The best gets better with Samsung's new, 2013-flagship Smart TV…
What Is It?
The Samsung F8000 Smart TV is the jewel in the 2013 home-entertainment crown for the South Korean-gadget giant.
The model we tested is the 55-inch Series 8 UAF8000: a 1920x1080 LED-backlit panel with 3D capabilities, a quad-core processor four HDMI inputs, three USB inputs, one component input and an ethernet port.
The 55-inch UAF8000 also comes with S-Recommendation with Voice technology, AllShare, Motion Control and the upgraded Smart Hub 2.0 to tie it all together.
The model we tested will set you back $4199 (RRP).
Samsung made a killer Smart TV with last year's model. In fact, you all loved it so much you awarded it a Reader's Choice Award. This year's models mean that the best are getting so much better.
The Series 8 TVs have an outrageously thin bezel at just 5mm-thick and it’s built on the principle of a 360-degree design. Samsung wants to make this thing look great from the front and the back, sitting on top of a “wave-inspired” silver stand. They weren't messing about when they made it, either: the viewing angle is incredible on the Series 8 and the ultra-thin bezel makes viewing stuff an absolute blast. The TV just gets out of your way to let the content do the talking.
Meanwhile, on content, Samsung's AllShare feature is great if you have other Samsung-compatible gadgets around the house for content sharing. Also, we noticed virtually zero lag on any of your apps, either, thanks to the new quad-core processor.
Meanwhile, on the couch, you're left holding one of the best-looking remotes I have ever seen. A remote isn't just a simple control mechanism anymore. It's a "design statement". The statement Samsung is making with this new Smart Remote is "touch it". It keeps the buttons to a minimum while making a huge amount of room for a giant touchpad you use to scroll around the Smart Hub with. It's great thinking, but it would be nice if it gave you access to a free-form cursor, however.
Interestingly, Samsung also bundles another remote in with the TV in case you don't like sleek, trendy remotes and just want one with a swathe of high-contrast buttons on it instead. Good thinking for accessibility, but it's so ugly we'll just pretend it doesn't exist.
The new Smart Hub 2.0 design is structured like a beautiful cube of content that lets you pan between apps, current programming, recommended viewing and stuff you've got recorded. All that is later tied together by S-Recommendation with Voice: a nifty little gadget that learns what you like and pushes it front and centre for you to enjoy. It always understands you when you talk to it, and it talks back in a pleasant Australian accent thanks to the boffins at Macquarie University.
What's also great about the voice control is hearing a pleasant Australian voice speaking back at you for a change. Better than just being barked at by an automaton for a change.
The TV's smarts go beyond that, however: the F8000 supports Samsung's Evolution Kit technology, which means that you'll be able to bolt a box on the back of your TV come next year and get all of the great software features Samsung has dreamt up by then. It's way cheaper than falling in love with a new feature down the line and having to buy a whole new panel just to get it.
We're still left in somewhat of a lurch when it comes to fantastic streaming software on the Samsung Smart TVs, or any TV for that matter. It's nice to have all your streaming apps available in the one place, but you can't help feeling like you're missing something. Namely: Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go and Amazon Instant Watch.
You can grab any and all of these by switching to your Google TV box, your Second-Generation Apple TV or any other device you've hacked to enable US-based streaming (via a VPN), but what's the point of buying a so-called Smart TV that's meant to do all of it for you? If you want premium content on a beautiful screen, save yourself some cash and buy a "dumber" panel. None of this is the fault of the TV, mind you: just a bit of consumer advice.
It'd also be a nice change to see one of these great TVs running Android. Samsung loves Android, so why not throw it at the high-end home entertainment market? Doing so would mean a whole world of content would become available to you both in the form of apps -- right now devs have to port their software over to the Smart TV platform -- and content from Google Play.
The S-Voice software on the F8000 also only works when it's connected to the web. It's a shame that so many boffins were enlisted to make this service great but you need to run a dirty ethernet cable across your living room to benefit from it. It's also worth noting that those commands are probably being stored somewhere to build a "profile" on your watching habits for "further recommendations" in the future.
Active 3D glasses are also a bit of a pain, especially considering you only get two pairs bundled in with the box (four on the 75-inch model) and additional pairs are close to $100 each. Furthermore, previous generation 3D-glasses won't work with this new TV, because they work on infrared technology, while the new glasses only support Bluetooth connections. I'm all for progress, but does it have to be that expensive?
This Is Weird
Take care when unwrapping the F8000 Smart TV: in our model we found some of the weird plastic sleeve meant to protect the screen in transit got stuck in the bezel and wouldn't come out cleanly.
You can't see it when you're sitting on the couch, but on closer inspection, people will notice.
Should You Buy It?
If you're in the market for a new TV, love your content and appreciate beautiful design, you can't go further than the F8000 Smart TV. It's beautiful, clever and versatile. It comes in at a premium price, but it's stocked with gear to keep you happy like the voice recommendation gear, motion control gestures and Smart Hub functionality. Plus, it supports Samsung's Evolution Kit technology, meaning you can continually upgrade the TV to add more features (via software) over the next few years.
The F8000 should definitely be on your must-see list when shopping for a new TV.