Samsung 55in. UN55B8000 LED HDTV

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Product: Samsung 55" LED 1080p HDTV
Provided By: Samsung Canada
Price:
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Introduction:

The world was impressed when Samsung unveiled their LED back-lit HDTV's over a year ago and while this technology was incredibly expensive at launch, it's dropped a bit in price over the past few months.  That doesn't mean that a new LED HDTV is affordable, their largest unit will still let you back almost $2,400, but they are much cheaper than they were at launch.  Today we are looking at their flagship model from the "8" series - the UN55B8000 and this TV offers incredible contrast ratios, stunning blacks and a fast 240Hz Auto Motion Plus technology that guarantees that you're sports will look crisp and clean.  Just for kicks and giggles, Samsung also includes Medi@2.0 and combined with some Yahoo Widgets, you'll be able to do a lot more than watch TV on your TV.  

Before we really begin, let's take a quick refresher course on LCD TV Technology.  Remember, this is not a "LED" TV, it's backlit by LEDs, but still uses an LCD panel.

Thin film transistors are usually used for constructing an active matrix so that the two terms are often interchanged, even though a thin film transistor is just one component in an active matrix and some designs have used other components such as diodes. Whereas a passive matrix display uses a simple conductive grid to deliver current to the liquid crystals in the target area, an active matrix display uses a grid of transistors and capacitors (which are called the thin film transistors) with the ability to hold a charge for a limited period of time.  

 

 Big Box
Big Box
 In Box
In Box

 

A couple of months ago when I received the 50" Plasma TV from Samsung, I thought that box was huge.  While the Plasma TV certainly outweighed its stylish big sister, the box that the 55" LED HDTV comes in is almost too big to fit sideways in the back of my Ford F350.  It's large.  It comes well packaged though and arrived in great shape.  It was nice to see that the stand was attached and I didn't have to install anything before I set it up - in front of my 40" TV - redneck style.

Features:

Before we get too in depth with technical details, let’s take a quick look at the published specifications for this TV. Keep in mind that these numbers are produced under ideal circumstances and are not always indicative of real world performance.

Samsung ultra-slim LED TVs combine breakthrough picture quality, eco-friendly design and advanced connectivity options that will keep you entertained 24/7. The LED series 8 Black Touch of Colour™ TV features Mega Contrast Ratio, Ultra Clear Panel, Auto Motion Plus 240 Hz™, and Medi@2.0 networking suite. Plus, it also makes it easy for you to be green with up to 40% less power consumption than conventional LCDs.

Picture Perfect
For images that are stunningly true to life you need the 3 Cs: contrast, colour and clarity. Ultra-brilliant Samsung LED Series 8 TVs have them all. 5000000:1 Mega Dynamic Contrast provides an incredible range of brightness - from pure blacks to pristine whites.
Advanced Colour Processing enables a wider range of natural colours and provides greater depth for a vibrant, captivating picture - even with subtle colours. Plus our Auto Motion Plus 240 Hz technology eliminates virtually all motion blur, leaving your picture smooth and crisp - and your jaw dropped.

Depth without depth.
Our most advanced HDTV technology contained in a razor-thin silhouette. Stunning and only 29 mm in depth, Samsung LED TVs are our slimmest HDTVs yet. Supported by a unique stand with an elegant, crystal-clear neck, you'll have no trouble finding a place for one in any room.

Thanks to our innovative, optional Wall Mount (WMN1000B), our astonishingly slim LED TVs can be hung just like a picture frame - less than 15 mm from the wall. Only this frame is made with a hint of amber. We call it a Touch of Colour™. One look at it and its soft, square corners is all it takes to see that this isn't just a TV you're hanging. But a work of art.

Green works in any room.
Samsung LED TVs are easy on the planet, using 40% less power than conventional LCD TVs. Additionally, they contain mercury free back lights, and have eliminated CO2 and VOC emissions in the manufacturing process of their TV frames by eliminating the use of spray paint. So you can put your feet up and relax, knowing you're leaving a smaller carbon footprint.

Auto Motion Plus 240 Hz
There's a big difference between seeing the game and seeing every split second of it. That's where Auto Motion Plus 240 Hz technology comes in. All the action in every frame is analyzed and then adjusted so nothing goes by in a blur. The smoothest, sharpest images are always available, even when images are moving at the highest speeds.
   
Wide Colour Enhancer Pro
Offered exclusively on our LED TV's, Wide Colour Enhancer Pro represents the pinnacle of Samsung's colour enhancement technology. Covering the widest colour spectrum to date, it delivers rich, vibrant, and subtle colours for the ultimate in colour expression.

The world wide web just got wider.
Can't decide if you'd rather watch TV or your favourite sites on the web? Do it all on Samsung LED Series 8 TVs. An easy to use widget lets you watch, add or delete content. View it all on the roomy sidebar or across the incredibly wide screen. With our LED Series 8 TVs, TV goes way beyond just TV.
   
