The Samsung Odyssey Ark is an extraordinary gaming monitor that you probably shouldn’t buy
- Massive, immersive 4K panel
- Excellent HDR performance
- Great for streaming films and games
- Unbelievably heavy
- Outrageously expensive
- Not OLED
The Samsung Odyssey Ark needs no introduction. Where gaming monitors are concerned, this is Samsung’s most bonkers project to date, even more so than the 49in ultrawide behemoth that is the Odyssey G9 series. It’s TV-sized but it curves dramatically, and the monolithic stand supports rotation from horizontal to vertical orientation. Sitting in front of it in my living room, I felt a little intimidated; I can only imagine what it must be like on a desk, which is where Samsung’s promotional materials would have you place it.
This was simply impossible for me – my desk sits in a room in the eaves of an old Edwardian house, for one thing and, for another, moving and assembling the Odyssey Ark is easily a three-person job. With an assistant, it took ten minutes to lug the Ark inch-by-inch up the single flight of stairs to my flat, and the effort of positioning it atop my kitchen counter to take photographs of it damn near killed me.
The trade-off for this Olympian workout? A 55in, 16:9 “Personal Gaming Theatre” that uses a Quantum mini-LED panel with 1,056 local dimming zones that should – in theory – deliver mind-blowing HDR performance. Running Samsung’s Tizen OS with the same UI found on the Samsung M8 Smart Monitor, the Odyssey Ark is also a smart TV that can access the web, stream films and TV via most major streaming services and games via Nvidia GeForce Now, Amazon Luna and Xbox Cloud Gaming.
The word “ultimate” is often overused in these sorts of scenarios but, if ever it warranted use, it would be to describe the Samsung Odyssey Ark. The thing is, I’m just not sure anyone in their right mind should buy it.
Samsung Odyssey Ark review: What do you get for the money?
The Samsung Odyssey Ark costs an extraordinary £2,599. That amount of money gets you a second-hand hatchback or, in the case of the Ark, a 55in VA panel with a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160, a refresh rate of 165Hz, a quoted response time of 1ms G2G and a 1000R curvature. This monitor doesn’t have an official VESA DisplayHDR certification – instead, it bears Samsung’s own QuantumHDR 2000 badge – but it does support HDR 10, HDR 10+ and Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG). It also supports AMD Freesync Premium Pro and VRR on PS5/Xbox Series X and will work with Nvidia G-Sync, albeit unofficially.
Unlike most displays, the Odyssey Ark only has a few ports built into its rear panel: a 3.5mm jack, a single USB-A port and a port for Samsung’s proprietary One Connect cable. This cable plugs into the supplied One Connect box, a hub hosting four HDMI 2.1, two USB 2.0, one USB-B 2.0, one Ethernet, one EX Link, one Optical and a power supply port.
Mounted on its heavy-duty stand, the Odyssey Ark can rise/sink 270mm, pivot 90 degrees left or right (into portrait orientation) and tilt backwards and forwards by ten degrees. Rotating the monitor automatically engages a mode Samsung is calling “Multi View”, which splits the enormous panel into up to four sections and allows you to display content from different sources in each one.
Essentially it’s a form of picture-by-picture, although with a whole tranche of configurations available it is, in theory, more flexible, allowing you to continue your game and access other content from up to three sources at the same time. Multi View can also be manually activated in landscape orientation and there are also modes that are designed to show content from your smartphone (either Samsung via the Smart View app or Apple, via AirPlay) as well as traditional landscape-type sources.
In the box, you’ll find a package with One Connect, HDMI and power cables, plus the One Connect box itself and the Ark Dial, Samsung’s oversized remote control. The Ark Dial can be used to adjust the size and configuration of the Multi View frames at any time.
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Samsung Odyssey Ark review: What does it do well?
The Odyssey Ark is undeniably huge but I was pleasantly surprised by how neat it is. Channelling the various inputs through the One Connect box leaves the rear of the monitor looking near-pristine, with a single cable running neatly along a groove and through the cable management hole in the stand. This means you can safely tuck the ugly cable nest below your desk.
It looks the part, too, as you’d hope for £2,600. The Ark definitely resembles a Samsung TV more than it does a Samsung monitor but that’s fine: it’s slim (relatively speaking), simple and clean. However, the matte black paint job, RGB lighting and trademark Samsung jet engine imitation on the rear remind you that this is a gaming monitor first and foremost.
I have one issue with the build, which I’ll come onto later but, largely, the Ark is as well-made and sturdy as you’d expect for the money. There’s certainly no flimsy, flexing plastic here. The all-metal stand feels strong enough to support the weight of a small car, let alone a 55in monitor. In spite of this, the panel itself glides smoothly on the height adjustment rails and is surprisingly easy to pivot into portrait mode.
It’s also surprisingly simple to assemble and I managed this bit on my own. The styrofoam packaging acts as a support while you attach the stand and tighten the six screws. You can then slowly lift the monitor into an upright position, resting it on its stand the whole way up. Provided you’re assembling the monitor on a big enough surface (the floor in my case), it’s relatively hassle-free, as the stand and styrofoam do most of the hard work for you.
