Sometimes I feel like the Play Store will never evolve from providing these short, simple games that offer very basic gameplay, no progression, no story and almost null replay value. But then I encounter games as Star Knight and my hopes return.
If more games were like Star Knight and less like these short attention span kind of games, then the world would be a better place. Seriously, Star Knight provides gameplay and progression like very few games in the Play Store, and manages to keep you coming back for more with elements such as unlockables and intricate level design.
A very curious (and I might say unfortunate) thing happens when opening the app: it asks you for a total of six permissions. I mean, it’s hard (though possible) to develop apps that don’t require permissions. The problem is, why does Star Knight asks me for permission to access my contacts and my location? There’s absolutely no functions in the game that might require this. Draw your own conclusions.
After this sketchy episode, you’re greeted with a Google Play Games setup, as is the case with an increasing number of games in the Play Store. Star Knight uses it as a platform for setting up achievements, save files, and similar. If you play games regularly, you know the drill by now: select a Google account and our Android overlords will do the rest.
Gameplay is really fun and provides new elements all the time.
The game starts with a couple of lines of story and then kicks you right into the game. Your character starts the journey alongside his significant other. However, the boss at the end of the level deals with this quickly (and sadly for the main character).
You have four on-screen buttons at first: left, right, jump, and attack. Since a couple of taps and a little bit of curiosity is enough to figure out the controls, there’s no tutorial or anything similar. The game is simple: kill your enemies, avoid the multiple obstacles, reach the end of the level, rinse and repeat.
There are five different worlds, each one divided into 12 different levels. The levels start simple enough, with normal platforms and enemies to kill. However, you will quickly see that Star Knight will start throwing at you walls with spikes, rotating objects with spikes, grounds with spikes and other spiky paraphernalia that will halt your progress. Apart from spikes, puzzles get more complicated and enemies get stronger as you advance in the game.
Fortunately, you can get stronger, too. Your journey will take you into different situations where you will find objects from your significant other. This will increase your total health bar.
Also, you can get runes, which are white, hexagonal elements that you have to collect in order to get skills. These skills vary between them, from Super Smash, which does a strong attack, to Shield, which creates a shield around your character for four seconds. Some skills cannot be obtained from runes, though.
This is where the concept of coins becomes important. When you kill enemies, you will get coins. They are used to buy additional swords for your character and skills that are not unlockable by runes. If you lack the required coins and you need that shiny new sword right now, then you can buy coins through in-app purchases.
Level design in Star Knight is outstanding.
Of course, none of these elements would be useful if the gameplay was boring. Fortunately, it’s not. Star Knight combines different elements in a very imaginative, fun way. For example, there are walls that you can climb (Super Mario-like), crates that you can pile up to make you reach the unreachable, springs in the ground, switches to unblock/block certain areas, platforms that crumble and regenerate after time, bombs, among others. This provides gameplay that varies all the time and never gets boring.
All of these collectibles, progress elements, and hike in difficulty makes the game very fun and keep you coming back to see which kind of obstacles the game will throw at you next. Also, the fact that you can collect stuff adds to the replay value. You can actually experience that feeling of progression that is so hard to find in the Play Store these days.
Controls also feel very responsive. You never get the impression of being hindered by them. I would love to see a vibration setting, though. I just can’t get used to tapping buttons on a game without receiving any kind of tangible feedback. That’s not a problem with the game, however. The controls are awesome, their placement is adequate and their responsiveness is outstanding.
There’s an additional mode called Arena, in which your character is dropped in a monster-filled stage and you have to kill tiers of monsters in order to advance. It’s a really fun way of distracting from the main gameplay, and it’s also the most efficient way of getting gold for those prohibitively expensive swords available.
The arena provides a nice challenge and is a great addition to the main story.
Be warned though: either I’m really bad at this game, or the arena is a pretty hard endeavor. It could be both, too. Anyways, be ready for the taste of frustration, especially at the beginning when you have a weak sword that can’t even cut through butter.
