Samsung UE55KS8000 review

Flat, 4K, surprisingly affordable, and really rather good

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Our Verdict

The UE55KS8000 continues Samsung’s dedicated pursuit of the ultimate HDR experience with its high brightness and powerful colour technologies. There are one or two stumbles along the way, but overall no other TV range around today offers the same level of HDR excitement for so little cash.

For

  • Strong design
  • Genuine HDR experience
  • Good value
  • Outstanding SDR performance

Against

  • HDR backlight issues
  • Colour striping with HDR
  • No 3D support
  • Some missing apps

The UE55KS8000’s headline attraction is that it has all the specifications necessary to deliver - on paper, anyway - a genuinely premium high dynamic range experience for a mid-range price.

These specifications include a high brightness output of beyond 1000 nits and a huge colour range delivered by Quantum Dot technology that covers more than 90% of digital cinema’s DCI-P3 standard. Samsung is the only brand currently able to deliver such HDR-friendly numbers on a sub-£1600 55-inch TV.

The UE55KS8000 differs from the KS7500 and KS7000 models that sit below it by supporting more localised controls of its edge LED lighting system and slightly more powerful motion processing. It differs from the KS7500 series, too, by being flat rather than curved.

Design

Samsung has sensibly stepped away with the UE55KS8000 from the chunky design of many of its 2015 TVs in favour of a slimmer, more minimalist look.

The narrowness of the screen frame is echoed by a slender rear that stands in stark and, for us, welcome contrast to the extended depth created by Samsung’s curved TVs. The addition of a gleaming metallic trim and centrally mounted polished aluminium desktop stand creates a really premium feel, too.

The UE55KS8000’s connectivity is mostly strong, with highlights of four HDMIs, three USBs, and Wi-Fi network connectivity. The only disappointment is that the only headphone connection option is Bluetooth. 

Screen sizes available: 49-inch, 55-inch, 65-inch, 75-inch | Tuner: Freeview HD | 4K: Yes | HDR: Yes (HDR10) | Panel technology: LCD with edge LED lighting | Smart TV: Yes, Tizen | Curved: No | Dimensions: 1094 x 636 x 43mm (W x H x D) | 3D: No | Inputs: Four HDMIs, three USBs, optical digital audio output, Wi-Fi, Ethernet port, Tuner input

Smart TV (Tizen)

Samsung’s latest Tizen-based Smart TVs make it much easier than their predecessors did to get quickly to interesting or favourite content. This is because it introduces a new second deck of contextual content link icons above the original deck introduced in 2015.

Available apps are headlined by 4K and HDR versions of Amazon and Netflix; YouTube; Playstation Now; the BBC iPlayer; and the ITV Hub. At the time of writing neither the All4 or My5 catch up services were available, though.

HD/SDR Performance

At the heart of the UE55KS8000’s considerable SDR thrills is a superb black level response. Dark scenes benefit from black colours that actually look black - especially if you use the local dimming system that lets different segments of the TV’s edge-mounted LEDs deliver different amounts of light.

What’s more, in SDR mode this localised LED control causes hardly any unwanted light pollution around bright objects, even when those bright objects appear against near-black backdrops. This is a rare accomplishment in the edge-lit LED world.

The excellent black levels aren’t achieved at the expense of shadow detailing, and contribute to a terrifically rich colour performance. This richness is joined by gorgeously subtle colour toning, which helps to emphasise the clarity of one of the sharpest, most detailed UHD images I’ve seen.

While the UE55KS8000 is at its best with native UHD sources, it’s no slouch at upscaling HD. Blu-rays and HD broadcasts enjoy a clear sharpness boost while simultaneously having inherent noise magically removed.

All that said, just avoid setting the TV’s sharpness higher than around 25 with upscaled HD if you don’t want areas of fine detail starting to ‘glow’.

4K/HDR Performance

Every other aspect is noteworthy, but it’s with HDR that the UE55KS8000 most makes its mark. Particularly effective is its ability to hit brightness peaks above the 1000 nit level used when mastering most current HDR sources. This instantly ‘sells’ the impact of HDR versus SDR, and helps Samsung’s TV resolve subtle tonal detailing in the brightest areas that ‘flares out’ on less bright TVs.

The UE55KS8000 also does a stellar job of delivering the wide colour ranges that are part of the Ultra HD Blu-ray HDR experience, with this richness holding up during dark scenes better than usual with LCD TVs, too.

The UE55KS8000 isn’t only good, though, at showing off the most dynamic aspects of HDR and wide colour gamut sources. It’s also got enough finesse in its HDR toning to handle less explosive image areas like skin and cloudy skies with real sensitivity and naturalism. The huge range of colour tones available to the UE55KS8000 in HDR mode joins forces with the native UHD resolution to deliver superbly detailed images.

The only thing that reduces the clarity is some fairly pronounced motion judder when showing 4K content, and some colour banding in HDR skies.

One other issue is that you can sometimes see vertical bands of light running down the image around bright HDR objects that appear against dark backgrounds. This problem disappears if you turn off local dimming, but doing this reduces the excellent black level performance and the intensity of HDR’s brightness peaks

Sound

Despite its enviably trim bodywork, the UE55KS8000 produces a pretty potent, expansive audio performance. In a perfect world there’d be more bass to flesh out explosions, gun fire and the like. But perfect sound and very thin TVs seldom go together, and by the standards of thin TVs generally the UE55KS8000’s audio is well above average.

Other panels to ponder

The Panasonic TX-58DX802 gives you a more subdued but impeccably nuanced 4K HDR picture in a a slightly bigger 58-inch screen for £1,290. This set also boasts a distinctive ‘easel-style’ design, and ships with an external soundbar.

If you want to stick with Samsung and don't mind opting for a curved TV then you’re essentially looking at the 55-inch version of the KS7500 series.

Verdict

The UE55KS8000 sets the right tone immediately with its trim, glamorous design, and builds on that with a killer combination of a Tizen-driven smart TV system, a native UHD resolution and high dynamic range playback.

Its pictures deliver on this HDR potential with levels of brightness and colour you just don’t get anywhere else for the same money - though it’s a star with standard dynamic range, too.There is a price to pay for such dynamic pictures in the appearance of some backlight clouding flaws during dark HDR scenes, but in the end the pros far outweigh the cons.

This article is based on the Samsung UE49KS8000 review that TechRadar published in September 2016