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Samsung Odyssey Ark review: curved and cursed

For its $3,500 price, Samsung left a lot of ambition on the table with the Ark. Its curved, bright, and fast panel doesn’t make up for it not being as rich to look at as a cheaper OLED or as useful with multitasking as a couple of cheap monitors stuck together.

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Samsung’s Odyssey Ark display turned vertically into cockpit mode.
In cockpit mode, the Odyssey Ark can display up to three 31-inch displays stacked on top of each other.

The Samsung Odyssey Ark is enormous. Using this 55-inch curved gaming monitor feels like being in VR, and turning it vertically is like looking up at a wave that’s about to topple me over. I have to take a few steps to the side just to be able to see who’s sitting across from me.

Its presence is magnetic. People stop to ask about it. Usually, they also ask to stand in front of its enveloping curve — all before asking my name. They don’t even seem fazed when I tell them that it costs $3,500. The Verge’s editor-in-chief Nilay Patel burst out laughing upon seeing it in person.

This is the strange power of the Ark. 

The Ark, unsurprisingly, is best used for gaming. Its 4K resolution and 165Hz variable refresh rate push the HDMI 2.1 spec to its limits. Like many other gaming monitors, the Ark uses a VA panel, but it’s brighter, with better contrast than others I’ve tested, thanks to its Mini LED backlighting. With HDR10 Plus and 1,056 local dimming zones, movies and TV shows look great, too.

Samsung also pitches its Multi View feature as a big deal, which lets you show up to four screens at once on the Ark. Its product page includes phrases like “no more getting distracted by multi-screen setups” and “Odyssey Ark really has it all,” but it’s much less useful than it sounds. I can play Overwatch 2 on my PS5 while watching Degrassi on Samsung TV Plus while also pulling up a YouTube video about how McDonald’s french fries are made, all on the same screen, all without connecting a device other than my PlayStation 5. That’s cool. But the Ark can’t display more than one HDMI source at once, so multi-display setups — and even plenty of smaller, cheaper 4K monitors — run circles around it.

HOW WE RATE AND REVIEW PRODUCTS

The Ark includes a breakout box that’s packed with HDMI 2.1 ports (one with eARC for pushing high-end audio to a receiver or soundbar via HDMI), Ethernet, Wi-Fi 5, a digital audio optical port, and USB-A ports for connecting controllers, flash drives, and other plug-and-play gadgets. The monitor’s built-in speakers deliver bass-filled sound that can get loud without distortion, so you may not need a soundbar. It comes with two remotes: a basic candy bar-shaped IR remote and a Bluetooth remote called the Ark Dial, which makes it just a little easier to navigate the complex interface thanks to its twisting dial and feature shortcuts. The Ark Dial’s purpose — other than being showy — is that it usually halves the amount of clicking you need to do to find the right setting. 

The Ark looks very different from Samsung’s $529 TV-meets-monitor M8 Smart Monitor, but it has the same tough-to-learn interface and includes a lot of little features — if you know where to look and if you can remember your way back next time.

Samsung Odyssey Ark specs

  • Display size: 55 inches
  • Maximum resolution: 4K
  • Pixels per inch: 80ppi
  • Maximum refresh rate: 165Hz
  • Curvature: 1000R
  • Panel type: VA
  • Backlighting: Mini LED with 1,056 dimming zones
  • Aspect ratio: 16:9
  • Advertised peak brightness: 1,000 nits
  • HDR formats: HDR 10 Plus
  • Wall mounting bracket: 200 x 200 VESA mount included
  • Stand specs: Allows for 90-degree clockwise or counter-clockwise rotation into portrait mode. It also provides 270mm of total height adjustment in landscape mode or up to 30mm in portrait mode. In terms of tilt, it can tilt from -10 degrees to 10 degrees in the landscape or from -13 degrees to 10 degrees in portrait mode.
  • One Connect Box ports: Four HDMI 2.1 ports (one input supports eARC), Ethernet 10/100, two USB-A 2.0 ports for downstream data, one USB-B port for upstream support, Ex-Link for servicing, optical digital audio, One Connect port for carrying video to the Ark
  • Ark ports: One Connect cable port, 3.5mm headphone jack, USB-C (15W)
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2, Wi-Fi 5, Ethernet (via its One Connect Box), IoT gadgets via the SmartThings hub (ZigBee protocol requires SmartThings dongle)
  • Weight: 46.5 pounds without stand, or 91.5 pounds mounted to included stand

Everything about the Ark is very extra, including its setup process. A few days before Samsung shipped it out for me to review, I declined its recommendation to send people to install it because I wanted the same setup process that others would have to go through. The moment that it came off the freight elevator, I could see why professional installation was offered. 