The artwork for this game is primarily black. Depending on the setting, the color palette may change a bit. Normally, though, these colors tend to be dark, so don’t expect colorful, flashy graphics. This isn’t meant in a bad way, however: the game is really nice to look at, and the artwork is very consistent across different elements, making the game feel cohesive.
Also, apart from the main character, which has very subtle but nice elements, the other sprites are normally only mildly detailed. Again, this is not supposed to be a bad thing, it’s just so you can adjust your expectations. Monsters and other elements look good with the elements that the designers have decided to incorporate. The backgrounds always look nice, and the combination of colors make up for some interesting sights. Just don’t expect highly detailed sprites and you’ll be fine.
You can get stronger by buying new swords.
The songs that play in the background during gameplay are soothing melodies that don’t get old fast (or at least it takes a lot of time for you to get tired of it). A good thing about them is that they change according to the place you’re at. Each world has its own track, as well as the arena and the main menu.
Sound effects accomplish their objectives without being spectacular. Several actions trigger a sound effect, such as swinging your sword, slashing other enemies, and dying. They’re nothing special but they get the job done.
There aren’t many options you can change, but the ones that are present are enough. You can turn on or off both the background music and the special effects. There’s also a way of changing the language of the interface (16 languages available), which is nice, and something games fail to do most of the time.
Another noteworthy option doesn’t appear in the options screen, but in the pause screen: the ability to record your gameplay. If you want to upload your prowess to YouTube, you can record it with this option. It’s nice that the developer took the time to implement these kind of stuff that other games don’t provide.
Google Play Games
There are not many options to choose from, but Google Play Games is integrated.
There are 18 different achievements to keep you entertained. They range from moderately easy (Kill Act 1 boss), to insanely hard (get three stars on all levels). There are some that deal with the memories of your beloved one, watching the ending, and even with dying (do it 1000 times and you’ll get an achievement).
The game is supposed to let you upload your save file to the cloud, to be retrieved later on another device. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get it to work, no matter how hard I tried under different conditions. When I tried to upload a save file, a progress dialog appeared and then disappeared right after. It’s unfortunate, since it would be a big plus if the featured worked correctly. Maybe it’s a problem with my phone and not with the functionality itself, but I’m not certain.
Star Knight manages to provide fun for hours, thanks to its intricate level design, and sense of progression. You can definitely feel how this game is much more refined and elaborate than the majority of games available in the Play Store. Yes, a lot of the games in the store are normally free, and, for many different reasons, a paid app is a barrier to a lot of people. But, if you normally spend your money on apps, then for a mere $0.99 (€0.92 in Europe) you can get a highly polished game that will bring you joy and fun for a long time.
Download Star Knight from the Google Play Store.
No, Samsung is not collecting your ROM’d phones.
Samsung’s recall of the Note 7 means two things — lots of people curious about whether their phone might be next, and lots of misinformation about how Samsung is handling the recall. We’ve seen reports claiming Samsung will send kill signals to phones, claims that Samsung has been monitoring existing Note 7 users, and now claims that Samsung is pulling phones running Note 7 software.
The one thing all of these stories have in common is that they aren’t at all true, but that last one is what happens when you don’t fully understand how rooting and romming works.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was running some interesting software that isn’t available to all other Samsung phones. As a result, some of the more clever Samsung users out there have flashed modified versions of the Note 7 software to other phones. Samsung doesn’t know (or care) about the difference between a real Note 7 and a phone running Note 7 software, which means when Samsung pushes a recall notification to all active Note 7 phones reminding them of the need to submit the phone for a recall everything gets it. One of those people, a Redditor with a Note 4 running Note 7 software, got that message and shared it. What happened next on tech blogs eager to write anything new about the Note 7 will surprise no one.
Is this a reason to panic? Of course not. If you are smart enough to root and flash Note 7 software to your Note 4, you’re more than smart enough to know Samsung’s recall notification doesn’t apply to you. Samsung isn’t sending updates to disable your phone, and there is no massive surge in people sending in Samsung phones that aren’t the Note 7 for a recall because they’re running Note 7 software.
