Samsung UN46C8000 Performance

3D picture quality

 

Due to a lack of test patterns and other suitable reference material, we did not perform a calibration of the Samsung UNB8000’s picture settings for 3D sources. Our observations are limited to the material noted below, observed via the default Movie mode in a dark room with a pair of the company’s SG-2100AB glasses. This is the first 3D TV we’ve had in our lab, so we will not make any comparisons to other models until we have them in-house. We used the newest firmware available at press time (identified as version 1014.0 on the company Web site, but as 001011 in the TV’s menu). Samsung has updated the firmware to affect 3D performance at least once already, and we expect more updates to come. The following are the experiences of the author, and your mileage may vary even more than with 2D evaluations. Here’s what he’s seen so far; we’ll update this evaluation when we can view more content and make more comparisons.

The Samsung UNC8000 produced a convincing 3D effect on “Monsters vs. Aliens,” the only currently available 3D Blu-ray. The made-for-3D animated children’s title conveyed a sense of depth on our 55-inch TV that was undeniable. Asteroids, leaves, blowing snow, and other prominent foreground objects often appeared to float in front of the screen, and we were routinely impressed at the depth of field we saw in some long shots. Combined with the color, detail, lack of noise and other picture quality plusses characteristic of Blu-ray, it was an impressive technology demonstration.

On the whole, we enjoyed the experience for its novelty, but if we had the choice between watching it in either 2D and 3D, we’d choose 2D. 3D on the Samsung wasn’t as immersive as we’ve seen from theatrical presentations. We place some blame the smaller screen size, but the presence of crosstalk was another distraction: it appeared as ghostly images on the edges of objects, such as the General hovering in his jetpack in Chapter 4; his legs and the struts on the pack appeared to have ghostly doubles, for example (adjusting the 3D viewpoint control wasn’t much help, as it just seemed to move the crosstalk to different objects). We also had a hard time getting used to the differences in depth, particularly along the edge of the screen; the image would pop out at times in a way that was unnatural and jarring. We also felt queasiness after viewing sometimes, again, something we didn’t feel in the theater.

Conversion from 2D to 3D worked better than we expected, but still not very well, especially compared with the 3D Blu-ray. Snipes, channel logos and onscreen menus gave the strongest impression of depth, followed by the foreground in the bottom part of the screen. The most enjoyable content maintained a steady camera with little movement, and still images or shots of photos in documentaries seemed to work well. Quick cuts, on the other hand, became jarring quickly, and when we cranked up the Depth control we actually experienced mild vertigo. The entire image at times seemed to be plastered on an undulating canvas, randomly closer in some parts and farther away in others. In total, we again preferred to leave the glasses and 2D conversion turned off, although some viewers might like it.

2D picture quality

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The Samsung UNC8000 is a very good performer overall–just not as capable as Samsung’s previous LCD flagships. Its “precision dimming” technology seems to improve black level performance, albeit not to the same plane as the better, full-array local-dimming LCDs (or plasmas). Color accuracy was generally good, minus some bluish blacks; uniformity was a weak point and video processing has a few issues we didn’t see in the company’s other high-end TVs.

Setting up the UNC8000 for optimal picture quality required taking full advantage of the extensive user-menu controls. First off, its best default setting, Movie mode, exhibited a bluer grayscale than we’ve seen on other Samsung TVs, and our standard gamma measurement was quite high, especially in the middle of the scale. Samsung’s rep advised us to choose our gamma setting based on measurements made with a full raster (as opposed to windows), and by that measure default gamma was quite smooth and close to the 2.2 ideal; in either case we ended up using the “0″ gamma preset for our calibration.

Once we got things dialed in, the results were much better than default Movie. We ended up with a very smooth grayscale with the exception of the extreme high and low ends, which became a bit green and very blue, respectively. Samsung’s new 10-point system, though not as good as LG’s, yielded a big improvement in grayscale linearity over the old gain/offset system. As for gamma, we measured an inaccurate (and non-linear) 2.49 with windows and a more accurate and much more linear 2.25 with full raster.

For our 2D comparison and image quality tests we used the models below and watched “Star Trek” on Blu-ray. See below for 3D performance evaluation.

Comparison models (details )
Samsung UN55B8500 55-inch full array local-dimming LED
LG 47LH8500 47-inch full array local-dimming LED
Vizio VF552XVT 55-inch full array local-dimming LED
LG 47LE5500 47-inch edge-lit local-dimming LED
Samsung UN46B7000 46-inch edge-lit LED
Sony KDL-52NX800 52-inch edge-lit LED
Pioneer PRO-111FD (reference ) 50-inch plasma

Black level

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The shade of black the Samsung C8000 could produce surpassed that of most other edge-lit LED-based displays we’ve tested, such as the Samsung B7000, the LG LH5500, and the Sony NX800 in this lineup, but couldn’t compete with the full-array local-dimming models or the Kuro plasma. In dark scenes, such as the star fields and the Romulan ship at the beginning of Chapter 4, or the shadowy classroom on Vulcan in Chapter 2, blacks appeared relatively deep for an LCD, but without that inky, lightless quality seen on the better sets in our dark room. The differences became less apparent in brighter scenes, as usual, but the UNC8000 still trailed those sets.

