Samsung UE55RU8000 Review
As with most TVs in its class the 55RU8000 isn't bright enough to do full justice to HDR, and struggles to maintain good black levels with HDR shots that contain a mix of bright and dark content. In other ways, though, its pictures and smart features set it apart from the competition.
- Good all-round picture quality for the money
- Aggressively priced
- Good smart system
- Some loss of shadow detail in dark scenes
- Black levels can look a bit grey with complex HDR images
- Limited brightness
- Review Price: £570
- 55-inch LCD TV
- Native 4K resolution
- HDR10, HDR10+ and HLG HDR support
- Eden 2.0 smart system with Bixby voice assistant
- Edge lighting with full-frame dimming
What is the Samsung UE55RU8000?
The Samsung UE55RU8000 is a lower mid-range 4K and HDR LCD TV with a comprehensive smart TV system. It’s the most premium 55in model in Samsung’s “standard” – rather than QLED – LCD range. So the big question is, how much does going without QLED really matter?
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Samsung UE55RU8000 design and build – A drab-looking TV, but it gets the job done
Judging by the Samsung UE55RU8000’s rather lacklustre design, the Korean brand is keen to tempt you to step up to its entry level Q60 QLED range. Really, all the UE55RU8000 gives you is a plasticky grey rectangle sat on a pair of function-over-form desktop feet.
The feet are set quite wide, too, requiring the TV to be place on a fairly substantial piece of furniture. The unit also felt fairly flimsy and lightweight during setup.
None of which is especially surprising for a 55in TV that can currently be bought for just £570. The frame around the screen is on-trend slim, however, and while the feet aren’t especially pretty, they do at least present a very narrow profile when viewing the TV head on.
Note that the UE55RU8000 doesn’t ship with an external connections box as do Samsung’s high-end TVs. Its connections are built into the TV’s rear.
It does ship with two remotes, however: one “standard”, button-filled model, and one stripped down “smart” model. Both are well designed and easy to use.
Samsung UE55RU8000 features – A step-down from the QLED range, although it has a decent set of features
The Samsung UE55RU8000 is not a QLED TV. This means it uses traditional filters to produce its colours rather than Quantum Dot technology.
It also uses an edge LED lighting system, with no local dimming. There’s just full-frame dimming, where all the lights adjust at once when trying to optimise light levels for the picture on-screen.
The UE55RU8000’s specification chiefly differs from the step-down RU7000 series by supporting a wider range of colours (more than a billion, apparently), better motion handling, and Samsung’s Game Enhancer features.
These latter options let the TV automatically switch into its low-latency Game mode when a source is detected, and provide support for variable frame rates. Bear in mind. though, that your gaming source also needs to support those features (the latest Xboxes do; the PS4 does not).
I measured the Samsung UE55RU8000’s input lag – the time it takes to render images – at 21.6ms. This is slightly higher than Samsung’s QLED models, but still equates to less than a frame – which classes as a good result for gaming fans.
The Samsung UE55RU8000’s smart features are, impressively, essentially the same as those of Samsung’s flagship TVs. So you get the same tidy and easy-to-customise interface, and the same comprehensive suite of apps. These even include – currently uniquely for the TV world – the Apple TV app.
The only really big absentee is the Freeview Play “umbrella” app that wraps up all the UK’s key terrestrial broadcaster catch-up services into one friendly place. The catch-up services are still there on Samsung’s set, but only as individual apps.
All the video streaming apps carried by the Samsung UE55RU8000 support HDR and 4K where available. However, since Samsung only supports the HDR10 and HDR10+ HDR formats, sources available in the Dolby Vision format will only play in the more basic HDR10 format.
Netflix and Apple TV Plus are the main apps affected by this lack of Dolby Vision support. Amazon supports Dolby Vision on a handful of shows, too, but it also supports HDR10+ on ALL of its HDR shows.
The Samsung UE55RU8000 also supports the HLG HDR format used by the BBC iPlayer.
Voice control is offered via Samsung’s Bixby platform, or via Amazon Alexa if you have an external Alexa listening device.
Related: What is HDR10+?
Since it isn’t part of Samsung’s QLED range, the UE55RU8000 doesn’t offer as wide a colour range as the step-up Q60 model. It isn’t as bright either, topping out at just north of 350 nits, versus around 580 nits on the Q60. For once, though, as I’ll explain later, this isn’t as big an issue as it sounds…
The Samsung UE55RU8000’s connections comprise four HDMIs, two USBs, an Ethernet port, an optical digital audio output, and built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support. Note that your only headphone option is Bluetooth; there’s no physical jack on the TV.
Samsung UE55RU8000 setup – Requires some tinkering to optimise the picture
You’ll have to tinker a fair bit with the Samsung UE55RU8000’s settings to get the best out of the TV.
For starters, I’d suggest turning the colour setting from Native to Auto, as the default Native option can cause skin tones to look oversaturated.
Sharpness benefits from being reduced to around level 5 from its default 10 starting point. Most users will also want to ensure the Contrast Enhancer feature is set to Low or High, since HDR images look quite dark otherwise. Bear in mind, though, that the High setting can cause some clipping of detail in the brightest HDR areas.
Samsung’s motion processing, meanwhile, can cause quite a lot of line/small object doubling and smearing in its default Auto mode. So I’d suggest selecting Custom with blur and judder reduction set to around 3 to get the most natural results. You could also just turn the motion processing off altogether; but personally, this does leave you with quite noticeable judder. At least with 24p films.
