As a tech reviewer it seems like all I hear about these days is LG’s OLED TV technology. From the way people are talking, you’d think there are no other TV technologies even worth considering. While I’m positive that LG’s OLED TV lineup looks gorgeous, I’m here to tell you that yes, indeed, there are other incredible televisions on the market; among them, the Samsung KS8000 series 4K HDR sets.
The 2016 Samsung 8 Series lineup is just a step under Samsung’s top-of-the-line 9 Series. Samsung TVs get 4K support starting with the 7 Series which makes the 8 Series the mid-tier 4K offering from the company (with the budget, non-UHD TVs living in the 5 and 6 Series). In layman’s terms I’d say any KS8000 TV qualifies as a premium TV without a luxury price tag (but still, that doesn’t make it “cheap”).
The TV I’m reviewing here is a 2016 model and I can say without a doubt that it crushes the 2015 Samsung SUHD models that came before it in almost every possible way. It looks better, it’s thinner and lighter, the menu’s have been simplified and are much easier to use… the list goes on. If you’ve found on a deal on a 2015 SUHD TV I’d recommend spending the extra cash to get the 2016 model. The difference is night and day.
Obviously the big draw for this TV is going to be it’s picture quality which is 4K and enhanced with HDR support (HDR stands for High-Dynamic Range and increases the contrast of TV pictures). Yes, we’re in the middle of a format war with Samsung supporting HDR10 and other manufacturers supporting Dolby Vision. I wouldn’t worry about it too much at this point as there’s not a ton of HDR content out in the wild yet and major providers like Netflix are supporting both formats.
As you might have heard or read elsewhere, HDR is expected to be a big deal. Whereas in the past TV manufacturers promised new technologies that would wow us (remember how big 3D was going to be and how much of a dud it turned out as?), HDR is actually going to impress us. And this is the TV that made me believe that.
The picture quality on the 8 Series is excellent and I’d call watching 4K, HDR content on it seriously incredible (and I don’t use that word lightly here). You can absolutely get lost in good content and it’s easier than ever to become immersed in a great story when viewed on this screen — and that’s kind of the whole point of a TV, isn’t it?
If you’re playing the right kind of content, the picture is crystal clear. And the right kind of content isn’t necessarily limited to 4K or HDR content. The upscaling engine is superb on this TV and HD (or even some 720P) content looks really, really nice.
The colors are eye-popping, almost to the point of seeming surreal (and I’m having trouble deciding if that’s good or bad!). There are a handful of viewing modes you can select from: standard, natural, movie and dynamic. Most of the time I park in the standard mode as it seems more true-to-life than the other modes, at least to me. But from time to time some content does look better in the dynamic mode, and I have to say that in dynamic mode the contrast is impeccable. The darks so super-dark and the lights are very bright.
And that brings us to the ks8000’s only real weakness: a very reflective screen. 98% of the time, I don’t notice the screen reflections while I’m watching content because the screen is so dang bright. But then those awesome deep blacks appear on screen, it does become somewhat apparent. And the reflections look worse when the TV is viewed from a side angle, rather than straight on.
For me the reflections are not at all a deal-breaker here: the picture looks too good for that to be the case. Still, I have to admit: it is annoying.
The interface and menus on the 8 Series are impressively simple and highly usable. All of the major functions and apps that you would want to use are one click away (via the home button) and the more advanced settings and hidden away a bit deeper (and that’s a good thing because they’re still easy to get to but this setup greatly reduces clutter).
I really, really like the quick settings which appear over the apps which let you easily control the picture mode (which I talked about earlier) as well as things like the sound output (switching from the internal speaker to a home theater system or Bluetooth speaker) along with some additional settings and options.
I’m slightly annoyed that Samsung has seen fit to insert some ads in the top-level menu and app store (one in each place). It’s not a huge deal, honestly, but it does offend my conscience seeing as this isn’t exactly a bargain basement TV (whereas ads on the lock screen of a $50 smartphone make more sense to me — that review is coming up tomorrow — the Amazon Prime-exclusive Blue R1 HD phone).
