Announced earlier in the year at CES 2012, the Samsung ES8000 is Samsung’s latest and greatest flagship LED LCD Smart TV.
As soon as you hear flagship, you know it is going to be packed full of features, have amazing specifications and finished with a beautifully slim design, and from first looks, it certainly doesn’t disappoint.
Building on the success of last years D8000 series, the new ES8000 should have everything and more than you could have ever asked for from a Smart TV. I feel that Samsung has pushed the whole “Smart TV” area the furthest, and just like the ES7000 series which we reviewed earlier, of course features Samsung Smart Interaction, enabling both gesture and voice control.
I will be reviewing the 55-Inch UE55ES8000 model, as it’s known in the UK, also know as the Samsung UN55ES8000 in the U.S. In the UK it is available in 40, 46, and 55-Inch sizes. While in the U.S it is available in 46, 55, 60, and 65-Inch sizes. This review will apply to all the models.
The ES8000 series is the first and only range to feature Samsung’s new “Micro Dimming Ultimate”. The ES7000/ES7500 series that we have previously reviewed featured the step down version called “Micro Dimming Pro”, so it will be interesting to see how the two different versions differ.
I was impressed with the design of the ES7000/7500, but the ES8000 really does take it to the next level, and it quite clearly stands out as their flagship model, and will certainly make your friends jealous.
What really strikes me straight away, is just how slim the bezel is. There is very little “wasted space” and it looks like it is 99% display. There is a very thin black frame / bezel around the LCD panel, which is then wrapped in a beautiful and stylish aluminum frame. Four pieces of aluminum are curved around the four edges of the HDTV joining together to create a flush finish.
This highly polished, curved design of the bezel is similar to what the designers of the Bang & Olufsen BeoVision 11 were talking about in our hands on video. The color is reflected from the surroundings, which in turn makes the bezel less noticeable, and appear even thinner.
The Samsung ES8000 is equally as beautiful from the side, and is very slim indeed. We measured it at just 2.5cm.
The flagship Samsung Smart TV stands out from the rest of the Samsung models, and most HDTVs to be honest, by its unique stand. Samsung calls this their “Arch Flow” stand.
The ES8000 was very easy to assemble, we followed Samsung’s recommendation, and laid the TV flat down on the table, and then screwed the stand onto the Smart TV via six screws on the back of the TV. You might need a friend to help you out, as the 55-Inch model weighs 25kg (55lbs).
The stand holds the large TV very securely. While I do like the unique Arch Flow design, which nicely elevates the TV and leaves the very attracting Samsung logo glowing by its self, the one draw back is that you can’t angle it to the left and right like you can with the “Quad Stand” provided on the lower models. But lets be honest, once you have positioned the TV, you’re not exactly going to be changing it’s angle all the often. So, given the choice, I would choose the more attractive stand provided here.
Although the frame of the ES8000 is real metal, the stand is not. It is some form of plastic with a chrome effect, but even upclose you can’t tell visually.
After you’ve finished putting the ES8000 together and spent a few minuets admiring it, you will probably want to spend a little while rubbing off all the finger prints you no doubt left on the frame and stand. Samsung was smart and kind enough to provide a microfiber cleaning cloth with the TV, which can be used to remove these, and also to keep the screen free from dust.
At the bottom center of the ES800, you will see the Samsung logo nicely glowing away. This looks even better on this model as the logo almost floats in front as it’s not blocked by the stand. If you’re thinking that the glow might get annoying when your enjoying a movie in a darkened room, Samsung has also thought the same. You can completely disable the glow all together, or reverse it, so it’s only on when the TV image is off, or have it on 24/7. The choice is yours.
Connectivity / Ports On ES8000
- 3 x HDMI
- 3 x USB. 5V 0.5A
- 1 Headphone
- Wireless LAN Built-in
- Component In (Y / Pb / Pr)
- Composite In (AV) (Common Use for Component Y)
- Digital Audio Out (Optical)
- PC In (via HDMI)
- MHL available
- RF In (Terrestrial / Cable input)
- Ethernet (LAN)
- RF In (Satellite Input)
- DVI Audio In (Mini Jack)
- Bluetooth Connectivity
The connectivity is definitely very advanced on the ES8000, with 3x HDMI inputs, Ethernet and of course built in WiFi. There are three HDMI inputs, but for their flagship model we feel it could have done with one or two extra HDMI ports as this is the most common connection now days, and any home theater enthusiast would probably go through the three pretty quickly. Luckily you can now pick up an automatic HDMI switch for less than $10 if this is an issue.
There are no “quick access” ports on the side of the Smart TV, due to it’s thinness and seamless design. All the ports are clearly located around a right angle block, so everything faces out laying against the back of the TV, rather than sticking out. There should be plenty of room for larger USB and HDMI cables, and allow you to get this incredibly thin TV mounted flush on your wall. In the UK you can use the Satellite Input to tune in FreeSat HD.
