Samsung NU8000 LED LCD TV Review
By Chris Heinonen on
The Samsung NU8000 is their best midrange TV set for 2018. After what I consider a down year in 2017, the first one in a long time for Samsung, they’ve made a number of changes to their displays for 2018 to address those issues. The NU8000 is still an edge-lit model but features an improved Tizen OS and some of the best features and performance for gaming available today. This combination of features and performance makes it a good choice for those looking for a living room TV.
Samsung NU8000 Design
The Samsung NU8000 is an edge-lit TV and a nice, thin appearance. With a center mount stand, cables can be routed down the rear for a clean look. Unlike the higher-end QLED displays there isn’t the external box for inputs, but channels along the rear of the display make it easy to keep the cables clean and out of the way. While made out of plastic, the build quality and feel of the NU8000 is very nice and felt solid as I moved it around while testing. My main complaint is that the center-mount stand is very large, and so pushed my Sonos Playbar forward of where I’d like it. I still prefer a center-mount to the feet at the edges, but a TV like the Sony X900E last year manages this with a much smaller footprint.
The included remote is the small one that Samsung has been using for a few years now. It feels good in the hand and makes the basic controls easy to do. I wish they included a full remote with numbers and more controls as well, as that makes it easier for setting up and calibrating the TV, but for most things, the small remote does the job well.
NU8000 Smart Features and Interface
Samsung has continued to make improvements in their Tizen interface for TVs. The NU8000 has their most recent version, which places the streaming services you use at the bottom of the screen for quick access. On many services, including Netflix, the apps are loaded in the background so you can quickly go back to content you were recently watching without having to launch it first. You can rearrange the order of the streaming services on the bar easily and remove those that you don’t use.
For the most part, the NU8000 does very well with streaming. The services load quickly and feature the most recent interfaces. The integrated search does a decent job of finding the content you want but doesn’t always launch the app correctly to go to it. While watching The Looming Tower on Hulu, I did notice some instances of stuttering but they were small and infrequent. Watching the show on other streaming devices did not show the stuttering, so it seems to be restricted to the Samsung NU8000. The Tizen interface also looks to use the full native gamut of the panel and so colors are bold but over-saturated compared to other streaming interfaces.
The NU8000 does a wonderful job working with external devices. When I connected a Roku Ultra to the Samsung, it detected it correctly over HDMI, added a Roku icon to the interface bar, and set up the remote to control it when the input was selected. Hooking up an Oppo BDP-103D also gave me a Blu-ray player icon and an Xbox One X even got its own gaming icon. No other TV that I’ve used has made identifying and connecting other devices nearly as easy as the Samsung has.
As good as the Samsung Tizen interface is, there are some more changes to improve it. The interface is very bright white, and watching content at night leads to it filling the room with light and blinding you. Offering a dark mode option would make it better. There is also a single ad in the lower left that sometimes appears and you can’t remove. More and more companies are putting ads on their equipment, but I still don’t like it.
Samsung NU8000 Gaming Performance
We used the Samsung NU8000 in our recent Xbox One X Auto Low Latency Mode video as it was one of the first TVs to support this new feature. While still using an HDMI 2.0 chipset, Samsung has added some HDMI 2.1 features to it with firmware updates. Auto Low Latency Mode allows the NU8000 to switch into game mode from another picture more, like the more accurate movie mode, when a supported game console launches a game. If you launch a streaming app like Netflix or exit a game, you remain in your default picture mode for the best input quality.
After I returned the NU8000 they added support for adaptive frame rate control. Since even new consoles like the Xbox One X struggle to get 60fps at 4K resolutions, this lets the panel match the refresh rate of the console which results in a smoother image with less stuttering. The NU8000 even has frame interpolation in game mode while only adding a few ms of input lag to do so. On most TVs, using frame interpolation pushes the input lag over 100ms so this is a big improvement. While you can’t make many adjustments in game mode, the fast response and automatic mode switching make the NU8000 one of the best TVs for gaming out there today.
Video Quality and Calibration
The Samsung NU8000 has a good UI, great support for external devices, and some of the best video game performance today. The one thing holding it back when it comes to performance is their use of edge-lighting instead of full array local dimming. While this wasn’t as big a deal in prior years, this year every other major TV vendor (Sony, TCL, LG, and Vizio) offer TVs at this price range with full array local dimming. For many years companies seemed to go with edge-lighting to offer the slimmest TV possible, but now with HDR and improvements in design, everyone else is going back to full array local dimming for their higher-end displays.
This doesn’t mean that the NU8000 offers a bad image. It offers an image that looks quite good, with native contrast ratios that are around 5,000:1. There is local dimming and you cannot defeat it all the way, but it only proves to be slightly effective. When objects move near the letterbox bars in a movie it is easy to see the rise in light levels that happens, putting the NU8000 behind its full array competition.
