Samsung UN55D8000YF 3D LED LCD HDTV Page 3

In all respects but one, the Samsung is a stunning 2D HD performer. I had no issues with its color, detail, or video processing. Two of my favorite tests for these qualities (particularly color) are Baraka and the Pioneer Pure Vision 2006 Blu-ray Demonstration disc (never made commercially available). Both of these offer absolutely stunning images, and I’ve never seen them look better than they did on the UN55D8000YF. The set looked good out of the box after I finetuned its basic picture controls, but a full calibration improved it further, producing near reference-quality results. Images popped off the screen in the ways you expect from a high-end set but don’t always see. If you’re not floored by this Samsung’s color and resolution, you have a poor sample or need to redo your setup.

One issue you might not like is the screen’s reflectivity. Samsung argues that its Ultra Clear Panel is pristine in this regard and minimizes this often-pesky problem. But bright objects in the room (including you) located anywhere near the center of the screen will be clearly visible in its dark but mirror-like glossiness.

The Samsung’s picture, like that of most LCD sets, also starts to lighten and fade as you move further off axis. It’s better than some LCDs we’ve seen in this respect, but the best horizontal viewing angle is still less than 25 degrees from the center of the screen—and even less for a critical viewer.

The Samsung’s black level and shadow detail range from good to exceptional, depending on the source material and what percentage of the screen is dark—and as long as you’re using the Smart LED feature. The latter’s combination of LED zone dimming and brightness modulation at the individual pixel level (the latter to retain the punch of small, bright objects in an otherwise dark image, as described earlier) may explain why the UN55D8000YF demonstrates its black-level performance best on star fields, particularly the one that opens Stargate: Continuum. This remains one of my favorite tests for good black level, and I’ve rarely seen it look better than it did on this set.

But the Samsung does have one significant weakness: non-uniform screen illumination. While it avoids the serious light spill near the frame that I’ve observed with some edge-lit models, there is a bit of furry, grayish lightening visible at the sides and corners of the screen in dark scenes. I could live with that. However, the main issue was noticeable non-uniformity in other areas of the screen, most often seen as gray streaks in dark scenes. They were subtle but clearly visible once I knew where to look for them. They appeared most often in the lower right-hand corner of the screen.

The complexity of most bright program material largely masked the problem with that type of image, but I occasionally saw dark, ghost-like horizontal and vertical bands in large areas of uniform color, such as a cloudless, bright blue sky.

The obvious culprit, both here and in other edge-lit sets, is the ultra-thin chassis. There simply isn’t enough space for diffusers efficient enough to uniformly spread the light across the screen.

Outstanding 3D
Samsung has redesigned its LCD panel this year with thinner LCD elements. According to Samsung, this speeds up their response, which not only improves motion performance but offers other benefits as well. 3D sets that use active glasses require a blanking period between the left- and right-eye images to minimize 3D crosstalk (ghosting). This blanking is one of the reasons behind the dimness of 3D images. A faster panel can minimize the duration of the blanking period, which can either reduce ghosting or increase 3D brightness.

This new Samsung design appears to strike an ideal balance. The UN55D8000YF produces the brightest 3D image I’ve yet seen from a 3D display that uses active glasses. The extra brightness not only gives the image a welcome punch but also enhances the visibility of fine details.

And I saw no ghosting whatsoever. This is the first time I can say that for an LCD set with active glasses. That doesn’t mean you’ll never see ghosting on any 3D programming. But it does mean that I didn’t see it on the 3D material that in my experience has been most prone to it in the past on other HDTVs: A Christmas Carol and Avatar. Both looked nearly flawless on the Samsung.

The overall result was compelling 3D performance. As an added bonus, Samsung’s 2Dto-3D conversion mode is the best I’ve yet seen. This is the first 3D set where I felt I might actually use it often enough to make it worthwhile. It still can’t equal a true 3D source, but it can definitely produce a convincing sense of depth.

I won’t soft-pedal my concerns about the Samsung’s non-uniform screen lighting. It keeps this set from earning a Home Theater Top Pick. But this issue may bother some viewers more than others. And no other LCD 3D set I’ve seen can better this one in other vital attributes, including color, detail, and (apart from the uniformity issue) black level and shadow detail. Not to mention the best 3D images I’ve yet seen on any consumer display.