As well as connecting a USB memory stick to the TV for media playback (and recording in HD), you can also use the USB ports with a mouse and keyboard. I plugged in my tiny Logitec Unifying receiver, this was immediately recognized correctly, and enabled me to use my wireless mouse and keyboard. These can be used to navigate around the “Smart Hub” and of course for making the browsing experience a whole lot easier. Don’t forget the ES8000 also features built in bluetooth, enabling connectivity to bluetooth mice and keyboard. Samsung recommend using Microsoft hardware, but I would take a bet that Logitech equipment is also supported.
Features / Specifications
The Samsung 55ES800 really is feature packed to the max, and you would be hard pushed to find any other Smart TV which can offer more. Along with the Smart Hub and app support, which offers a whole range of streaming apps such as BBC iPlayer, ITV player, Netflix and more, it also offers “Smart Interaction”, Skype, and can also be upgraded via the Samsung Evolution Kit.
Smart TV aside, the ES8000 as a HDTV is very well equipped. As you would expect, it features a Full HD 1080p LCD panel with LED edge lighting. It makes use of an Ultra Clear Panel with Wide Colour Enhancer Plus to enhance the colour vibrancy while maintaining natural skin tones. 800 Clear Motion Rate refreshes the image extremely quickly. This helps reduce and eliminate motion blur and loss of motion resolution keeping the image very sharp during fast motion scenes. This helps a lot during watching sport, and during panning scenes in movies eliminating annoying image judder.
The flagship ES8000 series makes exclusive use of Samsung’s top of the line “Micro Dimming Ultimate” technology. Only the ES8000 series has the “Ultimate” version. The ES7000 I reviewed previously makes use of the “Pro” version. I’m interested in seeing just how they compare.
The technology works by dividing the screen in to different “Zones” which can be independently controlled by the TV using an advanced algorithm. It can increase and decrease the brightness in the different zones to increase the contrast ratio, black levels and over all vibrancy of the image and colors. Read the video performance section below to see how it performs.
Remotes + IR Blaster
Samsung have packed the ES8000 series with not one, but two remote controls. You get the standard looking Samsung TM1290 remote, and the Samsung TM1250 “Smart Remote”. The standard remote is as you would expect, it features a backlight button, and also the all important “Smart Hub” button. The second more fancy Smart Remote features a built in clickable touch pad and microphone. This allows you to easily navigate around the Smart Hub and is very useful when browsing websites. The microphone us used for both the Smart Interaction voice commands, and also for Skype and similar applications.
Along with the two remotes, Samsung also bundles an IR blaster. This clever little device connects to the Smart TV via bluetooth and can be placed near your cable box / blu-ray player etc. You can then have your devices hidden away from view, and the TV will receive the commands from your remotes, send them to the blaster via bluetooth, and then the blaster will send out the IR signals to your devices. This is very useful if you want your devices out of sight, or the HDTV some distance away from your devices.
Samsung Smart Hub / Operation
Gone are the days of simple HDTVs, we’re now well and truly in the world of Smart TVs, and in the case of the ES8000, a very Smart TV. The ES8000 is powered by a dual core processor and offers snappy performance.
When I first turned on the 55ES8000, I went to the Network settings and entered my WiFi password. Then went to the system menu and downloaded the last software update. This took 5 or 10 minuets, and the I pressed the brightly coloured Smart Hub button on my remote. With in a matter of seconds you’re presented with the colorful and attractive looking Smart Hub.
This is filled with icons, or app as they’re better know, much like on your smart phone. All the popular apps are there, including all the popular streaming services such as iPlayer, ITV player, Netflix, YouTube etc. All of these apps worked flawlessly including HD playback. I’m always impressed with how easily I can be playing back HD content with a few simply clicks and just the power cable connected to the back of the Smart TV.
To add a new app, you simply need to access the Samsung app store on your TV and select the app you want. One app I always love to download is the “3D world” app. This includes a number of 3D film trailers, cartoons, Redbull clips. This is a great way to test out the 3D performance, and also to wow your friends.
Since I reviewed the last Samsung ES7000 series a number of key apps have now been added, two such apps are Angry Birds, and Spotify, both of which are currently exclusive to Samsung Smart TVs.
Samsung Smart Evolution
Here is where the ES8000 and other key smart TVs from Samsung this year are very clever. There is small “Evolution Port” on the back of the Smart TV. Sometime in 2013 Samsung will release and Evolution Kit, which will simply plug into this port, and upgrade (or evolve) your TV to the latest specification and features. While Samsung has yet to reveal exactly what this Kit will add, many suspect it might upgrade the TV to four cores and boost the performance. Only time will tell.
While we didn’t find the TV to be “slow” we found the whole experience to be with responsive. We did had to wait for a few seconds when launching a number of the apps, but nothing to cause any real concern.
