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Out of the Box
With all the curved screens hitting the market, HU8550's flat profile seems absolutely retro.
The front of the display is encircled with a thin .3-inch matte black bezel. The edge is finished in brushed silver.
The HU8850 has an Ultra Clear Panel "that brightens colors, enhances contrast, and reduces reflections." When the TV is on, most glares are not noticeable. If you are bothered by reflections, the simple solution is to control the lighting in your room. The TV does not swivel on its stand.
On the bottom of the back edge of the TV, Samsung has replaced the traditional operational buttons with a joystick controller.
In the last couple of years with their top of the line TVs, Samsung has been removing the connection panels from the back of the unit and replacing them with a separate One Connect box that supplies all the normal connections.
With the HU8550 series, the Samsung designers are straddling the fence. Like earlier models, there are connection panels on the back of the TV. But it also includes a One Connect input if you want to off load all of your wiring to a One Connect box and then run a single cable from the box that transmits audio and video signals as well as commands to your HU8550. The One Connect box does not come in the HU8550 package and must be purchased separately.
To be clear, you do not need the One Connect box for the HU8550 because on the back of the TV are two panels that provide all of the usual connections.
The panel on the left runs vertically and the cables are plugged in from the side. In the image above, you can see the inputs including three USB ports.
Of note, HDMI 1 is the default port for a cable or satellite set-top box. HDMI 3 is MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link) friendly. With an MHL cable, you can connect the TV to MHL-compatible devices like tablets and smartphones and transmit photo/music/video to the TV.
If your legacy source equipment requires Component connections, you can find those inputs on the other panel which faces out of the back of the TV. Also on the panel is HDMI 4, which can be used to feed a digital audio signal from the TV to an AV receiver that is compatible with Audio Return Channel [ARC] technology.
The HU8550 has an integrated Wi-Fi adapter, but if you prefer a wired connection to your router, a LAN port is included.
This TV does not have a built-in video camera. If you want to make Skype calls, you can purchase the VG-STC4000 HD camera ($99), which also gives you motion control for screen navigation and volume/channel adjustment.
The HU8550 does offer a Voice Recognition feature, which allows you to talk to the TV, which I find convenient when I want to search for a program. The smaller of the two remote controls includes a microphone. Speak into it and the TV deciphers your request with surprising accuracy.
To take full advantage of this Samsung Smart TV, you need to connect it to your home network (via wired or wireless). Not only can you access the numerous apps and streaming content providers, you also expand your connectivity options with devices like computers, media servers, smartphones and tablets.
Samsung organizes all of it apps and content on what it calls the Smart Hub, which is divided into four groups: Games, Apps, Movies & TV Shows, and Multimedia .
The groups have submenus. For example, on the Apps screen, there is a Categories link that opens up an Apps Store menu. The choices seem endless.
From the Multimedia group, you can access photos, videos and music files that are stored in the cloud, your computer or a USB drive.
The menu for viewing photos is fairly robust with 19 different transitions and the ability to add music to your slideshow. The HU8550 does not automatically upscale HD photos to UHD resolution. You can go into the Tools menu and Zoom to 2X and then an HD resolution image will fill the screen.
To partially satisfy the hunger for native 4K content, Samsung is selling their UHD Video Pack, which is a portable hard drive that plugs into the USB 3.0 port on the TV.
The content prepackaged on the Video Pack that I reviewed included 41 programs mastered in 4K, mostly shorts (like Cute Puppy Race and episodes of Cooking for Love) and documentaries (like Legends of Flight, Into the Woods II and Cappadocia).
And for film lovers, this UHD Video pack contains a tasty box of chocolates, 4K versions of ten movies: (Forest Gump, Life of Pi, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, World War Z, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Night at the Museum, The Counselor, Star Trek (2009), Star Trek Into Darkness and The Book Thief.
Sometimes Samsung offers this Video Pack as an added bonus when you purchase one of their higher-end UHD TVs. You can also find it for sale online, but it's a bit pricey unless you love all ten of these movies. And be forewarned, there is an earlier version of this package that only included five movies.
This 4K TV is 3D compatible, upscaling HD 3D movies to Ultra HD resolution. Samsung has adopted the active shutter system to view 3D content which employs shutter 3D glasses that require batteries. Four sets of glasses come in the box.
You can purchase extra glasses on the Samsung site for $20 (standard battery model below) or $50 (rechargeable battery model on top).
