As with its design, the 55D80000's pictures certainly know how to make an entrance. Using the Dynamic preset provided in the menus, pictures are extraordinarily aggressive, with dazzlingly rich colours, a precociously huge contrast range, and levels of texture and detail that look like some sort of 'super HD'. While undoubtedly eye-catching, though, the Dynamic mode is also pretty unimpressive. It's just too much, especially where colours and sharpness are concerned.
Fortunately, the Dynamic mode proves to be just an OTT expression of what are actually some major strengths of the 55D8000's picture make up.
Once you've reined in the backlight output and contrast settings, you're still left with a phenomenal contrast level. The black levels can't rival plasma, at least when a picture contains a mix of dark and light material, but you'll witness some of the deepest black levels ever achieved by edge LED technology.
As is so often the case, being able to achieve a good black tone provides a great foundation for the 55D8000's colours. So it is that even away from the gaudy dynamic mode, the 55D8000's colours look exceptionally dynamic and rich, even – and this is a rarity for LCD TVs – during dark scenes.
The ability to combine bright whites and colours within the same frame as believable blacks, even with the dynamic contrast function turned off (since it does tend to cause some pretty aggressive flickering at times), flies in the face of pretty much everything you'd expect of an edge LED screen and helps it deliver some of the best shadow detailing yet seen from an LCD TV.
As if to underline this apparently impossible contrast feat, the 55D8000 doesn't suffer with the sort of horribly inconsistent backlight found on a depressing number of recent edge LED sets. In other words, even though the screen can show a bright object against a black background with plenty of vigour, the edges and/or corners of dark pictures aren't besmirched by patches of extra brightness compared with the rest of the screen.
An interesting aspect of the 55D8000's backlighting is that it sees Samsung moving from last year's 'top and bottom' lighting to having lights down each of the TV's left and right sides. Samsung's main idea with this is to reduce running power, as you need fewer LEDs on the relatively short left and right sides than you do along the top and bottom edges. But it could also be that the shift to side lighting has in some way helped Samsung reduce backlight consistency issues.
The 55D8000's unfathomable combination of brightness and contrast is almost certainly responsible for the huge punch of its colour palette. It's possible to push this palette to the point where even EastEnders looks like some kind of ultra-colourful Pixar animation, but with a little care, the palette can be brought down to a more sensible level, where tones look natural and where there's a huge amount of subtlety in blends without sacfricing that dazzling vibrancy.
Then there's the set's sharpness. For while nobody in their right mind would want the beyond-forensic, forced look to sharpness noted using the Dynamic preset, turning off the pointless Edge Enhancement circuitry and reducing the sharpness setting to between 20 and 30 leaves you with pictures that still look crisp and detailed, but which don't look noisy or processed.
Yet more good news finds the 55D8000 doing a remarkably good job of upscaling standard-definition pictures to its vast 55-inch screen. Motion also looks a good degree or two better than on previous models, presumably thanks to a combination of refinements in Samsung's processing engine and the faster panel response mentioned earlier.
The improved motion handling means there's less motivation to try Samsung's Motion Plus system out, though if you do still find yourself troubled by a little judder, the 'Clear' setting can reduce it without leaving images looking unnatural or plagued by processing noise.
The 55D8000's superb 2D performance creates expectations for 3D playback that are more or less fulfilled. The amount of brightness and colour saturation 3D images retain even after you've donned Samsung's comfortable new Bluetooth glasses, for example, represent an exciting step forward and throws down the gauntlet for the likes of Sony and Panasonic.
Perhaps because of this greatly enhanced dynamism, the 55D8000 also seems to deliver more depth and definition to its 3D images, but without forcing depths to a point that becomes uncomfortable.
Crucially, the 55D8000 suffers much less from crosstalk noise than 2010's C8000 models, making long-term 3D viewing more comfortable and enabling you to appreciate even more the unrivalled sharpness, colour and brightness. There is still clearly more crosstalk over 3D pictures than you get with any plasma sets, though and even a touch more than on one or two rival LCD 3D TVs.
There are a couple of other much more minor issues to report. First, colours occasionally contain either a touch too much red or yellow and second, when the picture contains an expanse of a single colour, the central portion of the picture occasionally looks a shade deeper than the edges, but this is preferable to the more overt inconsistency found on most edge LED sets.