Samsung UE55F8000 Operation
The 2013 Samsung TVs have had some slight tweaks done to the menus. They’re basically the same as last year, but feel a little more responsive, and feature hard edges instead of rounded corners.
The biggest functional difference compared to last year is that by default, the Samsung UE55F8000 doesn’t feature per-input settings, which is honestly a welcome break: select and adjust the “Movie” mode on one input, and those picture settings will automatically be used for all other inputs on the TV. Per-input settings are still good to have – and the option is still here on the UE55F8000 – but now that we have all-digital sources that aren’t subject to variations in analogue output levels, most of what we’re adjusting is the panel itself rather than anything source-specific (unless we’re connecting a device that doesn’t play by the rules).
You might be wondering how this works if you DO in fact need to make small adjustments from device to device. Well, Samsung has you covered: simply change [Apply Picture Mode] from the default “All Sources” to “Current Source”, and you can then make further adjustments on a per-input basis. It’s a good implementation, but we recommend Samsung have a look at how Panasonic are achieving something similar – many of their Samsung HDTVs have a “Copy to…” feature in their picture menus, which leaves a bit less to the imagination as far as how settings are stored is concerned.
As usual, the most accurate out-of-the-box picture preset is “Movie”. The other modes produce the hyper-bright, blue-tinted, motion-interpolated, and sometimes dynamic-range-crushed pictures that flat-panel televisions have sadly become known for (in their default settings, we hasten to add). By default, the Movie mode may appear quite dull, depending on your viewing environment, but light output from the panel is fully controllable with the [Backlight] setting. The other basic picture adjustments work as always.
Delving into the [Advanced Settings], we have a few calibration controls as well as a few others which take the image quality further away from the industry mastering standard (we’ll only comment on the former, since that’s where our interest lies). There’s a [Flesh Tone] adjustment which we never needed to touch – because we always attempt to hit the industry mastering standards for white point and colours and therefore see the same picture that was seen by the filmmakers and TV producers, the flesh tones should fall into place automatically and don’t need any extra correction. There are also Red, Green and Blue only modes, which can be used in conjunction with certain test patterns to check that the colour luminance levels are correct.
Moving on, Samsung’s [Colour Space] menu has a “Custom” mode, which gives full three-axis control over the red, green, blue, cyan, magenta and yellow colour gamut points. There are also two preset modes, and we’ll find out how good those are in the calibration section below. There are also two-point and ten-point controls over Greyscale tracking (which we can adjust using feedback from a calibration probe to make sure the overall colour tone of the screen is correct), and a basic [Gamma] control which will allow the brightness distribution from the screen to be adjusted to suit darker or brighter viewing environments.
There’s also a [Picture Options] menu which has control over an overall [Colour Tone] control (which affects the white point) – “Warm2″ is the closest to being neutral – and also two noise reduction controls, the newly retitled [Digital Clean View] and the [MPEG Noise Filter].
European model Samsung HDTVs (that includes those on sale in the UK – Samsung doesn’t seem to have the peculiar tendency for separate model variants for this island that some other manufacturers have) had a feature where their Digital Noise Reduction system couldn’t be shut off, which could smear out fine details and the filmic texture from high quality sources, like Blu-ray Discs mastered from film (we also caught it smearing over certain effects in all-digital CG content). Although the system gave the appearance of having “Off” setting, this didn’t work, and the NR was constantly running (unless the “Game Mode” was enabled and calibrated, but this brought about other compromises).
We’re delighted to say that the undefeatable noise reduction is gone on the UE55F8000, and the user can set this control any way they wish. So, thank you Samsung, for listening to this request. Samsung’s NR processing actually was, and still is outstandingly good by in-TV standards, but the point here is that there are cases where high quality pictures are best left alone.
We also have the [Motion Plus] control, which contains deblur and dejudder features. It’s fantastic that these are individually controllable (some brands still ask that you take the two together; Samsung lets us pick and choose). We’ll discuss this in more detail later in the review, in the Motion Resolution section.
Lastly, there is the [Cinema Black] control, which attempts to dim the letterbox bars that appear at the top and bottom of ~2.35:1 (aka “21:9″) scope ratio movies. More on that later too.