Samsung MU8000 LED LCD TV
By Chris Heinonen on
The Samsung MU8000 sits right at the sweet spot for most people, with a 55” coming in at just over $1,000 as we write this review. For that price you get 4K resolution, HDR with wide color gamut support, integrated apps with voice search, a very nice design, and it even integrates with CalMAN to do auto-calibration. For all the nice things that the MU8000 offers, it’s let down a bit by the backlight design that keeps it from having the same image quality as full array models in the same price range.
A Clean Design
The first thing that stands out when you take the MU8000 from the box is how clean the design is. The HDMI, USB, Antenna and Optical connections are all on the OneConnect box that uses a single cable to connect to the TV. Unlike the Q-Series models this year you don’t get the ultra-thin optical cable, but I still like having the inputs so much easier to reach. The back panel lets you easily route the power cable and the OneConnect cords down the back, through the legs, and then cover the back panel up to make it look seamless. The finished MU8000 can stand out in your living room from all angles, as the back is as clean as the front.
The one flaw in this design is that the cables Samsung includes are far too short. The power cable, once routed down the back and through the legs, only has another 24” of cord while the OneConnect box has a full 6’ to spare. It seems that Samsung could easily include an extra-long power cable on the box for those of us that don’t have an outlet so close. As long as you have a solution for the cable length issue, the MU8000 is a great looking TV from the outside.
The MU8000 uses the 3rd generation of Samsung’s Tizen OS. A row at the bottom of the screen gives you quick access to your favorite apps, and it keeps them running in the background. This is especially nice since it means when you hover over Netflix or Amazon you see your watchlist and recent shows. Starting your shows without having to navigate through 2-3 more layers of menus makes it easy to use the MU8000 and watch your favorite content. You can customize the order of apps on the main screen, and add or remove them as you would like.
Included with the MU8000 is a remote with voice search built-in. My basic searches for a few recent shows, like The Handmaid’s Tale, worked well enough and it brought up a list of where to watch them. Selecting Hulu from the menu would launch the correct app, but wouldn’t bring up the show and I’d have to search for it again inside of the app. The voice search was useful, but not as full-featured as it could be.
Tizen also maintains the major flaw, at least to me, of having ads on-screen that you can’t defeat. The pictures below show a pair of ads and how they show up on the menu bar randomly. A check of the settings indicates that I do have ads disabled, but this ad is one that you can’t turn off. In a $30 media streamer I might be OK with an ad I can’t get rid of, but in a $1,000+ TV I think you should be able to go without them.
Design and software aside, TVs really break down to the image quality. Watching Alabama manhandle Florida State to open the college football season, the MU8000 handles the game just fine. The image is bright and clear with motion that’s fine for an LCD. Viewing angles were pretty good, and for watching sports the Samsung does a great job. The one caveat is that the 49” size is only 60Hz while the larger models are 120Hz, so you’re best to get a bigger one if you want the best motion with sports.
Samsung also went away from using rear array or side lighting for their TVs to get brighter HDR highlights. Because of this, the lights are located on the bottom of the MU8000. Watching the opening credits of Blade Runner on 4K Blu-ray, it’s apparent that this doesn’t work as well as the alternatives. The background will be completely dark during a full black scene, the TV is turning off the lights, but as soon as white text appears in the center of the screen the black level rises. In a room with lighting, I don’t notice this, the lights are already washing out the black levels a bit, but I can in a pitch black room.
Despite the issue with black levels, watching Blade Runner in HDR on the Samsung MU8000 is still a treat. Colors are rich and accurate, and HDR highlights are bright against the backgrounds. The image on Blade Runner is stunning and watching scenes from it on the Samsung was enjoyable. It is a very dark film, so it should be one of the more challenging titles to watch on the Samsung, but it handles it well.