If you’d like to explore applying Note 7 software to something that isn’t a Note 7, you should start with our guide to rooting your Android phone and learn from there!
Samsung Galaxy Note 7
- Galaxy Note 7 fires, recall and cancellation: Everything you need to know
- Survey results: Samsung users stay loyal after Note 7 recall
- Samsung Galaxy Note 7 review
- The latest Galaxy Note 7 news
- Join the Note 7 discussion in the forums!
Enjoy these deals on cases for the Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Samsung Galaxy S7, S7 edge, S6 and S6 edge.
Caseology is offering deep discounts on cases for the Google Pixel and Pixel XL, along with a bunch of popular Samsung phones — the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge and even a few for the Samsung S6, S6 edge, and S6 edge plus.
Because this is a limited quantity sale, the promo code will expire once the limited quantity has sold out. When going through checkout, make sure you choose Caseology as the seller and not fulfilled by Amazon. It’s the only way to get the promotional codes to work, and also get free shipping.
Google Pixel Case
- Vault Series – Black — $4.99 with coupon code: F5MACLWM
- Parallax Series – Black — $4.99 with coupon code: NIH6KWJC
- Waterfall Series – Clear — $4.99 with coupon code: ZVKMY6LA
Google Pixel XL Case
- Vault Series – Black — $4.99 with coupon code: ZTUVER3I
- Parallax Series – Black — $4.99 with coupon code: JGTCHRKM
- Waterfall Series – Clear — $4.99 with coupon code: BNWHCAGN
Galaxy S7 Case
- Parallax Series – Black/Black — $4.99 with coupon code: SPFNQJCQ
- Wavelength Series – Pink — $4.99 with coupon code: 9E9YFAK4
- Vault Series – Rose Gold — $4.99 with coupon code: 6VINASUE
- Skyfall Series – Gold — $4.99 with coupon code : 2MUBK3EP
Galaxy S7 Edge Case
- Parallax Series – Black/Black — $4.99 with coupon code: SPFNQJCQ
- Envoy Series – Carbon Fiber Black — $4.99 with coupon code: GHQUMY2P
- Wavelength Series – Mint Green — $4.99 with coupon code: BK7IOP27
- Skyfall Series – Gold — $4.99 with coupon code: YX6DM9QS
Galaxy S6 Case
- Wavelength Series – Pink — $4.99 with coupon code: AY6MLVQR
Galaxy S6 Edge Case
- Wavelength Series – Navy Blue — $4.99 with coupon code: 4EDDT67A
Galaxy S6 Edge Plus Case
- Wavelength Series – Pink — $4.99 with coupon code: SPFNQJCQ
- Envoy Series – Carbon Fiber Black — $4.99 with coupon code: AY6MLVQR
A small update makes a big difference.
A lot of people were very upset by a fairly big omission in the Pixel’s Android 7.1-based Nougat software when it first came out: the fact that, unlike the Nexus 6P, the phone’s useful ambient display didn’t magically appear whenever the phone was picked up. It seemed like a strange thing to leave out given the phone’s lineage, but I am happy to say that with build NPF26J, first released to Canadians earlier this week, the functionality has returned, along with the ability to double-tap to turn on the screen.
These features are part of Google’s growing Moves gesture menu, which is currently exclusive to the Pixel and includes the ability to swipe the rear fingerprint sensor to access notifications, or double-press the power button to open the camera. None of these are new to the Android world, nor particularly novel, but they are important to the core functionality of the phone. Indeed, until yesterday, I felt very frustrated by what I felt was a significant drawback to an otherwise-fantastic phone.
“Double-tap to check phone” and “Lift to check phone” are common in many other Android phones, from Motorola to HTC to Samsung. They are examples of the conveniences we expect from modern flagships, and are sorely missed when they’re not included in new phones we regularly test. The interaction model is obvious, which is why such features have become so popular: the phone vibrates to indicate a notification, and the ambient screen pulses. But if you’re not around to see that initial pulse, you still want to check what happened, so you pick up the phone or take it out of your pocket — and for the last month, on the Pixel, nothing happened. The cycle was broken; the magic was lost.
