Functions and DesignThe design hasn't really changed much compared with last year's Samsung TVs. The firm has kept a similar frame to 2011's D8000 (3 cm thick with a 5 mm bezel). In fact, the bezel is so slim that the image almost looks like it's floating. It's sublime!
The stand has, however, been reworked. Instead of the 'crow's foot' kind of stand Samsung used to use, the firm has developed a new concept it's calling the 'Arch Flow Stand' which we think is particularly well designed. That said, the new stand doesn't swivel, so if you think that'll be a problem, you'll need to add a swivel base to your TV (sold separately) although it may end up looking distinctly less stylish!
The ES8000 comes with DLNA 1.5 support as well as the usual host of Samsung connected services. You can download all kinds of applications onto the TV (VOD, Google Maps, Skype etc.) but the vast majority of them aren't displayed in Full HD resolution.
The image settings menus have been very well thought-out in this TV. Since last year, a short explanation of each setting has been added, which is sure to be handy for novice users.
One of the main strong points of this Samsung TV is its built-in media player. You can play all kinds of multimedia files by simply hooking up an external storage device to one of the three USB ports. Subtitles and chapters can sometimes be slightly problematic, however.
Screen is prone to reflections
The remotes—as this TV comes with two of them—are well finished. One remote is a fairly standard model with backlit buttons, while the other has a part-metal part-plastic finish. As you can see in the picture above, it has a very minimalist design, with just 13 buttons. The plastic part of the remote is also home to a clickable touchpad that can be used to control the pointer in the TV interface then select options by clicking on them. It's very practical, but it does take a little while to get used to.
Motion and Voice ControlThe UE55ES8000 has a camera and microphone built into the top of the bezel. These are used to:
- identify the person sitting in front of the screen to propose content tailored to their tastes,
- switch off the TV when no one is watching,
- control the TV by voice and motion commands.
The voice control system can be used via the microphone built into the touch-sensitive remote control or the microphone built into the camera on top of the TV. If there's a fair bit of background noise to contend with, we'd recommend using the mic on the remote.
You start the voice control system by saying 'voice control' to the TV. Then various prompts for voice commands appear onscreen ('off, 'source', 'more' etc.) to help users find what they're looking for. It's practical, but the TV has difficulty understanding some words, so you end up repeating them several times before it finally understands.
The motion control system is launched by simply waving at the TV. A cursor is then displayed onscreen that you control by moving your arms around. You select the carious options by clenching a fist. This can be used to change channel, to adjust the volume or to launch applications from the Smart TV menu. It's a nice idea, but the whole system is still a bit too slow for our liking, as it won't really save you any time compared with using a standard, physical remote. The system isn't 100% perfect yet either, and there are a few bugs still to be ironed out. Maybe it'll prove more useful when it has had time to mature in future TV sets.
Ghosting and Input Lag
Gamers will be pleased to hear that the ES8000 barely has any input lag, as our reading of 33 ms is negligible.
Plus, this TV has a decent ghosting time, taking an average of 11.5 ms to remove a previous frame. That's just above average.
2D Image QualityThere's no point beating around the bush—image quality in the ES8000 didn't blow us away. As is often the case, out of the box, colour reproduction is completely crazy, with an average Delta E of 7.3 (the difference between accurate colours and those displayed onscreen—the lower the better). The gamma (grey scale) isn't particularly balanced either, with light greys that are overexposed to white and dark tones that block together in dark masses.
Switching to Movie mode is therefore highly recommended. Note that Movie mode automatically sets the colour temperature to Warm 2, which is too red for our tastes. We therefore recommend switching to Warm 1, which brings the colour temperature back to 5940 kelvins (6500 K is the ideal value).
Once you've done that, you can enjoy accurate colours on the UE55ES8000, as with these settings, we measured an average delta E of 3.1 with no dominant overtones.