When Samsung release their new 2013 smart TVs they will no doubt be more powerful and have some new features. With any luck, simply adding the Evolution kit could keep you up to date with the latest and greatest. This should give buyers a great deal of piece of mind. If you do buy the ES8000 you will be buying the most advanced Smart TV on the market today, with the ability to simply upgrade it in the future, rather than having to buy a new Smart TV.
Samsung Smart Interaction
Samsung have really taken the Smart TV to the next level with their Smart Interaction feature. You can now control the TV by voice and motion control. Making use of the integrated camera in the top center of the TV, and microphones, one which is located in the Smart remote control.
You can enable and disable both voice and motion (gesture) control in the options menus. To use voice control you simply need to say “Hi TV”, then a menu will popup at the bottom of the screen with a list of options. You can say “Volume up”, “Volume 10″, “Channel 5″ etc.
Even more interesting is the gesture control, by simply waving at the TV. Before you use this, I would recommend going to the “Camera” app, and them using the small wheel at the back of the camera to adjust the hight / angle of the camera to ensure it’s located in the right position. You can also rotate the camera all the way around when not in use, in case you’re concerned about privacy issues.
I was very impressed with the gesture control. It worked pretty much perfectly both during the day time, and at night in artificial lighting. I found it to work better than it did than on the ES7000. This could either be a hardware thing, or the fact that Samsung has since updated the software improving its handling.
We were very impressed with the video and picture quality on the ES8000 and found it to be very well calibrated out of the box. As we often find, we needed to reduced the contrast and brightness just a little to get the most out of the picture, and to retain some details which would have been lost due to the high contrast. We also found that we needed to tweak the colours ever so slightly, but this was very easy and Samsung provides the ability to tweak the colour balance, individual colour gain and saturation to your hearts content.
Once concern and common problem for the ever increasing edge LED TVs are uniformity. Areas of the screen can appear more bright or darker than others due to the uneven light distribution. We were glad to see that the Samsung UN55ES8000 performed very well in this area with a very uniform image and no apparent light leakage which can sometimes appear around the edges and especially the corners of the image.
As we found with the ES7000, the ES8000 also includes a number of “Expert Patterns” which can be used to assist you in calibrating the image on the ES8000, without the need or any special software, DVDs or connecting to a PC.
We ran a number of display tests on the HDTV and it passed every test perfectly. Along with being very uniform, the colours were also very vibrant and accurate. It passed our sharpness and overscan tests perfectly with direct pixel to pixel mapping with zero under or overscan. We changed the “Picture” size setting to “Screen Fit” to yield these perfect mapping. Vertical and horizontal resolution tests were also passed perfectly, and the white and black clipping results were ideal.
As mentioned earlier the ES8000 series is the only series to feature the top of the line “Micro Dimming Ultimate” technology. This intelligently increases and decreases the brightness of certain areas of the display to provide better contrast ratios and black levels. For example a scene looking into the sun, showing silhouette in black, the sun should be bright and vibrant, but the silhouette should be as dark / black as possible. We were pleased to say in our testing and viewing, the technology must have been doing a very good job as the black look as black as only any LCD TV I have seen before, with no apparent halo effect.
The Samsung ES8000 is equipped with 800 Clear Motion Rate, Motion handling. As explained earlier, this refreshes the image very quickly and creates in-between images to smooth the motion, and remove annoying image judder during panning scenes. It also goes a great job when watching sports events, by keeping the image sharp during fast moving scenes, maintaining high motion resolution.
Gaming / Lag
The Samsung 55ES8000 performed extremely well in our gaming / input lag tests. The input lag is a very important factor when gaming, a big lag causes a delay from when the video is output from the console, to when it is displayed on the screen.
The ES8000 has a dedicated gaming mode. With this disabled, it has a lag of about 100-102ms, but with it enabled, it reduces the lag down to just 33ms! This is a fraction (2ms) quicker than the ES7000 we reviewed, and much quicker than the 167ms lag we found on the Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay V1. Overall, the ES8000 is an excellent TV for gaming on.
PC Media Usage
The 55ES8000 is very suitable for use as a media Center / PC usage. I was able to achieve perfect 1:1 direct pixel mapping, and zero underscan or overscan.
The flagship Samsung ES8000 really has lived up to its promises of being a flagship top of the range model. There is no getting around its extremely good looks, highend finish and stunningly thin bezel. But beyond these good looks is a very capable Smart TV, with impressive image quality and equally as impressive Smart TV functions.
The Smart functions of the ES8000 are currently unmatched by any other TV or manufacturer, offering gesture / voice control, app support, a host of streaming services and advance functions such as Skype using the built in camera.
Update: March 2013: The 2012 Samsung ES8000 flagship series can now be has at a great discount due to the upcoming 2013 models. The Samsung Evolution Kit has also now been revealed and will be available very shortly, upgrading the 2013 ES8000 to 2013 Smart TV standard! This still makes the ES8000 a great buy, and still comes very highly recommended from us here at HDTV News!