL patterns. Beacuse of this I can say the Samsung H8000 local dimming works well in creating deep blacks while still allowing highlights.
Post-calibration the grayscale and gamma are better, but not by enough for the eye to notice. Colors have a lower average error, but a couple of points that measure worse than before calibration and might be visible to the eye. Reducing an error from 1.5 to 1.0 makes no difference, but increasing one from 2.0 to 3.5 might make it be visible. Because of this, I’d suggest not spending the time to calibrate the H8000. It already looks fantastic out of the box and it will save you time and money to not do it. Just buy a copy of Disney’s World of Wonder or Spears & Munsil on Blu-ray to set the contrast and brightness and enjoy the image.
Aside from the 1080i issue I found watching football, I didn’t have any other issues on the H8000. Chroma resolution is maintained, which Samsung has always been good with. With a full white pattern on the screen I can see a bit of lighting uniformity creep in around the edges. They dim slightly and you can see this with bright content, such as a blue sky, on the screen. On darker content you cannot notice it, but it is there.
If you are going to play games on the Samsung UN55H8000, make sure to turn on game mode. Your picture quality will suffer a bit, but it drops the processing lag from 124ms down to a reasonable 44ms when measured with the LeoBodnar lag tester. That is a full 5 frames faster on your usual 60 frames-per-second console title. It still is slower than some displays but much better than not turning it on.
The objective performance of the Samsung H8000 is incredibly good. I’d write more, but when you can’t pick anything apart there isn’t more to say. The input lag without game mode and the 1080i bug are the only things I find fault with.
|White Level:||36.8 fL||36.7 fL|
|Black Level:||0.0012 fL||0.0013 fL|
|Average Grayscale dE2000:||1.35||0.84|
|Average Saturations dE2000:||1.55||1.13|
|Average Color Checker dE2000:||1.57||1.35|
|Summary:||The Samsung UN55H8000 is incredibly accurate out-of-the-box in Movie mode and calibration does very little to improve upon that. You can use the 2-point white balance to get the grayscale to be a little more accurate, but beyond that nothing is needed. Even with no calibration the image is reference-quality from the H8000.|
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.
Almost flawless image, best LCD contrast ratio I have measured, no calibration needed for best performance
1080i bug using antenna, negligible benefit to the curve
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.