With 3D movies like Avatar now big business at the box office, TV manufacturers are obviously keen to get the technology into our living rooms. Samsung was one of the first to launch a 3D TV and Blu-ray player, and now has an impressive line up of 3D-enabled tellies in its range. The Samsung UE46C8000 is a high-end, 1080p LED set that sits just under the firm's top-range C9000 models. Priced at around £1,400, it's hardly cheap, especially as that price doesn't include 3D glasses. Along with its 3D features, however, the TV is jam-packed with other interesting goodies.
Another Samsung stunner
Samsung has garnered a reputation for creating some of the most eye-catching sets around, and the UE46C8000 doesn't tarnish its good name. It uses LED backlighting, and Samsung has managed to make the telly super slim. In fact, it's a mere 24mm deep, which is pretty incredible for a TV of this screen size. It's not just the sheer slimness of the chassis that's impressive, it's also the classy design. The screen is edged by a brushed-aluminium bezel that's finished with a glass surround. The stand also looks gorgeous thanks to its distinctive X-shaped design and chrome finish. What's more, Samsung has graced the set with one of the best-looking remote controls we've come across. It has the same brushed-aluminium feature as the TV bezel, which sits above a membrane of buttons to give it a very industrial look. The remote is also backlit, so it's easy to see the buttons even when you've got the lights off.
The UE46C8000 doesn't skimp on connections, either. There are four HDMI ports mounted on the left-hand edge, but the slimness of the chassis means the rear-mounted ports are smaller than usual and mostly require the use of the adaptor cables you'll find in the box. Nevertheless, you do get two Scart sockets, as well as component and composite inputs. Samsung hasn't forgotten about digital-media playback, either. The UE46C8000 has two USB ports and an Ethernet socket. One of the USB ports is enabled for recording, so you can record programs from the Freeview HD tuner to an external hard drive, which is a neat feature to have.
Samsung really makes the most of the TV's Ethernet connection with one of the most comprehensive line-ups of Internet features we've seen on a telly. These include YouTube, Dailymotion and even the BBC's iPlayer. There's a range of simple games included along with useful offerings like AccuWeather and Google Maps. What's more, the TV has access to Samsung's App Store, where you can download more games and applications. Currently, these all seem to be free, but Samsung presumably plans to charge for some apps in the future. As well as all this, the TV can play back music, photos and videos (including DivX and MKV files) from a USB drive or across a network from a PC.
No problems with performance
The TV's range of picture-processing features is highly impressive, too. It includes Samsung's 3D Hyper Engine, which includes 200Hz picture-processing and a scanning backlight for smooth motion. There's also Smart LED backlighting, which dynamically adjusts the edge LEDs to deliver richer contrast and deeper black levels, while Samsung's Wide Colour Enhancer Plus technology helps to produce richer, more lifelike colours.
It's perhaps not surprising, then, that the TV puts in such an accomplished performance with both standard and high-definition material. Colours are rendered in a beautifully realistic way and motion is handled superbly -- although you do have to be careful with the smooth motion controls not to overly flatten the picture, especially on films.
HD content looks incredibly crisp and sharp, and the TV is capable of conjuring up deep black levels. One gripe, though, is that the backlighting can look a little uneven. With bright objects against a dark or completely black background, you can see the LED dimming in actions, which is a little annoying.
Five-star 3D picture
Perhaps the set's key selling point is its 3D capabilities. The TV uses active 3D glasses, which are quite pricey. Glasses aren't included with the set as standard, and with each pair costing around £80, you're looking at shelling out a total of £320 on eyewear for an average family of four! Cost aside, the 3D performance is very good. The glasses are comfortable to wear, even over normal spectacles.
We watched Monsters vs Aliens on Blu-ray via Samsung's HT-C6930W home cinema kit, and there's a real wow factor to the 3D effect. It adds an impressive amount of depth to the image to make the viewing experience a whole lot more immersive. The results are more like the RealD cinema system where the depth extends back into the image, as opposed to the IMAX system where things pop out of the screen at you. This makes it a little less tiring to watch for longer periods. Also, when viewing in 3D, the glasses don't cut the brightness level as much as we expected, so colours still retain their punch. Although there is more crosstalk (slight ghosting around the edges of objects) than on Panasonic's 3D plasmas, it's a good deal better than many of the other LED sets we've seen in this regard.
The UE46C8000 can convert standard 2D content to 3D. Initially we found this quite impressive, as it does add significant depth to the image, but with prolonged viewing it becomes a little uncomfortable to watch. You can adjust the aggressiveness of the 3D effect, but even on modest settings it never felt natural to our eyes. We think this is partly because the depth cues tend to jump around a little more than they do with real 3D content, making it harder for your eyes and brain to cope with.
Nevertheless, the Samsung UE46C8000 is an easy TV to recommend. It looks absolutely gorgeous and is packed with great features. Its 2D performance is first-rate -- it delivers deep black levels and impressively vivid colours, and it also puts in the best 3D performance we've seen yet from an LED set.
Edited by Emma Bayly