Many Pixel owners I spoke to about this had the same feelings, that something felt broken with the device.
Even double-tapping to engage the screen, something I take for granted on almost every phone I buy, was not included. Many Pixel owners I spoke to about this had the same feelings, that something felt broken with the device. Thankfully, with the most recent update, all is well again.
The update also reportedly fixes most LTE connectivity problems associated with the Pixel, which is perhaps why it rolled out to Canadian devices before the rest of the world. While I haven’t experienced the problem, I am happy to report that we’ve heard of a number of people whose connectivity issues have been cleared up, though customers on South American carriers who sideloaded the update are still reporting problems.
It’s been an interesting month or so since the Pixel’s release — the phone has become so divisive within the Android community. Some, like many of us, believe it to be the best Android phone currently available. Others dismiss its utilitarian design, lack of waterproofing and expandable storage, and its high price, as reasons to avoid it. That’s fine; there are plenty other Android fish in the sea.
But with this update, the Pixel is now almost perfect for me — no phone is perfect — and reinforces my belief that it is the best Android phone you can buy right now.
Google Pixel + Pixel XL
- Google Pixel and Pixel XL review
- Google Pixel XL review: A U.S. perspective
- Google Pixel FAQ: Should you upgrade?
- Pixel + Pixel XL specs
- Understanding Android 7.1 Nougat
- Join the discussion in the forums!
Get the island vibe with these Moana-themed wallpapers!
Moana came out today in the U.S., and if there’s anything I want to do more than sit around a table filled with stuffed birds and mediocre sides, it’s go to the movies. Moana couldn’t have shown up at a better time, and to celebrate, we’ve got some wallpapers of our new favorite Disney heroine.
Yeah, I wish this movie were cel animation, too. If the movie looked like this, I might actually go watch it on repeat. Look at those lines, look at the soft focus, look at that color! Oh, just let the waves crash over me…
Disney’s Moana by MarioOscarGabriele
Sunsets are pretty amazing wherever they happen, but there’s a magic all its own when sunsets happen at sea. This island sunset is just stunning, a flourish of color and shadow to brighten up your phone in even the grayest winter days. The lighting work ryky puts into their work is amazing, and while this image is a bit small, I had no qualms rocking this wallpaper and feeling that light and color energize me each time I unlocked my phone.
MOANA by ryky
The light colors, the soft lines, the warmth that pervades the piece, it just fills the soul and carries it across the waves. Prince Kido is one of my favorite artists on DeviantArt, and there’s a very good reason: his work is amazing. He’s animated books for Disney before, his gallery is nothing short of amazing, and his original comic Bichon is an adorable work that has a wonderful take on gender roles and self-discovery. Definitely check his work out once you’ve downloaded this wallpaper.
Fanart de Moana by princekido
I think we’re all a little jealous of the connection Moana shares with the sea. Who wouldn’t want two-thirds of the planet’s surface as your friend?! Especially when it can sass demigods and show the way with bioluminescence! This wallpaper highlights that spirit of friendship as Moana offers a beautiful flower to the ocean that protects and guides her.
Moana by snownymphs
This was one of the earliest glimpses we had into Moana, and it remains a breathtaking piece showcasing how wide and wonderful Moana’s world can be, with them sailing towards these picturesque (and seemingly massive) islands. The detailing in this sweeping shot is incredible, and it can add a little wonder to your home screen each time you come back to it. What’s on those islands? How far will we go?
Moana Concept Art
U.S. Pixel buyers seem to be picking Verizon as their carrier of choice.
Much as everyone (myself included) has bemoaned the “exclusive” launch of the Pixel on Verizon, it seems to be a winning strategy in the U.S. for both Google and the carrier. Even though you can buy a Pixel through several different channels unlocked, including Google’s own store, research has revealed that the Pixel is selling extremely well at Verizon directly.
