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Samsung NU8000 (UE49NU8000) review: Sometimes, bigger is better

Sasha Muller Vincent Teoh
30 Apr 2019
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
1,199
inc VAT

Class-leading input lag and superb image processing, but the 49in model's 60Hz panel lags behind the 120Hz panel on larger sets

Pros 
Excellent video processing
Accurate colours after calibration
Lowest input lag to date
Cons 
Motion performance hampered by 60Hz panel
Sub-par HDR presentation
Limited viewing angles
No UK catch-up TV apps
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While the upper echelons of Samsung’s TV ranges keenly demonstrate the very latest in quantum dot technology (also known as QLED), the NU8000 proves that Samsung hasn’t abandoned the more affordable LED LCD end of the market. Granted, the NU8000 might eschew the QLED tech from its pricier cousins, but it still packs in most of the features anyone could want – and for a more reasonable price, too.

Samsung UE49NU8000: What you need to know

The Samsung NU8000 is a 4K TV with edge-lit LED backlighting, and HDR support for the HDR10, HDR10+, and HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) broadcast HDR standards. 

One important thing to note: only the 55-inch and larger models use a 120Hz panel, whereas the 49-inch model is saddled with a 60Hz panel. If you simply have to have an NU8000, or have found one at a great price, then make sure you go for one of the bigger models unless you want to put up with the motion issues of the smaller set (read on and we'll explain in greater detail). 

Samsung UE49NU8000: Price and competition

The Samsung NU8000 family is available in 49-inch, 55-inch, 65-inch and 75-inch screen sizes, and here we're reviewing the smallest 49-inch version (model number UE49NU8000) which retails for £1199 in the UK.

At this price, it's got some serious competition. With Sony's superb XF9005 family starting at £1,399 for the 49-inch model (read our full review here), and packing in full-array local dimming (FALD) backlight technology to boot, the Samsung NU8000 really has its work cut out.

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Samsung UE49NU8000 review: Features and design 

If you’re hankering for an eye-catching new physique for Samsung’s latest mid-range set, then prepare to be a little bit 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’d 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.

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 HDMI 2.0b ports which are HDCP 2.2 compliant.

The 49NU8000 ships with two remote controls: a ‘smart’ voice control wand and a traditional clicker. Whichever you reach for first, the Tizen-based Smart TV system remains easy to navigate, even if it isn’t as slick and straightforward as LG's WebOS platform.
At the time of writing (April 2018), 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 actually quite passable. Dialogue is reproduced with enough clarity that you don’t need to crank the volume, but should you feel the need to there’s enough oomph to the built-in amplifier to reach reasonably satisfying levels.

Samsung UE49NU8000 review: Picture quality & input lag

As the Samsung UE49NU8000 uses a VA-type LCD panel, it suffers from the usual drawbacks – namely, narrower viewing angles which mean you’ll need to sit square in front of the TV for the best image. The key benefit of VA technology is the excellent black level, however, which 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 a couple of downsides to this type of LED configuration, as it tends to leave the letterbox bars on movies looking dark grey rather than black, and causes visible blooming around bright objects when they’re positioned against a dark background.

Put those limitations to one side, though, and there are several points in the NU8000’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%, which is another solid result.

Video processing is excellent, too, offering very good upscaling with crisp detail and minimal side effects such as ringing. It does a great job of suppressing the ‘jaggies’ – that tell-tale stairstep effect which can be intrusive on lower resolution video sources.

Peak brightness for HDR content is where things begin to unravel. The Samsung reaches a maximum of 800cd/m2 on a 10% window, and this can only be sustained for 35 seconds before dropping to 535cd/m2. There are other issues, too. As the NU8000’s backlight has to 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 are 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, well, dark. This is especially noticeable when watching Blu-ray films which have been mastered to a maximum brightness of 4000 nits.

Unfortunately, the Samsung UE49NU8000 is crippled with one fatal flaw: unlike its larger family members, which use 120Hz panels, it has to make do with a 60Hz LCD panel. This prevents it from serving up smooth native 24p playback, and unlike TVs with higher refresh rates it can’t resort to frame interpolation to improve the clarity and outright smoothness of moving images.

Also, like previous Samsungs, the UE49NU8000 tends to exhibit more posterisation in tonally uniform background, for example the skies in the 4K Blu-ray of The Martian or The Revenant.

Input lag offers some respite. With ultra-low measurements of 14ms in both 1080p SDR and 4K HDR modes, the Samsung NU8000 is the most responsive television we've tested to date. And it also has one final ace up its sleeve: unlike self-emissive displays like plasmas and OLEDs, there's no risk of image retention and permanent screenburn from static logos and HUDs on screen.

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Samsung UE49NU8000: Verdict

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 XF90 (we reviewed the 55in KD-55XF9005 here) offering full-array local dimming technology for not much more money, the 49-inch NU8000 hits well wide of the mark.

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