Finally, in regard to the app selection, everything good is here including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, among others, but one glaring omission (at least at the time of writing) is Sling TV. I wish it was here, but it’s not hard to access via my Apple TV.
One thing to note regarding apps on this Smart TV: the Amazon app wouldn’t work right for me for the first few days I had the TV. After 3 or so days it finally connected and I haven’t had any issues with it sense. I did see some similar comments for apps on this TV on a few Amazon reviews, so if this happens to you my advice is to wait a few days and see if it irons out. Samsung does not have great TV support in my experience, so I hope you don’t have to give them a call.
I love the remote that comes with this TV. It’s easily one of my favorite TV remotes of all time. The size is excellent: not too big, not too small. And it’s very simple compared to many remotes. I applaud Samsung for keeping it lean; there are only 11 buttons including the click wheel.
It’s great that this remote works as a universal remote which means it can control peripherals like the Apple TV, a Blu-Ray player or a home theater system. Truth be told, I think our family just about prefers using this Samsung remote to control the Apple TV over the fancy new touch remote Apple launched with the latest iteration. Still, it’s not a perfect setup as I can’t control Siri with Samsung’s remote and some Blu-Ray player menus and functions aren’t (easily) accessible.
The remote does, however, have some basic voice functionality, but it’s nowhere near as featured as Apple’s Siri. It can search pretty broadly, but searches can’t be further refined (which I miss). I could search for “action movies” but I couldn’t refine that search with an operator like “just the ones with Sylvester Stallone.”
Even in it’s sparse form, there is one button that doesn’t deserve to exist on the remote: the extras button. At it’s best it brings up some somewhat related tweets based on the content you are viewing, but more often than not it brings up items that are completely unrelated (like a knockoff minesweeper game, for instance).
The built-in sound on this TV is surprised me with how decent it was especially when you consider how incredibly thin this TV is. I just don’t know how they stuffed speaker components this good into such a thin TV. Now I’m not saying these speaker will blow you away, but compared to last year’s SUHD TVs, they’re very noticeably better. The bass doesn’t thump, but it also isn’t tinny or hallow.
While most people buying a TV at this price point are going to hook up an external sound system, if you’re acquiring this TV before you’ve got your home theater completely setup, you’re not going to be disappointed with the sound. In fact, it’s pretty darn enjoyable for being stock.
This should make for an excellent gaming TV with a quick refresh rate and a dedicated gaming mode, but I’m not going to go into detail on that in this review. But, if you’re interested in how well this TV performs as a gaming TV, stay tuned for my Xbox One S coverage (in the coming weeks) as I will be testing it with this TV (including HDR gaming/content).
I really like the design of this TV. The reflective silver looks sharp, expensive and pretty classy. The super-thin bezel all but disappears when you’re watching something and from the side this TV almost seems to be wearing camouflage as it’s so thin you almost have to work to see it (depending on the background, of course).
The Samsung connector is awesome: it means you only need one cord (other than the power cord) hanging out the back of the TV and lets you connect all your peripherals into a box that can be hidden in your TV console or media stand. This also somewhat future-proofs the TV as years down the line you will be able to buy a new connector with updated I/O ports.
The stand comes down to a matter of opinion. I personally really like how it looks: I think it’s minimal and has some flair. My wife, on the other hand, doesn’t like that it leaves the underside completely open to showing any cords that might be hanging out or hiding behind the TV. And that’s a fair point.
A final thought before I wrap this up: setup is really fast and easy: it took me no more than 5 minutes.
If you’re looking at buying this TV, I wouldn’t hesitate. There’s nothing about it that would keep me from recommending it, though it does have a couple minor quirks. I definitely feel comfortable calling it one of the best 4K HDR TVs of 2016 (yes, even though it’s not an LG OLED TV, lol).