ES8000 series of LED backlit TVs are a tour de force of technological wizardry,
led by the company's innovative Smart Interaction user interface that lets you
remote-control functions with a voice command and/or a wave of a hand. Picture quality is solid, but does leave some wanting for more considering the TV's hefty price tag.
The ES8000 series consists of four screen sizes, the 65-inch UN65ES8000 (*Est. $3,500), the 60-inch UN60ES8000 (*Est. $3,000), the 55-inch UN55ES8000 (*Est. $2,500) and the 46-inch UN46ES8000 (*Est. $2,000). All have similar specifications save for screen size, and all should perform similarly.
Picture quality is excellent, but your mileage might vary. When it comes to performance, most critics say that the Samsung ES8000 is very good overall -- and near the top of the heap compared to its competition -- though not necessarily the very best. That's certainly a disappointment considering this TV's cost, which is also near the top of the heap.
When it comes to black levels and screen uniformity, different reviewers offer startling different assessments of this edge-lit LED set. For example, CNET finds black levels to be light for a high-performance TV and screen uniformity to be "not very good," with edges that are brighter than the center of the image. TelevisionInfo.com, on the other hand, found blacks that are "surprisingly deep" and near-perfect uniformity. LCDTVBuyingGuide.com notes some uniformity issues, but adds that they can be kept in check by reining in the backlight brightness.
Color is very good, on the other hand, most say. TelevisionInfo.com offers the most critical assessment of that aspect of performance, finding some small shortfalls -- a color temperature that falls on the warm side of ideal, for example -- but is still fairly pleased with what it sees on the screen.
potential negative all agree on is that the screen is more reflective than many
LCD TVs, which could be an issue in rooms with lots of ambient light. Those
that review audio say the
built-in sound is merely adequate, but that's par for the course with most TV sets -- and better than some.
Feature-packed, but not all are easy to use. Getting to the mundane first, the ES8000 includes active 3D, with 3D performance that's excellent overall, especially compared to TVs with earlier generations of the technology. Ghosting is at a minimum, and picture quality in 3D is largely bright and beautiful. Samsung packs four sets of glasses in with the set, PCMag.com reports, and extras are just under $20 each -- a far cry from the $150 or so first-generation active-shutter glasses once cost.
Samsung's Smart TV Internet streaming is built in, as is Wi-Fi for those who don't have a nearby Ethernet connection. The TV is also DLNA-compliant so that you can stream content locally from a PC on the same network. The lineup of online content partners is among the widest available, though Amazon Instant is not included. Samsung also has a built-in web browser and its own App store -- and that newly includes Angry Birds, which might be a hoot to play using the TV's Smart Interaction interface (more in a moment). One thing that's not a hoot: Critics uniformly complain that the Smart TV interface is a bit cluttered and that response can be a bit pokey. There's also a built-in web browser, though its performance gets little praise.
Smart Interaction is Samsung's headline new feature for 2012. It uses voice and gesture control to take the place of many things people would do with a remote control. It even includes face recognition, so that users can automatically log in to their Smart TV accounts (the TV supports several) when they sit down in front of the set.
In concept, Smart Interaction has gotten critics excited; in execution it's left a bit to be desired, most say. Expert after expert reports that response to voice commands can be spotty, and that there's a bit of a learning curve to using gesture commands.
The ES8000 also includes Samsung's Smart Evolution module technology, which gives TV owners the ability to add new features or improve how existing ones work in the future. How effective or useful this will prove to be is an open question, however, as no Smart Evolution modules have yet been released.
Looks as good when it's off as it does when it's on. One point on which there's no disagreement is that the Samsung ES8000 is one good-looking TV. The black bezel is slim, and the base is a nontraditional U-shaped design. One negative is that as good as the stand looks, it can't swivel, and CNET notes that you need a wider tabletop than for a TV with a traditional pedestal.
In addition to the voice and gesture controls, the ES8000 ships with two remotes. One is a standard design that doesn't earn much in the way of praise or pans. The second is a touchpad remote that's interesting in concept but, like gesture control, sometimes falls short of the ideal. "In practice the touch pad is frustrating to use, alternating between too twitchy and unresponsive," says CNET's David Katzmaier. TelevisionInfo.com gives the rear connection panel a thumbs-up, saying that everything is very accessible. The three HDMI inputs should be enough to handle even complex setups. The three USB inputs are a plus. There's also good analog connectivity, but the slim cabinet means you'll need to use the supplied break-out cable if you need those inputs.
