For the most part, SD Freeview is watchable enough. You'll really notice the lack of detail in the lower-budget channels that use much-reduced bandwidth, though. We tested ITV2, More4 and Dave, and all of them looked pretty bad. On the plus side, most of what airs on BBC One and Two, ITV1, Channel 4 and Five will look okay.
Hi-def high jinks
As the UE55C8000 includes a Freeview HD tuner, you'll get access to BBC HD, ITV1 HD and 4HD for free, assuming you live in an HD-enabled area (find out with the Freeview HD coverage checker). Fifty per cent of the UK will have access to Freeview HD transmissions by the time of the World Cup in June. Assuming all goes to plan, the other 50 per cent will have access by the time the Olympics happen in 2012.
We watched a selection of high-definition content on these channels, and it looked pretty impressive. The colours and detail levels were remarkable, and the images, when viewed from a sensible distance, were generally spot-on.
We did notice, however, that sometimes there was plenty of grain, and the quality didn't hold up with certain material. This can't all be blamed on the TV, though -- the source quality of any content is what governs the overall picture quality. For the most part, though, we loved watching Freeview HD material on this set.
The UE55C8000's performance with Blu-ray discs is a different ball game altogether. This TV absolutely knocks the ball out of the park when it comes to playing 1080p video from HD discs. We watched Casino Royale and District 9 and were blown away by the stunning picture quality.
A selection of picture modes is available so that you can fine-tune the image to your taste. We liked the movie mode, but tweaked the backlight intensity to improve the black levels.
Living on the edge light
LED-illuminated TVs either use an array of LEDs behind the panel, or strips of LEDs at the side with reflective material that diffuses the light evenly behind the LCD screen. The UE55C8000 uses the latter method, which often has some disadvantages.
Some TVs with LED edge lights suffer from bright spots at the four corners of the screen. Happily, this issue isn't too noticeable on the UE55C8000. There's some bleeding at the four corners and some patchiness in the middle, but, when the TV is in normal operation, you'll almost certainly never notice.
Passes on glasses
Despite this TV's price, a set of 3D glasses isn't included. Samsung is, however, currently offering a voucher with all of its 3D TVs that allows you to claim a set of glasses when you redeem it. The same is true of its 3D Blu-ray players. If you buy both a TV and a Blu-ray player at the same time, you'll get a 3D movie -- Monsters vs Aliens, at time of writing -- and two pairs of glasses.
These offers will change over time, so it's well worth checking what's on offer before you splash out. We understand that Samsung may start including glasses in the boxes of its 3D products at a later date, but we haven't had official confirmation.
At the time of writing, there wasn't a massive amount of 3D material on the market to test. But we watched some content from Monsters vs Aliens and some Samsung demo loops, and this gave us a decent amount of footage with which to assess the capability of this TV's 3D mode.
For the most part, we were impressed. But the 3D functionality isn't perfect, and there are some specific problems, as well as more general issues, that you should be aware of before you spend £3,000.
Firstly, there's the problem of ghosting. The TV makes the 3D image by quickly displaying one picture to the left eye, and then one to the right -- the glasses shut off light to whichever eye isn't supposed to be seeing an image. All of this happens so quickly that you shouldn't be aware of it, but an inherent problem with LCD panels is that they don't always refresh quickly enough. That means you can see with your left eye, for example, traces of a frame intended for the right eye. The end result is that we could clearly see ghosting around hard edges when we watched Monsters vs Aliens. It's worth noting that plasma TVs have a faster response time, so ghosting should be less of a problem.