For more years than we care to mention, we’ve found Samsung to be consistently good at delivering value for money at the lower end of the TV market. Inspired in part by its typical (once total) aversion to low-contrast IPS LCD screens, Samsung has long been the brand to think of first when considering buying an LCD TV on the cheap.
Our expectations were therefore high when we received the UE50BU8000. Especially after the strong performance of the even more aggressively positioned AU7100 from Samsung’s previous TV generation. Unfortunately, the UE50BU8000 turns out not to be the true budget TV hit we expected.
Once upon a time, the £469 / AU$995 (about £575) price point of the UE50BU8000 looked ridiculously good. Today, however, due to the arrival of ever-improving competition from brands such as Toshiba, Hisense and TCL, the UE50BU8000 actually looks at the relatively high end of the budget 50-inch TV bracket. But if it can beat the best of those rival brands on performance, as Samsung has traditionally done, then it can still win the overall value battle.
The UE50BU8000 costs the same as Samsung’s UE50BU8500 at most retailers. That’s really as it should be, as both models are identical, apart from the BU8500 resting on a central plinth, while the BU8000 is mounted on separate leaf-shaped feet.
We’ve seen some slight price differences between the BU8000 and BU8500 on other screen sizes, but these always work out in favor of the BU8000 model.
A major rival worth mentioning in this section is the TCL 55C735K, which will be available in January 2023 for £549 (about $674 / AU$975), despite getting an extra five inches of view and a full set of the latest game features.
The UE50BU8000 doesn’t make a great first impression by feeling quite light when you put it together. There is a lot of plastic here and not much else happens.
The screen bezel is also a bit ‘budget special’, with its slightly chunky width and a brushed finish that’s probably supposed to conjure up thoughts of brushed metal, but really just looks like what it is: plastic with thin horizontal lines in it.
However, it retains a very sleek ‘AirSlim’ back despite its budget position, making it an unusually good wall-mount option. The brushed finish is more effective on the rear panel than the screen frame – although as always when discussing a TV’s 360-degree design, we must stress that the vast majority of sensible people have next to no time to look at the back of their TV to see once they have everything hooked up.
The BU8000 stands on fairly plain Jane leaf-like feet that are tucked away to each corner, rather than boasting a convenient centrally mounted pedestal like most BU8500 screen size options.
Also note that the BU8000 along with the BU8500 does not benefit from the Ambient Mode feature found on all of Samsung’s higher end models where the screen can be set to play photos, digitized artwork or short videos instead of a leaving a black screen when you’re not actually watching the TV.
To reiterate this point, the BU8000 is the same as the BU8500, except that the latter’s center stand has been swapped for a pair of feet. So if you’ve read our recent review of the 55-inch BU8500, you can skip the rest of this section if you prefer. But for everyone else, here’s a summary of what to expect.
The UE50BU8000 is a native 4K TV that supports HDR in HDR10, HLG and HDR10+ flavors. However, Samsung continues to reject Dolby Vision, despite the format’s popularity elsewhere.
The panel is VA-type, which raises hopes for decent contrast, but, predictably, means you’ll start to lose colors and contrast if you have to view the screen from the side at a wide angle.
The panel is lit from the edges, rather than having lights placed directly behind it. This no doubt helped Samsung achieve the AirSlim design of the UE50BU8000, but edge lighting can struggle to control where light goes, as can LED lighting systems placed directly behind the screen.
Connectivity includes three HDMIs and two USBs, but gamers should note that there’s no support for 4K/120Hz graphics (the screen only runs at 50/60Hz) or VRR. This lack of advanced gaming support is hardly surprising at the price point of the BU8000, although it’s worth bearing in mind that the TCL 55C735K offers both 4K/120Hz and VRR.
Screen size 50 inches (also available in 43in, 55in, 65in, 75in, 85in)
Type LCD with Edge LED backlight
HDR formats HLG, HDR10, HDR10+
Operating system Tizen/Eden
HDMI inputs x3
HDMI 2.1? no
Gaming features ALL
Optical output? Yes
Dimensions (hwd, without stand) 64 x 112 x 2.6 cm
However, Samsung’s set can automatically switch to its responsive game preset when it detects that a source compatible with HDMI’s ALLM switching function starts playing a game. That Game preset also provides a picture lag of up to a brilliantly fast 9.8ms, while gamers might also like to explore the TV’s Gaming Hub, which brings together Samsung’s peerless selection of streamed game sources.
