Samsung’s ES8000 LED TV wowed us last year with its design, picture quality and smart features. Its successor, the F8000, takes things up a notch and we got our hands on it at its launch at CES.
Samsung F8000: design
At first glance, it’s hard to tell the difference between the old and new models, but the F8000 has a smaller built-in 2Mp camera which is barely noticeable in in the top edge of the set, and a new ‘floating’ stand which curves round behind the TV.
Look at the F8000 from the side and it’s amazingly thin so it’s ideal for wall mounting. The HDMI inputs face downwards and are hidden behind a panel keeping things neat.
Samsung F8000: picture quality
Watching Samsung’s demo footage showed that the F8000 is capable of absolutely stunning quality. Images were almost painfully sharp and amazingly lifelike. Textures, whether hair, fabric or foliage, were crystal clear with no smudging.
Colours were vibrant without looking unreal, and viewing angles wide. We noticed colours weren’t quite as punchy when viewed from the side, but we’d imagine few people would notice this.
Blacks were decent, as was contrast. In fact, contrast is given a boost by the introduction of micro-dimming (something we’ve seen on Philips TVs). Here, the processor analyses the content of the scene and is able to dim the LED backlight in dark areas to give better blacks.
The F8000 also has local crosstalk reduction which Samsung says makes 3D images around 30 per cent brighter. We couldn’t check this claim as no 3D content was demoed at the launch.
Similarly, we couldn’t assess how well the F8000 dealt with standard definition content, nor what its speakers were like, so we’ll reserve judgment on those facets until we can fully test the TV.
Samsung F8000: Smart Hub
Design and image quality are minor bumps on the S8000, but the real improvement comes in the new 2013 Smart Hub.
We already liked the old Smart Hub, but Samsung has redesigned the interface to make it a lot easier to find what you want to watch.
There are now five panels (think Android or iOS home screens) to flip between, split into TV recommendations; movies and TV shows; photos, videos and music; social and apps.
Interestingly, you see the first panel when you turn the F8000 on, rather than jumping straight to full-screen TV. The current channel plays in a window, but you also get recommendations on shows you might want to watch based on your previous viewing habits.
This is determined by time, so in the evening you’ll see recommendations for shows you typically watch after the kids are in bed. On Saturday mornings when your kids typically watch, they’ll see recommendations for shows that they like and regularly watch.
The movies and TV shows panel brings together all the on-demand video streaming services, including iPlayer, Netflix and YouTube. A handy new feature which we’ve already seen in YouView is that there’s a universal search so you don’t have to visit each provider’s interface or app to try and find what you’re after.
Moving to the third panel, you can use gestures to zoom in on and rotate photos. The screen also lets you access your videos and music which, as you’d expect, can be streamed across your home network.
In the social panel, you’ll see content from friends and family on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and also links to Skype which works with the built-in camera.
There was no word on any new apps on the fifth and final screen, but were told that the S-Recommendation feature works here, too, suggesting apps you might like to download.
Finally, Samsung showed the briefest of demonstrations of what it’s calling ‘T-commerce’ where you can buy things directly through your TV. This appears to be a trend for TVs in 2013, with Panasonic announcing something similar.
In Samsung’s version, you’ll be able to find out what an actor is wearing, for example, and get the option to order it and have it sent to you.
Samsung F8000: Voice Interaction
The F8000 has better voice control than the ES8000, understanding conversational English rather than requiring you to say specific commands. In a list of search results, for example, can you simply say “Play the third one” to save having to scroll through them with the remote control.
Samsung F8000: performance, price and availability
Some TVs we’ve reviewed recently have been frustrating to use as their menus are slow to respond and internet services slow to start up. The F8000 should avoid this thanks to its quad-core processor. We didn’t get a chance to try out the menus for ourselves, but will update this article tomorrow once we’ve managed to get our hands on the remote control.
Another first is that the F8000 supports the new HDVC video standard which claims to offer double the video quality on the same bandwith as the most efficient existing codecs such as MP4. There was no indication as to when broadcasters or services would start using this codec, but if it becomes a popular standard, it will be good to have.
Samsung claims that switching between apps, or between TV and on-demand services is up to three times faster than on 2012 models.
No pricing has been announced yet, but you’ll be able to buy 46, 55, 60, 65 and 75in versions from March 2013.
See also Group test: Whats the best TV?
We've had only a limited time with the UN55F8000 so we can't give a definitive verdict yet. Stay tuned for a more in-depth review soon.