Samsung ue55d8000

The practically bezel-free design of the UE55D8000 immediately identifies the set as a cutting-edge screen and makes much more sense than the usual obsession with making the rear slimmer. After all, you look at the front of a TV, not the back. The UE55D8000's rear is actually slightly thicker than that of last year's equivalent models, but it's unlikely that anyone will be in the slightest bit troubled by this.

There's a potential practical benefit to the tiny bezel, as well as the obvious styling one. Experience suggests that 3D viewing is slightly more compelling if the visible frame around the picture is smaller, as big, dark, bezels sit in stark contrast to whatever they contain.

Keeping the bezel so extraordinarily slender also means the UE55D8000 occupies markedly less physical space in your living room than a normal 55-inch TV, which is potentially handy if you have a particular recess or gap you need to work with.

You might think that having practically no bezel would reduce the styling options for the 55D8000, but – typically – Samsung has made the most of what it's got, with a gleaming metallic finish with an attractively angled back and an illuminated Samsung logo tucked under the centre of the bottom edge.

The UE55D8000's rear sports an irreproachable set of connections. Four 3D-compliant (v.1.4) HDMIs set the ball rolling and are joined by multimedia including an Ethernet port and built-in Wi-Fi. The set's 'AllShare' network compatibility also means you can stream in an extremely wide variety of video, photo and music files from your DLNA PC.

A trio of USBs, meanwhile, can play back an equally diverse selection of multimedia files from USB storage devices and you can record from the set's two integrated HD (satellite and terrestrial) tuners to external USB hard-disk drives.

Samsung's new Smart Hub represents a complete reboot of the way you access online and multimedia features via your TV and improves markedly on the rather clumsy Internet@TV system.

The interface, with its striking, high-resolution graphics, clean presentation and careful categorisation/organisation of different multimedia features, is immediately many times more inviting and useful than any TV multimedia interface seen before.

Even more impressive is just how much content this elegant new interface can handle without becoming cumbersome or overloaded. For as well as all of Samsung's new online functions, including open internet access, this single Smart Hub screen also provides a straightforward leaping-off point to pretty much every potential source for your TV, including the tuners, favourite channel lists, music/photos/videos stored on USB drives and your networked PC.

Given how deeply multimedia content has now infiltrated our daily lives, putting all of your potential sources on a broadly equal footing on a single screen makes much more sense than having totally separate menus all over the place.

Another key feature of the Smart Hub finds a much greater emphasis being placed on online video content. Indeed, 'Video' gets a section of the Smart Hub screen all to itself, and you can use this to find IMDB-style information on a huge selection of films, as well being able to recommend films to friends via twitter and Facebook. For actual playback of streamed movies, meanwhile, you've got the AceTrax movie 'cloud' service, where you buy films and download them to view whenever you want, or LoveFilm, with its monthly subscription.

Smart Hub's Apps section is arguably even more significant and includes Google Talk, Skype, Giggly Theme Dictionary and Dibo's Story apps. Not exactly an app hall of fame, then, but clicking on this box takes you into Samsung's full App 'market', where you can choose whatever you want to download to your TV.

At the time of writing there were 37 apps tucked away in here, all free. This number is certain to increase rapidly, though, now that Samsung's app-development kit is out there and it's also certain that you will start to see the arrival of apps you have to pay for, sooner rather than later. Angry Birds on your TV, anyone?

For the sake of completeness, here (deep breath) is the full list of apps available now: Twitter, Facebook, LoveFilm, Skype, GoogleTalk, Accuweather, History Channel's This Day In History, BetFair Football, Picasa, GalleryOn.tv, USA Today, Google Maps, Giggly Theme Dictionary, Giggly Matching Cards, Phonics Game, Bunny's New Dance, Cro's New Book, Social TV, Vimeo, Just Find It, AceTrax, Yahoo, mySkin TV, LoveFilm, YouTube, Muzu.tv, WiseStar, and a bunch more games, namely Drop Duel, Texas Hold Em, Kurakku, QuizzMaster, Mahjong Fruits, Memory, Dracula's Coffin, Rockswap, Sudoku and Dibo's Story.

Of course, it's questionable how useful some of these apps are. But regardless of how sceptical you might be about the idea of Smart TVs in general, it does seem likely that at least the video-related apps will get regular use by many households, given that video viewing is what your telly is actually for.

With this in mind, it is no surprise that the all-important BBC iPlayer should also be up and running on the Smart Hub by the time the TV goes on sale.

Dragging ourselves away from the Smart Hub to investigate other features finds plenty of picture adjustments to get your teeth into. Picking out the most unusual or useful, there are separate backlight and brightness adjustments, a black tone booster, different settings for a dynamic contrast engine (including, thankfully, 'Off'), a shadow detail booster, gamma adjustment and white balance adjustment via red, blue and green offset and gain tweaks, plus many more, including a new feature that adjusts brightness based on the movement in the picture to reduce energy consumption.

Wrapping the 55D8000's key features up is a contrast ratio so wide Samsung reckons it can't be meaningfully measured, Samsung's 800CMR (Clear Motion Rate) processing and, of course, the 3D playback tools. These include an improved 2D to 3D conversion engine, options for changing the perspective and depth of the 3D image, a '3D Optimisation' mode with three settings and an auto-detect system that should switch the TV to the correct 3D mode automatically when, say, it spots incoming Sky 3D broadcasts. This auto-detect system didn't manage a 100 per cent success rate during this test, however.

Also potentially significant is the shift to a Bluetooth transmission system between the TV and the glasses to deliver a more stable connection and faster-reacting panels that should reduce problems with 3D crosstalk.