I imagine much of the content that people will watch on the Samsung MU8000 is going to be through the integrated streaming apps. With Netflix and Amazon, you get the full HDR experience, and Amazon is supporting the HDR10+ standard that Samsung is keen on. Of course, Samsung doesn’t support Dolby Vision, but the DV content is available in HDR10+ and they should look very similar. Watching movies on here they buffered fast and looked good. One issue is that when running on WiFi, the Samsung would keep the apps open in the background when you turned the TV off. You could power the TV back on, launch the apps, but since you were not connected to WiFi yet they wouldn’t work correctly. Using Ethernet I didn’t have this issue. You can fix this by waiting to launch the apps for a bit, or disabling the ability of the apps to run in the background, but then you’re missing out on the benefits that Tizen can offer.
I highly enjoyed watching the Samsung MU8000 while it was in my home theater room. The picture quality was always good, and for watching with the lights on or during the daytime the brightness made it easy to overpower any ambient lighting.
Earlier this year CalMAN added the ability to calibrate the Q-series displays from Samsung automatically. Though they didn’t have a MU-series display to test it on, it does work with them. You will need the necessary adapters to connect to the TV (I used a USB to RS232 adapter, then a Null Modem cable, and finally an RS232 to 3.5mm adapter, which I had laying around but most people don’t) but then it’s really easy. Setup the brightness and contrast first, get the sharpness right, and then let CalMAN do the job for you.
Doing this automatically offers some benefits. There are no on-screen menus to affect the readings, so the results can be more accurate. It also can do them much faster than you can by hand, so doing a 20-point grayscale takes 5 minutes instead of 30. You can also choose what error level you want to achieve, and which calibrations you want to do. If you don’t want to adjust the CMS but do want to fix the grayscale that is easy. This works for both SDR and HDR, and those have individual memories on the Samsung MU8000, so everything you watch can be accurate.
For calibrations here we use CalMAN along with a Murideo Six-G pattern generator, an i1Pro2, and a C6 HDR meter. We target the Rec.709 color points with a gamma of BT.1886 for SDR and use 1000 nits (not relative) for a target with HDR. If we test a TV that can do more than 1000 nits for HDR we will test with a 4000 nits target as well.
Using the Movie preset, the Samsung MU8000 is reasonably accurate for SDR. The grayscale dE2000 average is 3.3 with a blue shift at the top of the measurements, as the color temp moves towards 7200K from the 6503K target. Colors have a shift towards blue as well, as the saturation for Magenta shows you that it is moving that way. The gamma is almost spot on, so with a 2 point white balance correction most of this can probably be fixed. Since CalMAN lets us calibrate 20 points in just a couple of minutes, we chose to do that instead.
Post-calibration with CalMAN, the largest grayscale error is 2.1 for 100% white and the average is down to 0.68. The graph is almost ruler flat with only two errors above 1.0 and those are still 2.1 or lower. Saturations are almost perfect with red rising up a bit, but mostly staying around 1.0 to 2.0 dE2000. The color checker still shows issues, with an average of 2.46. Most of these look to be from some under-saturation in colors for SDR, but skin tones are particularly affected. While the CalMAN auto-calibration works great, there are still some issues in the MU8000 that can be improved but not made perfect.
For HDR, I use a target of 1000 nits for the metadata. While half the UltraHD discs out there seem to use 4000 nits, streaming content is currently 1000 and so I use that for my target. Also, lots of TVs (though not this MU8000) dynamically read the content instead of reading the metadata, so no matter what you enter it might perform differently. Such is the state of HDR calibration now. In most cases with HDR, I recommend just correcting the grayscale and leaving most other settings alone so you don’t incorrectly affect the tone mapping.
Pre-calibration we see that the grayscale again has a blue tint, that just seems to be the state of things for our sample. The EOTF tracking is slightly off, with the image tracking a bit brighter than is ideal, and color points show some under-saturation at 50% (100 nits) as well.
Post-calibration, the grayscale falls into line, but the peak HDR brightness in our test comes out to 610 nits. This is OK for an LCD, but not exceptional. The tone mapping is still a bit bright but better than before calibration. Color points line up better, and we see 90% of the DCI/P3 uv gamut is covered along with 85% of the xy gamut. This also falls short of some other displays recently tested here. The color checker shows good results, with almost all the errors below 3.0 which makes them invisible in daily use. Saturation sweeps are also good, with errors coming in very low for DCI/P3 content (which is all current HDR content).