Let’s move on to performance. The Odyssey Ark delivers in spades where it matters most: it has exceptional peak brightness, great contrast and impressive colour gamut coverage. Out of the box in Standard mode with HDR disabled, the Odyssey Ark produced 125.8% of sRGB (86.8% DCI-P3 and 89.2% Adobe RGB). That figure rises to 128.1% in the Ark’s Graphic mode but sinks to 96.8% (68.6% DCI-P3) in Movie mode.
I was unable to find a particularly colour-accurate preset, which may be because this monitor is built for HDR, but an average Delta E of 3.31 when measured against sRGB in Standard mode certainly isn’t disastrous. It simply indicates that colours err on the side of vibrancy.
In any event, the backlight is the star of the show here. I measured a peak luminance of 707cd/m² on a 10% white window in SDR; in HDR with local dimming at max, that figure jumped to 1,384cd/m². Black points sat at 2.33cd/m² in SDR and 0.04cd/m² in HDR with local dimming at max. That means you’re looking at a contrast ratio of 34,588:1 with HDR and local dimming engaged, which is a sensational figure beaten only by the infinite contrast of OLED.
To my mind, there’s simply no point switching out of HDR mode. The Ark clearly isn’t built for anything else and that’s absolutely fine; HDR-ready games, films and TV look devastatingly good on this thing. I’ve taken to using Control and Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands on PS5 to test HDR subjectively and I was very pleased with the pitch black shadows and glistening colours the Odyssey Ark was able to produce.
The Odyssey Ark definitely suits some genres more than others, though. For example, the first-person POV of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands felt wasted on this screen, as you’d have to sit quite far away to avoid having to swivel your neck constantly to watch for enemies. Much better to immerse yourself in the stunning vistas of The Witcher 3’s Continent or the cockpit of a supercar in your driving sim of choice.
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Samsung Odyssey Ark review: What could be better?
You’d think it would be hard to pick holes in a monitor this expensive but that’s not the case. I have plenty of gripes. The Ark’s VA panel, while curved, still suffers from most of the issues that plague VA panels – that is, bad viewing angles and a noticeable amount of ghosting. The aggressive 1000R curvature mitigates the former well enough when you’re sitting directly in front of it but move around even a little bit and you’ll notice the drop off in visual clarity. Ghosting, meanwhile, can thankfully be offset by the monitor’s overdrive settings – of which there are three – although not entirely.
It also bothers me that this monitor returned a less-than-stellar brightness uniformity report, with particular variation along the bottom edge and in the top-left corner. This will vary from unit to unit but I shouldn’t have to worry about something so trivial if I’m spending £2,600.
Again, I cannot stress enough how heavy this monitor is. The stand alone weighs 20kg, which when attached to the panel brings the total weight to 41.5kg – for comparison, the 55in Samsung QN90B 4K TV weighs 21.9kg. How on earth anyone is supposed to get this thing onto a desk without the help of a couple of people is beyond me – particularly given you need to construct the monitor while it’s still in its styrofoam packaging. I’d recommend paying the extra £20 for professional installation if you don’t have a partner or friend to help.
And while build quality is largely very good, I had consistent issues with the pivot mechanism. The monitor needs to be lifted to its furthest point before you can spin it around into portrait orientation. In practice, however, I occasionally found that the mechanism caught, preventing movement even after I had lifted the panel up all the way.
I’m not overly fond of the Ark Dial, either. It’s a comically large remote control, and it isn’t particularly intuitive. It’s hard to work out which buttons do what in tandem with Samsung’s complicated Tizen user interface and, ultimately, the Ark Dial ended up back in the box. Fortunately, Samsung does supply a traditional remote, which I got on with much better.
Of course, the Ark Dial is a small, unimportant gimmick. What’s more damning is that two of this monitor’s primary attractions – that is, the portrait orientation and associated Multi View mode – don’t work quite the way you’d like them to. You can’t currently use more than one HDMI port simultaneously, and streaming from a PC or laptop to the Ark is about as pleasant as it was when I tested it on the Samsung M8 (in short, it’s horrible). None of the streaming services (film/TV or gaming) are compatible with Multi View, either, which means the other slots in the Multi View frames are left to be occupied by the worst Tizen has to offer – the likes of Samsung TV Plus or The Weather Channel.
In addition, portrait mode reduces video quality to a 1080p max per item, leaving content looking noticeably less sharp than it should. It also limits the refresh rate to 120Hz from 165Hz and switches off adaptive sync, while adjusting the video settings so all content looks roughly similar.
In brief, I’m afraid it’s almost impossible to have a PS5 game running alongside a YouTube video/Twitch stream and a Discord chat – and while that might sound like overkill, it’s something that a traditional multi-monitor setup is able to handle effortlessly, and for far, far less cash.
My final point inevitably concerns the price tag. Spending this much ought to bag you the absolute best display tech around, and while the mini-LED backlight certainly works wonders, I can’t help but feel that an OLED would outclass this one in just about every respect bar outright brightness.
Samsung Odyssey Ark review: Should you buy it?
As astonishing as this monitor is to behold, then, I’m finding it hard to work out why I would recommend it over a nice 4K OLED TV, or a dual-monitor setup for PC gamers. The former affords you perfect contrast and unrivalled responsiveness, without costing the earth; the latter delivers straightforward multitasking and retina-friendly working… without costing the earth.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a remarkable monitor. If you want a statement piece to make your friends go wide-eyed with awe, the Odyssey Ark is perfect. I just don’t see how a sane person would ever want one.