Getting on TV made easy.
Samsung LED Series 8 TVs take the struggle out of sharing your talent with the world, or at least with your family. Access your videos, music and photos from your PC or from your DLNA mobile device - wirelessly and effortlessly - and enjoy them on your TV. Our LED TVs can even link to multiple PCs. Who said you need connections to get on TV.

Your audience awaits.
There's no excuse anymore for leaving all those great digital pictures and videos in your cameras or storage devices. Thanks to the USB 2.0 Movie: Multi-media Centre feature on all Samsung LED TVs you can connect your digital camera, thumb drive - even your MP3 player - quickly and easily. The smart, user-friendly USB 2.0 interface allows you to access videos, playlists and pictures with your remote. Now anytime can be showtime.
   
Library hours extended.
Suppose you feel like playing a game of chess or cooking instead of watching TV. Samsung LED Series 8 TV's Content Library Flash feature lets you do just that. Enjoy hours of built-in entertainment features, and then personalize it by adding content that's available online. And downloading is easy. There's so much you can do with our LED Series 8 TVs.

 

Specifications:

Specs


Of all of these specifications the 5,000,000:1 Mega Dynamic Contrast ratio is the most interesting.  You will notice that this number is far greater than the typical 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio that is typical for their Plasma TVs.  The other specifications are fairly normal and there is nothing else that is particularly noteworthy.

 

First Look:

Thin TV While the 50" Plasma TV from Samsung never blew me away, the 8000 series TVs from Samsung step it up a notch as they slim it down.  This TV is just over an inch thin and looks pretty classy in any room.  Granted, it's no 9000 series that was announced this past January at CES in Las Vegas, but it is still a pretty sweet TV.  It looks like most other Samsung TVs and my only concern is the stand that supports the TV by a acrylic pillar.  It does swivel though and that is a good thing if you have the TV set on a stand perpendicular to a wall and want to angle the TV for better viewing.  The back of the TV is quite well ventilated and contains a lot of ports that we'll look at in a minute.

The 55" UN55B8000 comes with a total of four HDMI ports, one VGA port, a single component set of ports that also can double as a composite video input.  There is also a USB2.0 port, TV Tuner and an Ethernet port for connecting to your network.  Because the TV is so thin, these are all side mounted and are a little tough to get at if you have large clunky cable ends.  I find it a little disappointing that there is only one set of component video inputs, but as more devices go with HDMI, it is surely understandable.

 Rear Inputs
Rear Inputs
Inputs Close
Inputs Close

 

While we're on the subject of hooking things up and cables, I highly recommend that you check out monoprice.com if you haven't already.  Independent tests show that their HDMI cables - of any length - have identical quality to overpriced cables such as the monster, and it can save you $500 easily.  It is important to note that if you are hooking up a computer from a DVI port, you'll need to use HDMI 1, and the appropriate audio cables to make things work seamlessly.  Other than that, it's pretty much a no-brainer.  

 

TV Menus:

Although the TV picture and audio seem to work very good out of the box, there are a lot of settings that allow you to tweak, mess, and possibly degrade your picture quality.  Samsung has included several pre-defined settings that control both audio and video settings.  For example, "Sports" mode boosts the saturation and brightness while "Cinema" drops the color to a more neutral tone and the brightness dims for a better viewing experience in a darkened room.

 Media Stuff
Media

The menus weren't that impressive and we'll cover the Medi@2.0 a little later on.  The only thing that really interested me was the Dynamic contrast ration level.  It appeared to make a bit of a difference, but we'll take more about that when we test this large TV.

 

 

Testing:

Testing is always the hardest part about a TV review.  Image quality can be such a subjective experience and I usually like to operate with cold hard facts in hand. Most of these tests are subjective however there are a few quantitative tests mixed in.  Just like with our LCD reviews, we have incorporated a bit of hardware that allows us to test contrast ratio, color accuracy and lighting uniformity.  If you want more details on how we test LCD panels and TV, please check our article here.

Spyder 3

First up we used the Spyder 3 Colorimeter to measure color accuracy when plugged into a PC.  I used this system to play back some Blu-Ray and HD-DVD movies as well as gaming, web-surfing and more.  Initially, the color seemed a little bright and over saturated and the colorimeter tells the story better than I can.

 

Target
Target
Uncalibrated
Uncalibrated
Calibrated
Calibrated

 

I was very impressed to see that Samsung has left this TV tuned into to it's proper values and it didn't need much color correction at all.  This is actually very unusual for TVs and is a nice thing to know.  What you see is what you should be seeing in terms of color accuracy and vivid picture quality.  It needed very little adjustment to tune it into where it should be.

When it comes to lighting uniformity, we use a luminance meter in a darkened room and take measurements at the LCDs default settings.  Usually brightness is set to 50%, and for contrast ratio tests, we use  the maximum contrast ratio available.  Take a look at how evenly (or unevenly) the backlight is on this TV.