In the UNC8000’s favor, it didn’t lose much contrast in difficult mixed scenes, such as star fields. The pinpoints of light remained relatively bright compared with what we saw on the full-array, local-dimming sets. Of course, we still much preferred the look of those full-array dimmers overall; in our dark room, their deep blacks were much more pleasing, despite some dimness in highlights.

We did notice some fluctuation in the brightness of the letterbox bars, which became brighter or darker according to the brightness of the overall scene more noticeably than local-dimming models, cutting down on the UNC8000’s perceived contrast ratio. Otherwise, blooming and stray illumination related to dimming (as opposed to uniformity issues; see below) were rare. In Chapter 3, the UNC8000 didn’t introduce the faint halo of light around the car driving across the fields, for example–something we saw on the LH8500. Halos were also absent from our PS3’s white-on-black text and icons. Samsung has handled the paradox of dimming from an edge array better than LG did on the LG LH5500 we saw with its obvious “blocks” of illumination.

Shadow detail was solid, although shadowy areas looked more realistic on the two 8500 sets and the Pioneer thanks to their deeper black levels. We also appreciated that the backlight didn’t switch off abruptly in extended fades to black, such as the opening titles at the end of Chapter 1.

Color accuracy

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The UNC8000 fared well overall in this category, aside from the very darkest areas. In delicate mid-bright areas, like the face of Kirk’s mom during the escape in Chapter 1, for example, the solid grayscale contributed to a realistic, lifelike palette with much of the accuracy we saw in our reference, if not the same level of saturation. Primary and secondary colors were close to spec and well-balanced, creating the lush greens and cyan we saw in the fields and sky of Iowa.

In dark areas, the Samsung again fell short of the local-dimming sets, reproducing black and near-black with a decidedly bluish discoloration. Again, the letterbox bars showed this flaw most clearly, but it was also visible in the shadows and space between stars, for example. In its favor, the UNC8000 controlled the blue tinge better than the other edge-lit models, but this was still the biggest color-related flaw in our view.

Video processing

samsung tv

Samsung’s Auto Motion Plus dejudder controls are the same as the ones we liked so much last year, but they behaved worse with 1080p/24 sources. There are three presets–Clear, Standard, and Smooth–that provide different levels of dejudder (smoothing) effect, as well as a fourth Custom setting that allows you to dial in Judder Reduction and Blur Reduction independently. Despite all these settings, we couldn’t find one that handled the film cadence of 1080p/24 as well as we expect.

We compared the C8000 to the B8500 in the same settings (Judder Reduction: 0; Blur Reduction: 10) on our favorite test material for film cadence, the helicopter flyover of the Intrepid from “I Am Legend.” On the C8000 the shot looked smoother, with less film judder. We did see some judder, and certainly more than the higher Judder Reduction settings, but no changes we made could approach the true, smoothing-free look of film seen on the B8500 and the other displays in our comparison.

Turning dejudder Off or to the Clear preset actually introduced the stuttering cadence of 2:3 pulldown, while LED Motion Plus (see below) had no effect we could discern. In the end we thought Custom 0 and 10 still looked best, but we’re disappointed with the inability to remove all smoothing from the process (at least as far as we can tell). We’ll update this section if Samsung issues a firmware update to fix this issue or tells us what combination of settings is required to accurately handle 1080p/24 properly.

When we voluntarily engaged dejudder we didn’t see much difference between the B8500 from last year and the C8000; both created more artifacts–like the occasional stutter or halo around fast-moving objects against a complex background, such as Kirk’s cycle at the spaceport or the hull of the starship passing in front of the camera in Chapter 1–the higher the smoothness was set. Comparing the Standard mode on the Samsungs with the same mode on the Sony, along with Low on the LGs and Vizio, we saw fewer such artifacts on the Sony and tended to prefer its somewhat less-smooth image. Of course, with the Samsung you don’t have to stick to a preset like Standard.

Motion resolution on the UNB8000 is even more complex than usual thanks to the unusual LED Motion Plus setting, which controls how the TV implements black-frame insertion. Engaging it improves motion resolution from between 900-1,000 lines to at most the maximum 1,200 lines on our test pattern, but different settings affect different areas of the screen. In Ticker, the bottom and top of the screen register 1,200 lines while the middle falls to between 800-900; in Cinema, the middle registers 1,200 whereas the top and bottom fall off slightly; and in Normal, the whole screen appears to be about 1080 lines (these numbers are quite approximate).

In the end, we left the LED Motion Plus feature turned Off for our calibration since it had no other positive impact we could discern. We don’t expect any but the most blur-sensitive viewers to notice the difference between Off and the other settings, especially if Auto Motion Plus is engaged (turning AMP off made motion resolution fall to between 300-400 lines). Speaking of blur, as usual we had a difficult time noticing differences in motion resolution in any normal program material, as opposed to test patterns.

Test patterns also revealed that the UNC8000 failed to de-interlace film-based 1080i sources as well as most other displays; there was brief interference in the highest-frequency parts of our test pattern in the most favorable Auto 1 film setting–something we didn’t see on the B8500, for example. Again, we couldn’t find evidence of this failure in normal program material.