SAMSUNG UE49MU8000 Review
Local dimming hero?
This Samsung mid-ranger adds a Supreme UHD Dimming engine to boost its performance. John Archer considers its appeal against some strong in-house competition
49in 4K TV with edge-LED lighting
Just above the middle of Samsung’s 2017 TV range
Sony KD-49XE9005, Samsung UE49MU7000
SAMSUNG’S 49IN UE49MU7000 TV made quite an impression on us when we tested it recently.
So I’m excited to be looking at that model’s step-up sibling, the UE49MU8000. In theory, it should just be that little bit better…
It certainly looks fancier than its cheaper stablemate.
A slender black frame and boomerang-style desktop stand both look and feel more premium than the flimsier surround and simple two-footed support of the MU7000. And the central stand here also means that you don’t have to worry so much about whether the TV will fit onto your AV furniture.
You also don’t have to worry about cable spaghetti.
As with the MU7000, the MU8000’s connections are predominantly found on an external One Connect Mini box that hooks up to the screen via a single cable.
This box carries USB ports for media playback or recording from the Freeview HD tuner to USB HDDs; wired and wireless network connectivity; and four HDMIs all built to the latest 4K and HDR-friendly specification, supporting HDR10, HLG and (via a future firmware tweak) HDR10+.
As with all of Samsung’s 2017 smarts sets, there’s a well-manicured UI laden with VOD options. All the main UK catch-up TV platforms are present, although as Samsung doesn’t deliver these in a YouView or Freeview Play container, you’re denied access to their wares via a back-in-time electronic programme guide.
Taken to the edge
The UE49MU8000’s pictures are built round an edge LED lighting array capable of hitting brightness peaks of around 630 nits. This is pretty high for its price point, giving it an instant leg up with HDR playback.
A chief difference from the UE49MU7000 is the inclusion of a Supreme UHD Dimming engine. This introduces a local dimming system that can deliver different light outputs across eight picture zones.
Supreme UHD Dimming helps the set’s black levels appear slightly deeper, and more consistently so, than with the same Sully 4K Blu-ray scenes on the UE49MU7000. There’s also a little more dynamism to the picture, by which I mean that objects such as the street lights as Sully walks through New York at night are slightly more intense against their dark surroundings, while those dark surroundings also look slightly darker.
This marginal extra brightness delivers a touch more impact and tonal range with colours. This helps eke out a bit more punch – especially during Sully’s key inquiry appearance – from the film’s rich but natural palette.
As with the UE49MU7000, this screen only suffers mildly with the sort of striping artefacts in HDR colour blends that more obviously affect some higher-end Samsung TVs.
Elsewhere, this model comfortably matches the MU7000 when it comes to sharpness and detail. Despite its relatively small 49in panel, you’re never in doubt
- even from regular sorts of viewing distances – that you’re watching a native 4K source.
The panel is a 100Hz design, compared with its more affordable sibling’s 50Hz one, yet it still doesn’t quite handle motion immaculately enough to deliver absolutely every last granule of detail from Sully’s crash sequence
- even if you use the set’s motion processing (which can cause some minor processing glitches unless you turn it to a pretty low-powered custom setting). The picture still looks more 4K even at these moments, though, than many similarly priced rivals.
Initially during my audition I was uncomfortably aware of some shimmering noise over extremely fine 4K details in the UE49MU8000’s pictures. Fortunately, though, this was fixable by simply reducing Samsung’s default Sharpness setting of 50 to 40 or less.
Looking up the ladder
At this point it’s important to explain that while the set’s picture efforts are overall good for the money, there are limitations versus more expensive TVs. In particular, despite the shift to a local dimming system, black levels with HDR look pretty average (and miles short of OLED’s prowess in this area). In fact, the MU8000’s black levels are only slightly better than those of the MU7000, showing its local dimming to be subtle almost to a fault, even on its maximum setting.