 2D Chart
2D Brightness

 

 

3D Chart
3D Brightness

 

While it may not look like very good lighting uniformity, the reality is that there are a couple of spots that are 15% dimmer than the brightest spot.  This cannot be observed with the naked eye though and that is why we measure with our meter.  We want to see how even it really is.  The 15% variation is perhaps one of the best results we've seen with a large TV and this is actually very good.

When we checked the contrast ratio, we tested several different scenarios such as dynamic contrast, bright backlight, low backlight and settled on a standard "normal" setting on the TV. The Dynamic Contrast ratio was used and tested and the results appeared to be better, but testing becomes sketchier with Dynamic Contrast enabled - at any setting.  The reality is that when you display solid color measuring screens (white & black), the Dynamic Contrast kicks in and tones down the solid colors.  When both are displayed on the screen at the same time, the results are more impressive.  Black levels measured in at 0.54 lux and this is tremendous - even better than the last Plasma TV we looked at recently.

 

Viewing Angle:

While some panels - both in LCD monitors and TVs have issues keeping color uniform when viewing from different angles, the viewing angle on the UN55B8000 seems to be pretty impressive although I can't find any solid specifications on the internet.  While that may be questionable, we took images from a pretty steep angle and were able to view the TV in any part of the room without issues.  The viewing angle seems to be very good.  While many other displays I've used do indeed produce some sort of picture at these angles, the quality of the image is less than ideal.

Sharp Angle
Sharp Angle
Halo3
Halo 3 Straight On

 

 

As you can see by checking out the images above, the viewing angle stays pretty consistent until it gets pretty extreme.  At roughly 120° the picture starts to wash out. Overall it has very friendly wide-angle viewing area.  I had no issues watching TV from any seat in my living room.  The only issue with the screen is the amount of glare it picks up.  The screen finish is very glossy and while this looks pretty, it does catch a lot of light in the daytime.

 

Media2.0 & Widgets:

While you can't surf the web simply by plugging it into the network, you can do a lot of media streaming thanks to the DLNA and USB connectivity.  You can play many file formats off of a flash drive as well as stream them over the network.  This seems to work quite well, and while it certainly is no Patriot Box Office, it provides basic media functionality.

Yahoo Widgets are the add-on that I'm probably the most impressed with on this TV.  You can quickly call up the widgets with a simple button push on your remote control and then browse the standard, news, Flickr, weather, YouTube, etc. or install different widgets by browsing them through the interface.   Scrolling through the widgets isn't as smooth of an experience as it could be as the scrolling motion is not super fluid, but overall the experience is quite good.

Yahoo News
Yahoo News
Yahoo Weather
Yahoo Weather
   
Youtube
YouTube
Flickr Explore
Flickr Explore

 

While the widgets aren't perfect they add some nice bonus features to your TV.  You can log into any of your connected accounts such as Flickr and YouTube and browse your content - not just random content.  The only downside to this is entering account information via a standard remote control.  It is not fast, but it works alright.  If you've got a connected HTPC, you'll be much happier with that solution, but for those of you that don't want another computer in your house, the UN55B8000 adds some nice functionality without adding yet another device to your living room.

 

Conclusion:

Bigger is better when it comes to TVs and the more I use 50"+ units, the more I like them.  The 55" LED lit LCD TV from Samsung is a nice improvement over traditional CCFL lit LCDs and the color setup and lighting uniformity on this unit is very good.  The UN55B8000 has a great feature set, tons of HDMI inputs and superb picture quality.  Video played back from HD Satellite TV, Blu-Ray movies and even older HD DVDs is stunning.  Even when up-scaling DVD movies, the Wii and SDTV, the picture quality is very acceptable as this unit does a much better job that I thought it would.  I rather enjoyed surfing the web as well as playing a fair bit of Xbox 360 on this TV and was never let down by "ghosting" due to a poor refresh rate.  Unlike many TVs that come with boosted and over-saturated color, this unit was setup almost perfect it terms of color accuracy.  That is great news for those of you that want to view TV, pictures and other video as it was intended.

 

Pros:

  • 240Hz Auto Motion Plus for smooth playback
  • Good contrast ratio - blacks are very black
  • Thin panel and lots of HDMI inputs
  • Accurate color out of the box
  • Widgets allows rich (albeit limited) internet media without a HTPC
  • Main UHF remote control
  • Secondary "Pebble" IR remote for volume and channel selection

 

Cons:

  • Widgets are a little sluggish
  • Only one set of component inputs

 

 BCCRating

 Gold

 

I'd like to thank Samsung Canada for sending out this TV for us to review.  I enjoyed watching some great hockey and Olympics Coverage on this unit and my kids enjoyed their games even more than usual.  If you have any questions or comments, please post them in the forum at the "Comments" link below.