Numbers show that Pixels accounted for 7.5% of all phone activations on Verizon since it became available, which is a hefty chunk for a phone that’s expensive and the first of its kind from Google. The same research shows that in-store activations of Pixels at T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T stores landed at less than 2% each, which makes sense considering they don’t sell the phones directly. Those numbers show a narrow view of the phone’s sales overall, of course, as not everyone who buys a Pixel will take it to one of the “big four” U.S. carriers.
We don’t have a true view for how well the Pixels are selling, but Verizon is selling a lot.
In order to add some context to those numbers let’s look at Verizon’s Q3 2016 earnings report, where we can see it activates roughly 8 million phones per quarter. If you assume Verizon activates a similar number in Q4, that’d average out to 600,000 Pixels activated at Verizon in the first three months (of which we’ve just completed one). A lot of phones, but not world-beating numbers. We would need unlocked sales numbers to make a true assessment of how “well” the Pixels are doing.
You won’t have had to pay too much attention in the past month to notice the aggressive advertising from both Verizon and Google for the Pixels, with TV ads, website ads and strong placement on the Verizon website for the phones. Google and Verizon have spent a combined $27 million on marketing for the Pixels thus far, according to the report.
As we kick off the aggressive holiday buying season, Google and Verizon are expected to increase ad spending as well, dropping TV ads during the big Thanksgiving NFL games and running impressive promotions through the end of the year.
The true view of how many Pixels Google can sell will come at the point when Verizon’s exclusivity comes to an end, and whether or not that also means Google can strike deals with AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint to stock and sell the phones.
Google Pixel + Pixel XL
- Google Pixel and Pixel XL review
- Google Pixel XL review: A U.S. perspective
- Google Pixel FAQ: Should you upgrade?
- Pixel + Pixel XL specs
- Understanding Android 7.1 Nougat
- Join the discussion in the forums!
You can now protect your Swappa purchases!
When you buy a phone new, there’s usually an option to protect your investment should you accidentally leave it on the hood of your car and drive off holding a taco in your hand instead of listening for notifications. You pay a little extra for that peace of mind and hope you never need it, but accidents happen.
When you buy a phone secondhand, there are usually fewer options for protecting your investment. This isn’t a huge deal for some, since the whole point of buying secondhand is to save some cash, but a broken phone sucks no matter what you paid for it. The folks at Swappa get that, and are now rolling out protection plans so you aren’t trying to swipe around on broken glass until you can afford your next phone.
Swappa’s protection plan is fairly simple. You pay an extra $50, $60, or $70 at checkout depending on the cost of your phone, and if your phone breaks they’ll either repair or cover the full value of your phone for a year. Coverage includes:
- Cracked glass and screen repair
- Water damage from drops or spills
- Power surge protection
Those prices are competitive with what you’d get when covering just about any new phone, and unlike Google’s Pixel Protect plan there’s an option to repair your existing phone instead of swapping out for a whole new one. If you’re a regular Swappa customer, or just someone who regularly values tacos over the safe storage of their phone, this seems like a solid add-on.
Take a look at Swappa’s Protection Plan for more!
Digital distribution means that it’s no longer a chore to distribute movies with audio description and closed captioning. Despite this, some theaters have resisted offering the service, cutting out people with disabilities from enjoying the full cinema experience. That’s what’s prompted Attorney General Loretta Lynch to sign a final rule affirming that theaters must own, maintain and advertise disability aids for patrons.
The technology to offer such assistance isn’t obscure, with Sony producing a set of “subtitle glasses” that many businesses already own. The technology displays closed captions across the individual’s eyes, and Regal outfitted almost 6,000 of its locations with the gear. Audio description hardware, meanwhile, involves a specialized FM radio that plays a secondary audio feed to people with visual impairment or blindness.
The regulations aren’t onerous or overbearing and it’s not as if businesses need to spend a small fortune equipping their premises out. A single-screen joint only needs to have 4 pairs of glasses and one audio receiver, while multiplexes with more than 16 screens need 12 and 8, respectively. There are plenty of exceptions, too, so cinemas showing analog prints and drive-in theaters are both excluded from the ruling. The move should go a long way to ensuring that everyone can enjoy their trip out to the movies.
