The Samsung UE55ES800 is the brand's latest flagship panel, adding gesture and voice control to the familiar Smart TV feature roster. Everyone say 'Hi TV!'
In a unique (and frankly bizarre) role reversal, the Samsung UE55ES8000 becomes the first TV to watch and listen to you. Offering both motion and voice control, in addition to two remote zapper options, it's probably the most controllable telly ever made. It's also heaving with image technology and better connected than Piers Morgan.
With the UE55ES8000, Samsung has crammed in every cutting-edge feature going, and then crammed in more from the cutting room floor. It's almost as if the brand assumed it would be going head to head with Apple's iTV when it was on the drawing board. Also available in 40- and 47-inch screens sizes, this TV will actually face off against the Panasonic TX-P50VT50 and LG 55LM890V.
Samsung UE55ES8000: Features
The key to the ES8000's main party trick is the webcam and mic built-into its bezel. Once activated, you can get the set's attention with the command 'Hi TV.' Provided it hears you over any ambient hubbub, it'll respond with more onscreen prompts; from here you can select AV sources, control volume and so on.
Motion control is triggered by waving. A curiously caucasian hand graphic (why not a more universal red, purple or green?) then invites more gestures. Both innovations fall short in use, but voice control appears to have the most potential. Gesture control is limited by the camera, which can become confused by backgrounds and room lighting.
Samsung has spruced up its dashboard for 2012, making an already formidable internet portal a little easier to navigate. There's no shortage of content available, including Netflix, Dailymotion, Vimeo and BBC iPlayer.
The brand has also made big improvements when it comes to multimedia file support, both from USB and across a LAN. The set plays back all popular file types, including MKV.
Samsung UE55ES8000: Design
These days we expect Samsung to set a high standard with design, and the UE55ES8000 doesn't disappoint. The shiny micro bezel and sculptured Arch Flow stand are characteristically comely, but that centrally mounted webcam does rather spoil the TV's clean lines.
Samsung UE55ES8000: Specs
With just three HDMIs, this telly has one less HD input than its competitors, but in other regards it's a match. There's provision for SCART, component, PC VGA and a trio of USBs (one of which can be used for timeshifting to an external drive). Wi-Fi is built-in if you don't want to use the wired Ethernet jack. The set also has Wi-Fi Direct, offering a dedicated local connection for your mobile gizmo.
Samsung UE55ES8000: Performance
With such a feature overload, it's easy to gloss over the set's AV performance. But make no mistake, this is a hot-shot performer. Hi-def images are astoundingly sharp and colours vibrant; blacks are smooth and deep, with shadow detail high.
Massaging the MotionPlus custom settings, it's possible to get maximum motion resolution with minimal artefacts, making this a great set for sports.
The screen's Full HD 3D performance is equally praise-worthy, being both bright and involving. While we were aware of some crosstalk double imaging, it didn't prevent us from getting lost in the excitement that is The Smurfs 3D. Two pairs of lightweight Active Shutter glasses are included.
The screen's audio performance rates mid-way on our score card. There's a good stereophonic imaging, and the 20w digital amp goes plenty loud.
Samsung UE55ES8000: Verdict
With its avant-garde feature set and red carpet looks, it's impossible not to be wowed by the UE55ES8000. In truth the pseudo-Kinect control options are a little gimmicky, and contribute significantly to the set's high ticket price.
However, its excellent image quality and peerless smart TV connectability ensure you won't feel short-changed. With the UE55ES8000, it really does seem as if Samsung has delivered tomorrow's TV today.
Samsung UE55ES8000 availability: Available now
Samsung UE55ES8000 price: £2,500