Setting up the Ark is a two- or a three-person job. Getting the hefty monitor stand, the VESA wall mount accessories, and all of the other pieces out of the box requires more time and effort than you might expect. And, carefully lifting out the styrofoam-covered Ark and mounting it to the stand felt like the high-stakes ship docking in that scene from Interstellar. Pieced together, the Ark on its stand weighs a whopping 91.5 pounds, so if you’re uncomfortable with the idea of handling heavy (and expensive) components, you should consider paying for that installation service.

The Ark is a stunning showcase for games that have HDR support (non-HDR games shine, too). Forza Horizon 5, Gran Turismo 7, and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales look great on just about any screen, but the Ark’s curve and enormous size makes a fast refresh rate and a high-resolution image feel a lot more immersive. Its Mini LED backlighting allows for a contrast-rich picture that can reach a peak brightness of about 900 nits, according to our SpyderX screen calibration tool. Samsung’s controlled testing with much pricier color-analyzing gear and software delivered over 1,000 nits. Either way, at full brightness, it’s intense to look at in well-lit rooms.

Real-time strategy games with expansive battlefields and loads of characters like Starcraft II or MOBAs like DOTA 2 or League of Legends come alive on the Ark’s big screen. However, it’s torture to play a first-person game like Overwatch 2 up close on the Ark since you usually need to quickly shift your attention (read: your head) to different parts of the monitor, be it to look for enemies or to check various parts of a game’s heads-up display. Like, you might get whiplash. 

Gran Turismo 7 displaying on the Samsung Odyssey Ark gaming monitor.
It’s just me and the open road (pay no attention to my position in the race. I won, swear).

With some games, the Ark’s screen tech doesn’t fare as well as OLED. For instance, Olli Olli World calls for a fast display (which this very much is), but there’s ghosting as the backlighting struggles to keep up with the skater dashing across the environment. Even with its 1ms response time, it just doesn’t look right, and there’s some vignetting around the corners of the screen. Normally, I’d say “you might miss it,” but I think anyone spending $3,500 on this should be unforgiving about these flaws. While OLED or QD-OLED can’t yet match Mini LED’s maximum brightness across the entire screen, I’d trade the Ark’s brightness (along with its curve and Multi View) for perfect control of every pixel’s lighting, especially at this price.

The Ark’s 16:9 aspect ratio makes it a more natural fit for gaming, especially for consoles, which can’t natively fill wider monitors like the ultrawide 32:9 Odyssey Neo G9 or the 21:9 Alienware QD-OLED monitor. It is possible to use the Ark to play PC games in 21:9, to an extent (and if you can tolerate some funny business). In the Ark’s Game Bar interface — the same one that ships on Samsung’s pricier TVs — you can change the aspect ratio that displays on the Ark to either 21:9 or 32:9 (only 21:9 worked for me). Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as a button press; you’ll have to maneuver to Windows’ display settings and manually adjust the resolution to match the aspect ratio. It offers 9:16, 9:21, and 9:32 vertical aspect ratio if you rotate the Ark, but again, you have to manually set each resolution in Windows and change the display orientation to portrait. Ultrawide monitors with native 21:9 or 32:9 aspect ratios usually work fine on macOS, but I couldn’t get the Ark’s aspect ratio feature to work with my M1 MacBook Pro (the custom resolution Samsung called for wasn’t available within the display settings).

Watching movies and TV shows is a good time on the Ark, mostly because of its surprisingly powerful integrated speakers. Samsung claims that it’s a 60W system, with one speaker built into each of its four corners, plus two center woofers. But it’s not the kind of screen for even small gatherings. The ideal way to look at this 1000R curve here is right down the middle. My colleagues and I crammed around it to watch the debut of The Super Mario Bros. Movie teaser, and I set myself off to the side to test out the viewing angles. They’re not good. The curved shape drastically dims parts of the screen unless you’re looking straight on. At least the matte anti-glare display makes it easier to view dead ahead or off-center with no reflections (unlike an ancient Samsung curved TV that we reviewed and that Nilay still uses as his Zoom display). 

The Ark Dial remote control that’s included with each Samsung Odyssey Ark display.
The highlight of the Ark Dial is, well, the dial.