You get a lot for your money -- but that's a lot of money. The Samsung ES8000 sits near the top of the list pricewise among mainstream consumer LCD TVs. It is feature packed and on balance a good performer, but there are other TVs that perform nearly as well -- and even just as well -- and have an impressive roster of features in their own right. By the way, for those looking to shop for a bargain, the ES8000 is one of the sets included in Samsung's Unilateral Pricing Policy (UPP), which limits the lowest price at which the TV can be sold by authorized dealers. See this blog post.
Without a doubt, Samsung has left no stone unturned when it comes to packing in the latest in whiz-bang technology, but we'd be more comfortable with the value proposition if some of that technology worked just a little bit better. The same is true with what you see on the screen. While experts disagree over exactly what they don't like so much, many find just enough things to worry over to withhold their unbridled love -- even while they admit that the picture is indeed very, very good. That's the price, we guess, of Samsung having set the bar so high with the ES8000. Still, some other sets, such as the Vizio M3D0KD, deliver picture quality that rivals the ES8000 but at a far lower price. Features might not be as cutting edge, though must-haves such as 3D (passive in this case) and good (but not as comprehensive) web connectivity are present and accounted for.
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Excellent CNET reviews the 55-inch Samsung UN55ES8000, noting that its findings apply to other screen sizes in the series. Testing is competent and comprehensive, and opinions and ratings are provided. David Katzmaier finds lots to like, but also some low points. In the end, he says that the set doesn't quite live up to its price tag.
Review: Samsung UN55ES8000 Review, David Katzmaier, July 10, 2012
Excellent TelevisionInfo.com provides one of the most comprehensive and technically detailed reviews we've seen of the Samsung ES8000 series, focusing its attention on the 55-inch Samsung UN55ES8000. Though its rating isn't especially high, Lee Neikirk recommends considering the TV for those whose budget will allow it.
Review: Samsung UN55ES8000, Lee Neikirk, May 4, 2012
Excellent FlatpanelsHD.com reports on the Samsung ES8000 series of LED TVs in this long and technically oriented review. Some of the most highly touted features leave Rasmus Larsen cold, and he says that the Smart Interaction control seems "gimmicky instead of adding real value to the user experience." But he adds that the picture quality outweighs those concerns, leading him to give the TV the site's Highly Recommended award.
Review: Samsung ES8000 (LED), Rasmus Larsen, May 7, 2012
Very Good PCMag.com tests the smallest screen size in this series -- the 46-inch UN46ES8000. Conclusions are in line with other experts'. Colors are great, or can be made that way. However, black-level performance is a disappointment, and John Delaney notes that peak brightness is also on the low side.
Review: Samsung UN46ES6500F, John R. Delaney, May 22, 2012
Very Good ConsumerReports.org rates and reviews the 55-inch UN55ES8000. Discussion isn't as in-depth as some other sources, but it's notably more detailed than we've seen in the site's TV reviews in the past. However, you will need to be a subscriber to see the full information.
Review: Samsung UN55ES8000, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not Dated
Very Good Though this is the landing page for the 55-inch UN55ES8000, you can access all screen sizes of the Samsung ES8000 series from here, and user reviews for all are grouped together. Around 55 owners have left feedback thus far, and the record is mixed, as evidenced by the ho-hum overall rating of 3.4 out of 5 stars. Complaints are varied, though we did see many that referenced the screen uniformity and black-level shortfalls addressed in some professional reviews. At the same time, others have sets that leave them mostly to completely pleased.
Review: Samsung UN60ES8000, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of Aug. 2012
7. LCDTV Buying Guide.com
Very Good Robert Wiley provides a reasonably detailed, technically competent assessment of the Samsung UN55ES8000. He likes the picture quality and the Smart TV platform, but Smart Interaction doesn't get the most glowing review.
Review: Samsung UN55ES8000 Review, Robert Wiley, Not Dated
Very Good DigitalTrends.com provides reviews that are clearly based on time spent with the TV in question, though bench testing, if done, is not detailed. Be that as it may, Caleb Denison does a good job talking about what a typical user will see when seated in front of the screen of the 60-inch Samsung UN60SE8000. He finds some disappointments -- such as uneven uniformity -- but still likes things enough to give the UN60SE8000 (and other sets in the series) an Editors' Choice award.
Review: Samsung UN60ES8000 Review, Caleb Denison, July 26, 2012
Fair The Samsung UN55ES8000 lands in fourth place in this list of top big-screen LCD TVs choices. However, the write-up is brief and testing is not detailed. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)
Review: Best LCD TVs and LED/LCD TVs 40-Inches and Larger, Robert Silva