I'll discuss 3D performance on the next page.
Samsung supplies two remote controls in the box. The bigger one (1.85" x 9") is fairly standard issue, multifunctional with big backlit buttons.
The dedicated buttons for items like the Menu, the E-Manual, and the Smart Hub makes using the TV much more efficient.
And don't be afraid to click on that E-Manual button. The HU8550 is feature-rich and an occasional light reading of the manual should save you during those "How does this thingamabob work?" moments.
The second remote is half the size (about 2" x 5.25") of the first, but it still packs in most of the major dedicated buttons.
Called the Smart Touch Control, this device includes a touchpad, which makes navigating the menus and the web browser much less frustrating.
It also contains a little microphone at its tippy tip, where you can act like the Master of your TV Domain by barking in your voice commands.
The EPA publishes a searchable list of ENERGY STAR Certified Televisions. (You can find it here.) The Samsung UN65HU8550 is not on the list, but as you can see from its Energy Guide label, it is one of the most energy efficient models its size.
Based on the formula that the TV is on five hours a day and in Standby for the other 19, the Estimated Yearly Energy Cost is $28 (at 11 cents per kW hour).
Samsung offers two seemingly opposing energy related features.
With Instant On, the TV turns on 4 times faster, which I assume consumes more energy. On the other hand, "With Eco Sensor, your TV can intelligently adapt its picture according to the intensity of the light in the room," which they state saves energy.
Instant or Eco, the size of your electric bill is in your hands.
Once you have all the cables connected, the first time you power up your new TV, Samsung walks you through the initial setup.
The process, which should only take you a few minutes, sets the language of the menu, connects you to your home network, configures your TV signal (set top box or antenna) and updates your TV software (if necessary).
For many of you, that might be all you want to do. The default picture settings with Samsung TVs often produce perfectly acceptable picture quality,
Though I suggest that you take the setup at least one step further, which will allow you to set the picture more to your tastes by sampling the different Picture Modes.
Click on the Menu button and the first option is the Picture menu which offers four default Picture Modes, Dynamic, Standard, Natural, and Movie. (A fifth, Entertain is only available when you use a PC setting.)
The manual states that the modes "utilize different contrast and brightness settings to provide the best viewing experience for the environment."
You can sample each mode on your favorite content. When switching from one mode to another, give yourself a minute or two to adjust.
With the Samsung TVs that I have reviewed over the years, I tend toward the subtler, more cinematic look of the Movie mode.
But I can see the appeal of the default mode of Standard, especially for sporting events. Standard adds a punch to the picture. In a brightly lit room, Standard might be preferable over Movie, which is more appropriate for a dimly lit home theater environment.
Once you have settled on a Picture Mode, if you want to fine tune, Samsung provides a bevy of tools for tweaking.
While you are in the setup mood, you may notice that your picture looks too unnaturally "sharp," especially when watching movies. If that is the case, go into the Picture menu and scroll down to Picture Options and open that sub-menu. Scroll down to Auto Motion Plus and turn it off. That should solve that sharp, "video" look.
Now, as the on-screen captions tell you, Auto Motion Plus "optimizes the screen for displaying fast action scenes." If that describes the content that you watch, you may want to leave this feature on. Or better still, you can test the options: Clear, Standard, Smooth and Custom.
One more level deeper, if you pick Custom, you can fine tune Blur and Judder reduction. Or if you fear that you have scurried too far down the rabbit hole, just turn Auto Motion Plus off.
Once you have decided on your Picture mode, you should be ready to enjoy your favorite programs. But before you can access programs from streaming content providers like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video or MGo, you will need to attach your TV to your home network and then register those apps and all the others that you want to use.
And if you do plan on streaming 4K content from Netflix, like House of Cards, you will probably need to upgrade your subscription service to the $11.99 a month Ultra HD streaming option.
Once you are settled in, there's many more features to discover like Smart Remote Control and Voice Interaction and S-Recommendation and ConnectShare Movie and Quad Screen and Screen Mirroring and the beat goes on with apps and more apps.
To take advantage of all these features, expect to take time to go through the tutorials in the on-screen E Manual.
With that said, you can be watching your favorite telenovela or baseball game within minutes of unpacking this TV with a minimum of fuss and bother. When you have the time and gumption, you can start exploring the boatload of features.