Source: ADA, Department of Justice, (2), NAD
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has proposed new federal guidelines [PDF] intended to reduce distracted driving caused by smartphone use behind the wheel.
The voluntary guidelines recommend smartphone makers like Apple develop a Driver Mode, a simplified interface that would prevent access to non-driving-related tasks such as manual text messaging, social media content, automatically scrolling text, and viewing images and video not related to driving.
Driver Mode would not be initiated if the smartphone is already paired to a vehicle’s infotainment system, while certain features such as maps and access to emergency services and alerts would not be locked out.
The NHTSA said technologies exist that could detect whether a driver is using a smartphone behind the wheel, and presumably enable Driver Mode, but refinements are still being made to ensure reliability. In the meantime, Driver Mode would have to be manually enabled by drivers who choose to use it.
Smartphone use while driving continues to be a major problem, despite the safety risks to drivers, passengers, and other drivers sharing the road.
The NHTSA said driver distraction was responsible for 10% of fatal crashes, 18% of crashes causing injuries, and 16% of all traffic crashes in the United States in 2014, the most recent year in which detailed distracted driving crash data is available. In total, the year had 385 fatal crashes that involved the use of a cell phone.
“Distracted driving is a deadly epidemic that has devastating consequences on our nation’s roadways,” said Secretary LaHood. “These guidelines recognize that today’s drivers appreciate technology, while providing automakers with a way to balance the innovation consumers want with the safety we all need. Combined with good laws, good enforcement and good education, these guidelines can save lives.”
Given the guidelines are voluntary, Apple and other smartphone makers are under no obligation to adhere to them.
The NHTSA is accepting public feedback about the distracted driving guidelines on the Regulations.gov website.
Tag: distracted driving
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Say what you like about Samsung’s recent fortunes, there’s no shortage of top choices when it comes to choosing an excellent 4K HDR TV – that’s ultra-high definition and high dynamic range, to hit the two televisual must-haves for 2016.
From the top-of-the-line curved KS9500 down to the more affordable flat-panel KS7000, all of Samsung’s tellies offer great design and great performance. The KS8000 sits in the middle of this selection.
In a sense it’s the upper middle class of the range. Gifted in many areas, well connected, it’s ideal for the sort of person who can’t justify the expense of the top-tier, but would rather not pick from the lower.
How does the Samsung KS8000 differ from the KS7000 and KS9000?
- Premium 360 design
- Practical Y-shaped stand to centre
There’s one area that the KS8000 hits big in and that’s in design. This is a good looking television – even better looking (in the physical sense) than Samsung’s top TVs, because it uses an edge-lit panel rather than direct-lit, so it’s nice and slim. It could easily be the centrepiece for any room.
The back is plastic but nicely textured and paired with the glossy chrome of the stand for a premium look. Unlike the KS7000, the KS8000 gets a stand that stems from the centre of the TV rather than the edge, which we much prefer: it’s easier to find something to stand it on.
- Samsung 4K HDR TV choices for 2016: All the major models compared
A slim brushed aluminium bezel frames the TV and gives it a premium look, but avoiding a glossy finish means it doesn’t show up the inevitable dust that gathers on it.
The KS8000 is available in 49, 55, 65 and 75-inch sizes, seeing a variance in price from £1,299 for the smallest, all the way up to £3,699 for the biggest.
The leap of £1,600 from the 65-inch model to the 75-inch seems a little dramatic. Ignore the very biggest model and it’s aggressively priced though.
Samsung KS8000 review: Connections and setup
- One Connect external box
- 4x HDMI, 3x USB, Optical audio
- Wired and wireless networking
The Samsung KS8000 offers what the company calls a One Connect box. This separate box holds all the connection ports, but isn’t fixed to the back of the TV so it doesn’t use up loads of space. You’ll find this on a number of the company’s premium models and we think it’s a nifty feature.
