This is it. This top of the range Samsung is presently the ne plus ultra of LCD HDTVs, packed with just about every bell and whistle that Samsung can toss into the mix. LED local dimming technology is the prime feature, whereby conventional fluorescent backlighting is replaced by many hundreds of individual white LEDs that are themselves grouped into independently controllable zones, which allows for dimming of darker scene elements for maximum contrast and deep blacks that now rival the best plasma sets.
Add in true 240 Hz screen refresh, sophisticated video processing that is top class in every way, an elegant cabinet with a dual color acrylic bezel and an included rotatable stand, the HDTV industry’s best remote control, and you’re looking at an out-in-front performer in every way.
Consider this HDTV if: you’re after the state-of-the-art in 1080p LCD HDTV with LED local dimming technology, 240 Hz refresh, LAN/internet connectivity and a full suite of picture processing adjustments.
Look elsewhere if:you’re pinching pennies, as this Samsung carries a price tag that puts it squarely at the very top of the luxury pricing tier. Consider instead one of Samsung’s excellent plasma sets—their top-line 50” 860 series set carries a retail price that’s whopping $1,400 less than the 8500.
Ratings (relative to comparably-priced LCD HDTVs):
At the top end of Samsung’s extensive range of LED-powered sets, the 8500 series includes every possible feature that their engineers have in their arsenal. In addition to the 46” size tested here, there’s a 55” model as well. True 240 Hz screen refresh provides for sharper video and smoother film images, and Samsung’s latest video processors (there are three in the 8500) handle the various deinterlacing, upconversion and other chores, and do so admirably. One of the functions detects 480i SD material that’s been upconverted to 1080i HD, such as SD commercials carried on HD channels, as well as SD elements within an HD program (such as news clips). The processor analyzes the entire HD signal, extracts the SD content and re-processes and then upconverts it for better image quality, eliminating crawling dots on color transitions and moiré artifacts.
Of special note is the Samsung’s ability to de-couple the video sharpening and film smoothing functions. The Auto Motion Plus 240Hz feature includes a special Custom mode, which has one 10-step adjustment for video sharpening and another for film smoothing. Some movie buffs aren’t thrilled with the film smoothing function in these latest generation sets, which can result in images that are too “video-y”. For them, the ability to neuter the film smoothing function while still enjoying the improved sharpness of fast motion video-originated images will be a major plus. There’s also a split screen demo mode that lets you evaluate the effectiveness of the functions.
The local dimming LED backlighting function works like a charm, and the LED backlighting has ten levels from which to choose—the midway setting delivers a peak white of 46 foot-Lamberts, which is plenty bright for even a well-lit room, while at the same time allowing sumptuous deep blacks and dark grays. With bright HD scenes at that setting, the power draw was around 140 watts or so, which is fairly miserly for a larger set.
The presence of a LAN port permits connection to a home network, and the set includes a variety of Yahoo-branded widgets for news, sports, weather and the like. A recent upgrade provides Internet TV show and movie streaming via Blockbuster’s online service. The set also finds any DLNA-certified multimedia PCs on the network and can access various pictures, videos and music files. Two USB ports also support music, video and picture viewing.