When it comes to picture presets, I’m not a great fan of the Samsung UE55RU8000’s Movie mode. Its pictures look quite soft, black levels look washed out, and colours look a bit yellow. A tweaked version of the Standard preset delivers more satisfying results.
Samsung UE55RU8000 performance – Not bright enough for Full HDR, but decent black levels make it a more enjoyable watch
Despite not being bright enough to unleash HDR’s full potential, it’s arguably a more enjoyable watch overall than Samsung’s step-up Q60Rs.
The main reason I say this is its superior black levels. Dark scenes benefit from consistently deeper black colours with the Contrast Enhancer in play, giving images a more convincing foundation.
The Samsung UE55RU8000 can’t deliver bright parts of dark scenes with as much general intensity and impact as the Q60Rs. However, this actually helps it retain more effective black levels. After all, the Q60R doesn’t have any local dimming on hand to help it manage its higher brightness output, meaning dark scenes tend to appear greyer than on the UE55RU8000.
What’s more, while the Samsung UE55RU8000 might not be as bright as the Q60R, it still renders bright HDR scenes with more full-screen intensity than you’d expect from its measured sub-400 nits of peak brightness. And more than you’d typically see from any TV at the UE55RU8000’s level of the market.
HDR performance is further enhanced – especially when it comes to its handling of scenes containing a mix of light and dark content – if you can feed the TV an HDR10+ source, rather than just HDR10.
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Colours on the Samsung UE55RU8000 look strong for such an affordable 55in LCD TV. During dark scenes the relative lack of low-contrast blueness or greyness compared with most similarly priced TVs leaves colour tones looking purer and richer. And while bright scenes may not have the punch they do on the Q60R, their colours actually look engagingly rich. It’s as if the set’s combination of brightness and colour range are better balanced than they are on the Q60R, where the brightness can feel too dominant at times.
There’s decent subtlety in the colours, too. Skin tones look consistently convincing, without the plasticky look or blockiness seen on many affordable LCD TVs. The striping problems often seen with subtle HDR colour blends on affordable (and some not so affordable) TVs is also kept to a minimum.
As well as handling HDR typically better than most TVs in its class, the UE55RU8000 impresses with SDR. In fact, it handles shadow details and black levels better in SDR mode than HDR, while still delivering lots of colour and light subtlety from SDR’s much narrower colour range.
The Samsung UE55RU8000’s surprisingly nuanced colour performance helps objects look more three dimensional with both HDR and SDR content, and contributes to long-distance shots enjoying a greater sense of depth and scale than they typically do on sub-£600 TVs.
This sense of depth is enhanced by the Samsung UE55RU8000’s extreme sharpness. This may only be a 55in TV from the lower half of Samsung’s 2019 TV range, but native 4K footage looks much crisper and detailed than HD. Even from a regular viewing distance.
This extreme sharpness even holds up well when there’s motion in the frame – provided you’ve followed my earlier advice and not stuck with the “Auto” motion processing setting.
In fact, using the default Dynamic or Standard presets, the sharpness can be a little too much. Object edges can begin to look stressed, and native 4K images can turn gritty. Happily, though, this is pretty easy to tweak away via the provided sharpness adjustment.
The Samsung UE55RU8000’s upscaling works well with HD sources. Blu-rays and good-quality HD broadcasts look remarkably crisp and clean after passing through the UE55RU8000’s upscaling system. Colours hold up well, too, in terms of both the richness of their tones and the subtlety of their blends.
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The upscaling stumbles with SD resolution sources, especially SD digital broadcasts. Colours become more muted and the picture looks quite soft.
While the “AI” upscaling in Samsung’s top-end QLED TVs deliver much better upscaled SD results, it’s far from unusual for mid-range and low-end 4K TVs struggle to some extent with adding the huge amount of pixels necessary to turn SD into 4K.
Very dark scenes on the Samsung UE55RU8000 reveal some gentle backlight clouding towards the image’s edges. Also, while the set is very good for its money with either all-over bright or all-over dark images, dark parts of HDR shots containing a mix of light and dark content can look a little washed out.
Viewing angles before the picture starts to lose contrast and colour saturation are fairly limited, although slightly better than on Samsung’s step-down RU7000 series. And finally in the negative column, there’s sometimes a lack of shadow detail in very dark areas.
On balance, though, the Samsung UE55RU8000’s pictures are very good for its price.
Its audio is a little more average. Bass levels are limited, leaving action scenes sounding a bit thin. There isn’t enough power to give much sense of ebb and swell to movie soundtracks, either.
However, the sound does project quite nicely for a TV with no forward-facing speakers. Voices remain decently clear and contextualised, too, even when a mix gets very dense, and there’s plenty of treble detail. This detail tends to avoid the harshness you get with many similarly affordable TVs when soundtracks becomes dense as well.
Should you buy a Samsung UE55RU8000?
At the £749 price for which the Samsung UE55RU8000 is selling through some of the UK’s biggest retailers right now, it looks like a solid rather than stellar option. Its pictures are superior to most of the competition, although it’s challenged by the excellent 58in Panasonic 58GX800/58GX820 models. These Panasonic units cost around £699, and as well as being good all-round picture performers, they support the premium Dolby Vision HDR format alongside HDR10 and HDR10+.
The Samsung UE55RU8000 becomes a whole different story at the £579 price that some retailers are starting to offer. For this money, there’s currently nothing out there to touch it.
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