The BU8000 benefits from Samsung’s Dynamic Crystal Color technology, which claims to use “advanced phosphor technology” along with Crystal Processor 4K silicon to deliver an “Ultra HD color palette as rich and gorgeous as nature itself” . That’s poetic marketing that speaks for a claimed billion dollar strong hue count.
Samsung usually manages to use the same smart interface on its budget TVs as it does on its flagship models, and it proves it with the BU8000. This is a bit of a mixed blessing this year, because while the revamped interface still packs a huge amount of content, including all of the world’s favorite streaming services, the new full-screen start menu can’t really highlight useful content, and isn’t quite as customizable or logical in its navigation – especially when it comes to integrating the TV’s setup options – as the previous interface.
Despite the fact that the UE50BU8000 uses the same panel arrangement (aside from size) and the same image characteristics as the previously reviewed UE55BU8500, the images are not completely identical. In fact, they’re slightly worse for one main reason: backlight clouding.
We’ve also seen some signs of this with the UE55BU8500, but the issue is brighter and affects a larger portion of the screen area on the UE50BU8000, at least when viewing high dynamic range content. This can be very distracting and divert your attention from what you should be looking at as a dark scene unfolds. The clouding can also obscure shadow detail in its extra grayness, and it contributes to some minor color uniformity issues, as the gray areas slightly adjust the hue of any dark colors that appear behind them.
This is especially frustrating considering that the UE50BU8000’s native black levels are actually good value for money – but the impressive black levels actually serve to make the clouding more apparent.
This clouding problem with HDR sources is much less common with SDR content; in fact, the good native contrast makes it a pretty good SDR display.
Normally though, we’d expect a Samsung TV – even one as affordable as the BU8000 – to be in its element against its HDR rivals. But on top of the backlight clouding issue, the 50BU8000 also just looks a bit dull with HDR compared to some TVs in its price range. The base brightness isn’t bad for the money, but it just doesn’t combine that brightness with enough dynamism or color saturation to really make HDR (literally) shine. This is palpable – also in direct comparisons to similar affordable rivals such as the Toshiba 50UK4D63DB and TCL 55C735K – with both bright full-screen HDR content and its slightly lackluster appearance for peaks in brightness.
Relatively dark HDR content on the BU8000 also reveals a slightly compressed, unrefined look for dimly lit, densely detailed image areas, such as the hedges and flower beds outside Georgie’s house in the opening sequence of It on 4K Blu-ray.
To add a few more positives to the BU8000’s HDR performance, while it’s not as relatively bright as hoped, there’s enough brightness to at least register a sense of visual shift when switching from SDR to HDR. -contents. The movie image preset creates a nice warm, rounded and nuanced look that feels more refined than the punchier but sometimes over-enthusiastic looks of its best budget rivals, and while Samsung’s motion handling isn’t quite as far ahead of the budget package as it used to be, it is at least unusually impressive not to generate unwanted processing side effects.
But for the most part, the UE50BU8000’s ‘journey’ from SDR to HDR is illustrated more by the issues HDR causes than by the clear positive difference we expected.
A final point of note is that the BU8000 doesn’t look quite as sharp with native 4K content as we’d normally see with Samsung TVs. Again, we noticed this on the BU8500 too, but oddly – perhaps due to the impact of the extra backlight clouding – we noticed the softness more on the smaller model. It also perhaps doesn’t help that Toshiba’s 50-inch UK4D63DB proves to be a strong rival when it comes to 4K sharpness.
The comparisons with competing budget TVs continue to do the Samsung BU8000 no good when it comes to sound. The speakers are seriously lacking in volume and projection (especially when compared to the Toshiba 50UK4D63DB) and produce a much less dynamic mid-range. Anything close to a big action sequence has virtually no impact, sounds thin and completely unconvincing.
With powerful movie mixes, the 50BU8000 really only earns a two out of five. Fortunately for Samsung, this figure is raised a point by the more balanced, clean and easy-on-the-ear handling of the relatively simple and undynamic day-to-day audio fare that most of us actually spend most of our time listening to.
Average picture and sound along with aggressive advancements from rival budget brands see the UE50BU8000 joining the UE55BU8500 in giving us the feeling that Samsung isn’t just treading water with its budget LCD range right now, but actually diving slightly under the waves.
- Functions 3
- Image 3
- Sound 3
Read our review of the Samsung QE55Q60B
Also consider the Toshiba 50UK4D63DB
Read our TCL 55C735K review
Best cheap TVs: The best 4K TVs under £500