UPDATE: while we were wowed by the Samsung UE55F8000 when it launched, newer rivals such as the Panasonic TX-P55VT65B and Philips 55PFL8008 are even more awesome. For that reason the Samsung has dropped to a still very respectable 4 stars. Check out our full, updated Top 10 here.
The first of the 2013 TVs has landed and it's a doozy. After all, this 55in edge-lit LED screen promises a shiny new Smart Hub, new features and better all-round performance. Does that all add up to the best TV money can buy? Let's see...
Last year's Samsung screens dazzled with vibrant colours and impressive contrast – but you can sometimes have too much of a good thing. The UE55F8000 has the mix just right: colours are subtler with a natural balance, while black levels are inky deep. And there’s enough clarity and crisp detail to count every freckle on Emma Stone’s face. Not that we've tried...
metal arc stand
The new metal arc stand has been designed to create a ‘floating display’ effect, and while it looks sufficiently floaty, there is an issue: the stand is as wide as the screen itself, which at 120cm is too long for your standard-issue AV rack and leaves the whole thing prone to tipping forward. Not good for the nerves after splashing two and a half grand on a telly.
We tend to bemoan the thin and harsh sound that plagues most flat screen TVs. But not so with the UE55F8000 – two mid/treble drivers are supplemented by two woofers, providing a total of 40W of oomph for meatier and cleaner audio. You might want to hook it up to a surround system, but we were quite happy listening to it on its own.
power and performance
Lurking behind that 55in Ultra Clear Panel lies a powerful quad-core processor – a world first for smart LED TVs. Its addition brings a smartphone-esque slickness to proceedings: flicking through the redesigned Smart Hub panels is swift, while browsing and selecting apps is noticeably quicker too.
Voice control is improved after its debut in last year's Samsung UE55ES8000: it's faster and you speak into the Smart Touch remote rather than yelling at the telly. But it's not quite Tony Stark's JARVIS: it still struggles with simple phrases, and some words get lost in translation. So fuss straightening.
Smart Hub and S Recommendation
The new Smart Hub is swanky. Broadcast TV, apps, social networking (Facebook, Twitter), streaming services (iPlayer, Lovefilm, Netflix and more) and stored media are presented across a slick, user-friendly interface that means you're only ever a click or a swipe from what you want.
Not just a pretty face, this Sammy's also a clever clogs. The S-Recommendation tool notes your viewing habits and offers similar shows and online content for your perusal. It gets even more personalised over time so if it suggests something like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia during this week's Question Time, it's finally got you pegged.
A 5MP camera pops out of the top Jack-in-the-box style to fulfil your Skyping needs and bring Samsung's motion-control feature to life. It's much improved, with effective two-handed gesture recognition for waving through menus and panning and zooming images. You might have to find a new place to put your Wii's infra-red sensor or Kinect, though.
what comes bundled?
Despite trends among the fashionable folk of the world and contrary to what is supposed to make a person geeky, we’re still loath to wear glasses. But the bundled 3D specs are light and it's not as if we'll be wearing them to the pub. You get two pairs included with the TV.
Samsung's sleek remote deserves its own presentation cushion, not to be lost down the sofa. Swipe across it, speak into it, even scrawl channel numbers onto it. Buttons? Pah! Buttons belong with Ceefax and visions of nuclear armageddon.
Samsung UE55F8000 vs Sony KDL-55HX853
With the same screen size, lovely smooth motion and deals available to buy it for a lot less, Sony's 2012 range-topper is one hell of a TV – in fact its 46in brother the Sony KDL-46HX853 was our No.1 TV in our Top Ten list of best TVs. Until today. But the new Samsung shines with crisper detail and updated features, so Sony will need to up the stakes again this year. Bring it on.
Review by Kashfia Kabir
A stunning screen and smarter features have thrown down the gauntlet for TVs in 2013