Sadly, the Samsung UE49NU8000’s refresh rate puts a dampener on its excellent image processing
★★★★★ £1,099 From www.johnlewis.com
WHILE THE UPPER echelons of Samsung’s TV ranges keenly demonstrate the very latest in quantum dot technology (also known as QLED), the UE49NU8000 proves that Samsung hasn’t abandoned the more affordable LED LCD end of the market.
However, if you were hoping for an eye-catching new physique for Samsung’s latest mid-range set, then prepare to be disappointed. The NU8000’s design steadfastly refuses to break the mould that’s been so successful in recent years, with a slim black bezel, rounded corners, and a slightly thicker bottom border finished in light grey. It would be churlish to complain about the results, however: the classy two-tone appearance and brushed metal T-bar stand look great from almost any angle.
ALL IN A TIZEN
What is different from last year’s MU8000 is the omission of the external One Connect box. Now that all the connections are on the rear of the TV, the chassis isn’t as slim as previous edge-lit LED LCDs we’ve seen from Samsung. The departure of the One Connect box also makes it a little tougher to keep the cabling neat and tidy, but thankfully Samsung has made provision for cable management along the pedestal stem. Connectivity is still ample, however. Four HDMI inputs are supplied, and all are full-bandwidth, HDCP 2.2-compliant HDMI 2.0b ports.
The UE49NU8000 ships with two remote controls: a ‘smart’ voice control wand and a traditional clicker. Whichever you reach for, the Tizen-based Smart TV system remains easy to navigate, even if it isn’t as slick and straightforward as LG’s WebOS platform.
The bad news is that, at the time of going to press, UK catch-up TV apps such as BBC iPlayer and ITV Player aren’t available on the television. It’s also disappointing to find that the onboard Prime Video app lacks 4K HDR support.
Aural fireworks aren’t on the cards here, but the audio output from the down-firing speakers is passable. Dialogue is reproduced with enough clarity that you don’t need to crank up the volume, but should you feel the need to there’s enough oomph to the built-in amplifier to reach reasonably satisfying levels.
As the UE49NU8000 uses a VA-type LCD panel, it suffers from the usual drawback of narrow viewing angles. Conversely, the VA panel also allows the NU8000 to serve up deep blacks by LED LCD standards.
The edge-lit backlighting relies on LED modules dotted along the bottom of the screen, which reduces manufacturing costs and chassis thickness compared with full-array local dimming LED LCDs. However, there are downsides to this type of LED configuration, as it tends to leave the letterbox bars on films looking dark grey rather than black, and causes visible blooming around bright objects when they’re against a dark background.
Put those limitations to one side, and there are several points in the UE49NU8000’s favour. Colour accuracy is impressive after calibration, making all types of SDR material look realistic and natural. In the most accurate HDR picture mode, DCI-P3 colour gamut coverage measured 92%, a solid result.
Video processing is excellent, too, offering very good upscaling with crisp detail and minimal side effects such as ringing.
Peak brightness for HDR content is where things begin to unravel. The UE49NU8000 reaches a maximum of 800cd/m2 on a 10% window, and this can only be sustained for 35 seconds before dropping to 535cd/m2. Another issue is that since the UE49NU8000’s backlight must be turned right up to deliver an acceptable HDR experience, dark scenes can look grey, and blooming and clouding around the brightest parts of the image become more apparent.
As ever, Samsung’s tone-mapping algorithm aims to preserve the detail in the very brightest highlights, but the result is that detail in the darker parts of the picture can look a bit too dark. This is especially noticeable when watching Blu-ray films that have been mastered to a maximum brightness of 4,000 nits.
Unfortunately, the Samsung UE49NU8000 is crippled with one fatal flaw: unlike larger members of the NU8000 family, which use 120Hz panels, the 49in model settles for 60Hz. This prevents it from serving up smooth native 24p playback, and it can’t resort to frame interpolation to improve the clarity and smoothness of moving images. In addition, like previous Samsung TVs, the UE49NU8000 also tends to exhibit more posterisation in tonally uniform backgrounds.
Input lag offers some respite. With ultra-low measurements of 14ms in both 1080p SDR and 4K HDR modes, the UE49NU8000 is the most responsive television we’ve tested to date. And it also has one final ace up its sleeve: unlike self-emissive displays such as plasmas and OLEDs, there’s no risk of image retention and permanent screen burn from static logos and HUDs on the screen.
Although its video processing and input lag are superb, the Samsung UE49NU8000’s 60Hz panel is its Achilles’ heel, as it provides no effective means of reducing motion blur on its UHD screen. Furthermore, while the bottom-lit edge LED configuration may have been adequate in the past, the tech is now beginning to look decidedly out of date. With rivals such as the Sony KD-55XF9005 (Shopper 366) offering full-array local dimming technology for not much more money, the UE49NU8000 misses the mark.
Unfortunately, the UE49NU8000 is crippled with one fatal flaw: it settles for a 60Hz panel