With its razor-thin silver bezel, crisp LED-illuminated screen and best-in-class 3D playback, Samsung’s 55-inch D8000 (UE55D8000) is a treat for the eyes, if not for the wallet.
This top-end, Internet-connected “Smart TV” from the Korean electronics giant packs in everything you’d expect from a high-end flat panel, including an eye-wateringly expensive price tag of R50 000.
But if money isn’t an object, it’s hard to go wrong with the D8000. There’s even a 75-inch model if you can stomach the idea of blowing as much on a TV as you would on a small car.
Let’s unpack this baby. The first thing that’s obvious after mounting the TV to its elegant silver stand is just how gorgeous the whole package looks.
Because the bezel is super thin, it doesn’t detract from the picture at all. In fact, it helps to enhance the experience. And when the TV is switched on, especially to high-definition content, the picture is almost arresting it is so vivid. Samsung ascribes this to its “micro dimming” technology, which it says provides “deeper blacks and more vivid contrast without any ‘halo’”.
Watching the Rugby World Cup in HD, even in DStv’s 1080i resolution rather than full 1080p HD, is a real treat. And the 2D-3D upscaling, which we’ve never really found appealing, actually works rather well on the D8000. Of course, it’s not as good as genuine 3D playback, but Samsung has worked wonders in upscaling 2D source material. Sports look gorgeous, though there’s still the impractical — and uncool — aspect of sitting in your lounge with a pair of shades on.
We tested 3D animated movie Coraline on Blu-ray and were pleasantly surprised that even a 90-minute movie didn’t result in noticeable eye fatigue or headaches. Samsung’s active-shutter 3D technology has certainly made huge strides in the recent past, though we’re a little disappointed the company only saw fit to include one pair of glasses — and not a particularly high-end pair either — in the box, especially for a TV that costs this much.
The D8000 includes all the ports you’d expect on a high-end TV, including, we were pleased to discover, a high-speed USB 3.0 connector. The TV played back a range of content without complaint, including .mkv files — perfect if you source your viewing material online.
There are also two USB 2.0 ports and four HDMI ports, one of which doubles as DVI. There also a VGA slot, an optical-out audio port and an Ethernet port (Wi-Fi is also built in).
One niggle is an illuminated Samsung logo directly below the screen. If you’re plopping down 50 big ones for a TV, you probably don’t want to reminded who it’s made by. Fortunately, you can turn this off in the settings, but it is “on” by default.
As a “Smart TV” — Samsung’s branding for an Internet-connected television — the D8000 also doubles as a rudimentary computer. Through the “Smart Hub”, you get access to Samsung apps, including local ones like MXit and News24, as well as Facebook and Twitter. You can put social media updates on one side of the screen while watching TV, though we’d have liked more flexibility in how they’re displayed.
There’s also a Web browser and apps such as Skype, YouTube, Google Maps and Photos. Oh, and you can play back content from a computer wirelessly using DLNA technology.
In our view, though, the single best feature of the D8000 is not the TV but the absolutely fantastic remote control it ships with. This is, without doubt, the best remote we’ve used. One side contains a well-designed layout for controlling things such as volume and flipping through channels, as well as accessing the Smart Hub and pausing and searching through video. The other side features a full and comfortable Qwerty keyboard, with a mini display that shows you what you’re typing without having to look up constantly at the TV. All remotes should be designed this way.
In summary, the 55-inch D8000 is one of the best LED back-lit panels on the market today. If you can justify the price, you’ll want one in your lounge. You really will. — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral