Samsung UE55BU8500 review

Samsung’s premium non-QLED TV struggles to stand out Tested at £599

55 inch TV: Samsung UE55BU8500
(Image: © Samsung / Netflix, The Recruit)

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

The UE55BU8500 lacks the picture quality sparkle typically associated with Samsung’s value-oriented TVs and you can, ultimately, buy better for less

Pros

  • +

    Refined, balanced colours

  • +

    Good black levels

  • +

    Nice design

Cons

  • -

    Rather dull, lifeless image

  • -

    Slightly wimpy sound

  • -

    Feels expensive versus key rivals

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The Samsung UE55BU8500 is the most premium Samsung LCD TV you can currently buy without stepping up to the brand’s QLED range. This means it doesn’t benefit from a Quantum Dot colour system like those step-up QLED models, sticking instead with a more traditional filter-based Crystal Colour system that's not expected to produce such a wide range of colour tones.

Samsung still claims a billion hues for the UE55BU8500, though, unlocked with the help of the latest Crystal Processor 4K processing engine. Add this to Samsung’s content-rich smart system, and the UE55BU8500 has the potential to be a real bargain in Samsung’s current TV range.

Price

The UE55BU8500 is (in December 2022) available in the UK for £599 (around $725 / AU$1050), but while it’s available in a few other parts of Europe, it’s not available in the US or Australia, where Samsung seems keen to focus more exclusively on its premium QLED and Mini LED offerings.

The 55-inch BU8500 is joined by 43-, 50-, 65- and 75-inch alternatives, with prices starting at £399 (around £480 / AU$700) and topping-out at £1099 (around $1325 / AU$1950).

The UE55BU8500 is ordinarily only very slightly cheaper than Samsung’s entry-level 55-inch QLED model, the QE55Q60B. This is a bit awkward for the Crystal Colour model, as a little extra seems worth paying for the proven colour benefits of Quantum Dots. Also a bit awkward for the UE55BU8500 is that Samsung sells the UE55BU8000, which is apparently identical except that it uses feet rather than a pedestal-style stand design, for less.

While there’s no getting around the UE55BU8000 situation, though, unless you really need the centrally mounted stand, the QE55Q60B didn’t completely win us over in our recent review, and it’s by no means unheard of for a good ‘regular’ LCD TV to actually outperform a low-end QLED overall. 

Design

55 inch TV: Samsung UE55BU8500

(Image credit: Samsung)

The UE55BU8500 benefits from the same AirSlim design approach as the step-up Q60B, meaning that its bodywork enjoys an extremely slim profile that looks sleek and premium, and makes the set a potentially great option for hanging on a wall.

If you don’t wall mount it, it sits on a neat, centrally mounted bar-style pedestal that makes the set easy to place on even quite narrow pieces of furniture. 

The screen’s surround is a little wider than the barely-there bezels of some of today’s most stylish TV offerings, but not untidily so.

The UE55BU8500 ships with two remote controls: a standard, rather plasticky but actually quite straightforward battery-powered option and, impressively for a set this far down Samsung’s range, one of the brand’s new solar-powered, reduced button-count ‘smart’ remotes.

Features

55 inch TV: Samsung UE55BU8500

(Image credit: Samsung)

The Samsung UE55BU8500’s 55-inch screen boasts a native 4K resolution and support for the HDR10, HLG and HDR10+ high dynamic range formats. In line with all Samsung TVs, however, it does not include support for Dolby Vision, which is a pity given how many sources are now available in it.

As you might guess from how thin the TV is, its LCD panel is lit from its edges rather than from directly behind, while the panel appears to be a VA one, as with most (though no longer all) Samsung TVs. The VA panel costs the picture contrast and colour from wide viewing angles but should, experience suggests, produce better contrast than the rival IPS type of screen.

There’s no Q in the UE55BU8500’s name, confirming there are no Quantum Dots in its screen. Colours are made more conventionally via a filter system – though as noted earlier, Samsung does claim a billion-wide range of colour tones from this set’s Dynamic Crystal Colour and Crystal Processor 4K combination. There’s no local dimming system, but a Contrast Enhancer system is provided to analyse every frame of incoming images to try and optimise how the screen handles contrast with different types of content.

Connectivity is average but no more. The count of three HDMIs and two USBs isn’t bad for a 55-inch TV costing this much, but it’s a shame that none of the HDMIs support the latest 4K/120Hz or VRR gaming features. Especially now that TCL is offering these gaming features on the 55-inch 55C735K. You can’t just blame the Samsung BU8500’s HDMIs for this, mind you; the screen itself is actually only a 50Hz panel.

Samsung UE55BU8500 tech specs

55 inch TV: Samsung UE55BU8500

(Image credit: Samsung / Netflix, The Recruit)

Screen size 55 inches (also available in 43in, 50in 65in, and 75in)

Type Crystal Colour LED

Resolution 4K

HDR formats HLG, HDR10, HDR10+

Operating system Tizen (Eden)

HDMI inputs x3

HDMI 2.1? No

Gaming features ALLM

ARC/eARC eARC

Optical output? Yes

Dimensions (hwd, without stand) 71 x 123 x 2.6cm

There’s no appearance on the BU85000 of the Game Bar interface found on more premium Samsung TVs either. It does, though, support ALLM switching, where the TV can switch automatically in and out of its low-latency game mode. That game mode delivers a fantastically fast response time of just 10ms, too, which is pretty much as low a figure as you’ll find in the TV world, and there’s also Samsung’s Game Hub to consider, which carries currently the TV world’s largest selection of streamed gaming services.

Smart features are provided by Samsung’s Tizen system. It’s the same, all-new version of this system that you get on Samsung’s premium TVs, too, complete with all the key streaming and catch-up apps pretty much anyone could ever want. There’s Samsung’s increasingly curated and therefore increasingly interesting TV Plus roster of all-streamed TV channels too, with the only thing missing being the Freeview Play app for bringing together all the UK’s main terrestrial broadcaster catch-up apps (though these are all available individually).

The latest Tizen interface’s move to a full-screen redesign isn’t a total success, thanks to some unhelpful navigation and content highlighting decisions, but the sheer quantity of content it carries is beyond refute.

Picture

55 inch TV: Samsung UE55BU8500

(Image credit: Samsung / Netflix, The Recruit)

Right from the off you don’t feel as if the UE55BU8500 is firing on quite as many cylinders as Samsung has often delivered in the past at this middle part of its TV range. The picture just feels a little flat and dull compared with some of the competition – two things we definitely would not traditionally associate with Samsung TVs.

A side by side comparison with the recently reviewed TCL 55C735K confirms our first reaction, as the TCL model delivers pictures that are brighter overall and enjoy significantly punchier peak HDR highlights than the UE55BU8500 can give you. 

The BU8500 also pays the price for its missing Quantum Dot colour system by delivering a colour palette which, while fairly wide-ranging and decently subtle, ultimately feels a little desaturated versus the vibrancy of the TCL. Admittedly the TCL sometimes pushes its colours a little too much, but overall its extra vividness is more engaging than the Samsung’s rather pallid look.

The BU8500’s pictures are also not quite as pin-sharp as the images we’ve come to expect from Samsung’s 4K TVs. Native 4K pictures still look like 4K, to be clear, and the level of sharpness feels quite natural, too. But the TCL 55C735K, again, looks slightly sharper.

Arguably the most surprising thing about the BU8500 given Samsung’s usual strengths in this area, is that motion doesn’t look quite as cleanly handled as it is on TCL’s 55C735K. 

Samsung’s BU8500 does have a couple of strengths, though. Most significantly, it can hit slightly deeper, richer black levels during dark scenes, helping such scenes look more natural (especially as there’s none of the slight blue glow effect the TCL generates where there should be blackness with some of its picture presets) and compensating a little for the screen’s lack of punch with peak bright highlights.

There’s also a nicely nuanced overall feel to most types of image on the BU8500, and while it might not deliver the impact we’d ideally like, at least it tends to keep everything in balance, without the momentary losses of discipline many rivals at this price point – including the impressive TCL – occasionally succumb to.

There are a couple more niggles to report, though, as the mostly impressive black levels can sometimes cause shadow details to be crushed out of the picture, and very dark scenes reveal an occasional hint of backlight clouding too. 

Overall the BU8500’s pictures are too refined and well-tuned to rate as actually bad, but at the same time they lack the punch to make them stand out from the mid-range crowd.

Sound

55 inch TV: Samsung UE55BU8500

(Image credit: Samsung)

The UE55BU8500’s pictures are partnered with similarly average sound. The main issue is that, despite carrying a basic version of Samsung’s Object Tracking Sound system (where the TV tries to place soundtrack effects accurately), the soundstage appears rather flimsy in the midrange, with no real sense of scale or escalation. In fact, the sound actually collapses back on itself when a soundtrack starts to build up a dense head of steam.

The BU8500 can’t go particularly loud either, and bass is thin to say the least. The only thing that saves it from rating very poorly for sound, actually, is that while it’s not really up to keeping action movies company, it does enjoy a nice, engaging, uncluttered tone with relatively undemanding day-to-day TV fare.

Verdict

The UE55BU8500 is a decent enough TV. Its pictures don’t do anything aggressively wrong, retaining good balance and subtlety, and its sound is pleasant enough as long as you’re not watching anything too demanding. 

We’ve come to expect better than average from Samsung at this level of the market, though, and with the appearance now of one or two strong rivals, it’s going to have to work a little harder next time out.

SCORES

  • Features 3
  • Picture 3
  • Sound 3

MORE:

Read our review of the Samsung QE55Q60B

Also consider the TCL 55C735K

Best TVs under £1000: 4K, HDR and budget TVs

With contributions from
  • petergabriel
    Please stop with the amateurish click bait headlines posed as questions. It is pretty obvious from the rating that it is not the bargain we're "all" hoping for.
    Reply