Samsung's new flagship 55-inch TV wears its high-end status right out there on its sleeve, courtesy of a mind-blowing design boasting the slimmest bezel we've ever seen. It's extremely well connected too, for both video and multimedia purposes, and its latest on-screen menu system is in some ways revolutionary.

Certainly its ability to 'learn' your viewing habits hasn't been seen before outside of a TiVo box, and the quality of the presentation of all the five new home screen menus you use to access all your content is is gorgeous.

There are places where Samsung stretches itself a bit too far; the gesture and voice controls still fail to convince, and some of the menu options are a bit obscure. But by the time you've added to the Samsung UE55F8000's heady feature and design mix a dose of truly mesmerising picture quality, it's clear Samsung has yet another massive hit on its hands.

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Samsung has finally vanquished its backlight inconsistency nemesis to deliver outstanding pictures in both bright and dark room conditions, and with both 2D and 3D content. The Samsung UE55F8000's design is something else too, and its multimedia ambitions are positively precocious - including delivering the most comprehensive suite of video streaming options seen on a smart TV to date.

The touchpad remote control you get free with the TV is extremely helpful too, and even the set's audio isn't bad.

We disliked

Samsung's picture presets continue to frustrate, with no option provided that might best suit serious film viewing in a darkened room. We also continue to struggle with Samsung's gesture and voice control options (despite them being improved this year), and the content decisions Samsung has made with some of its on-screen menus are questionable.

Final verdict

The Samsung UE55F8000 kicks the 2013 TV race off in mostly astonishing style, as Samsung flexes its muscles to produce easily its best picture quality yet from a TV frame so small that you mostly forget it's there.

The extent of Samsung's ambitions with its latest smart TV system is mind-boggling too, so that even in the few areas where those ambitions over-reach themselves you're still left admiring Samsung's thought processes.

The Samsung UE55F8000 has thrown down the gauntlet to the rest of the TV world. Now we just have to see if anyone else has the skills and the confidence to pick it up.

Also consider

With Sony's 2013 range still waiting in the wings somewhere, the Sony TV most worthy of consideration against the Samsung UE55F8000 is the Sony 55HX853. This set uses a brilliant local dimming lighting system to produce pictures of unprecedented contrast for the edge LED market. There's much to admire in Sony's current smart TV offering too - especially where video streaming services are concerned.

The Sony struggles against the Samsung when it comes to design, though, and while the 55HX853's dark scenes are punchier, they also feature slightly more light inconsistency than the Samsung's, on account of the Sony's local dimming engine.

If you're a serious movie fan, meanwhile, prepared to regularly dim your living room lights, you should also consider Panasonic's TX-P55VT50 plasma TV. This produces the best black level response we've seen since Pioneer's legendary Kuro plasma TVs, as well as colours of peerless accuracy and levels of shadow detail that you just don't get in the LCD world.

The set struggles to match the vibrancy and brightness of LCD models if used in a bright environment, though.