There is an upside to this in that you seldom notice any really obvious stripes of backlighting around stand-out bright objects (unless you’re sat at an angle of more than 25 degrees or so to the screen, where the machinations of its lighting engine become all too apparent). However, it also makes it harder for this TV to deliver as much of a step up from the UE49MU7000 as I might have expected.
And while it’s inherently brighter than most TVs in its class, there are more expensive sets on the market, from Samsung and Sony in particular, that can get considerably brighter, and consequently serve up a much more dramatic and impactful HDR experience. These pricier models also tend to avoid another slight issue here: clipping in the brightest picture areas, where subtle detailing and tone work disappear from the image.
Of course, it’s only to be expected that the UE49MU8000 struggles in some ways against much more expensive flat screens. Judged more fairly against TV challengers in its price bracket, the MU8000 performs admirably with HDR and looks very good with standard dynamic range (SDR). Its black levels go from solid with HDR to really impressive when the screen isn’t having to adapt to the brightness peaks that the format demands. Colours come across as natural and refined, too, during the SDR HD Blu-ray sequences in Sully’s hotel bedroom.
The Samsung’s handling of the 1080p Sully disc also illustrates just how successful the Korean giant has become at upscaling HD content to 4K resolution.
The tweaked picture here feels crisply detailed yet lifelike, rather than obviously processed. Key to this is the way Samsung’s upscaling engine can efficiently discern between noise and ‘real’ picture information.
Gamers could have plenty of fun on the UE49MU8000, thanks to a superb response time of under 20ms in both HDR and SDR, provided the TV is set to its Game picture mode. Plus, there’s a surprisingly effective sound performance considering how wispy the TV’s bezel and body are.
It’s not the loudest or most bass-rich audio I’ve heard from a TV (turn to page 68 for that…), and this denies you any real sense of cinematic impact when the plane smacks into the Hudson River in Sully. However, the soundstage is clean and detailed, and spreads nicely beyond the confines of the TV’s bodywork. It also has a likeably open-sounding midrange that doesn’t give in to harshness easily, keeps voices clean and credible, and can even open up a gear or two for action scenes.
Considered purely on its own merits, the UE49MU8000 is a slightly flawed but still commendable mid-range LCD TV. However, it’s hard for me to strongly recommend it when it doesn’t deliver enough of an improvement over Samsung’s own UE49MU7000 to justify.
WE SAY: Despite some merely ‘okay’ black levels, the UE49MU8000 is a reasonably strong TV for its money. But it struggles to justify its price premium over the UE49MU7000.
3D: No 4K: Yes. 3,840 x 2,160 resolution HDR: Yes. HDR10; HLG (HDR10+ via future firmware) TUNER: Yes. Freeview HD CONNECTIONS: 4 x HDMI inputs;
3 x USB; Ethernet; optical digital audio output; RS232 SOUND (CLAIMED):
40W, 2.1-channel BRIGHTNESS (CLAIMED): N/A CONTRAST RATIO (CLAIMED):
Mega Contrast DIMENSIONS (OFF STAND): 1,093.5(w) x 636(h) x 47.7(d)mm WEIGHT (OFF STAND): 15.1kg
FEATURES: Built-in Wi-Fi; multimedia playback; Bluetooth; Game mode; Supreme UHD Dimming system with eight zones; Ultra Black screen design; One Connect Mini box; motion processing with multiple settings; Eden smart system
AMAZON PRIME VIDEO: This subscription VOD platform offers 4K and HDR streams (with HDR10+ in the pipeline) of original content and (some) movies – and you also get free delivery of your Amazon purchases.
1. Samsung has pledged HDR10+ support for all its 2017 4K HDR TVs
2. The set incorporates down-firing and front-firing drivers into its slim frame
Despite some merely 'okay' black levels, the UE49MU8000 is a reasonably strong TV for its money. But it struggles to justify its price premium over the UE49MU7000.