Samsung UE40C8000 £1300
2nd Dec 2010 | 12:31
Samsung's gorgeous 40-inch skinny screen is an edge-lit LED delight
Samsung UE46C8000: Overview
This elegant edge LED-lit UE40C8000 is Samsung's skinniest TV ever. But its 24mm profile is just one of its many attributes, with 3D capability, DLNA networking, USB recording and internet TV among the auxiliary features that complement those jaw-dropping looks.
With its transparent-edged, brushed titanium bezel and ultra-black screen there's no doubting the 40C8000's place in pole position on Samsung's 40-inch TV grid, just ahead of the marginally fatter, brown-framed 40C7000.
Both sets have the polished X-shaped Quad stand but the 40C7000 doesn't come with the gorgeous backlit brushed metal remote control, nor can it record TV to an external hard disk or flash drive.
This is also Samsung's most expensive 40-inch model. If you want to witness the joys of Samsung's flagship C9000 series you need to scale up your size ambitions to at least 46-inch while tripling the amount of hard earned cash it will cost you in the process.
But where the C9000 series is an exercise in elevating Samsung's name to wannabe-aristocratic brand status, the UE40C8000's relatively affordable price tag keeps it within reach of ordinary people.
Samsung UE46C8000: Features
The 40C8000's slimness means bespoke adaptors are needed for many of the connections including Scart, RF, component video, Ethernet and composite/stereo phono connections, all of which face downwards.
Pointing to the side are the CI slot and four normal HDMI sockets. These are positioned too close to the edge of the bezel so that your HDMI cables can be seen from the front protruding beyond the frame as they curve their way out and down the back of the set. The unacceptable solution is to use ultra-bendable/cheap cables.
Multimedia options abound. The Ethernet slot can be used both to feed the internet video portal or to make a wired network connection with access to JPEG, MP3, DivX, MKV and AVI files on a computer or external drive. There are also two multi-function USBs. You can set up a wireless network (using an optional extra USB Wi-Fi adaptor), or connect a USB flash memory or HDD to play multimedia files and/or make PVR recordings from the digital HD tuner.
As you'd expect, there's a sack-full of picture adjustment options, with two expert pattern images (one greyscale and one colour) to aid the calibration process. Enthusiasts can spend countless hours tweaking numerous parameters including black tone, flesh tone, dynamic contrast, gamma, colour tint and space and white balance, with a 10-point interval option available.
The screen's 50Hz processing can be multiplied to 200Hz by engaging the set's Motion Plus function with three pre-set modes on offer and a custom option. For green-minded users there's a clutch of eco-settings to choose from that reduce the screen's brightness and a natty little onscreen VU style-meter that sadly doesn't give the actual power consumption, just a relative idea of how eco-friendly you're running the screen. Typical power consumption is around 160W.
The term internet TV is somewhat ambiguous and here it refers to Samsung's slew of internet services optimised for the screen and delivered by means of a broadband connection. So there's no browser as such and each service can be regarded as an extra channel, which vary greatly in usefulness and quality. Samsung is gradually expanding its provision with an App store to complement pre-installed offerings such as BBC iPlayer, Facebook, Google Maps, and YouTube.
Another major draw – or is it? – is the set's 3D capability. Accessed quickly by pressing a dedicated button on the remote control the set can handle all 3D formats and (much to James Cameron's consternation, probably) throws 2D-to-3D conversion into the bargain.
Samsung UE46C8000: Picture
The 40C8000 serves up what are unarguably some of the finest pictures ever seen on a 40-inch screen. As on its larger 46C8000 stablemate, the LED backlighting is flawlessly even and has more than enough brightness to hand.
It's still common to find Freeview products that are less watchable than West Ham, but the combination of a good quality tuner and excellent processing means that standard-definition Freeview images are a delight. Common defects such as video noise and mushiness on low bit-rate channels are effectively rendered unnoticeable.
Although they don't quite hit the heights achieved by the larger 46C8000 those 2,073,600 pixels are more than capable of delivering pin-sharp HD pictures. With the screen properly calibrated and the right viewing mode selected, both broadcast HD and Blu-ray sources look simply gorgeous in terms of clarity, although both can seem a little soft when the set is first switched on.
Colours are exceptionally accurate for an LCD screen and skin tones look completely realistic. Judder doesn't seem much of an issue and the various Motion Plus settings make it possible to have perfectly fluid pictures albeit with the usual side-effect of making filmic sources look like video. Happily, though, there's hardly any haloing introduced as a result of using Motion Plus.
Black levels are a revelation, showing how far LCD has come since the bad old milky grey days but despite tweaks for adjusting the intensity of the black level it's very hard to find a setting where you see sufficient levels of detail without cranking up the brightness to the detriment of the rest of the picture.
Watching 3D images on a 40-inch screen is not something we can readily recommend. Bearing in mind most 3D sources create an image that extends in to the screen rather than towards the viewer, when truly effective it's like looking at miniature objects or people that seem further away from you – and hence smaller – than in 2D. Combined with the loss of resolution of Sky's 3D channel, some crosstalk and the variable effectiveness of different material it can be a challenge to find something that looks better in 3D than 2D.
