We’re very interested in seeing how Samsung’s microLED technology shapes up as a competitor to OLED, and its Q9FN QLED TV showed some of the most impressive contrast performance we’ve seen. Much of that prowess comes through on Samsung’s midrange TVs as well, as demonstrated in the RU8000 series. This line of 4K TVs has the same feature-packed smart TV platform as Samsung’s flagship models and shows remarkably strong color performance (though it doesn’t reach the range of the Q9FN). Its features are largely Samsung-specific, however, and while its colors are excellent, its brightness is fairly low. At $1,399.99 for the 65-inch UN65RU8000FXZA we tested, we expect a brighter panel.
The RU8000 doesn’t have the slimmest profile or the most narrow bezels, but it manages to appear just trim and stylish enough to avoid the typical “plain black plastic” look many midrange TVs fall victim to. The screen is framed with flat 0.4-inch gunmetal gray plastic bezels that give the appearance of brushed aluminum. They match the two straight parallel feet that support the TV (unless you mount it on a wall), and are a shade lighter than the dark gray, curved, textured plastic back. A tiny metallic rectangle in the middle of the bottom bezel holds the Samsung logo in front and a tiny power button on the underside, and provides the only bit of flair the front of the TV gets to interrupt the flat bezel. It’s a minimalist look that’s just a touch unique without making the TV’s design stand out more than the screen.
Aside from the power connection closer to the right, all ports on the RU8000 face left from a recess on the left side of the back of the TV. They include four HDMI ports, two USB ports, an optical audio output, an antenna/cable connector, an Ethernet port, and a 3.5mm port for EX-Link/RS-232 system integration. No legacy analog video connections like component or composite are available, so you’re out of luck if you want to hook up an old VCR or SNES to this new TV.
The included remote is a simple, slightly curved wand with few buttons. A large, circular navigation pad sits near the top, comfortably under the thumb, with a pinhole microphone, a number button (to bring up a row of numbers for entering channels), a four-color button (to bring up four on-screen color buttons), and a microphone button (to talk to Bixby). Distinct volume and channel rockers sit below the navigation pad, between three buttons for Home, Back, and Play/Pause above and Hulu, Netflix, and Prime Video below. It’s perhaps a bit too simple, with no Input or Display buttons and making the volume and channel rockers pull double-duty by clicking them for Mute and Guide.
Samsung Smart TV
The RU8000 uses Samsung’s smart TV platform, which is attractive and full-features, but also frustratingly insular and Samsung-centric. The interface is reminiscent of LG’s webOS, built around a row of the most commonly used apps and services that pop up on the bottom of the screen with a push of the Home button. Scrolling right lets you choose from your most frequently used apps. Scrolling left lets you select the TV’s inputs, settings, and search feature. For the TV’s main features and Samsung’s apps, a secondary row appears above the tile row to show you context-based information, like a list of common modes under Settings, a list of inputs under Source, and recommended channels alongside the Guide and Channel List under Samsung TV Plus, Samsung’s combination live/streaming TV aggregator (effectively a channel guide that combines whatever you can tune to through your antenna or cable box with a PlutoTV-like selection of free live internet TV stations).
The big streaming video services are all here, including Amazon Prime Video, Google Play Movies & TV, Hulu, Netflix, and Sling TV, as well as recent additions in the form of Apple TV and iTunes. Music is also fairly well-represented, with Amazon Music, SiriusXM, Spotify, and even Tidal. You’ll have less luck if you want more esoteric or subject-specific apps, though; with only a few hundred streaming apps and services, Samsung has far fewer choices than Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, or Roku TV.
The good news is that the RU8000 has a voice assistant that can answer your questions, search for media, and controlsmart home devices. The bad news is that the voice assistant is Bixby, Samsung’s own and perpetual runt of the AI litter. Bixby is functional enough, letting you ask for different movies based on director, check the weather, and find out general trivia. If you just want a simple tool for bringing up useful things on your TV and nothing else, Bixby is fine.
The problems come if you want to go beyond just your Samsung TV and your Samsung phone (Bixby is also on Samsung’s Galaxy phones, which can thankfully also use Alexa and Google Assistant). Bixby is so stiflingly Samsung-specific that it’s completely useless once you stray outside of Samsung’s ecosystems. If your phone isn’t Samsung, you can’t talk to Bixby. If your smart speaker isn’t Samsung, you can’t talk to Bixby. And if you want any third-party skills like Alexa and Google Assistant offer? Don’t even bother talking to Bixby.
Also, Bixby (and therefore the RU8000) is limited to Samsung’s SmartThings ecosystem for smart home control, though the TV can helpfully act as its own hub for your SmartThings devices. That covers a nice selection of a few hundred devices including major names like Philips Hue and Ring, but its compatibility list is nowhere near that of Alexa or Google Assistant.
