Samsung UE55ES8000 review

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

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Samsung ue55es8000 review

Samsung sure knows what sells. If the startling design of its top-tier TVs doesn't grab your attention hard, then their pictures certainly will. The Samsung UE55ES8000 ships with its pictures eye-wateringly vivid, with brightness, colour and contrast settings all cranked way up high.

The result is an image that stands out like no other, hitting you hard with a visceral mixture of dynamism, sharpness and almost scarily intense colours.

There are plenty of people who will feel just fine with this state of affairs. And of course, it's hardly rare for TVs to ship with their pictures set to stun.

However, most TVs also provide at least one picture preset option that calms picture settings down to levels more suitable for the more relaxed environment of a typical living room (versus a harshly lit shop floor).

Samsung continues to be resistant to this idea, with not one of the UE55ES8000's provided presets actually serving up settings that remotely get the best living room quality from its own screen. Bizarre.

Just as well, then, that it doesn't take much work to transform the Samsung UE55ES8000's pictures from garish eyeball bashers with backlight inconsistency and OTT colours into genuine video excellence.

Samsung ue55es8000 review

You can go to town with an installation tool such as the HDV Video Essentials Blu-ray, but if you want an instant impact for minimal effort, just slash the backlight output to under half of its maximum setting and tone down the colours a bit.

Even after these simple adjustments, you get a picture that goes from having rather washed out dark scenes with obvious backlight inconsistencies to one with arguably the deepest and most uniform black levels delivered to date from Edge LED technology.

Even better, you don't have to remove so much backlight from the images to reach this point that shadow detail and greyscale subtlety gets crushed out.

This means dark images enjoy more or less the same sense of depth and space that bright ones do, delivering a much more consistent experience than you often get with LCD TVs.

Colours, meanwhile, prove to be enjoyably flexible rather than garish and overcooked. It's possible to get tones calibrated to pretty close to the lauded D6500 standard if that floats your boat, but you can also go for a bit more punch if you prefer, without colours losing either blend subtlety or balance.

Actually, there's so much finesse in how the Samsung UE55ES8000 displays colours that you've got to think that some of the dual-core processing power is being brought to bear on the screen's colour processing.

Samsung ue55es8000 review

Another picture element that seems to benefit from the shift to dual-core processing is Samsung's motion processing. This hasn't tended to impress in the past, due to the amount of unwanted, distracting side-effects it creates.

But on the Samsung UE55ES8000, while it's still not necessarily something you'll want to leave on while watching films, it does at least do its judder and blur-reduction duties while throwing up far fewer flickering and colour smudging effects than has previously been the case.

Even without the motion processing in action, though, the Samsung UE55ES8000 produces a wonderfully sharp, detailed HD image full of texture and crisp, stark but unforced edges.

The Samsung UE55ES8000's processing power also helps it to produce a superb upscaling performance, turning any decent - and even a few not so decent - standard definition signals into HD remarkably ably, adding detail while simultaneously removing video noise.

In fact, aside from a rather limited viewing angle before contrast and colour start to reduce, and provided you steer clear of the Samsung UE55ES8000's ill-judged presets, there really isn't much to dislike about its 2D pictures.

3D pictures

In many ways its 3D pictures are superb, too. The screen's extreme capabilities where brightness is concerned serve it very well in countering the (surprisingly minor) darkening effect of Samsung's latest lightweight 3D glasses, ensuring that 3D images are as rich and dynamic as we've ever seen them on an active 3D TV.

What's more, while Samsung might not do very well with its 2D picture presets, the settings that kick in with 3D actually seem rather clever, providing solid colour correction as well as brightness compensation.

Samsung ue55es8000 review

Then there's crosstalk. As 2011 rolled on and more and more 3D TVs emerged, it became increasingly clear that Samsung's 2011 LCD TVs weren't the best when it came to handling the 3D ghosting phenomenon.

But the improvement for the Samsung UE55ES8000 is substantial, to the extent that with one or two rare exceptions, you tend to only see crosstalk around objects in the extreme distance.

The Samsung UE55ES8000's 3D images are bolstered, too, by the fact that the TV is powerful enough - unlike last year's models - to enable you to apply motion processing to HD 3D images as well as 2D ones. This makes them look clearer, more immersive and less fatiguing.

The only serious flaw with 3D images is that as the screen ramps up its light output for 3D viewing, it causes fairly obvious jets of backlight bleed to appear over dark scenes in each of the image's corners.

You can reduce this problem by taking some of the backlight brightness out of the picture, but this inevitably takes some of the punch out of 3D images, too.