We got eyes-on with the 55-inch version Samsung’s new F8000 Smart LED Series simply because we reckon that’s the new sweetspot for big TVs; there’s much marketing bluster at this year’s CES about how ’60 is the new 40′, but it’s probably a year or two early.
The market for these 50-inch+ TVs has doubled in the last 12 months, though the 55F8000 is a decidedly high-end version with an elite spec. As always with Samsung’s cream of the crop, it’s visually arresting – and in two ways.
The first is the achingly small bezel, which is a mere four millimetres in width and which takes the light nicely but subtly. For comparison reasons, the ES8000 Series from last year, which this TV and its cohorts effectively replace, had an extra millimetre-wide bezel. If you’re counting.
Underneath the TV is an arch design desktop stand that pokes out at each corner while curving around the back of the TV. Has Samsung given up on wall-hanging? It would appear so – its plasma Series boast carefully design desktop stands, too.
On the 55F8000 the effect is awesome, with virtually the entire stand completely hidden from view while watching TV. However, the corners do just out to resemble rabbit’s feet.
Design-wise the 55F8000 has another major changes afoot, with a full 360-degree look that hides all cables and clutter underneath a metallic brow.
Also on the rear is a Smart Evolution panel that allows updating of the TV to the 2014 user interface. The wraparound design is attractive if a little pointless until we realise that it’s allowing more room for speaker cabinets.
Oh Samsung, after years of shrinking panels and speakers, are you about to about-turn and make them fatter again? Not quite – the 55F8000 is mostly pencil thin, but the power of the built-in speakers has been doubled to 40W compared to last year’s weedy-sounding audio system. Picture tech this year includes Precision Black and, most important, Micro Dimming Ultimate; in our demo both impressed, with a wide viewing angle, too.
Meanwhile, that quad core processor is there to enable some seriously smart antics. Making the TV about 3.5 times faster than previous incarnations, in our demo we definitely noticed that apps were easier to skip around – a definite shortcoming in previous versions.
It should also allow smoother multi-tasking to the extent that music can be played in the background while you leave Skype open, while pictire-in-picture for TV and apps is also here.
Overall it’s a much cleaner Smart Hub this year that’s pleasingly more customisable – one of our complaints about it last year was that some of the Samsung-made apps took pride of place despite not actually being very useful (we’re thinking of the Family Story, Fitness and Kids apps, which remain, but are relegated).
Sadly we weren’t able to test the motion gesture tech new for 2013. Empowered by the TV’s sensitive pop-up camera, it lets you use two hands to zoom-in, swipe through photos, and rotate through pages by rotating your hand.
Imagine the Queen waving to her subjects and you get the idea. Incidentally, the sensitivity of the camera means that even if you do upgrade a Samsung TV from last year using the Smart Evolution kit, the gesture tech won’t kick-in with as much reliability.
What we did test was the voice interaction, which in the loud environment of the Las Vegas Convention Center did prove tricky. Even in a locked-away quiet room, the system – which can search content on live TV, apps and via DLNA – didn’t appear to understand all accents and got nowhere with ‘Champions League’. Mind you, having recommendations presented that are based on viewing habits should be interesting – and it’s confirmed to work with any TV system, including Sky and Virgin.
The chance to go through the EPG and set recordings and reminders for the 55F8000’s twin Freeview HD tuners – another first – will be worth examining in more detail in March when Samsung launches its latest TVs.
One of five TVs in the range, this 55-incher is sandwiched by a 40, 46, 65 and even a 75-inch version.
By Jamie Carter, TechRadar