I was originally planning to rip Samsung a new one for not including any DisplayPort inputs in its huge breakout box (I still wish it offered at least one of those, and it doesn’t offer USB-C video support like the $529 M8 Smart Monitor does), but with the latest AMD and Nvidia drivers, it’s possible to push a 4K / 165Hz image from a PC over HDMI 2.1. Both the 2022 Razer Blade 15 Advanced with the RTX 3070 Ti, as well Lenovo’s Legion 7 with AMD’s Radeon RX 6850M XT, can push a native 4K at 165Hz refresh rate when updated to the latest drivers. Intel’s technical PR manager Bennett Benson shared with The Verge that Intel’s Arc graphic cards support up to 4K at 120Hz refresh rate. So yes, you can use an Arc to push an Ark, though you’ll give up the very top end of the refresh rate available.

Due to its lack of DisplayPort or USB-C video, finding a way to get 4K / 60Hz video with my M1 MacBook Pro was more of a challenge than it should be. A cheap AmazonBasics USB-C-to-HDMI adapter could provide only up to 30Hz, and even pricier hubs gave me the same result. What did work, however, was Apple’s $69 Digital AV Multiport Adapter. Anker’s $80 555 USB-C hub also worked for providing a 4K / 60Hz image. I’m sure there are others that will work fine, but read reviews before you make a purchase.

A picture showing the ports on Samsung’s One Connect Box that comes included with the Odyssey Ark display.  It has four HDMI 2.1 ports (one supports eARC), Ethernet, digital optical audio, and out of sight here are two USB-A 2.0 ports for plug-and-play gadgets.

1/5

Almost all inputs are routed through the One Connect Box. It has four HDMI 2.1 ports (one supports eARC), Ethernet, digital optical audio, and out of sight here are two USB-A 2.0 ports for plug-and-play gadgets.

The Ark supports AMD FreeSync Premium Pro adaptive sync, which guarantees low latency standard dynamic range (SDR) and high dynamic range (HDR) content on top of eliminating screen tearing. It enables some games, as well as video content graded in HDR, to look their best on the Ark. It supports variable refresh rate on Nvidia GPUs, though it doesn’t officially support G-SYNC. The Ark also supports variable refresh rate for consoles like the PS5 and Xbox Series X / S, reaching up to 120Hz refresh rate at 4K.

The Ark’s schtick is providing a range of ways to play games or watch content. It even offers a way to shrink the picture size (called Flex Mode) in case you want to see everything more easily without craning your head. If you want to do some multitasking, Multi View can divide the screen into a mosaic of smaller ones. You can save up to three custom layout presets, of which there are many possibilities in landscape and portrait mode. It gets ridiculous.

In landscape mode:

  • Picture-in-picture
  • Two inputs side by side, with huge black bars on top and bottom
  • One larger input on either side, with two smaller inputs stacked vertically next to it
  • One even bigger input on either side, with three even smaller inputs stacked vertically next to it
  • Three inputs of equal size in a triangle formation, flanked by a ton of unused screen real estate
  • Four equally sized 27-inch inputs
  • One large input with a tall but skinny aspect ratio input to its side when you wirelessly mirror a Samsung Galaxy phone screen in the Smart View app or an iPhone via AirPlay — the size of the phone’s presence can be increased to a point, causing the large input’s size to shrink
  • A variation on the last one: one large window with a tall aspect ratio input to its side that leaves enough vertical space above it for two small 16:9 aspect ratio sources 
The Samsung Odyssey Ark is rotated from landscape to portrait mode.
The Odyssey Ark needs to be raised to its highest position before it can be rotated into cockpit mode.

In portrait “cockpit” mode (vertical orientation):

  • The Ark can show up to two or three roughly 31-inch sources stacked on top of each other. It can also display picture-in-picture.
  • A vertical phone screen can be mirrored to the Ark in portrait mode, with one 31-inch input below or above it.
  • Note: if you have more than four sources displaying in landscape before you tilt it vertically, the fourth or final input will be exited during the transition)

Within Multi View, you can use the Ark Dial to move each input’s location, change its size on the fly, as well as select which one will be able to play volume (you can mix the audio of up to two inputs simultaneously). With a few button presses, the remote can dive into any app’s interface to navigate.

Samsung’s Odyssey Ark monitor displaying three sources, including Overwatch 2 on PS5, Degrassi, and a YouTube video.
Multi View can let you do some multitasking, but there are too many rules around what you can and can’t include.

Multi View is pitched by Samsung to “deliver more possibilities on a single screen,” but I already touched on the big catch, which is that you can’t watch more than one HDMI source at a time — and there aren’t any other video inputs on the Ark. But there are several more limitations that may matter to you. 