Looking at the final charts we see that the grayscale errors below 700 nits are very good, which the errors above that are due to a lack of luminance with a 1000 nits target. If I remove luminance from the chart, you now have an average grayscale error below 3.0 across almost the whole range with one data point at 3.2. Measuring color volume for 1000 nits, we see 320 MDC, which is one of our better LCD scores this year, but just under 47% coverage of the DCI/P3 1000 nits container. HDR performance seems to be on par with a couple of the other displays tested here this year.
|Display||MDC 1000 nits||DCI 1000 Nits||Rec.2020 1000 nits|
|Sony A1E OLED||346.40||—||—|
|LG C8 OLED||358.114||76.95%||51.59%|
The Samsung MU8000 is good out of the box, but with CalMAN’s auto calibration it can be brought much closer in line to the targets. If you have access to CalMAN than you should certainly do this because it is so easy. If you don’t then movie mode will work fine, and if you are a hobbyist you can try to fix the grayscale and get most of the way there.
Strangely during commercials, the TV shows lots of issues with how to deinterlace the content and shows aliasing artifacts. I used an antenna to watch, so it wasn’t due to a cable box doing something wrong, but in the scaling from 1080i or 720p to 4K the Samsung can’t quite get it perfect.I never saw it during TV, even with graphics and a scrolling ticker, but only during commercials, so maybe the TV networks handle that content differently.
As mentioned earlier, I do with a included power cord was longer. Only having 2’ of slack when using the cord routing is just not enough on this TV, since most people have outlets that are further away than that in my experience. For wall mounting it would be fine, but wall mounting you don’t need the fancy cable routing because it will be hidden anyway.
Comparisons and Conclusions
We’ve also tested most of the competitors to the MU8000 this year so it’s easy to see where it slides in compared to them. The TCL P607 still offers the best bang for the buck available, but it only comes in a 55” size as the other models were canceled. While the build quality isn’t close to the same level as the Samsung MU8000 and the design lags behind, it is just a supreme value.
The Vizio M-Series also competes here, but has a worse streaming interface and lacks an integrated TV tuner. If you get your TV from cable, satellite, or streaming and not from OTA, this might not matter to you. The Samsung has a much better interface for OTA TV and cable TV, letting you see what is on right now and selecting it to watch. The local dimming on the Vizio is slightly better, but it isn’t as good as last year. The Vizio also doesn’t get as bright as the Samsung with HDR, and is much less bright with SDR, so the Samsung will do a better job in a brighter living room for most people.
The step-up for most situations is the Sony X900E. It offers a superior image with full array local dimming, wider color gamut coverage, and a brighter SDR and HDR image. It has great build quality along with similar cable routing and design (though no separate input hub). The Sony X900E will look better in a dark home theater room, with better blacks and brighter HDR highlights, though the advantages will be mitigated in a brighter living room. The Sony falls well short in the user interface as Android TV on it is painfully slow and annoying to use, while Tizen is faster, easier, and more responsive despite the presence of an ad on the main screen sometimes.
If I was after a TV for my living room and wanted larger than a 55” I’d be looking at the MU8000 for the value it represents. For 55” or smaller I’d look at the TCL P607, but the MU8000 currently has a good price advantage over the Sony X900E at 65” and larger. You can even get it in an 82” size if you’re looking for a really large screen. For a dedicated home theater I might step up to the Sony X900E, but in a living room, I think the MU8000 is probably a better option for most people where the improved design and usability win out over slightly improved contrast ratios.
I do hope that next year Samsung makes a full array local dimming set since that might take the overall performance crown from the Sony while pairing it with a better user interface, but for 2017 you have the choice between improved daily use and improved image quality and can make that choice for yourself.
Good overall image quality, OneConnect box useful for keeping a clean look, Tizen OS continues to improve and offer a nice streaming experience, auto-cal with CalMAN works great.
Local dimming not nearly as effective as full array models for the same price, ads you cannot disable.
Samsung gets most things right with the MU8000 TV, and in a room with any lights on, the picture quality is very good. Some other models offer better local dimming and will look better in a dark room, but the better design and interface of the MU8000 helps make it a good choice for a living room.