My Early Thoughts on the Evolution Kit:
I have had a few days to play around with the EK and several of you have asked for some feedback on the device. First, here are a few pics of the install process.Packaging:Installation:
Once you remove the Evo Kit sticker on the back of your TV, you will be able to slide the EK into two grooves on the left side, and then fold down the unit until it clicks solidly in place. This step is a bit tricky, as I have seen others post that they can't get the kit recognized. The first time I installed it the TV did not see the kit and I went back and pushed it harder and then I was all set. Of note, make sure you upgrade to the latest ES8000 firmware prior to hooking up your kit.
If you install it properly, a small box will pop up in the corner of your TV:
It will then walk you through a few screens of installation:Picture Quality:
This is what everyone wants to know about so I will start here. For reference I have a 55ES8000, TS01 panel. First of all, there are no additional
user-selectable picture quality features that I have found, including Cinema Black or Smart LED. The noise filters have been upgraded to the new F8000 version however. I briefly put my meter (i1D3, CalMAN) on the set, before and after the upgrade. There was
a difference, and I had to make several small changes to greyscale and CMS settings. However, these changes are likely purely academic and would not fall in the visible range of PQ. I did however have a flatter gamma curve at the low range in standard mode, which was a nice improvement that requires further testing.
That said, there is a lot more that goes into picture quality than the pure meter readings. I could calibrate 3 different TVs to the same meter readings and they could look totally different. I think it is too limited to say that since meter readings did not change significantly that the perception of the picture quality is not able to change. All it means it that greyscale and color settings have not changed significantly. We have seen over the life of the ES8000 that picture quality has subjectively improved over its lifespan. Picture processing algorhythms and behind the scenes processes certainly can and have been altered along the way. Subjectively
, I think that my picture does look a little cleaner, and CE dimming seems to be more elegant in its performance. As expected, this is not a dramatic change. I am a standard mode user, as the flashlight/clouding on my set goes from mild/moderate to nonexistent which is enough for me to deal with tradeoffs of standard mode. I did look at movie mode under test patterns and saw no difference in clouding
. However, this is to be expected, as the baseline panel characteristics are what they are, and if on movie mode, there is no wizardly/dimming attempting to work around it. I do not have banding on my set so I cannot comment on that.Smart Hub/Apps/Web Browser/Menus:
Very impressive. The menu is updated to the new F8000 look. The smart hub has very nice aesthetics and works quite well. I still have an occasional studder/lag with menus which is surprising. Apps launch quickly, and there is much more memory available for app space. For our friend who always asks about the browser: I have to say Im impressed. The old browser was unusable, and I have never had goodluck with built-in browsers before (wii, set-top boxes, etc). I have a dedicated HTCP which I normally use if I want to watch web content independent of an App. That said, the browser is quite functional and impressive. As a test I went to cbs.com, navigated to the full episode tab, clicked an episode, switched to full screen, and it played flawlessly. Very impressive. The only downside is that the majority of picture settings become unavailable when in the smart hub which is annoying.Remote/Voice:
Requires more time to play with. Remote seems high quality this time. I have not played with gestures or voice control, really does not interest me to be honest.Early Conclusions:
I am happy with my purchase. I was previously on the fence with an estimated price of ~$300. Now that we see the street prices of all <$200, I think this is a very fair price to pay for what you are getting. I am a little baffled at the blind irrational hate some members have towards this device. If you don't want one, dont buy it, you have the same smart hub and hardware that you paid for last year. When Microsoft/Apple release their updated operating systems, do you get those for free? No, you pay for them. This is a complete re-write of the smart hub, so I don't mind paying to support development. For $180, I got a new remote (which Samsung will probably sell for ~$50 if you buy from them), new Smart Hub/Operating system (Call it ~$30, price of Apple OS upgrades), and a new CPU/GPU/upgraded memory ( leaves $100), all which seems relatively fair to me as that is the price of a Roku/AppleTV. If I can sell this for $75-100 when the new one comes out, a net ~$100 is a no-brainer for an enthusiast like myself to stay up-to-date.
No other TV manufacturer is giving consumers the option to upgrade the hardware guts of your TV. I think that this is an idea worth supporting, but the value for most consumers will not be in this first years model.
Our TVs are not that old and outdated yet, so the incremental benefit is likely not worth it to most consumers. However, upgrading from a 2012 set to a 2015 set in the future will likely be quite noticeable. If no one buys the first/second generation, who knows if they will continue. Having had a D8000, I saw that firmware upgrades die the moment the new set comes out, and I expect the same to happen to the ES8000. I am buying into the future, with advanced hardware horsepower and what future firmware upgrades can do.
Are you an enthusiast who spends time tweaking settings, reading AVSforum, and spend a lot of time with your set? Do you use the smart hub/apps/web browser? Buy it, it is not that expensive for what you get. Otherwise, I would skip this generation and wait for next years. More to follow as I spend more time with the kit.