Samsung UE55ES8000 review

Samsung's new 55-inch TV redefines 'smart'

Samsung UE55ES8000
Best in Class
Samsung's Smart Hub and picture quality are both greatly improved for this 2012 flagship TV

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Samsung ue55es8000 review

Samsung has left few, if any, stones unturned in trying to make its new flagship TV the ultimate set in what's looking like being a heck of a year for televisions.

For starters, it's one of those TVs that will 'have you at hello'. The way its 55-inch screen appears with barely a centimetre of metallic trim is the sort of technological achievement that would have Einstein scratching his head.

While the sheer slimness of the bezel is its main attraction, though, Samsung has still managed to make what little bodywork there is count, dressing it in a luxuriously glinty finish.

The Samsung UE55ES8000 sticks out a bit more at the back than some of Samsung's previous TVs - especially the C9000 series models, such as the Samsung UE55C9000 - but it's still very slim by typical LCD standards.

And it will be extremely easy to forgive an extra few millimeters of depth if this has helped Samsung boost its picture quality.

Inevitably with such a slim design, the Samsung UE55ES8000 is illuminated by Edge LED lighting. This immediately raises concerns - especially given how big the screen is - about whether the illumination will be able to remain even across the screen, or whether you'll get hot spots or clouds of extra brightness as happens with many Edge LED TVs.

Potentially reducing this possibility is the fact that the move to dual-core processing in its new flagship TV has enabled Samsung to study and respond to incoming images on a much more localised basis, serving up more than double the number of macro dimming zones used on last year's equivalent models.

The Samsung UE55ES8000 is predictably well connected, with highlights comprising four HDMIs, two USBs, an Ethernet port, built-in Wi-Fi, and a D-Sub PC input. Some of these hint at a few of the TV's key features.

The USBs, for instance, can play back a strong mix of video, photo and music file types, and will also enable you to record to USB HDDs from the integrated tuner.

The HDMIs, meanwhile, are all v1.4 affairs, as is necessary to deliver Full HD active 3D playback from suitable Blu-ray players.

As for the Ethernet/Wi-Fi options, these enable you to access files on networked DLNA PCs or go online with Samsung's latest smart TV service - a service that's pretty radically improved from last year's effort.

Smart TV

The most important trio of these improvements become clear immediately, as they dominate a highlighted bar of content options that runs right across the centre of the new Smart Hub home screen. First up is Family Story.

This enables you to set up a private, password-protected network with other smart TV, PC and smart device users, within which you can share messages, photos and calendars.

As its name suggests, Samsung predominantly sees this as being used to enable different family members to stay in touch with each other, no matter how far apart they might live. It's a clever idea, and although it's a bit fiddly to set up, it works well.

Samsung ue55es8000 review

The next of Samsung's big new content servers is devoted to fitness. It requires up to 10 users to set up a profile containing their weight and height (from which a BMI measurement is calculated). Then it provides access to a quite extensive and varied collection of fitness videos, each of which runs for a clearly stated amount of time and require a set number of calories to complete.

The system monitors what videos you use, and then attempts to calculate potential weight loss from your efforts, charting your progression on a series of enticing-looking graphs.

There's a huge limitation in the system, of course, in that it hasn't got a clue how much food you might be tucking away between your exercises.

But still, it's easily the most fully developed fitness system developed for a smart TV to date, and even proved quite addictive to a couple of die-hard gym haters who were unleashed on it for a few days.

Samsung ue55es8000 review

A Kids zone makes up the last of Samsung's new trio of major online service areas - and it's the least developed of the three. As its name suggests, it's aimed squarely at younger users, and is essentially a repository for a currently not especially large collection of somewhat obscure kids' show videos.

There's also a fun on-screen 'sticker book', where your child can put reward stickers for good behaviour. But overall it's impossible to escape the feeling that, for now, the Kids zone is still to some extent a work in progress.

These new content sections are joined, of course, by an even longer list of other video and infotainment apps than you could enjoy from 2011's Samsung smart TVs.

Particularly good to see among the new apps is one for Netflix, which joins other key video providers including LoveFilm, BBC iPlayer, AceTrax, Box Office 365, and Samsung's own 3D streaming service.

With so much now going on with its smart TV services, Samsung has decided that just using last year's remote control/Smart Hub menus interface approach is no longer adequate.

So it's hit the innovation trail in startling style, introducing three new ways of interacting with your TV: gesture control, voice control, and an included second remote with a touchpad system. For full details on how these systems all work, check out the Usability section of this review.

The Samsung UE55ES8000's out of the box active 3D system comprises a built-in transmitter and two pairs of 3D glasses.

In addition, the TV set ships with a reasonably full set of picture calibration aids, including a degree of colour management and plenty of flexibility when it comes to fine-tuning its many video processing tools, from noise reduction to motion reproduction.

And actually, as is covered more fully in the Usability section of our review, you're recommended to learn your way around all the screen's adjustments to help you 'rescue' the TV from its unhelpful picture presets.

John Archer
AV Technology Contributor

John has been writing about home entertainment technology for more than two decades - an especially impressive feat considering he still claims to only be 35 years old (yeah, right). In that time he’s reviewed hundreds if not thousands of TVs, projectors and speakers, and spent frankly far too long sitting by himself in a dark room.