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Samsung F8000: The Smart TV to get

Published on Apr 10, 2014 8:37 PM
 
-- PHOTO: SAMSUNG

Living rooms here do not seem to be getting bigger, but Samsung is intent on filling them with TV sets of an ever increasing size.

Its latest flagship, the F8000 series, represents the best combination the South Korean company has to offer in the home entertainment arena - sharp display, smart brains and brilliant design. It made me wish these beauties were cheaper and so could be upgraded more often.

I spent some time with the smallest available size, the 55-inch, of this model and everything about it made me want to have it permanently in my living room.

The polished silvery trim extends to the rear of the TV, which too often is a plastic panel of grooves, slots and slits that are magnets for dust. The stand is a simple frame that sets the unit slightly above your TV console, but I would recommend using Samsung's special mount, which hangs the unit on your wall like a painting.

When you face the screen, all the necessary connectors, including the four HDMI, optical, component, composite and USB ports, are in the lower right-hand corner.

There is also a slot for the Evolution Kit.

The kit, which made its first appearance last year, allows a set to get a software upgrade when changes are rolled out next year. In theory, last year's model can get upgraded to this year's smart functions with the current kit.

I am still trying to figure out what those might be as the F8000 already runs like a well-oiled machine.

The new interface divides your content into chapters. There is a page for all the apps available on the Smart Hub platform, including SingTel's mioTV app and another for StarHub's cable offerings. There are the usual Facebook and YouTube apps, but do not expect connectivity to overseas services such as Hulu, as this networked device detects your location and powers up only the apps that will work here.

The interface is very smooth. Switching between pages and apps is a breeze, much like swiping through apps on your smartphone. What helps is a redesigned remote controller that strips out unnecessary buttons and reduces the controller to something short, manageable and roughly the size of a canned drink.

In the middle of the controller is a trackpad, much smaller than the one on your laptop, but it is big enough for you to scroll through menus and other on-screen options, such as a Qwerty keyboard and numeric keypad, type messages or change channels. This beats physically tapping arrow buttons for navigation.

The smart functions also include voice control. Users can tell the TV to change channels. Sort of.

There is a slight hiccup here, as the voice controls are nothing like those on Samsung smartphones.

You can read out a menu option for navigation, but if the option is not displayed on the screen, the software will not understand you. In other words, you cannot tell the TV to go to YouTube to search for a video or verbally make a Facebook update.

Well, maybe next year?

For those who feel uneasy talking to machines, there is motion control. Wave your hand around and the built-in camera will track it. Make a fist and it will tell the TV to activate the option your hand is hovering over.

Like Microsoft's Kinect sensor, the TV camera tracked my gestures well but you must be in a well-lit room so the camera can see your hand.

The limitation is that this does not work for all apps, so once you move to the mioTV app via gestures, you still need the remote for navigation within the app.

But no amount of software upgrading can make up for the viewing experience.

The F8000 really gets the picture. Colours here are sharp and faithful to the source, whether it is the stark vibrancy of Iron Man 2 or the glossy shadows of The Dark Knight.

Viewing in 3-D is ghost-free and your head will no longer be haunted by the weight of bulky headband-style 3-D glasses. The new 3-D glasses are a simple frame holding two lightweight rectangular lenses.

But their very light weight caused some annoyance as the glasses shifted with every movement of my head, perhaps because they sat over my own prescription glasses.

  • Smart TVs are not for everyone, but if you are in the market for one, the F8000 is the one to watch.

sherwinl@sph.com.sg


TECH SPECS

Price: $4,899 (55 inches), $8,999 (65 inches) and $13,999 (75 inches)

Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080

Picture Engine: 3D HyperReal Engine

Audio: Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Pulse, DTS Studio Sound, DTS Premium Audio 5.1

Connectivity: HDMI x 4, USB 3.0 x 3, built-in wireless LAN

Dimensions (mm): 1,224.2 x 741.9 x 310.3

RATING

Features: 4/5

Design: 5/5

Performace: 5/5

Overall: 5/5