Samsung is in serious no-compromise mode with the UE55ES8000. Aside from, perhaps, its sound, the whole TV looks and feels cutting edge.
The voice, gesture and touchpad remote systems are particularly startling, and set a new standard for TV operation that no other brand looks set to match in 2012. The set's 'barely there' design is both gorgeous and innovative too, even if it doesn't in reality improve a great deal on what Samsung brought to market last year.
Also crucial is the introduction of a dual-core processor to the Samsung UE55ES8000, since this makes the smart TV services more comprehensive and slick to navigate and delivers palpable benefits to picture quality.
Ah yes, picture quality. Out of the box the Samsung UE55ES8000's pictures are flashy and eye-catching, but flawed. But with just a couple of minutes calibration work they can be converted into arguably the finest pictures yet to grace an Edge LED TV in both 2D and 3D mode, with only some backlight bleed in the corners during dark 3D scenes letting the side down.
Elsewhere, the gesture control needs work, there are still a few too many pointless apps on the smart TV servers, and Samsung really needs to deliver a sensible picture preset. But still, overall, there's far, far more to admire on the Samsung UE55ES8000 than there is to criticise.
The Samsung UE55ES8000 hooks you in immediately with its gorgeous slimline looks and bright, punchy, contrast-rich pictures. And then it just grows on you more and more, thanks to its genuinely useful voice and touchpad control systems, its gorgeous presentation and a feature count that doesn't know when to quit - especially when it comes to online features and network file playback.
There's some backlight inconsistency during dark 3D scenes unless you compromise on their brightness. A lot of the smaller apps in the smart TV service are a waste of space and the gesture control isn't quite there yet. Plus, Samsung really does need to start including a picture preset that actually delivers a picture that gets something like the best quality out of its panels.
The UE55ES8000 is Samsung's most uncompromising TV yet. From the moment you first behold its almost sci-fi design and bold, dynamic pictures, you'll be entranced.
Admittedly you'll need to calm these pictures for normal domestic viewing, but once that's done pictures still look hugely impressive. And your admiration only grows as you explore the TV's revolutionary interfaces and the depth of its online and multimedia functionality.
There are still things Samsung can improve, but as the first true next generation TV of 2012, the Samsung UE55ES8000 throws down a terrifyingly big gauntlet for the following pack to pick up.
If you want the ultimate in contrast and no backlight consistency concerns whatsoever, a great alternative to the Samsung UE55ES8000 is the Panasonic TX-P55VT30. This uses plasma technology, which is renowned for its contrast potential and lighting uniformity, and for its clarity when it comes to handling motion.
3D looks less punchy on the Panasonic set, though, and its online platform isn't nearly as advanced.
Another alternative to the Samsung UE55ES8000 is the LG 55LW650. The trick with this LG television is that it uses passive rather than active 3D technology, meaning you get loads of 3D glasses included free, and get more relaxing, bright but less high resolution 3D images.
LG's TV is the more affordable and convenient alternative. But picture quality isn't nearly as strong in either 2D or 3D mode, and its online service, while wide-ranging, isn't as stable or quick as that of the new Samsung UE55ES8000.