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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.

FLY­ING COLOURS

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.

QUICK RE­SPONSE

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.

Vin­cent Teoh

Un­for­tu­nately, the UE49NU8000 is crip­pled with one fa­tal flaw: it set­tles for a 60Hz panel

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