It brings with it a number of advantages. Firstly, it makes it very easy to connect and disconnect your devices if you’re planning to wall-mount your TV, or just put it in a tight corner. You simply connect to the box, which can be in an easily accessible place.
Secondly, it means you don’t have a mass unsightly cables draped across your room connecting to your TV. Although, it must be said, that the Ethernet connection for a wired network is still on the TV, rather than the One Connect box, and Samsung has placed it on the opposite side to the power cable, so it’s not all plain sailing.
The One Connect offers four HDMI connections, all compliant with 4K HDR standards, so you can connect plenty of the latest devices, like Sky Q Silver, Xbox One S or Chromecast Ultra.
There are also two USB 2.0 connections on the One Connect box, as well as third on the TV itself; an optical connection allows for hook-up to audio equipment and there are connections for the aerial, to use the TV’s internal tuner.
The KS8000 offers Wi-Fi and we’ve found this is mostly stable enough for video streaming services, including those 4K HDR offerings from Netflix or Amazon Video. Many AV fans may prefer to hardwire the TV via Ethernet, but if you’re a more casual streamer with good home Wi-Fi, fear not the wireless connection.
The KS8000 will automatically detect devices you connect to it and attempt to setup the Smart remote control, so you can use one controller for most of your devices. In most cases, the KS8000 will name the connected device and identify it by HDMI connection, so it’s easy to open up the inputs ribbon, see the Xbox and select it, for example.
What services and apps does the Samsung KS8000 have?
- Tizen user interface
- Amazon, Netflix and other streaming apps
- Smartphone and Bluetooth support
Samsung has been packing its televisions with features for a long time – and this latest generation of smart TV really pulls together a lot of experience.
The user interface presents an easy-to-use system, simplified over older versions so there’s less to confuse. Switching inputs becomes easy, as is finding and resuming content from the included services like Netflix or Amazon Video.
The onboard tuner is reasonable although the electronic programme guide (EPG) isn’t anything to get excited about. We suspect that many choosing a TV like the KS8000 will also pay for a premium TV services like Sky Q, but if you don’t then you’ll be well served by the Freeview offering available here.
Perhaps more interesting for fans of Ultra HD content will be the streaming services we’ve already mentioned. Samsung has been good in offering support for the latest 4K HDR content and this really makes use of the TV’s native skills.
For smartphone fans there’s a whole lot more to explore with supporting apps. Those with a Samsung phone like the Galaxy S7 edge will enjoy the freedom to also watch simultaneously on the phone.
That means you can hunt for something you want on Netflix, hit the cast button and send it to the TV. This uses the rarely-mentioned DIAL protocol, with the TV then picking up the programme and playing it – in glorious 4K HDR too, if it’s available. This also works with YouTube and we suspect that when YouTube HDR hits Samsung’s TVs it’ll work in the same way.
- YouTube HDR video: Everything you need to know about YouTube’s latest feature
How bright is the Samsung KS8000 for HDR?
We’ve reviewed a number of Samsung SUHD TVs in 2016 and they all have one thing in common: brightness. That’s not a bad thing in the world of HDR, because it’s that peak brightness that helps drive these TVs with such spectacular performance.
For those not clued up about high dynamic range, we’ve covered it in great detail elsewhere, but the idea is to widen the range of colours on offer while supercharging the contrast (i.e. the number of visible levels between dark and light, including brighter brights than standard definition is capable). Combined with the super-sharp 4K resolution of this panel, it’s a visual treat when you’re feeding the KS8000 Ultra HD Blu-ray content.
- Best Ultra HD Blu-ray players: Spinning 4K discs
- What is HDR, what TVs support HDR, and what HDR content can I watch?
Hooked up to Samsung’s K8500 Blu-ray player and the full force of this display swings into action. It’s all about jaw-dropping colour and wonderful contrast, pushed by that impressive brightness. According to Samsung’s figures, the KS8000 is incrementally better than the KS7000 and step down from the KS9500 which offers the best overall performance. In reality, it’s difficult to not be blown away by this TV, even if it’s not the very best in the company’s range.
