Hitting that sweetspot between too small and way too big, the 46in Samsung LED 8000 UE46C8000 screen is enough to provide the eye with more of the fireworks but less of the waterworks. And with a price tag of £1,300, time appears to have served only to make it better value for money.
Visually, the Samsung LED 8000 UE46C8000's biggest fillip is its incredible lack of bulk – measuring considerably less than 30mm at its slimmest, it's rather more slender than the Sony KDL-40NX713. In other respects though, it doesn't quite match up to that screen's immaculately melded frame, despite boasting what Samsung calls its ‘One Design'.
This amounts to a silver (albeit slim) border (with pleasing plastic trim) that goes around the screen itself, and although the effect is undoubtedly attractive, we felt that it lacked that cohesive feel of the Sony - more a slim LCD with nice looks rather than an innovative design that sees the screen and frame become one.
Nonetheless, it would seem churlish of us to criticise what's still a very appealing television on the basis of its looks, particularly since the overall effect doesn't need to be spoilt by an unsightly external 3D transmitter – the 3D gadgetry is built in as standard. The Samsung LED 8000 UE46C8000's Quad stand is a rather more robust looking affair than on that Sony, but still pleasing to the eye.
The Samsung LED 8000 UE46C8000's ports and connectors are plentiful. Some of these are situated at the side of the television, and others to the rear. However, unlike on the Sony, most of the important ports are positioned on the side. This is undoubtedly convenient for those who wish to hang the screen from the wall, although it does mean that you're going to have slightly unsightly cables running out of the side.
Nonetheless, the quantity is hard to argue with. Besides the quartet of v1.4 HDMI ports, you also get a pair of USB ports. Some of these televisions come with only a single USB port, so it's nice to see the Samsung LED 8000 UE46C8000 fully kitted out here, allowing users to access media from all manner of memory sticks, USB hard drives etc..
The benefit of these is, though, somewhat marred by the fact that you'll almost certainly want to use up one of these ports with the Wireless Link Stick – sadly, while the Samsung LED 8000 UE46C8000 comes with a LAN port, wireless networking is an optional extra only. The Link Stick should cost you around £75 for wireless n support - make sure you don't buy the cheaper, slower and less compatible sub-£30 version.
The digital audio, component and composite, and PC connections are fairly standard, as are the two SCART outlets. The screen also comes with an HD FreeView tuner built in. Again, this is now fairly commonplace, but still nice to see. DLNA is also fully supported, and Samsung's AllShare feature adds a user-friendly software interface, allowing the Samsung LED 8000 UE46C8000 to be hooked seamlessly up to compatible devices in your home, giving you easy access to any movies, photos and music files stored.
See all: Digital Home reviews
See also: Sony KDL-40NX713 review
In a nice additional feature, any storage devices plugged into a USB port can be used for timeshifting – you can pause whatever's on the television and resume watching later on. While this feature is already adequately supported on many a DVD writer, Sky+/HD and Virgin V+ box (to mention but a few), it'll still be a useful option for those who have otherwise fairly basic television equipment.
Assuming you have bolted on the additional WiFi connection, you'll find that the Samsung offers access to a wide variety of services through its much-hyped Internet@TV interface. Samsung was one of the first manufacturers to provide television users with such an easy way to access certain areas of the net, and while Internet@TV no longer seems as radical as it once did, it's still a nice execution of what's going to become a real battlefield in the coming months and years.
The Samsung LED 8000 UE46C8000 allows you to tap into YouTube, Picasa, Twitter, Skype (with the addition of a TV camera), Google Maps, Getty Images and LOVEFiLM, amongst others. There's even the Checkmate game – a visually appealing chess application you can subscribe to. As with Sony's Bravia Internet Video, the future of this technology will depend on third party support. For now, though, it looks a very nice addition, with Skype amongst the features you won't find on some other screens.
The remote control isn't quite like any we've seen before – although it's reasonably easy to use once you've got the hang of it. With its strange buttons and wide but interesting design, it'll be hard to get this remote confused with anything else in the house. On that note, a useful feature of the Samsung is its Anynet+ feature. Actually nothing to do with the internet, this allows you to control up to 12 other devices from the Samsung's remote control.
The range of compatible devices goes far wider than those with the Samsung logo, and in theory it means that, for instance, a blu-ray player and your screen will synchronise perfectly, select the right input etc. In practice, even if a device is compatible with Anynet+, it doesn't guarantee that you'll be able to control all of its functions from the remote – in some cases, it just means that you can turn something on and off without needing to find its dedicated remote. Nonetheless, with a bit of searching on the internet, it ought to be possible to find what features you can and can't control using Anynet+ for most devices. The Samsung's setup options are wide and fairly varied. The on-screen menu is attractive and adorned with clear animated icons.
You can also activate the Self-Diagnosis feature to try and pinpoint the cause of any significant concerns with picture or sound quality. The many setup features include a digital noise filter, Black Tone and Colour Space, and options for adjusting Flesh Tone. You have a Tint option for adjusting the amounts of green and red, although a bit more overall control over the colours would have been nice.
Of course, the 3D is the reason many will be coming to this Samsung. And here the UE36C8000 is extremely well qualified. 3D glasses aren't always a good fit, but the Samsung's pair are extremely lightweight and fairly comfortable to wear. As ever with 3D glasses, you're rarely unaware that you're wearing them, but they're still easier to ignore than a number of pairs that we've tried. Additional pairs are reasonably priced too, with the SSG-2100AB set available for around £55. Unlike some televisions, the 3D is built in as standard, so there's no ugly transmitter to spoil the flow of the screen.
The quality of the 3D is really very good. As with most 3D televisions, there are still some issues with Crosstalk, particularly in the more demanding parts of Monsters vs Aliens and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. However, on the whole the screen does an adequate job of preventing each eye from receiving information intended for the other. The effect certainly isn't as severe as on the Sony KDL-40NX713, for instance. Depth is very good on the Samsung LED 8000 UE46C8000, with titles like Bolt3D and Alice in Wonderland jumping out at you, while the overall effect of 3D is extremely exciting and easy to get wrapped up in. Images are generally smooth, with 3D gaming more viable here than on the Sony. The colours are good too, although you might want to adjust the backlight as the Samsung can be just a touch too light at times. Nonetheless, this was generally a very good 3D screen.
Even when not in 3D, the Samsung LED 8000 UE46C8000 is very good, and High Definition material is handled wonderfully. As with the 3D, the colours can be a little too light initially, with some scenes in the Dark Knight lacking a cinematic sheen. The sizeable screen combined with the high detail levels can highlight deficiencies a little too well, but we found that lowering the backlight levels would generally remedy this. There are televisions with darker palettes out there, but few offer the picture detail of the Samsung. Features like the Wide Colour Enhancer Plus help, and the overall experience is particularly strong if you take the time to experiment with the myriad options for the Motion Plus – Judder and Blur Reduction amongst them. Standard Definition output is good too, and the Samsung will double up nicely as a screen for everyday material. The onboard speakers are very pleasing to listen to, although the audio isn't as breathtaking as Samsung's literature would have you believe – as with most of these screens, home cinema enthusiasts will be eager to add beefier external speakers for the best overall experience.
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