Samsung UE55H8000 review

Samsung's full HD TV flagship gets the curve

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Usability

Last year Samsung faced criticism for not working hard enough to guide new users through the many intricacies of its new Smart TV system. This year has certainly seen an improvement by shipping the UE55H8000 with built-in tutorial videos, an illustrated contextual onscreen instructions manual, and a more detailed and well-explained initial installation system.

Samsung has also worked hard to improve the interface options available to you. First, instead of the previous gesture control system's fatiguing dependence on waving your hands around, you are now able to simply wave your fingers, making it much less tiring.

Though I still only ever felt inclined to let my fingers do the talking on the rare occasions where I couldn't put my hands on either of the two physical remote controls you get with the UE55H8000.

These remotes comprise a standard and smart one, with the smart one likely being the one most people will use most (once they've got used to its foibles).

Smarter remote

The smart remote carries a wealth of different control options. First, there's a small track pad at its centre that lets you move the onscreen cursor around via small sliding movements of your thumb. Second, around the touch pad there are four straightforward navigation buttons for moving up, down, left or right. And third, for the first time with a Samsung remote there's a point and click system similar to that used by the Nintendo Wiimote – or LG's 'Magic' TV Remotes.

We've always found point and click systems to feel very intuitive, and to some extent this is borne out by Samsung's implementation too. However, there is one niggle, namely that the onscreen cursor bizarrely doesn't necessarily correspond exactly to the place on the screen where you're pointing the remote.

Smart Remote Samsung UE55H8000

This is because the cursor always reappears in the same place on the screen it was when you last used it, rather than in the place on the screen where you're actually pointing.

I'd also say there's still room for improvement when it comes to making the onscreen menus more intuitive. Though I did like the new feature whereby when you first hit the Smart Hub button you now get a list of the past 15 sources you've used – irrespective of whether they were TV shows, AV inputs or content apps.

Sound

Well hallelujah. Samsung has finally managed to partner the excellent picture quality that has characterised its top-end LCD TVs with some seriously decent audio.

The UE55H8000 uses a ducting system to greatly boost the range of sound it can produce. A decent amount of reasonably well-rounded bass at the bottom end of the audio spectrum; a strikingly open mid-range that's roomy enough to shift up a gear or two to handle action scenes and keeps voices sounding clear and credible; and trebles that sound clear and detailed without appearing harsh or dislocated from the rest of the soundstage.

It's hard to see how a TV with a downfiring speaker system could sound much better, really.

Value

This is potentially the UE55H8000's Achilles' heel. £2,200 might not have looked too out of the way for a flagship full HD TV last year, but with the prices of UHD sets plummeting this year I do wonder if £2,200 might be too close to the price of some 55-inch UHD TVs.

It's also striking that Sony's new flagship 55-inch HD TV, the 55W955B (look out for a review soon), is only £1550.

Still, there's no doubt that the UE55H8000 is feature packed, gorgeously designed and a brilliant performer. If rival HD models like the Sony end up falling short then the UE55H8000 could well end up looking like a classic case of 'if you want the best, you have to pay for it'.