That slight step down from the direct-lit top-of-the-range model does manifest itself in some slight unevenness in illumination across the panel, so occasionally you’ll find some areas of black aren’t quite as black as others, as the light it casts from the sides spreads across the screen. That can also lead to lighter edges, but you’ll only really notice in dark scenes.
You’re still rewarded with deep blacks and vibrant colours, a richness that will make content look good and – even once you step away from the best content from optical disc or streaming – you’ll still find that broadcast TV in HD still looks great.
Appropriately, motion is well handled once you wrestle control away from the default auto settings. Some may also find that the brightness gets a little too bright and want to knock it down a notch, but that’s more of an issue for the slightly brighter high-spec sets like the KS9500.
Overall, the performance of this KS8000 is a touch more impressive than the KS7000 that we also rate highly. The KS8000 wins with its better stand and a design, making it slightly more attractive. So if you’re happy to spend a few more hundred pounds to get those things it’s very much worth it.
- Samsung KS7000 SUHD TV review: Serious performance for the price
- Samsung KS9500 4K TV review: Sweet HDR, pitched on a curve
Does the Samsung KS8000 sound good?
Where many modern thin TVs lose out is in their audio delivery. A slim design doesn’t give speakers room to drive the soundtrack, but the KS8000 is actually pretty capable.
That’s thanks to the 4.1 channel arrangement of speakers with 60W power. Sure, it lacks the bass of a dedicated subwoofer that really sets off a movie soundtrack, but there’s a richness to everyday audio that will save you from the sort of thin sound that plagues many thin TVs.
In reality, if you’re asking us, it’s rude not to pair a display of this quality with a sound system to deliver the A in your AV setup. But that’s extra cash, so you might want to do that later down the line.
The Samsung KS8000 is a great choice of TV if you’re looking for great image quality and smooth delivery of a range of connected services. Priced as it is, with the 65-inch model available for just under £2,000, there’s a lot of TV for the money.
Samsung has a degree of consistency across its sets. While the 8000 set doesn’t quite reach the heady highs of the very best LCD sets of 2016, it’s available at much more attractive prices. Equally, while the blacks won’t compete with those that LG is offering through its OLED range, again, Samsung wins on the price front.
Overall, it’s difficult not to recommend the Samsung KS8000. If you’re looking for a solid companion that’s connected, skilled in HDR and attractively designed to carry you into the future of TV, look to the Samsung KS8000. If you’re keen for a curved version, then the KS8500 is the equivalent model.
Buy the Samsung UE55KS8000 on Amazon for £1535 now
Samsung KS8000: Alternatives to consider
Panasonic Viera DX902
- around £1,950 (for 58-inch)
The Panasonic set is a lot fatter than the Samsung, but if you’re only going to be looking front-on then it won’t matter. There’s also a very good reason for this: a honeycomb dimming system that stops light leaks for a more premium image. The price is well balanced too, offering a between sizes 58-inch model for under £2,000.
- around £1,750 (for 65-inch) | around £1,299 (for 55-inch)
If you’re keen on curved, then a model down in Samsung’s range is a sensible proposition – and the “500” version has a subtly curved screen to add to the wow factor. The price is very reasonable too, even if the finish of the stand and lack of separate connections box is less elegant than the KS8000 (or KS8500) one step up.
LG OLED C6
- around £1,999 (for 55-inch)
If you’re keen on the blackest of blacks then OLED images are exquisite. As Organic Light Emitting Diodes create their own light source per pixel, there’s zero light leak too. The tech is a little more expensive and not nearly as bright as LCD (with LED backlighting), but it’s a choice of one or other. Pound for pound, the LG C6 is the closest option to consider.
- around £2,500 (for 75-inch)
This one’s a bit out there, but if you think bigger is better then this 75-inch behemoth made by HiSense is an absolute bargain. Its images look great, but a lack of brightness won’t achieve anything like the Samsung range. It depends if HDR if the single biggest reason that you’re looking to buy into a new TV.