Real-World Testing: Movies and 3D
As a top-line model, Samsung endows the F8500 with its full SmartHub suite of apps and connectivity, as well as the ability to watch 3D formats (native or converted from 2D). Built-in Wi-Fi lets you stream content from the Internet, a NAS array, or other resources attached to your home network. There’s WiDi functionality as well, facilitating streaming from another WiDi-enabled device with or without a local wireless network.
I spent a few afternoons watching movies and surfing through online material. For testing with Blu-ray media, I connected an Oppo BDP-93 3D player via HDMI. Audio was played through the built-in speakers, which I set to the Amplify option.
First I wanted to try out a few dark-scene torture tests, so I chose Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The opening of the film takes place at night on a dimly-lit street. Most LCD panels look gray and washed-out trying to reproduce this. But the F8500 rewarded me with truly rich blacks that were loaded with detail. Roof shingles and dirt on the sidewalk were plainly visible. Close-up shots of Harry and Dumbledore revealed every pore and hair on their faces.
I took some time to try the Motion Judder Cancellation (frame interpolation) feature, too. On the Standard setting, it increases motion resolution to the point of perfection. It also imparts a soap-opera effect, however, which I personally don't like. Aside from an occasional tearing artifact, the algorithm works well. I prefer to use this feature for sports and games. Then I turn it off while watching movies or TV shows.
Next up was Alfonso Cuaron’s superb film, Gravity. Only a plasma or OLED TV can pull off a black starfield with bright objects in the foreground. In 2009, when I added a Pioneer Kuro to my living room, I wondered if anything could match its black levels. As it turns out, Samsung comes really close. But the F8500 is just a hair less black than my PRO-111FD. That didn't diminish my enjoyment of the movie, however. And I didn’t miss the motion blur I’m accustomed to seeing when I watch the same disc on an LCD television.
I finished my 2D viewing with Baraka, which represents the pinnacle of image purity. There are no computer-generated scenes whatsoever. It’s just some of the cleanest and most beautifully shot 70 mm film ever. Created from an 8K transfer, this one makes a great test for a display’s color and detail rendering. The F8500 passed the test with flying colors, to draw on the old cliché. I loved how natural and perfectly saturated the palette was in both indoor and outdoor scenes. And detail was tack-sharp. With no anti-glare layer to speak of, you’re able to see the TV’s absolute maximum resolution.
3D displays have come a long way in just a few years. The technology still hasn’t caught on, but manufacturers continue making each new model year just a little better. I dropped A Christmas Carol into the player mainly to check out its darker scenes. The F8500 puts out plenty of light for an excellent 3D effect. Even the dimmest content was loaded with detail. Contrast was the best I’d seen on any 3D display to date. And detail was off-the-charts sharp. I managed to see hairs on Scrooge’s nose I hadn’t noticed previously.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is an older title that can expose crosstalk and ghosting on some displays. There was none of that on the F8500. Every scene was perfectly rendered with a nice deep stereo effect.
I finished up with a vintage 3D title, Dial M For Murder. Even though it’s a 60-year-old film, it was originally shot in 3D. The transfer is poor with a general softness throughout. Its color is solid though. I initially saw a lot of crosstalk, but then I adjusted the Perspective slider in the 3D menu. Moving it to the left a few clicks helped clear up the artifacts. Samsung's F8500 is the only HDTV I’ve seen with this feature, and it certainly came in useful.