Samsung invited us over to Maxims Hotel in Pasay City to get some hands-on time with the 55-inch version of their recently released Smart TV ES8000. We’ve talked about it before during the official unveil a couple of days ago (including a demonstration video of the device in action) but nothing beats trying it out in a real-world setting.
The ES8000 looks amazing, and to be honest that’s not really a surprise at this point – it is Samsung’s current flagship HD TV. Of course, that doesn’t detract from the ES8000’s sheer elegance, and while we’re not really a fan of the funky looking stand, everything else from the millimeters thin bezel to the tasteful (if a bit distracting) silver trimmings is a pleasure to look at.
As expected, the ES8000 carries all the connections that you’d ever want, which includes multiple HDMI ports as well as several USB ports which allows you to watch and listen to music and videos from USB thumb drives and hard drives.
One thing that we noticed was that the included 3D glasses has been significantly redesigned, and though the styling of the new, active shutter glasses isn’t for everyone, they’re definitely lighter and less bulky than the previous designs.
The “smart” in Samsung’s Smart TV is made possible via a dual-core processor in the TV that runs Samsung’s Smart Hub, which is a highly modified version of the Android OS. In Samsung’s Smart Hub, you’re able to use apps, browse the net and connect to various social networks like Facebook and Twitter. While at Samsung’s Smart Hub, whatever you were watching before you engaged Smart Hub goes to the upper left side of the screen. There’s a couple of notable apps on the Smart Hub, which include apps for fitness, kids and games. We also saw a video on demand app on the Smart TV, but sadly it still wasn’t at 100%.
Two of the features that Samsung put front and center during the official launch of the ES8000 was the voice and gesture control that allows you to control the ES8000 without touching the remote. While both technologies were demonstrated to us during the official launch, in practice they were a bit more challenging to use. Voice control for one had a few issues when it came to actual practice, chief of which was the unit’s ability to actually understand us. There were two of us during the actual event (me and our Art Director, who has a bit of an American accent) and while the ES8000 could understand us some of the time, the actual, accurate voice recognition rate of the ES8000 was around 70% at the most.
Motion control also presented it’s own set of challenges. We noticed that it worked best in a brightly lit room, as it was controlled by the camera on the top of the TV, kind of like Microsoft’s Kinect XBOX add-on. For some reason, it had a bit of trouble recognizing our gestures once we actually sat down and started watching the TV, especially when we wanted to use the gesture control to raise the volume or change the channel. Again, we chalk that up to the room not being bright enough – unfortunately we don’t think a lot of people will actually go to the trouble of turning on the light each time they want to use the gesture control to change channels or raise the volume.
Aside from the regular remote control, Samsung also provided another remote for the ES8000. This particular remote had a built-in touchpad that supplements the two other smart controls. The touchpad allows you to raise and lower the volume easily, as well as channel surf with ease. Additionally, the touchpad also allows you to browse through Smart Hub easily, and provides another microphone to speak into when you’re in the mood to issue voice commands.
Additional peripherals for the ES8000 are planned, like the Bluetooth keyboard that a company rep showed us during our stay.
Overall, probably the biggest issue we’re seeing right now with the ES8000 is the somewhat buggy software that accompanies the additional smart interface technologies present in the TV. That’s not a deal-breaker in itself, as the device is a internet-connected device, a software update may be able to solve the complaints we’ve levied against the device so far. And with the device’s ability to take faster processors when it becomes available further down the line (via the Evolution kit that’s the heart of every ES8000), there’s little doubt that the features and usability of the ES8000 will increase as the years go by.