Of course, Blu-ray doesn't drop in terms of resolution, but the issue of crosstalk is more pronounced, for example with Monsters Vs Aliens as the camera pans down the church spire and on the Golden Gate Bridge. And once you notice crosstalk it's impossible to ignore it.
Samsung UE46C8000: Sound, value and ease of use
Given how ridiculously thin the 40C8000 is, its downward-firing speakers crafted into the rear of the panel are surprisingly clear. There are a number of preset modes comprising standard, music, movie, clear voice and amplify, with the latter intended to boost high-frequency sounds for the benefit of the hearing impaired.
In practice, there's little difference between each one and the likelihood is that once one mode is selected it gets forgotten about – at least for a while – so it's worth choosing your preferred mode for everyday viewing and just switching to an external multichannel sound system for dramas, movies and so forth.
Samsung seems to have priced the C8000 range far more realistically than its flagship UC9000 series. Prices can vary greatly, of course, but the £1,300 typically being asked by retailers doesn't look unreasonable for as highly specified a screen as this.
You can probably score yourself an LG 42LX6900 with mostly similar features for a bit less but the likes of Panasonic's TX-P42VT20 plasma is painfully pricey at £500 more than the Samsung (although its 3D performance is much better with reduced crosstalk).
Ease of use
Setting up and using the 40UC8000 is not the ordeal of some TVs, but is more of a challenge than it should be. There's a terrific amount of technology packed in under the hood and while the instruction manual is nicely laid out with good clear descriptions the onscreen menu structure is a bit of a muddle.
It's good that the Tools button on the remote provides shortcuts to a number of features such as the picture mode, Anynet+ (networking), audio adjustments and energy saving settings but several adjustments and functions seem randomly distributed.
It would be much more helpful if the source menu could be edited so that only active inputs appeared in the list, reducing the amount of scrolling to get from say Freeview to Sky or Blu-ray coming in on an HDMI.
No complaints about the Freeview EPG, which gives you two hours' worth of programmes across six channels, with the live broadcast showing in the top left corner. The full EPG information is comprehensive and you can set reminders or the USB record timer. The quick view programme info bar is also superior, with full EPG scrollable access rather than just the more common 'now and next.'
The set isn't fussy about what device it will record to, pretty much any make or model over 4GB should work except RAID type hard-disk drives. With automatic recording activated you can treat the set as a PVR with live pausing, fast forward and so on. What you can't do is take the drive and watch the recordings on another screen or copy them to another drive.
The internet TV portal has an encouraging opening page with sizeable icons for each service and a large Samsung App store window. Some services are more user-friendly than others. The iPlayer is a real boon and the likes of YouTube and Getty Images are straightforward, but the Rovi TV guide lists only 15 channels (none in HD), it's impossible to zoom in on Google Maps and a pain to enter text using the remote control.
Clearly, connected TV services are not yet the finished article.
The 3D experience is not as problematic as some. The active specs are pretty comfy and the dedicated 3D button on the remote makes it easy to engage and disengage 3D. You have to choose which type of 3D source (side-by-side, frame sequential or 2D-to-3D) it is but it's about as efficient as you get without a fully automatic process.
Samsung UE46C8000: Verdict
With the 40C8000 Samsung has delivered an edge-lit LED screen that looks sensational even before you switch it on: the styling is classy and the depth almost defies belief.
The mind-boggling features list includes just about every feature available on a contemporary TV including internet video services, 3D pictures, multimedia capability with DLNA networking and even a willingness to record pictures from its Freeview HD tuner to an external hard drive.
While its brushed titanium frame might not be to everyone's taste, we adore its achingly attractive look. Using the set is fairly straightforward and the truly classy remote handset works as well as it looks.
The PVR function might be superfluous to many but if required it's a cinch to use, as is the iPlayer on the internet video service. The Freeview EPG sets the standard for built-in TV guides and the screen's tuner is first class, combing with an excellent panel to serve up superbly detailed, noise-free images with realistic colours and judder-free movement. HD sources look sublime.
The TV's menu system seems a little baffling at times with some illogical folder structures. Images lack detail in darker areas and it can take a while for the screen to warm up before full clarity is achieved. It's improving for sure but the LED Motion Plus function still can't deliver flawlessly smooth movement without some side effects.
Some of the internet video services are of marginal interest or little use without a proper keyboard or better way of navigating the screen. Even more irritating, however, is that HDMI cables stick out from behind the screen because the sockets are too close to the edge of the frame. This spoils the set's otherwise impeccable appearance.
The 40C8000 is a gorgeous screen that delivers on many levels. It's bursting with cutting-edge tech, it's versatile and it's easy to use. Its 2D picture performance is excellent but it is not a compelling 3D proposition because of the presence of crosstalk.
But anyone seriously devoted to 3D is going to look elsewhere – at a larger screen – and for the rest of us, this is nearly as fine a 40-inch set as we could hope for.
Follow TechRadar Reviews on Twitter: http://twitter.com/techradarreview