It’s not often that you get to review a device that’s almost as big as you are. For a couple of weeks, the 55-inch Samsung ES8000, found a space for itself on our office desk, demanding every little thing on the desk to be cleared away.

While the device, shipped in its massive box, turned quite a few heads when it entered the premises, the more appropriate reason why it did so is because it is Samsung’s flagship Smart TV, launched earlier this year.

Of late, most companies have looked beyond just functionality and realised the importance of good-looking, well-built technology. The Samsung ES8000 shares the company’s ‘One Design’ philosophy that was integrated in some of its displays last year. Intending to keep the design minimal, the bezel is kept at its thinnest best, letting the LED display span across as much screen estate as it possibly can. The TV stand is a harmonious fusion of two metallic curved bars – called the Smart Flow stand – and although they don’t span the entire length of the unit, they still make for a reasonably sturdy base.

The 55-inch display is an extremely vibrant LED screen. On a telly this high-end you should expect nothing less than full HD (1080p) resolution and Samsung seems to know that well. Setting up the Smart TV takes a bit of time. We had to go over the Motion Control and Voice Control set up at least half a dozen times, and even then had to end up troubleshooting.

To make the most of the content that the Samsung Smart TV ships with, you need a really strong, quick connection to the Web. We tried connecting it to a wireless network and then switched to LAN for faster speeds.

It’s stunning that the mammoth TV has been designed with a thickness of just 1.2-inches.

The new lineup of Samsung’s Smart TVs, including the ES8000, is built to be reasonably future-proof. The unit has an in-built ‘Evolution Kit’ that allows you to upgrade your telly’s software to match up to new releases by the company in the future. The DIY upgrades are also simple with a small slot located in the rear panel of the TV. The proprietary technology – a system-on-chip – is currently one of its kind in the television space.

We love the fact that Samsung has given some thought into future-proofing the television. Spending a large sum of money on something that might become redundant two-three years down the lines would be a major letdown.

To let our hair down after a busy day, we decided to watch ‘Rio’ (the 3D version) on the Smart TV. There are a couple of settings that you have to tweak depending on the kind of media you want to watch. The telly can convert a regular 2D video into 3D, so we watched a documentary on ‘Space Station’ (regular DVD), a documentary shot in the IMAX format, with our 3D glasses on. While the conversion of regular media to 3D videos was impressive, every time the frame changed from one scene to another, you could tell there was a lag while the TV was trying to render the videos in 3D. So the first couple of seconds with every new frame would be rendered in 2D before it was converted by the TV’s proprietary software. The glasses – four of them were packed in with the telly – were comfortable to wear for long hours. Every time we wanted to use them we had to activate the pair with a long press of the power button located on the rim of the glasses.

The Samsung Smart TV comes with a bunch of connectivity options including three HDMI ports, three USB ports, Ethernet port, headphone jack and composite cables. Most of the movies and documentaries we watched were via an HDMI cable connected to a laptop.

Samsung has its own Smart Apps store that you can browse to download video apps, games and edutainment apps. We tried downloading a couple of apps but most of them required extensive updates before we could spend some time with them. The apps included are Family Story, which lets you stay in touch with your family through pics, memos and events and chats. You have a Fitness app which comes with pre-recorded videos for quick 10-minute workouts.

We cannot emphasise enough how essential a fast internet connection is to make the most of a Smart TV. Since its inception about two years ago, there has been enough and more hype about the potential that Smart TVs hold. However, the price and the pre-requisites required to make the most of a smart TV kind of limit the range of audience that can consider buying one for life, as of now, no matter how feature-packed it is.

Price - Rs 2.73 lakh

Love - Decent 3D playback, lots of connectivity options

Hate - Trouble setting up motion and voice recognition, apps needed to be frequently updated

mahananda.bohidar@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on August 7, 2012)
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