On the bright side, the RU8000 itself is more inviting of other voice assistants, at least for indirect control. While you can’t load another voice assistant on the TV, if you have an Alexa or Google Assistant smart speaker, you can it to control the TV: You can use your voice as a remote in this way, adjusting volume and changing channels through your voice assistant of choice. It’s a nice gesture, but it only makes Bixby seem even more perplexingly useless.
The RU8000 series of TVs are ultra high-definition (UHD, or 4K) resolution and support high dynamic range (HDR) in HDR10, Samsung’s HDR10+, and Hybrid Log Gamma. It does not support Dolby Vision.
We test TVs using a Klein K10-A colorimeter, a Murideo SIX-G signal generator, and Portrait Displays’ CalMAN software with methodology based on Imaging Science Foundation’s calibration principles. The RU8000 isn’t particularly bright as an LED-backlit LCD, showing a peak of 366.1cd/m2 in the Movie picture mode with the backlight pushed to maximum, significantly lower than last year’s NU8000 (554.41cd/m2). However, it shows very good contrast with a 0.04cd/m2 black level in the same mode for a 9,153:1 contrast ratio, an overall improvement from the NU8000 (6,160:1) due to the previous model’s disappointing 0.09cd/m2 black level.
You can bump that contrast up to 14,687:1 in Dynamic picture mode, which pushes peak brightness up to 440.61cd/m2 and black level down to 0.03cd/m2, but this will unacceptably harm color accuracy, since the mode doesn’t enable the Warm1 or Warm2 color temperature presets. The TCL 6-series continues to offer some of the strongest contrast we’ve seen outside of OLED TVs, with a peak brightness of 497.15cd/m2 and a black level of 0.01cd/m2 for a 49,715:1 contrast ratio.
You want those presets to be available, because out of the box the RU8000’s color accuracy with them is superb. The above chart shows DCI-P3 color levels as boxes and measured color levels in Movie mode with the Warm2 color temperature setting as dots. Nearly every color, including white, is spot-on, with only green running a bit undersaturated. This is a very balanced, accurate picture without calibration.
Accurate colors and strong contrast make BBC’s Planet Earth II look very good on the RU8000. The greens and yellow-greens of the foliage and the blues and blue-greens of the water in the “Islands” episode look vivid and natural. Fine details like tree bark and fur are crisp and sharp on the TV, both under direct sunlight and in shade.
In Deadpool, the red of Deadpool’s costume looks saturated and accurate even under cool, overcast lighting conditions. Deadpool can look faded or slightly purple in the film’s early scenes on TVs with inaccurate color, but he’s a nicely rich crimson on the RU8000.
The TV’s solid contrast preserves detail in the party scenes of The Great Gatsby. The cut and contours of dark suits and the texture of dark hair can be clearly seen against the bright lighting of the scenes. Skin tones look accurate and natural against the strongly contrasting whites and blacks, producing an excellent picture despite the panel’s relatively low brightness. The whites of the scene don’t pop out as much as they do on OLED TVs like LG’s E9P or much brighter LCD TVs like Sony’s Master Series Z9F, but the balance and accuracy more than make up for it.
Input lag is the amount of time between when a TV receives a signal and the screen updates. In most picture modes, the RU8000 shows an unacceptably high input lag of 81.3ms. Enabling the Game mode, which improves input lag at the slight expense of picture quality, drops that down to a still-high 45.4ms. However, you can cut that lag down to a third by going into the TV’s settings and manually disabling all motion-enhancing features in Game mode (found under External Device Manager in the General settings menu). This will drop the input lag to an excellent 15.8ms, making the RU8000 qualify as one of our best TVs for gaming.
A Capable, Colorful 4K
Samsung’s RU8000 series of TVs offer an attractive design and solid performance, both of which are held back a bit by relatively low brightness and a stubbornly Samsung-centric feature set. At $1,400 for 65 inches, this TV is a bit pricey for what you get when compared with the TCL 6-series and the Vizio P-series, both of which get much brighter and also offer strong color performance (though the Vizio also has an unfortunately high 0.12cd/m2 black level, so its contrast ratio is inferior to the RU8000). We’ve seen the RU8000 available for a discounted $1,100 for the 65-inch model, and it’s a much easier sell at that price. If you’re a dedicated Samsung user, the RU8000 is a compelling, reasonably priced TV. If you aren’t living a Samsung lifestyle, however, the Roku-powered TCL 6-series remains our Editors’ Choice by offering a much higher-contrast picture at a much lower price.