In Movie mode we measured a contrast ratio of 1960:1
One rather surprising thing about this TV is its contrast ratio. Dynamic backlighting has been particularly well handled since last year, so it no longer does crazy things to the gamma. The new and improved dynamic backlighting system in this TV makes things even better, as the variations in brightness between different images have been completely wiped out. In our tests, switching from a 1% white test card to a 35% white test card didn't affect the brightness of the white, which stayed at 212 cd/m². The only slight blip is that the contrast ratio is lower in this TV than in the D8000 model from 2011—the black has gone from 0.05 cd/m² to 0.11 cd/m², which makes for a contrast ratio of 3200:1 in the D8000 compared with 1960:1 for the ES8000. That's quite disappointing for a TV that's supposed to be Samsung's flagship model!
Another disappointing thing about this 2012 TV is that the it doesn't have the same excellent levels of consistency in display quality across the screen as we saw in the D8000. We measured the average discrepancy at 10% over the whole screen, compared with 4% for the previous model. And, to top it off, screen viewing angles are now even tighter in the ES8000, losing 1 point to end up with a final score of 1.2/5 in that particular category!
For watching films, there's been no change to the SD upscaling or HD display quality. SD upscaling is regularly prone to aliasing effects, and latest generation games consoles (PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360) will do a much better job than this TV if you want to watch SD DVDs. HD quality is, however, perfect.
Note that anyone looking for super-smooth images should leave the Motion Plus (motion interpolation) setting on 'Standard'. At this setting, judder is totally removed with no degradation in quality, whereas beyond that, digital artefacts start to appear behind moving objects. Finally, if the image seems too smooth and fluid for your liking (the 'video' effect), the 'Clear' setting will be largely sufficient.
The model we tested suffered from clouding. Although the effect is less marked than in the D8000, it's still quite annoying. Bright blotches proved particularly visible in the corners and the middle of the screen.
3D Image QualitySamsung supplies two pairs of active shutter 3D glasses with this TV. Plus, you won't have to shell out too much cash to kit out all the family with a pair, as you can pick up the non-rechargeable glasses for about £20. These are comfortable to wear (31 grammes) even over the top of regular glasses.
This TV displays good quality 3D. The image is sharp and well defined—this is genuine Full HD 3D. Depth and objects protruding from the screen are well rendered but, as you can see in the images below, crosstalk is something of a problem, with a ghost image that's more marked than in the D8000. The UE55ES8000 therefore loses a star in this field.
Below—the result as seen through 3D glasses (Top: Samsung UE55ES8000 / Bottom: Samsung UE55D8000)
Even if Samsung does have the best 2D-to-3D conversion function of the lot, the actual onscreen result is still a far cry from the quality of genuine 3D content—just a slight impression of depth is brought to the image. It's barely worth putting the 3D glasses on for that!
Relative Frequency Response
Green zone = good /Orange zone = tolerated / White zone = too denatured
The TV reproduces medium frequencies well (120 Hz to 1.5 kHz) but there's pretty much no bass
With such a slim casing, it's always going to be difficult to deliver decent audio quality. However, the ES8000 doesn't do too bad a job to say it's just 3 cm thick. As expected, there's pretty much no bass, but medium frequencies are reproduced accurately. Higher frequencies aren't so good from 1.5 kHz, which means the frequency band for voices isn't covered in its entirety (300 Hz to 3 kHz).
All in all, audio quality from the built-in speakers is good enough for watching day-to-day TV shows. However, a soundbar or home cinema kit will make all the difference when watching movies.
Power UseThe LED backlighting in this TV uses very little power. With this 55-inch TV in action, we measured 107 watts (128 W/m²), which drops all the way down under 1 watt with the TV on standby.
- Accurate colours: average delta E of 3.1
- Effective motion interpolation function
- Remote with built-in touchpad is particularly practical
- Low power use: 107 watts
- Glossy screen: reflections are a problem
- Tight viewing angles
- More 3D crosstalk than in the D8000
- Disappointing contrast: 1960:1
- The model we tested was prone to clouding
The Samsung ES8000 is ahead of its time. While there's still room for improvement in the motion and voice control systems, it's the first TV out there to integrate this kind of function. And, on the whole, they work reasonably well. Image quality, on the other hand, seems to have taken a step backwards, with a lower contrast level (1960:1) than the D8000, tighter viewing angles, screen brightness that's less consistent across the display and stronger 3D crosstalk. All in all, the ES8000 just managed to scrape its way to a four-star review!