Watching sports on the NU8000 is a joy as the bright image combined with a 120Hz refresh rate panel makes motion look quite good. Basketball, soccer, football, and track all look good, with motion blur kept relatively low for an LCD. You can engage a black frame insertion mode but it both reduces the light output and introduces a flicker that I was unable to deal with. Bright content like animation also looks wonderful on the NU8000 with the image packing lots of pop and colors being bold and rich.
With darker content, the NU8000 still looks great. Chapter 12 on the Blu-ray of the final Harry Potter film looks good, with clear definition of the darker shades of the robes on Voldemort’s forces on the hill. When they attack Hogwarts, the explosions are bright but causes that raising of black levels in the letterbox bars I mentioned earlier.
HDR content on the NU8000 looks good, with good peak brightness. Planet Earth 2, in particular, looks good during the daytime scenes, with good coverage of the DCI/P3 gamut. Compared to the previous model, the MU8000, it measures in at 330 MDC compared to 320 MDC, a modest increase, placing it just slightly behind the TCL R617. After I returned the TV sample, Samsung improved the local dimming algorithm to have even brighter highlights, so there is a good chance these numbers increased.
Looking at calibration data for the Samsung, the pre-calibration RGB balance is skewed red, though the gamma tracks almost perfectly. Colors are accurate overall in the movie mode, and overall performance is good. CalMAN is adding support for calibrating more saturation points on the Samsung models this year, but that wasn’t available to test yet, so I just calibrated it by hand.
After calibration with the two-point white balance, the overall grayscale dE2000 average was exactly 1.0, with the highest value being 2.4 at 75%. The grayscale still tracks slightly red but is so much better that it’s not an issue in real life. Gamma tracks almost perfectly to the BT.1886 standard, which makes sense as Samsung has now made the gamma control indicate that it uses BT.1886. Gamut coverage is 99% of the Rec.709 gamut, and looking at color saturation there is only a single point, 20% yellow, that rises above the visible error level of 3.0. The color checker shows an average dE2000 error level of 2.0 with a max of 3.2 and in the end, the NU8000 calibrates quite well. It’s not quite reference level, but it is very solid with very little work.
Calibrating for HDR10, the NU8000 rolls off the EOTF early, leading to slightly darker HDR than you should have. The grayscale is accurate, but the overall error level is higher due to this EOTF tracking. Colors also come in as being under-saturated by default. Post-calibration the EOTF tracks almost perfectly, as adjusting the gamma makes it far more accurate. Even with luminance error included and targeting 1000 nits, a level the NU8000 cannot hit, the dEICtCp error level is good and only starts to become visible when the NU8000 can’t hit the light level targets. The color checker performance is even better, with error levels at 2.0 or below across the spectrum. After setting the gamma correctly and adjusting the white balance, the NU8000 measures quite well for HDR10 though the peak light output on my sample, before they improved it, falls behind some of the competition. The NU8000 supports HDR10+ but there are no calibration patterns available for that yet and, of course, there is no support for Dolby Vision.
Samsung NU8000 Conclusions
The Samsung NU8000 is a well-designed TV that looks good while watching and measures well on the test bench. Where it excels is in bright rooms and for playing video games, where it might be the best TV on the market in this price range. Using the NU8000 in my living room for a few weeks the NU8000 looked great and was bright enough to overcome a large amount of light in the room during the day. The more I used the Tizen interface the more I came to like it, with quick access to my favorite apps and perfect integration of the HDMI devices I connected.
The main downside to the NU8000 is that it doesn’t offer a full array backlight. For those people watching in a dark room, the lack of this will be a downside as you won’t get the same performance at nighttime. For those watching in a room during the day or that isn’t as dark, the difference will be less as the high native contrast ratio of the NU8000 is quite good. Where full array helps most is with the darkest shadow details, and those are what ambient light will wash away.
If you are looking for a TV for a brighter room, want a well-integrated app platform with great support for external devices, and is excellent at playing video games, then you should look at the Samsung NU8000. It’s a very good TV and comes in sizes from 49” to 82” in size so it can work in any space.
Great image for bright rooms and sports, automatic game mode with modern consoles and very low input lag, good smart TV interface.
The competition has full array local dimming at this price for better dark-room performance, ads in the smart TV interface you can't defeat.
For a living room or family room that has ambient light, or serious gamers, the Samsung NU8000 is a very good TV. The SmartTV interface is easy to use, and for video gamers the combination of low input lag with automatic low latency mode and a fast frame interpolation feature for games put it ahead of the competition. The main drawback is in dark theater rooms the lack of full array local dimming holds it back.