If you’re playing a PC game at a 165Hz refresh rate, going into Multi View will kick that down to a maximum of 120Hz, turn off variable refresh rate mode (VRR works in Flex Move mode, by the way), and unify the picture settings so that each input looks the same. In other words, if you had Game Mode configured to your liking, you might not like how it looks with the default mode (though that can be tweaked) 

Also, The Ark doesn’t do a good job downsampling the HDMI input in Multi View mode. Text and images from my M1 MacBook Pro were grainy, and the laptop’s display settings showed me that it was still outputting a 4K / 60Hz video signal, which the Ark was compressing to around 1080p to fit it in a quarter of the screen. Manually dropping the output resolution to 1080p helped, but it would be better if the Ark was smart enough to automatically adjust the display resolution. The Ark’s instruction manual says that “when viewing multiple small screens by using Multi View, the resolutions of some screens may appear low,” which is certainly true, but a $3,500 monitor should do better.

Then, there’s the challenge of finding fun use cases for Multi View. It can work with some, but not nearly enough of the Ark’s built-in apps. You can try your luck finding something worthwhile to watch on Samsung TV Plus, or the hold-on-to-your-butt excitement delivered by The Weather Channel, or the very limited Tizen browser, to name the most useful examples. You can display whatever you want by mirroring your Windows or Mac (via AirPlay) screen. My Mac window tops out at 1080p via AirPlay, and it looked terrible. A Lenovo Legion 7 laptop defaulted to a 1600p resolution at 30Hz, and it was laggy and tough to read. Things looked better (but still not great) at very low resolutions, but your experience may differ when mirroring your devices.

What you can’t use in Multi View includes everything I actually want to watch or play: Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max — really, any streaming service. You also can’t use any of the cloud game services in Samsung’s Gaming Hub (which includes Amazon Luna, Xbox Cloud Gaming, and Nvidia GeForce Now). That’s a shame, as cloud gaming on the Ark is really fun. Bluetooth controllers are easy to connect, and over ethernet, it delivered unnoticeable latency and a sharp picture. I’d love to have Persona 5 Royale open on Xbox Cloud Gaming while I’m watching YouTube and maybe do a little work on the side. I can’t do it on this $3,500 display, but I can do this on my much more affordable multi-monitor setup at home. 

Samsung’s Odyssey Ark gaming display viewed overhead to show off its curve.
The 1000R curvature of the Ark’s display looks intense in a 16:9 aspect ratio.

I get that displaying multiple HDMI sources with variable refresh rate along with streaming apps is a challenging feat to engineer. But pulling off that feature would impress me more than the Ark’s powerful design, and I think these flaws are unacceptable in this $3,500 display.

If you want the best picture quality for gaming, you can’t beat an OLED TV. Its combination of speed and per-pixel control over color and dimming allows for awesome picture quality that the Ark doesn’t match. LG’s C2 and Samsung’s QD-OLED are around $1,500 or less for a 55-inch model. If you want something that’s better suited for a desk, Alienware’s $1,299 ultrawide QD-OLED is a great alternative. If you want a sizable monitor that’s great for multitasking — and great for letting you split its screen in half for two video inputs at once — LG’s $699 DualUp with its 16:18 aspect ratio is worth checking out. 

The Ark’s cup is overflowing with interesting features and high-end specs that, at a much lower price, might be worth it for some people. As much fun as I’ve had testing it (and showing off its curvy, swervy gimmicks to my office mates), there wasn’t a day when I didn’t wish I was using my comparatively low-end dual monitor setup instead. 

Photography by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

AGREE TO CONTINUE: SAMSUNG ODYSSEY ARK

Every smart device now requires you to agree to a series of terms and conditions before you can use it — contracts that no one actually reads. It’s impossible for us to read and analyze every single one of these agreements. But we’re going to start counting exactly how many times you have to hit “agree” to use devices when we review them since these are agreements most people don’t read and definitely can’t negotiate.

There’s technically only one mandatory agreement, which is to set your language preference. But opting in for several of the following optional (skippable) agreements will allow you to use the Odyssey Ark to its fullest potential.

Optional agreements:

  • Setup via smartphone or remote control
  • Connect to internet via Wi-Fi or Ethernet
  • Agree to Samsung Smart Hub terms and conditions (skipping will disable you from using smart TV apps) 
  • Agree to Samsung Smart Hub U.S. privacy notice
  • Agree to Viewing information services agreement
  • Agree to Interest-based advertisements service privacy notice
  • Sign in with Samsung account (it’s required to use built-in smart TV apps and cloud game streaming services)
  • Enter ZIP code
  • Set up Bixby or Alexa voice assistant for voice commands
  • Sign into your pre-existing streaming app subscriptions to speed up login
  • Activate voice amplifier to better hear voice queries

In total, that’s one mandatory agreement and 11 optional agreements (three of which are essentially mandatory to get your money’s worth with the Ark).